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“Agenda Control”

capitalAhh, the Montana Legislature is back in session. Bloggers rejoice! From all sides we hear that the 2013 version of our lawmakers will be much less contentious than what we saw in 2011. These are the guys that know how to get things done. How to work together in political harmony. Less than a month ago we heard:

“We’d like a modest, workmanlike session that’s focused on the things important to Montanans,” Senate President Jeff Essmann, R-Billings, said. “We’d like to see bills that move the needle for our economy.”

That’s what we want to hear. Now we can get our economy back on track and solve the important problems. Not like the last legislature that spent its valuable time, and our tax money, working on stuff like;

  • Allowing legislators to carry guns in the capital.
  • Creating an 11 person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws.
  • Removing Barack Obama’s name from the 2012, ballot because his father was born outside of America.
  • Making it legal to hunt with spears and stones.
  • Requiring the federal government to prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully acquired.

Already this year we have important and sensible bills like:

Now we learn from emails among the leadership, their primary interest lies in “Agenda Control” whatever the Hell that is. In comments exchanged between Jeff Essmann, Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich of Bozeman, Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge, Majority Whip Eric Moore of Miles City, Sen. Ed Walker of Billings and Sen. Dave Lewis of Helena we find an extremely paranoid Essmann saying in September;

“How do we show progress on advancing the conservative policies so that we can engage in the long game strategy that involves changing the face of the Montana Supreme Court so that it does not find a constitutional block to every conservative policy initiative and will give us a better shot a redistricting in 10 years?

“But what do we do now? Is it better to force the moderates to be transparent in the cooperation with the Dems to block our objectives, so that we can use that to raise money and win primaries, or is it better to negotiate a deal (subject to be broken) to advance conservative policies?”

How do we keep those sleazy moderate Republicans from working for compromise and undermining the agenda of the minority? Art Wittich replies; “No, I do not trust them.”

“The session is a biennial docu drama. Let’s make it a good show, from day 1. We want the people watching to know there is a legitimate battle of ideas in the country and state, and at least some of us “get it”. That will help with the logistics, and frankly recruiting reinforcements. . . Appeasement is not the answer. . . We must help the purge along. Hopefully, a new phoenix will rise from the ashes.”

They seem to be at war with people in their own party with whom they disagree. Ah, compromise. The basis of all civil government. And  “docu drama”, and purging everybody who doesn’t agree with you. There is quite a bit of just “inside baseball” in these emails. They show some of the planning and strategy that occurs each time the Legislature meets. Mostly they just show neurotic people who are more interested in how the game is played than in what the result may be. No matter how much we hear from Teabirther legislators who control how we spend our money, about compromise and moving forward the “needle of our economy”, the important thing to these folks is winning the rhetorical game and furthering the far-right agenda no matter the effect on the state of Montana.

In reaction to release of the emails, former Senate president Jim Peterson said,

“I think the politics of power is trumping good policy,” “If you can’t have good debate and then vote and then move on, if politics continues to be the driving force of the Legislature, then it’s going to be hard to do what the Montana voters want us to do.”

You can expect that this session will be different. You can hope that legislators will finally be less combative, work together and honestly try to solve the problems of the Treasure State but, if it turns out otherwise, you shouldn’t be too surprised or disappointed.


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