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Montana, Independent Courts, and Montanans’ Rights are Under Attack.

Updated: Nov 10

The Missoulian (Feb. 10, 2021).



Our state and the way of life we have enjoyed for decades is in danger of being lost. With a new governor and new legislature in session, it’s vital Montana citizens are aware of the harmful actions occurring right now in Helena: politicizing our courts, substantially remaking state government, diminishing Montanan’s rights, and consolidating power in the Governor’s Office.


Even though no problem exists with the current process, the governor and some Republican legislators are seeking to eliminate the judicial nomination process for vacancies that has existed since Montana’s Constitution was enacted in the 1970s. They want to revert to an outdated system, abolish the judicial nomination committee, and allow the governor to handpick whomever he wants to fill judicial vacancies with no independent check on qualifications. Senate Bill 140, by Sen. Keith Regier, assigns all power to the governor for vacancies and politicizes our courts.


House Bill 325, by Rep. Barry Usher, attacks courts and voting rights by taking away Montanans’ right to vote for all seven Supreme Court justices and only allowing a vote for one justice. This changes a process existing since Montana was founded and politicizes the judicial process, making it about partisan politics instead of justice. Multiple attacks are occurring in an unprecedented war on women, especially survivors of incest and sexual assault. They’re expanding the reach of government into Montanans’ private affairs, supporting multiple bills denying women their constitutionally-protected right to reproductive health care through HB 136 (Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway), HB 140 (Rep. Amy Regier), HB 167 (Rep. Matt Regier), HB 171 (Rep. Sharon Greef) and HB 229 (Rep. Jane Gillette).


They’re making it harder to register and exercise your right to vote by removing same-day voter registration, requiring voters to be registered by noon the Monday before elections. HB 176 by Rep. Sharon Greef enforces this even when the government makes an error on your registration — through no fault of your own, you won’t be permitted to exercise your right to vote.

They want to make public health decisions more politicized by having local elected officials make public health decisions instead of public health agencies. Sen. Doug Kary’s SB 108 does this regardless of the elected officials' knowledge of public health.

They’ve ignored public safety and expanded who can carry weapons without a permit and where they can be carried, including school campuses, bars, and banks. HB 102 by Rep. Seth Berglee doesn’t allow local communities to determine what they want for safety. Despite this bill being noted as blatantly violating Montana’s Constitution, it passed and is being sent to the governor to sign.

Republican legislators are creating more political positions for the governor to appoint, removing the ability of a department director to select their own deputy director based on merit. SB 139 by Sen. Mike Cuffe allows the governor to remove state employees when he takes office and replace them with political appointees instead of someone hired based on knowledge and qualifications.

Not acting as a fiscal conservative, the governor greatly increased salaries of department heads by up to 46% on top of existing six-figure salaries — paid by Montanan’s taxes. No other public/private employees were granted this magnitude of an increase.

Meanwhile, the Republican-led legislature is advancing bills making it harder for working Montanans, including teachers, nurses, law enforcement officers and firefighters, to come together and demand fair work conditions and fair pay through HB 168 (Rep. Bill Mercer), HB 251 (Rep. Caleb Hinkle) and SB 89 (Sen. Keith Regier).

Send your legislator a message (https://leg.mt.gov/web-messaging/). Tell Governor Gianforte what you think (406-444-3111). Your voice matters; they’re elected to represent you. #votingrights #reproductiverights #abortion #hunting #Montana #publiclands #publiclandowner


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