Montana Senate Bill 112—the bill sponsored by Sen. Greg Hinkle that would have allowed big game hunting with a spear—really wouldn’t have done that much to affect most Montanans. However, if you look at the bill as a metaphor that characterizes our current legislative session—decidedly retrogressive, nonsensical, and arrogant—it takes on new meaning.
Certainly House Bill 309, an attempt to privatize some of our waterways currently open to public access, qualifies as retrogressive. Many of our Republican representatives talk a good line about expanding public recreational access for sportsmen, but when it gets down to actually supporting the kind of access they have the power to influence…not so much.
Nullifying the Endangered Species Act would lead to the forfeit of millions of dollars in federal funding that supports road construction, maintenance, and many jobs. House Bill 321 had no chance of passing and overriding the governor’s veto, so what was the point? This kind of hubris wastes time and money—taxpayer money.
Republican elected officials such as my representative, Pat Ingraham, seem to have adopted quite the cavalier attitude this session regarding laws we voters have enacted through the citizen initiative process, including the use of tobacco settlement monies for prevention programs, the ban on open pit mines that utilize the cyanide heap-leach process, and access to medical marijuana for the gravely ill. It takes an incredibly arrogant attitude to reverse the will of the voters simultaneously on so many fronts.
Yes, it is highly likely that we will remember the majority running the show at the state capitol this year as the “spear chucking legislature of 2011.” Gov. Brian Schweitzer has also called this assembly the “Flat Earth Society,” a moniker they richly deserve. He will certainly need his red-hot veto branding iron when he rounds up all these misguided doggies.