Bitterroot 

Border patrol

The Bitterroot's conservative community has turned out yet another potential constitutional initiative for the 2010 ballot, this one aimed at reintroducing the state's geographic boundaries into the Montana Constitution.

Author Cathy Hackett, a homemaker from Stevensville, says she filed the draft initiative Feb. 8 out of concerns for state sovereignty. The borders existed in Montana's original constitution, but were dropped from a 1972 rewrite for reasons Hackett can't wrap her head around.

"It seems very obvious to me that without designated borders, that really puts our sovereignty in jeopardy," Hackett says.

Hackett first learned of the issue in a constitutional studies course hosted by Celebrating Conservatism and taught by former Republican Central Committee member Jim Thayer. She says she's not usually one to lead the charge, but saw no one else willing to shoulder responsibility.

"I'm just another one of the rabble," Hackett says. "There's people that are far better at these sorts of things than I am, it's just no one else was doing it, darn 'em."

The initiative is currently under legal review by the Secretary of State's office. If approved, Hackett has until June 18 to gather more than 48,000 signatures from Montana's 40 legislative house districts. It's a considerable challenge, Hackett says, but not impossible.

"I was also one of the people collecting signatures for Dan Cox's ballot initiative to remove the growth policy in Ravalli County," Hackett says. "We had two weeks to gather signatures for that and we did it. Never underestimate people."

Another constitutional initiative from Ravalli County, filed by Celebrating Conservatism member Duane Sipe to allow citizens to convene grand juries, failed its first review last month. A second draft is now under consideration.

Should Hackett's initiative face similar delays, she says she has the sympathies of at least one state legislator—Sen. Greg Hinkle, R-Thompson Falls—who she hopes will introduce a bill to the same effect. Hinkle says he doesn't see the initiative as a state sovereignty issue, merely an issue of common sense.

"It would seem to me that it might be a proper thing to do for the state to have its boundaries properly located," Hinkle says. "If we don't have our borders defined, then where are we?"

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