On Fri., July 16, Secretary of State Bob Brown certified ballot measures with enough signatures to qualify for the 2004 ballot. In order for any group to get an initiative or amendment onto the ballot, it must collect a total of at least 20,510 signatures from at least 5 percent of the voters in each of Montana’s 28 counties. It didn’t used to be quite so difficult, but all that was changed last year by—what else?—a ballot measure. (Incidentally, if anyone reading this wants to challenge that measure, your chances are good in court, as a Federal District Court in Idaho has already found the requirement unconstitutional, in that it adds disproportionate weight to the signatures of citizens of rural counties.)
So what will Montana be voting on this year? It’s a wide gamut, actually: repealing the state’s cyanide mining ban or upholding it; a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman; the use of medical marijuana; making hunting and fishing a constitutional right; extending term limits for legislators from eight to 12 years; increasing the tobacco tax; and creating a $10 million trust fund for noxious weed management.
Just for kicks, let’s take a look at the issues that didn’t garner enough signatures from enough counties to meet a public vote: a proposal for capping the motor fuel tax at 18 cents per gallon; a mandatory vehicle liability insurance program; replacing just about all current taxes with a 5 percent “transaction” tax; ratification of the Montana Energy Security Act; and a constitutional amendment banning cyanide heap leach mining.
That leaves seven qualifiers, Montana. Start studying!
On Monday, Massachusetts citizens Robin and Erik Sol graced Missoula with their presence. The Sols have started what they call The No War Project. Mainly, it entails a drive across America along a route that spells, well, “No War.” The “N” of the “No” starts somewhere in Southern California and follows the Pacific Coast all the way up to Washington. “The project,” reads a brochure, “will culminate by forming a peace symbol inside the ‘O.’” The peace symbol’s center is Durango, Colo., where other hippies will join the Sols in August. We can draw up an alternate itinerary that tosses the final party in Topeka, Kan., but nevermind.
We couldn’t reach the Sols directly. The Jeannette Rankin Peace Center, however, informed us that the Sols stopped by. They collected reading material and by the time they hit Kalispell, or thereabouts, they realized that Jeannette Rankin was one cool peacenik. So they turned around their VW—painted, named Stella—and headed back to Missoula. They lit a tea light outside JRPC. (Hey, everyone: Vigil!) They bought a T-shirt that says “Peace is Patriotic.” Guess the Center was out of the T-shirts that say “Outrageously Wasteful Fuel Consumption is Patriotic.” Our source at JRPC was delighted that the Sols had learned about Jeannette Rankin, but expressed concern about the amount of diesel Stella consumes on these patriotically peaceful criss-cross-country trips. To herself, she wondered: “Are you in a biodiesel bus?” As we said, we couldn’t reach the Sols for comment. A voicemail message says they are “busy, occupied or otherwise not paying attention.” Not paying attention? Well, we’ll be darned.