Midterm elections generate about as much excitement as leaf pick-up day. And this year, with no local city council or county commission races, it's even more humdrum. But there are important measures on the ballot, and if you haven't already mailed yours in, or if you plan to vote in-person on Tuesday, consider the Indy's endorsements on four statewide initiatives with far-reaching implications.
CC-2: The call for a convention to rewrite Montana's constitution requires little contemplation. Our constitution, written in 1972, is one of the most progressive in the country, guaranteeing Montanans the right to a "clean and healthful environment" and declaring personal privacy "essential to the well-being of a free society." Proponents of CC-2 argue the constitution has amounted to "assault with a deadly weapon on Montana's economy and jobs." That's a stretch. It may be an imperfect document, but the current constitution reflects what Montanans value most—the landscape and our individual rights. Vote against CC-2.
CI-105: The Chicago-based National Association of Realtors has spent nearly $2 million trying to pass this measure, which by itself should give voters pause. Montana doesn't tax property transactions, and the Realtors want to keep it that way, so they're seeking to amend the Montana Constitution to prohibit state or local governments from ever imposing realty transfer taxes. Their effort is ill advised. Prohibiting the tax—and it'd be the only tax specifically prohibited in our constitution—would hamstring the Montana Legislature by shielding one part of the economy from taxes at the expense of others. Vote no here, as well.
I-164: The proposal to cap payday and car title annual loan interest rates at 36 percent has engendered surprisingly reasoned debate on both sides. Proponents see it as a way to rein in rates that reach as high as 650 percent, ending lending that too often leaves borrowers in a cycle of debt. Opponents say the initiative suggests consumers aren't savvy enough to know any better than to sign these so-called predatory contracts, a sort of patronizing state mentality. But that argument fails to trump the obvious need for consumer protections. I-164 deserves to pass.
I-161: Abolishing outfitter-sponsored nonresident big game and deer combo licenses, and increasing nonresident licensing fees, has hunters camped out on both sides of the fence—and generated the most debate in our newsroom. Proponents say it would reverse what is essentially the commercialization of public wildlife. Opponents say it would hamper the state's outfitting industry, a huge contributor to the tourism sector. On its face, I-161 has some populist appeal. But to what end? It's not clear this measure actually solves the problem it sets out to address, which is the dwindling public access to private hunting ground. It will, however, clearly undermine outfitters, and that seems unnecessary. Vote no on 1-161.