Bitterroot Politics

You get what you vote for…

Bitterroot Politics - You get what you vote for…

Republican Hunger Games

It’s been absolutely crazy watching Republicans both in Ravalli County and around the state spend so much time going after each other. Their infighting certainly makes for some entertaining political theater.

Fist we started with Boulanger and Connell battling it out over who was a “real” Republican here in Ravalli County. Apparently since Connell doesn’t do whatever the Tea Party leaders want him to he’s considered a “RINO” despite having run under the GOP banner for years. Boulanger, for his part, is about as conservative as can be though he really tips more Libertarian. Perhaps he’s the real RINO but wants the party support of the Ravalli County Republican Central Committee.

Their battle spawned the battle royale. The Ravalli County Republican Central Committee launched a lawsuit to close primaries because they don’t want any Democrats voting in their primary. This was a result of Boulanger losing his primary fight with Connell and suspicions that Democrats voted in the Republican primary.

It’s probably true that some Democrats voted in the Republican primary, but a lot of that has to do with the fact that none of the local races had more than one Democrat running so there was no reason to vote in that primary. Concerned citizens wanted to have a bigger say in who would eventually be representing them so they voted in the contested primaries.

That lawsuit however has now led to even more infighting.

First, the plaintiffs’ lawyer subpoenaed a number of people around the state, including some long-time Republicans like Jim Shockley who campaigned against Boulanger and for Connell during the primary. He sent a letter out to people who had supported him in his own elections and asked them to vote for Connell. Some of those people were not Republicans. So now Shockley is under the gun for not being Republican enough.

If that wasn’t enough, now the Republicans are filing a complaint against the assistant attorney general, who is also a Republican. They say he asked some questions about the case without consulting the party’s lawyer. Nevermind the fact that he’s in regular contact with the party over a wide variety of things. My guess is they sensed a losing case and decided to try to throw a wrench in the state’s position.

All this infighting shows the extreme right-wing section of the party is more about maintaining control over the party than serving the people. The voters chose Connell. The voters prefer open primaries. The voters are the ones the Tea Party is apparently most afraid of. If they keep this up, why would anyone want to get involved in Republican politics?

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Revisionist history

Nancy Ballance, along with her Tea Party compatriots (aka obstructionists) Art Wittich and Carl Glimm sent out a letter to Montana newspapers claiming to tell the “truth” about the failed infrastructure bill at the Legislature.

You’ll remember that SB 416 was the final, major infrastructure bill to be heard in the House. It had passed the Senate with an overwhelming 47-3 vote. Then it hit the Tea Party central House where it needed 67 votes to pass. On the initial “second reading” it collected the needed 67 votes, ¬†including a vote from Ballance. Then, before the third reading could happen, somebody got ahold of Ballance and reminded her that she’s an obstructionist. Of course none of the other Ravalli County legislators voted for it either. It’s not like Ravalli County roads are in great condition… or none of the towns need funding for water proects…

Now Ballance is saying the failure of the bill was all because of the Governor and his party. This is just blatantly false.

Her initial complaints are about how the bill was presented as an “all or nothing” proposal. This is just foolish. The governor’s bill was HB5, which the House split into several different bills. This bill (SB 416) was a compromise bill from the start, sponsored by a Republican (not a Democrat). It changed the funding mechanism from 100% bonding to a mix of cash and bonding. This was a smart, balanced approach.

Claiming that Republicans passed all the critical funding projects is just not true. If all the critical/high priority projects were funded, there never would have been a need for SB 416. And yet, a Senate Republican realized that these infrastructure projects were good for the state and badly needed in many communities. It’s a shame Ballance couldn’t see how badly those funds are needed at home. The Ravalli County Road Department is woefully underfunded and understaffed and with the threats to SRS and PILT funding, constantly worried about being able to afford projects in need. There are plenty of projects throughout the county that would have been eligible for funding had SB416 passed, but now they’ll have to wait at least 2 more years.

Then she goes on to say:

1. We wanted a prioritized list of projects representing additional critical needs only; 2. We wanted to fund local school maintenance needs across Montana that were eliminated; and 3. We wanted the governor to use the available cash to pay for it and not borrow when cash was available.

Here’s where she’s trying to rewrite history. Never were these concerns addressed on the floor. I listened to all of the debate on SB 416 and the Tea Party obstructionists never said one word about wanting to fund school maintenance projects. If that was so important to them, why was there not a separate bill just for that? Since they broke out the original infrastructure bill into a bunch of smaller bills, why not create one just for school maintenance? Their lack of action proves Ballance and her buddies are not being honest here.

Ballance claims that there was no willingness to compromise from the Dems on this bill, then goes on to argue that it was right for them to block the bill because Dems wouldn’t fund it 100% the way they wanted. The Governor’s original bill was 100% bonding. This bill was a compromise to mix bonding with cash. So they’d already compromised! You can’t criticize a group for not compromising when you’re not willing to compromise yourself.

Ballance and her comrades know they’ve hurt their constituents by foolishly blocking a good infrastructure bill that would have been really good for their communities. Now they’re trying to rewrite history more than a month after the legislature. Don’t let them.

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Constitution still not important to Manzella and Ballance

Just when you think things can’t get any weirder…

Wednesday was a big day at the Legislature. The Senate-approved Medicaid Expansion compromise bill (SB405) was tagged with a “Do Not Pass” label in committee on Tuesday. Wednesday, supporters of the bill objected to the designation calling it out of order since the Democrats had already stated the bill was one of their six “silver bullets” they intended to blast to the floor.

This sparked a rather lengthy rules debate in the House. The floor session paused twice for the rules committee to meet and then be overruled by majority vote on the floor. After all of this was done, it appeared that SB405 was set for debate on the floor.

That’s when the crazy happened.

In one last gasp at avoiding having to debate Medicaid Expansion on the floor, a GOP representative made a motion to Adjourn Sine Die. For those unfamiliar with the term, the motion was to adjourn FOR THE SESSION. As in, “we’re done, everyone go home…” That means no other bills would have passed until the next biennium, 2017.

In all, 40 members of the House voted to adjourn for the session. And the Bitterroot’s own Tea Party contingent, Nancy Ballance and Theresa Manzella were part of that 40. Rather than have an honest debate about the expansion of Medicaid in Montana, they voted to take their ball and go home.

The problem with that however is that the state Constitution requires the Legislature to pass a budget before it adjourns. The 2015 Legislature has not passed a budget yet. The House passed their budget but it has already been heavily amended in the Senate, meaning the House will need to do some work on it again when it comes back.

Had the motion to adjourn succeeded, the governor would have been forced to call a special session, costing the taxpayers even more money.

So the next time you hear Ballance or Manzella talk about how important the constitution is, know that they consider it less important than avoiding debate on a bill and playing political games with the healthcare of 70,000 people.

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