Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wrong, wrong

The Gazette editorial board is wrong today about Dan McGee (scroll to the bottom). I'm sure McGee is sincere in his belief that the ethics initiative was unconstitutional, and he may even be right. His obligation to uphold the Constitution outweighs his obligation to uphold the majority opinion of Montana voters, so he is right to try to change a bill he thinks is unconstitutional, no matter where the bill originated. And he should try to change that bill in the least disruptive way -- that is, through the legislative process rather than through a lenghty lawsuit, which he probably in any case lacks standing to bring.


Chuck Rightmire said...

David, that is just BS. As usual, a Republican is trying to challenge what the people have decided in this republican country. If it would succeed in a court of law, then maybe it is the Constitution that should be remade. It is time that efforts to control our political process so that big money and lobbyists lose their control are not stymied by various misreadings of the Constitution, usually based on the bad 1898 Supreme Court decision that corporations are people, too. I wonder how they put their pants on?

David said...

They put their pants on one subsidiary at a time.

Jay Stevens said...

Not a very strong argument. Article II, Section 1 of the Montana Constitution reads:

"All political power is vested in and derived from the people. All government of right originates with the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole."

Article III, Section 1:

"The power of the government of this state is divided into three distinct branches--legislative, executive, and judicial. No person or persons charged with the exercise of power properly belonging to one branch shall exercise any power properly belonging to either of the others, except as in this constitution expressly directed or permitted."

Unfortunately, the Montana Constitution doesn't explicitly define the roles of the legislature or the judiciary. But if we look to the US Constitution as a guideline, it says the following:

"(Article I, Section 8) The Congress shall have the make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the foregoing powers, and all other powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer thereof. "

There's a lot of other stuff in Section 8, too, like collecting taxes, declaring war, etc.

Article III, section 2:

"The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority..."

So clearly McGee is not doing his proper duty as legislator. The Gazette is entirely correct in saying that the bill should be interpreted by the courts and should be left alone otherwise.

Pete Hansen said...

Once again, we have an example of a legislator attempting to overthrow "The will of the People" by introducing legislation to reverse what the people have voted for or against.

This is not the first time, nor will it be the last, where an elected official seeks to overthrow a vote of what is constantly referred to by such officials as, "The Grassroots," of whom I am a proud member!

Such past examples as attempts to reverse the votes regarding term limits, Cyanide leach mining, game farms and sales taxes are but a few examples of what seems to be a mind set that because one is elected, they have more, better or all of the answers to citizen's concerns, than do those citizens who exercise their right to vote.

Even more disconcerting, during one of the last two legislative sessions, were attempts to make it more difficult to place "initiatives" on the ballot in order for we citizens to vote on issues of concern to us.

If Mr. McGee is that concerned about the unconstitutionality of Initiative 153, then I suggest that either he challenge that issue in court when or if he chooses to become a lobbyist or, let whoever feels discriminated against because of that law, do the same.

Matt Singer said...

I would suggest two things:

1. Legislators should follow the Constutition.

2. The people should not elect people who misread the Constitution in order to overturn decisions of the people.

But you're right, Dave. Every legislator takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. That includes trying to repeal unconstutitional laws.

Anonymous said...

Matt said:

Every legislator takes an oath to uphold the Constitution. That includes trying to repeal unconstutitional laws.

45-5-505 (deviate sexual contact) was declared unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, but it's still on the books. I think McGee is disingenuous, at best.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but believe that McGee is probably right, but who cares? Campaign laws are blatant violations of free speech, but that is being put aside for ?? So what leg does he have to stand on with this application of the law? Precedence rules. I think it is true that a legislator's first obligation is to uphold the constitution, but what a quaint idea that is in this day. As far as attempting to act like a court, maybe he decided that since the courts are acting like the legislature (school funding) then it's OK if the legislature takes up some of the courts' function.
No more high-horses.

Dave Rye said...

Last night I watched Montana PBS' replay of the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearing on the bill. Dan McGee was the only proponent, a situation which didn't appear to embarrass him in the least. Although I don't agree with him on this one, he articulated a strong case for his point of view, as he always does. He also surely must have known, when he filed the bill, that the news media and the self-appointed voices of the people would criticize the hell out of him for it.

I've always wished that every person in politics had at least two or three principles so strong that he or she would rather lose an election than bend to whatever the prevailing winds might be, while still maintaining a personal amiability with the other side of the aisle. Dan McGee is one such Senator on the Republican side who can pull off the rare balancing act of strong partisanship while maintaining his civility and sense of humor. On the other side, so were former Senate Democratic leader Steve Doherty of Great Falls and former Senator J.D. Lynch of Butte. In an era of political viciousness and public officials who take not only their jobs but especially themselves oh-so-seriously, these guys are rare jewels.

Anonymous said...

The free speech argument is sour. Every citizen has the right to "lobby up to 300 hours a year with out getting a license. If you can't speak your mind in 300 hours there is something wrong with you. What's more I watched McGee's argument for it on PBS last weekend and it was weak.

"This is wrong because I've developed skills in the legislature that I can market, why can't I sell those skills to the highest bidder"?

Like I told my television. The people of Laurel did not send you to legislate for your own financial benefit. This is hard for Republicans to understand. We don’t elect state senators to make them money Mr. McGee, you are up their as a public servant. Your opponent in the last election understood this it’s too bad you don’t.

Anonymous said...

Geeish, it seems to me a few Dems have gotten rich from politics too -- starting with Bill and Hilalry right at the top...