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  Comments (1) Total Friday Apr. 25, 2014
Not that Funny
Like I Was Sayin...
It’s always interesting to see what stories coming out of the Montana Legislature make the wires, become national news stories and draw chuckles or derision or both. The latest item to surface in metro newspapers is about legislation proposed by Kalispell Republican Rep. Steve Lavin, which would allow residents here to salvage big game killed on our roadways. Out-of-staters apparently think it’s funny, which is funny.

Not everyone supports Lavin’s bill, and some who don’t have valid concerns over whether Montanans should be trusted to determine whether consuming roadkill is safe. But his proposal’s goal is a good one, aimed at reducing animal carcasses from going to waste. Other states, such as Utah, have already legalized the practice, so it’s not like our Legislature is setting a precedent here. The House approved the measure and the Senate appears poised to.

But the broad fascination with the proposed new law, and others like it, only hardens stereotypes directed at our citizen lawmakers, many who don’t deserve it. Yes, this law is rather unique, but its intent is altogether practical.

To be sure, there are laws proposed by our legislators that have little chance of passing and some have surfaced this session, just like they did last session, and just like they will during the next session in two years.

Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel, a Republican from Somers, said in the days before lawmakers convened in Helena that he would try to keep his colleagues focused, but he also emphasized that they are individuals with their own sets of values. After all, they were elected fairly and can propose whatever they want regardless of their bills’ chances of passing or even being enforceable.

So, there are proposals to be paid in gold and silver. There are others that would grant sheriffs the right to arrest federal agents. Others would adopt the “Code of the West” as the code of Montana. And they’re picked up by faraway media outlets as a way to make a curious state appear even curiouser, which is fine.

What gets less attention is what our Legislature and statewide elected officials have accomplished during some of the most trying economic times in this country’s history. Mainly, they’ve kept our finances solvent.

As other states are still digging out of multi-million and billion dollar debts, laying off scores of public employees and raising taxes to make up the difference, Montana has maintained a surplus.

There were sacrifices, such as pay freezes. And there are still pressing issues, such as how to fix the pension shortfall. But, overall, our state was well managed during a tumultuous couple years – that news is apparently a little boring.

This session, one of the biggest debates is over how to reduce our taxes, whether to provide a one-time credit or permanent relief. And last week, in a move that surprised even some of Helena’s most seasoned journalists, the state House passed its budget in a unanimous voice vote.

It’s easy to scour the list of proposed laws in any state and find some gems. A Georgia lawmaker has proposed legislation that would, among other things, make it illegal to “create or attempt to create a human-animal hybrid.” In Washington state, a legislator argued for a bike tax because “bicyclists are actually polluting when they ride” – he later backtracked on the statement. But you see where I’m going.

Just because a few proposals from a few legislators at statehouses are viewed as unusual or worse, that is not indicative of the body as a whole. And Lavin’s roadkill bill, whether signed into law, isn’t funny. And nor are the mountainous debts and taxes other states have racked up because of reckless policies. We’re not laughing at them.
On 03-29-13, ride4fun commented....
I agree…..I applaude our legislature for working together.
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