Bat Crap Crazy

Our Point of View

by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver


Feb-March 2012

Sign at last year's April 1 "No Fooling With Our Future Rally" held during the legislative session.


 Come primary and general election days, voters must veto or not a number of nasty legislative referenda the Tea Party bloated 2011 legislature passed onto us. All bad…but for the moment I am going to pound on only two: Legislative Referenda 119 and 123.


LR-119—Palpably, pathetically undemocratic. LR-119 would dramatically narrow Montana voter participation in the election of our state supreme court. It would do so by creating seven supreme court electoral districts compelling candidates to live and run in one of these seven districts and forbidding voters in any one district from voting for candidates in the other six districts.


Voters would be able to vote in only one supreme court race every eight years—the length of a supreme court justice’s term! And no voter anywhere, anymore would be able to vote for the chief justice whom the elected justices would pick from amongst themselves.


LR-119 would create and exacerbate sectional differences on Montana’s last court of judicial review and morph the court into something frighteningly akin to a legislature.


LR-119 would amend our constitution without actually being proposed as an amendment. Article 7, Section 9(4) simply states, “Supreme court justices shall reside within the state.”  Not a word in here about residing in districts as the legislature would have us decide.


LR-119 is under legal challenge. If the courts rule as they should, it will not be on the ballot in June. Yes, the primary ballot in June! So, our opportunity to veto this bad ballot issue could come earlier than folks expect. Not an accident. Generally, more radically conservative folks queue up to vote in primaries.


LR-123—Bat Crap Crazy. LR-123 would cap state expenditures and expend legislative designated “excess” revenues on tax rebates…tax rebates to the richest income and property tax payers in the state.


LR-123 would memorialize and replicate the arbitrary, capricious, and mendacious revenue and expenditure actions of the to be forsaken 2011 legislature—the legislature the governor aptly called “Bat Crap Crazy.” 


It was exactly that. The legislature had plenty of revenue but refused to invest it in k-12 public schools, higher education, state employees, and a bonding bill to address critical infrastructure needs across our state and create hundreds of good-paying private sector construction jobs.


LR-123 is also under a legal challenge that MEA-MFT and friends have filed. Among several structural and constitutional impediments, we believe LR-123 is an appropriation of state revenue. If so, it violates Article 3, Section 5(1)—“The people may approve or reject by referendum any act of the legislature except an appropriation of money.”


LR-123 does not share the June ballot with LR-119. Consequently the courts may not be in a hurry to decide constitutionality. But even if the courts do not rule either referendum unconstitutional before one election or another, they will definitely have the opportunity to do so after the election should voters fail to veto one or both.


Joe Balyeat—Über-Libertarian. So time now to note that Grover Norquist acolyte Senator Joe Balyeat sponsored both LR-119 (SB 268) and LR-123 (SB 426).


Balyeat has been angry with the Montana supreme court since 1999 when the court declared CI-75 unconstitutional and voided the proposition. Balyeat’s proposed amendment would have required a popular vote on every new tax and fee at every level of government. (Former Montana Law School professor Rob Natelson and state Senator Dave Lewis also sponsored CI-75.) Voters narrowly passed CI-75 in November 1998.


In 2006, citing signature fraud, the supreme court struck again and tossed from the ballot CI-97, a constitutional amendment Balyeat and other anti-government yahoos promoted that would have capped state expenditures. Like LR-123. So it is that both LR-119 and LR-123 smack of a Joe Balyeat strike back at the supreme court and another attempt to drown us all in a bathtub.


For the record, MEA-MFT sponsored successful legal challenges to both CI-75 and CI-97. Us versus them.