Archive for Local Government
Throughout the session, we have been following Rep. Hansen’s pro-discrimination bill. This bill seeks to nullify Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance that expands protections in the state’s human rights act to include gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Hansen’s bill would also prohibit any other city from passing similar measures.
Last Friday, supporters of equality and dignity in our state were dealt a blow when the bill received approval from its Senate committee. With this decision by the committee, the bill was headed for it’s final debate–a full debate on the Senate floor…or so we thought.
Today, shortly before the full Senate was slated to debate the measure, Republicans–out of nowhere–asked that the bill be sent back to committee. They cited the revelation of new information as their reason for this action. The bill was quickly returned to the committee.
While at this point, we cannot say anything definitive about the reason the bill, however, if history teaches us anything, it is that when bills are sent back to committee, it is not a good sign for the ultimate fate of the bill. One can’t help but wonder if today’s polling on the actions of the GOP scared a few of them out of supporting such a discriminatory measure.
With the extremists in the Republican Party making so many terrible decisions this legislative session, it’s hard to say which is the worst. However, some of the decisions they made today are definitely in the running.
First, the Republicans in the House Judiciary Committee killed a bill sponsored by Sen. Tom Facey. This bill would remove the outdated language in our criminal code that makes homosexual acts a felony. This law has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Montanan Supreme Court and similar laws have been ruled unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court. By all rational accounts, this bill should have been easy, since it only cleans up our criminal code to fit the current law. Unfortunately, all but one of the Republicans on this committee allowed their personal biases to overrule their respect for the rule of law and they voted to kill this bill.
After the vote on the bill, Rep. Diane Sands made it clear that she and thousands of their friends, family, neighbors and coworkers saw this as a personal attack.
Supporters of the bill have vowed to continue working until this stain of a law is removed from our books.
The extremists in the GOP weren’t done there though. Later in the day, the Senate Local Government Committee gave approval to a bill that seeks to nullify Missoula’s non-discrimination ordinance. If passed into law, LGBT Montanans in Missoula would be able to be discriminated against in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Both these decisions today are simply another example of the GOP’s extreme social agenda they have been pushing all session long.
While the GOP continues its assault on Montana’s firefighters, Democrats are working to ensure these heroes get the respect and treatment they deserve.
Two bills were heard in committee today that protected the benefits of our firefighters.
The first, from Rep. Mary McNally, guarantees that firefighters continue to receive a portion of their salaries if they are injured in the line of duty. A bill like this seems like common sense; it’ll be interesting to see what the GOP response to the bill is.
The second, from Rep. Ellie Hill, provides for workers compensation for firefighters who are diagnosed with certain diseases related to their service. As we know, firefighters put their lives on the line to protect their communities. However, some often forget that the danger doesn’t end when they extinguish the fire. In the line of their duties, they are subject to extreme conditions and often suffer long-lasting effects from the smoke and heat. This bill would ensure that these heroes are not forgotten when the flames are out. It provides them with workers compensation insurance if they are diagnosed with these diseases.
The GOP should follow the lead of Democrats, and stop trying to make the lives of our firefighting heroes more difficult, and instead make sure that their risks aren’t forgotten.