Let your mind, and the hogs, run wild


Photo by Montanabw

Thomas Meagher, acting governor of Montana Territory, often used his sword to veto legislation. Years later, Gov. Brian Schweitzer, also known to be rather territorial on occasion, used a branding iron.

Having looked at all 1,482 bills that have been proposed for the 2015 Montana Legislature, as of Saturday, I’m pretty sure my two favorite pieces of legislation are the work of one man, Sen. Jim Keane, D-Butte.

One would “provide for the feral hog prevention act” and the other would “assess a fee for PowerPoint presentation.”

A little explanation: Of those 1,482 bills, only 95 have been introduced as yet. Just a small fraction of the other bills have been drafted, and most of those were introduced for various state agencies by interim legislative committees.

Ed Kemmick

Ed Kemmick

All the others exist, at this point, weeks before the Jan. 5 opening of the Legislature, as proposals reduced to one simple sentence, of 10 or 12 words at most. You can imagine the difficulty of summarizing complex legislation in just a few words, which is why so many of them stick with the basic “generally revise Montana (fill in the blank) laws,” as in “generally revise Montana insurance laws.”

But some of the proposals, short as they are, manage to sound quite intriguing, and in the absence of detail give free rein to one’s imagination—as is the case with Keane’s bill regarding feral hog prevention.

Just how do you prevent hogs from going wild? No leaving the farm? No alcoholic beverages? No mixing of the sexes unless the hog farmer is present? We’ll just have to wait and see what Keene has in mind.

Likewise with his proposal to assess a fee for PowerPoint presentations. Speaking as the victim of hundreds of PowerPoint presentations in my pitiful life, I would hope the fee clock starts ticking as soon as the lights go down and increases by the minute. Extra fees would be assessed every time the presenter apologizes for a malfunction or says, “This was working earlier.”

One proposed bill was so damned intriguing that I felt I just had to call the legislator responsible for it, which I now regret. The bill, proposed by Sen. John Brenden, R-Scobey, would “require identification documentation for all public commenters.”

At first, I thought it was a transparent attempt to go after Montana Cowgirl, the political blog that bedevils Republicans, as it did again Friday with some well-deserved ridicule of the dress code that GOP leaders have proposed for the floor of the House and Senate this session.

People have been speculating on the identity of the person responsible for Montana Cowgirl for years, but as far as I know, the question has never been definitively settled. I figured Brenden’s bill was an attempt to out the human behind the Cowgirl avatar, though I couldn’t imagine how that would be done.

That’s when I made the mistake of calling Brenden, seeking clarification. He said his bill would simply require state agencies, when they seek public comment on proposed rule changes or new policies, to verify the names and addresses of people who send in comments. It seems unlikely that anyone can “verify” such a thing without a lot of time and trouble, but at least I understand the intent of the bill.

This just proves that with bill proposals, rampant speculation is always a lot more fun than finding out the truth. So, let us proceed.

How about this: Rep. J.P. Pomnichowski, D-Bozeman, has a bill that would “add state soil as a new state symbol.” If you didn’t know, we already have a state bird, tree, animal, butterfly, fossil and a few other things. Let’s hope Pomnichowski intends to nominate gumbo as the state soil. A big, thick bog of wet gumbo would also be a pretty good symbol for the Montana Legislature.

Rep. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, has proposed a law to “exclude certain vessel sales/parts persons & mechanics from overtime laws.” When I read that I thought, “What, does Fitzpatrick own a boat shop and doesn’t want to pay overtime?”

But I looked and he’s a lawyer, so I don’t have a clue what he’s referring to. Why would sales people or mechanics associated with a particular “vessel” have to be exempted from overtime laws? Inquisitive constituents are dying to know.

Rep. Clayton Fiscus, R-Billings, is proposing a bill that would “emphasize critical thinking in science education.” That sounds like a reasonable idea, unless you are familiar with Fiscus’ track record. As such, I’m assuming that by “critical thinking” he means “you should doubt the established science underlying evolution by natural selection in favor of a quasi-theological belief in intelligent design.”

Another bill, this one proposed by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, would “require plain language in public documents.” The language of this proposal is itself clear and unambiguous. I can only wish it all the luck in the world.

Two House Republicans, Randall Pinocci, of Sun River, and Steve Lavin, of Kalispell, want drug-testing for welfare recipients. Pinocci’s bill would “require” such testing while Lavin’s would simply “authorize” it.

I would support both bills, as long as the Legislature also adopts a tit-for-tat proposal put forth by none other than Montana Cowgirl, who thinks legislators should submit to breathalyzer tests before being allowed to vote on anything.

One final bill, which I misread, scared the hell out of me. I thought it said “revise laws related to skeptics.”

“That’s it,” I said to myself. “I did nothing when they came for the Jews, the Catholics, the Socialists and the homosexuals. Now they’re coming for the skeptics!”

I looked again and the word was actually “septics.” In my relief I felt almost grateful toward the Legislature. Thankfully, it was only a passing fit.



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