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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Contraceptives, Campaign Finance And Citizen Initiatives

Montana politicians and interest groups were divided along party lines over this week's U.S. Supreme Court decision concerning the Affordable Care Act's birth control coverage mandate. In the Hobby Lobby case, the Supreme Court ruled that closely-held private corporations do not have to provide birth control as mandated by the Affordable Care Act, if the corporations have religious objections to birth control.

Mike Dennison of the Independent Record State Bureau reported on the Montana congressional delegation's response to the Hobby Lobby ruling.Sen. Tester said bluntly "The Supreme Court got it wrong. Corporations are not people and they should not be interfering in a woman’s basic access to health care." John Walsh agreed, saying "Today’s ruling means women could pay hundreds of dollars more per month because their bosses get to determine the type of health care they receive." Rep. Steve Daines praised the ruling as a victory for religious freedom and a blow to the Affordable Care Act. "Today’s Supreme Court decision protects Americans’ rights to religious freedom against Obamacare overreach."

Edward O'Brien of Montana Public Radio spoke with Planned Parenthood Montana President and CEO Martha Stahl who believes the ruling sets a "troubling and dangerous precedent": "...because it means some bosses will be able to interfere with their employees access to birth control, and we firmly believe that a decision to use birth control should be between a woman and her doctor".

The Associated Press reported that the conservative political action committee (PAC) American Crossroads plans to spend $1.7 million on T.V. ads on the Montana Senate race. While these numbers aren't set in stone, the prospect of a Republican takeover of the Senate means Montanans are in for another deluge of political advertising this election season.

In other campaign finance news, the AP wrote about a complaint filed by Democrats against House candidate Ryan Zinke

"The Special Operations for America political action committee is coordinating with the Zinke campaign committee, the complaint said. The two groups used the same research consultant last year, according to the complaint. Super PACs are allowed to spend money to support or oppose candidates, but they're not allowed to coordinate with them."

Zinke founded the PAC, but resigned as its chairman before starting his campaign. Two similar complaints filed in March still await a ruling.

Tom Lutey of the Billings Gazette wrote an insightful account about how the combination of politics and arcane election laws cost one weatherman his job.

Finally, casting a wary eye on Montana's initiative process, the editors of the Flathead Daily Interlake let out a sigh of relief at news that none of the 12 citizen proposed ballot initiatives  would appear on the November ballot.

There is something almost intoxicating about the opportunity for voters to decide by direct vote what is and isn’t legal in Montana, but direct democracy is a tyranny of the majority waiting to happen. The voters don’t always know best, especially when you ask them to make decisions about complicated topics that involve life and death, freedom and turning off the federal spigot. Our Founding Fathers gave us a republic for very good reason.

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