Flathead Lawmakers Update Glacier Country Pachyderm Club On Legislative Progress
The state legislative session is now more than third of the way finished. At a Republican Party gathering in Kalispell Friday, about 30 party members said they're generally happy with how it's going, as Republicans hold majorities in both the state House and Senate.
The Glacier Country Pachyderm Club spoke with five Flathead Valley Republican legislators on Skype for almost an hour Friday to hear updates on their bills.Representative Randy Brodehl of Kalispell talked about proposed legislation on gun rights.
"We have no ability to protect ourselves legally," says Brodehl.
Representative Mark Noland of Bigfork gave updates on on invasive mussels.
"It isn't fair that the state of Montana has to foot the bill on all these things coming in from other states," says Noland.
And Senator Dee Brown of Hungry Horse weighed the pros and cons of a proposed bill to let counties decide whether to have mail in ballots for the anticipated special election to fill Montana’s lone House Seat.
I talked against it on the floor," says Brown. "We've never really done anything in the Flathead with a mail-in ballot."
The Pachyderm Club meets every Friday in the basement of Sykes Diner in Kalispell for lunch chats about politics, but the Skype call to Helena this week was something special. These legislators that were speaking today exemplify what the whole legislative body is doing this year.
"They have some really heavy duty bills that are going through," says Clarice Ryan of Bigfork.
Nicky Ouellet: You are so incredibly organized! You have a memo pad with candy canes on it with a list of all the bills you’re tracking.
Clarice Ryan: Well, that’s right, but I’m not the only one tracking; there are friends of mine who do this.
Ryan says she’s following bills about water rights, social issues like abortion, "and the mail-in ballot is one of the really critical ones that is going on nationwide," says Ryan.
She says day-of voter registration and mail-in ballots are cause for concern.
"Well, the mail-in ballot is opening the door for too much hanky panky, I would say," Ryan says.
Steve Armstrong of Bigfork considers himself an independent. This was his first Pachyderm Club meeting.
"I'm disappointed the session is overly political this year because it seems to be impeding progress," says Armstrong.
Armstrong says he’s following legislation that addresses the spread of invasive mussels. His wife, Linnea, says she’s a little more conservative than Steve. She’s more concerned about Gov. Steve Bullock’s action this session.
"All this vetoing, I'm not sure about it," says Linnea Armstrong. "It's kind of obnoxious."
Bullock vetoed two gun bills Thursday that would have allowed guns on post office property and another that would have eliminated the need for a concealed weapons permit.
Mitch Drachman of Whitefish has been following a few bills about gun rights. He supports the bills that would allow legislators to carry firearms within the capitol complex in Helena, and the vetoed bill allowing guns in post offices, but he also thinks there should be some limitations for permitless carrying.
"People are responsible that carry weapons, the statistics show that," says Drachman. "It's self defense, so you should be able to carry in places of that nature."
NO: But not at a restaurant where alcohol is served?
Mitch Drachman: not at a restaurant where alcohol is served.
Pachyderm Club President Todd Bernhardt says he hopes to have another Skype session with legislators in March.
"The goal of pachyderm is to engage people in the political process," Bernhardt says. "So this is the legislative season so what better way to engage people than to have legislators live via skype from Helena. Today we had Rep Carl Glimm, Rep Mark Noland, Sen Dee Brown, Sen Al Olszewski, and Rep Randy Brodehl."