A group of Republican-led lawmakers has pushed forward an effort to eliminate Montana’s office of Political Practices. The bill introduced by Derek Skees, a Republican from Kalispell, passed out of a judiciary committee of state representatives today, on a party-line vote.
House Bill 340 would dismantle the current Office of Political Practices, and redistribute its responsibilities — enforcing campaign practice and disclosure laws — to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. During the committee hearing, Representative Bob Brown, a Republican from Thompson Falls, said he wants to see the job of enforcing fair elections in the hands of the two of Montana’s statewide officials.
"I just believe that the top cop should be elected by the people," Brown says.
Opponents to the bill say it would give the job of monitoring elections and campaigns to partisan elected officials. Currently, a bipartisan group of lawmakers select a handful of applicants for the job of Commissioner of Political Practices and presents them to the Governor. The Governor chooses one that the Senate votes to then confirm.
During the bill’s first hearing last week, the bill sponsor, as well as several Republican committee members, said the current Commissioner of Political Practices Jonathan Motl, was partisan and treating Republicans unfairly. Molt’s office and Democrats on the House Judiciary committee, said that claim isn’t true.
The bill to dismantle the office of Political Practices will now head to the House floor for a vote by the entire body. That vote will likely happen next week.