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Republicans tout freedom while chipping away at rights

by ROBYN DRISCOLL
| March 8, 2022 7:00 AM

When Montana Republicans tell you they are fighting for your rights and freedoms, they’re speaking out of both sides of their mouths. While presenting themselves as champions of our rights and liberty, they have been hard at work chipping away at the very rights they pretend to hold so dear.

They are undermining the independence of our judicial system, rolling back our right to privacy, interfering in our health care decisions, taking away local control for our children’s education and weakening Montanans’ right to vote. Montana is the only state with a right to a clean and healthy environment, but the GOP endeavors to destroy our outdoor heritage by weakening water quality standards and selling off our wildlife and open lands to wealthy out-of-staters.

All of these rights make Montana the Last Best Place—and they are all guaranteed in Montana’s constitution. This begs the question: why are the Republicans working so hard to dismantle it?

But don’t take my word for it. Just this month, Republican legislator John Fuller wrote that “democracy is a methodology of government that has failed as miserably as socialism.” Republican Derek Skees has repeatedly called Montana’s constitution a “socialist rag” and stated that it should be thrown out. State Supreme Court Justice Jim Rice, a former Republican legislator himself, called the actions of Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen before the court “destructive to our democratic system of government.”

And while they continue their crusade against Montana’s constitution, Montana Republicans are also failing to step up and solve the problems actually facing our state.

Democrats passed the American Rescue Plan to lower costs for Montana families and help businesses recover after these tough years. Sen. Jon Tester’s (D-Mont.) Infrastructure and Jobs Law is delivering critical investments in Montana highways, bridges, and high-speed internet. And as our kids face a new epidemic of mental health issues, Democrats have fought tooth and nail to protect funding for our mental health services.

When the Gianforte administration tried to change the elk hunting rules to benefit out-of-state millionaire trophy hunters, Democratic legislators partnered with public land stakeholders to ensure the voices of Montana hunters were heard and our outdoor heritage was protected for generations to come.

Our communities are struggling and Republicans refuse to act. Republicans are sitting on 85 percent of the resources they should be investing in our future. As housing prices skyrocket, Republicans are holding back millions of federal dollars meant for emergency rental and homeowner assistance. Republicans are lying, telling you they cut your taxes when they just gave handouts to millionaires while most folks got pennies — all while killing Democratic proposals to cut property taxes and expand tax credits for working families. In fact, they wouldn’t even give those bills votes on the floor.

These unprecedented times have brought unprecedented challenges to our state. Montana

Democrats know that to face those problems, we have to be bold, put our money where our mouth is, and fight to keep Montana the Last Best Place. We know that Montana cannot become a playground where the rich and elite take their vacations or build their sixth homes while the people who actually live and work here increasingly struggle to get by — but that’s exactly what Rosendale, Daines, Gianforte, Skees, Hertz, Manzella and Knudsen and the rest of them want.

We know that our kids deserve good schools and a shot at a bright future, not just to become pawns for billionaire-backed Republicans.

The rights enshrined in the state constitution are not only worth defending, but the very thing that has made Montana great. Montana Democrats will always fight for our rights.

The author is the chair of the Montana Democratic Party