Still watching Legislature from afar
December was a bittersweet month for me as an outgoing legislator. I chaired my last committee, Legislative Audit, whose employees, mostly CPAs, taught me more about government than any other group. I was a member for two decades and definitely got to understand some of the inner workings of our state agencies. As I handed over the gavel to the new chair I was told that I was the longest serving member on the committee.
I enjoyed the performance audits because I understood them more than the bean counting that went on in the financial audits. My siblings got the math genes in our family while I got the English gene. I do respect that both are needed and not totally exclusive for sure.
Appreciation goes to my constituents who stuck by me, voted and contacted me through the years. You make a difference in the process!
My most memorable/meaningful legislation were:
Montana Recreation Safety Act — passed during the Schweitzer administration to ensure that our outdoor activities aren’t litigated to death for stumbling over a rock — personal responsibility is the key.
The Pickle Bill (food safety) that allows people to exchange foods without repercussions from the health department—a no-brainer brought about when a bunch of us home canners were stopped from exchanging our goods at a meeting in Whitefish because someone ‘might get sick’--another example of big brother telling us we don’t have enough sense to choose what we ingest of free will.
The Salt Bill—I carried the de-icer bill several sessions and had lots of ground support from both sides of the aisle, especially here in the Flathead. MDOT, however, tried everything to block the bill though I got it further through the process each session. My hope is the new administration will send a directive to their field offices to start the gradual weaning of a destructive product to our environment and to our vehicles, rotting them away in very little time.
Thanks to constituents who encouraged me to carry bills of importance to all Montanans: Local governments now have an interim committee dedicated to their needs while boater safety has yet to be passed.
My expertise, however, was never in coming up with dozens of new bills each session but to be a level head to make a good bill even better. I added dozens of amendments through the years on other bills, most with the OK from the sponsor, some without. Sometimes you just have to do the right thing by tweaking a few lines.
I had the pleasure of introducing bills from the committees I chaired and brought the governor’s nominations for various boards to the Senate floor for confirmation. Most of them passed with all 50 votes showing that Montana has some excellent people to serve on boards that make a difference in our lives.
Senator-elect Carl Glimm will do a great job in my place. He knows budgets and has four terms in the House to draw on for background. He, along with Representative-elect Braxton Mitchell will be the points of contact during the 2021 session. They will be good listeners and have their contact information on the leg.mt.gov website.
I wish all the newly-elected well and thank my constituents for their faith in me. It’s been a great ride — one I will never forget! The people will be certainly missed but definitely not the b.s. that goes along with it.
I will still be a legislative nerd watching from afar. Thank you all!
Republican Sen. Dee Brown of Hungry Horse