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The 2019 Montana Legislative session begins with a 58-42 Republican majority in the House, where all spending bills constitutionally originate. This should provide taxpayers with assurance that there will be fiscal responsibility in Helena.

Wrong. There has been historically a small group of Republican legislators during the past half-dozen legislative sessions who are actually the liberal “Democrat wing” of the Republican Party that joins the united block of Democrat Party representatives to pass massive increases of spending of tax dollars in recent legislative sessions. This government spending frenzy appears about to expand further in 2019.

The current “Democrat wing” of the Republicans is led by Llew Jones (Conrad), Ed Buttrey (Great Falls), Eric Moore (Miles City) and Nancy Ballance (Hamilton), who have this session been able to recruit up to 10 additional House Republicans to support their efforts to align with the Democrat legislators. This “Republican/Democrat” coalition is determined to support the Democrat legislators carrying Gov. Steve Bullock’s spending agenda to increase the size of Montana government.

This faction is also threatening, at the urging of the Democrat legislators, to change to a simple majority vote the long-standing rules requiring 60 votes by the House members to “blast out” special-interest bills which were tabled in committees. This proposed move would turn control of the Legislature over to the Democrat Party/liberal coalition.

Changing this House rule would result in a flood of bills voted on by the entire House of Representatives who have not heard the committee discussion which caused the proposed law to be tabled. This change would create chaos since there are more than 3,000 proposed laws currently being drafted for the 2019 Legislature to consider. The proposed change being pushed by the Rep. Jones coalition would eliminate the value of legislative committees responsible for carefully evaluating proposed laws. This would weaken the voters’ ability to address legislation during the committee process.

In addition, the leaders of this fringe Republican group are angry that the majority of the Republican Caucus did not elect them to House leadership. Consequently, they are discussing joining forces with the minority Democrat legislators to overthrow the newly nominated House of Representative leadership.

I and the 26 former Montana legislators listed below urge voters to contact the newly elected Republican legislators to encourage them to support the Republican majority who were elected to the Montana House of Representatives and not support the Rep. Llew Jones faction promoting division within the Republican caucus to support the Democrats’ agenda.

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Republican Ed Butcher, of Winifrid, is a former Montana legislator. This opinion was co-signed by 26 other former GOP legislators, including: Ken Miller, George Everett, Betty Lou Kasten, Verdell Jackson, Dave Kasten, Scott Boggio, Ed Hilbert, Bill Nooney, Bob Wagner, Wendy Warburton, Joan Blyton, Bill Harris, Jack Wells, Krayton Kerns, Jim Whitaker, Mike Miller, Jack Ross, Kenneth Peterson, Dan Skattum, Wayne Stahl, Janna Taylor, Art Wittich, Joel Bonick, John Witt, Dave Lewis and Matthew Monforton.

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