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The 66th legislative session has come to an end and the biennial accusation of treachery emanating from those extremists who fancy themselves the standard-bearers of Montana conservatism has begun. These self-styled guardians of ideological purity want Montanans to believe that Republican goals and objectives were not achieved in the last session because of the underhanded dealings of an insidious collection of legislators who, unbeknownst to their own constituents, masquerade as Republicans.

Relying on my natural skepticism regarding this sort of finger-pointing, I thought it necessary to investigate the integrity of their claims. My quest for an answer began with the obvious question: Which Republican objectives were sabotaged?

Might it have been the defeat of a collection of bills dedicated to the spread of pain and contagion? Bills by Reps. Theresa Manzella and David Dunn would have gutted Montana’s vaccination programs. I cannot see the wisdom in replacing the long-established science of epidemiology with a kind of willful ignorance borne by a naïve conception of freedom. And, as it turns out, neither does our Republican president — who just last month reminded the entire nation to “get your shots.” Surely the destruction of public health was not a Republican objective?

Perchance it was the extremists’ inability to successfully blast a Medicaid expansion bill (House Bill 425) out of committee? A bill authored by the Democrat administration that was without work requirements, asset tests or a 501(d) exclusion. I watched with amazement as Rep. Derek Skees rose to promote the merits of the governor’s Medicaid bill and I was further astounded when Reps. Brad Tschida, Manzella and Dunn all voted with Skees to blast it to the floor. Surely unbridled expansion was not a Republican objective?

Maybe it was because the extremists were thwarted multiple times in their efforts to prematurely end the session? Montana legislators only have one constitutionally mandated duty and that duty is to produce a balanced budget. Governing can be an unpleasant task but it is unconscionable to contemplate a legislator washing their hands of our Constitution and quitting on their constituents. Surely it was not a Republican objective to shirk this singular constitutional duty and go home to pout?

Or maybe it was because the extremists failed to defeat a comprehensive statewide infrastructure plan? Montana’s infrastructure, further compromised by nearly a decade of funding neglect, is in disrepair. Our roadways, bridges, public water and sewer works, hospitals and airports are integral to our state’s growth and economic prosperity. Surely it was not a Republican objective to ignore these liabilities and leave this debt to our children?

It is readily apparent that these "objectives" are not Republican at all. Rather, they represent a hackneyed compilation of John Birch conspiracies, misunderstood libertarianism and constitutional ignorance. I’m grateful that there were enough individuals with the political courage to defy the extremists, listen to their constituents and secure Montana’s future.

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Joe Dooling is chair of the Lewis and Clark County Republican Central Committee.

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