Gazette opinion: Voter-lawmakers ought to do their homework

2012-10-12T00:10:00Z 2012-10-15T11:24:08Z Gazette opinion: Voter-lawmakers ought to do their homework The Billings Gazette
October 12, 2012 12:10 am

On Nov. 6, all Montana voters will be lawmakers. It’s a responsibility that comes with some homework.

Voters have about 40 pages of reading to see the details of the five statewide issues on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Those details are in the Voter Information Pamphlet that registered voters should have received in the mail. The pamphlet, prepared by the Montana Secretary of State Office also is available from county election offices and may be viewed online at sos.mt.gov.

Don’t be deterred by the number of pages. It’s all well organized.

First, voters ought to know how these issues got on the ballot. The first three are legislative referendums: Bills passed by two-thirds majorities of the 2011 Legislature. Usually, bills go from the Legislature to the governor, but not referendums. These bills bypassed the governor. On these three issues, the people have the power to veto or enact proposed laws.

The legislative referendums are:

-- LR-120 to require parental notification prior to abortion for a minor.

-- LR-121 to deny state services and jobs to illegal aliens.

-- LR-122 to prohibit the state or federal government from mandating the purchase of health insurance or imposing penalties for decisions related to purchasing health insurance.

The fourth ballot issue is an initiative referendum. In this case, Montana citizens opposed to the 2011 Legislature’s restrictions and rewrite of the medical marijuana law are asking voters to repeal Senate Bill 423. IR-124 went on the ballot after a sufficient number of registered voter signatures were gathered on petitions.

IR-124 could be confusing because it is a vote on repealing Senate Bill 423, which basically repealed the original medical marijuana law, replacing it with a more restrictive law further limiting the use of the drug for medical purposes.

Read this ballot language carefully.

The ballot question asks if voters are for or against Senate Bill 423.

Voting “for” means supporting the changes that have curbed medical marijuana businesses over the past year.

Voting “against” means going back to the original, voter-approved 2004 law that allowed medical marijuana businesses to flourish.

The fifth ballot measure is the only one that didn’t pass through the Legislature. Placed on the ballot after a sufficient number of registered voter signatures were obtained, Initiative 166 calls on Montana’s elected and appointed leaders to implement policy that says corporations aren’t human beings with constitutional rights.

I-166 is a response to the U.S. Supreme Court throwing out Montana’s century-old corrupt practices act, which restricted political contributions from corporations. Since then, a federal district judge has ruled that other Montana laws restricting the amount of money donated to political campaigns are unconstitutional based on recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings, including the Citizens United case.

I-166 will not change laws on campaign finance. It allows voters to communicate their desire for addressing or not addressing the recent High Court rulings.

Montanans ought to take time to read the Voter Information Pamphlet before marking the ballot. Pay attention to the arguments for and against each issue, and note who is making those arguments.

Do some reading and become an informed voter-lawmaker.

Copyright 2014 The Billings Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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