Subscribe for 17¢ / day

Update: 4:40 p.m.HELENA — A bill to make it a crime for legislative leaders to ignore their own rules is likely dead.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 9-3 to table Senate Bill 1, a move that doesn’t officially kill the bill, but signals its likely demise.

Only three people voted to keep the bill alive: Democratic Sens. Jesse Laslovich of Anaconda, Lynda Moss of Billings and Carol Juneau of Browning.

The bill would make it a misdemeanor for legislative leaders to violate the rules lawmakers pass each session that spell out how the Legislature conducts itself.

Sen. Mike Cooney, D-Helena, sponsored the bill. He said at a hearing last week that lawmakers pass laws every day that spell out consequences if regular citizens violate them; but lawmakers routinely brush aside their own rules.

Cooney said Wednesday he thought the committee acted "arrogantly" and seemed more willing to dismiss his bill than work with him to make it better.

"The legislative process could have been made better and today we lost that opportunity," he said.

Cooney said the notion of leaders not playing by their own rules, even as they pass rules for everyone else in the state, is serious.

"I’m very disappointed," he said. "The people of Montana should be outraged."

Several members of the Judiciary Committee said that while Cooney spoke of a serious problem, dragging cops and courts into the legislative process is hardly a solution.

"The remedy is much, much worse than the sickness," said Sen. Jim Shockley, R-Victor, who voted against the bill.

Others, like Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel, suggested that the bill might be unconstitutional. The Montana Constitution states that lawmakers cannot be arrested if they are coming to or from a meeting of the Legislature or participating in the Legislature. They can only be arrested only if they are caught committing a felony or disturbing the peace.

Breaking a legislative rule is neither of those, said Sen. Gary Perry, R-Manhattan, who also voted against the measure.

Laslovich voted in favor of the bill because he said he wanted to send a message, even as he said that no county attorney would likely want to get involved in the Montana Legislature.

"This sends the message that these are rules, not guidelines," Laslovich said.

0
0
0
0
0