HELENA - During his inaugural speech, Gov. Brian Schweitzer paid homage to former Gov. Joseph Dixon, the man he and most historians agree was the best governor in state history, and once again took some shots at lobbyists.
Dixon also was a former U.S. senator and national campaign manager for Theodore Roosevelt's unsuccessful 1912 presidential race on the Progressive Party ticket. A bust of Dixon was in a niche in the Capitol rotunda, not far from where Schweitzer spoke.
Dixon, governor of Montana from 1921 to 1925, took on the powerful Anaconda Copper Mining Co. when he tried to change how the state taxes certain mining companies like Anaconda. After he failed to get the tax through the Legislature, Dixon led an effort to place it on the 1924 ballot as an initiative. Although Dixon was defeated for re-election in 1924, voters passed his initiative.
Recalling Dixon's battles against major companies, Schweitzer blasted lobbyists, as he has in past sessions.
"Remember who we work for," Schweitzer told the audience. "We work for the families and children. We do not work for the lobbyists who prowl the halls of the Capitol."
As of early Monday afternoon, 225 lobbyists had registered with the state Political Practices Commissioner's Office. More than twice that number are expected to register by the end of the 90-day legislative session. A total of 40 percent to 45 percent used the office's new online registration service, Commissioner Dennis Unsworth said.
Carol Williams, D-Missoula, is now situated in the tiny office that goes to the Senate minority leader after enjoying the more spacious and nicer digs she occupied as Senate majority leader two years ago. Republicans control the Senate 27-23. Democrats had a 26-24 edge in 2007.
Williams told the Senate Democratic caucus that she noticed another difference when she peeked in the majority leader's office, now occupied by Sen. Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo.
A devoted New York Yankee fan, Williams said her large collection of Yankee memorabilia has been replaced with Peterson's mount of an elk head and a "beautiful cowhide behind it." Peterson is a rancher who previously headed the staff of the Montana Stockgrowers Assoc-iation.
Dedicated to Groesbeck
Before House members were sworn in, new Secretary of State Linda McCulloch asked the 100 members to join her in a moment of silence in memory of the late Rep. George Groesbeck, D-Butte, who died last month at age 38 from a blood clot while recovering from surgery.
The representatives stood in memory of their late colleague.
In a speech after his election as House speaker, Rep. Bob Bergren, D-Havre, said, "Folks, I take the rostrum with a heavy heart. I would like to dedicate my service and hope all of you will dedicate your service to our friend, George."
Watch your mouth
New legislators got plenty of advice on the first day of the 2009 Legislature - especially when it comes to watching what they say and do under the public spotlight.
Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel, told Republican colleagues of a saying from his father: "Be careful of the words you speak. Keep them soft and sweet, because you never know which ones you'll have to eat."
Senate Majority Leader Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, also told of a saying in his household - "I wish my mouth had a backspace key" - and said shooting off one's mouth usually doesn't work too well.
"Just remember this: No one ever started their pickup by honking their horn," he said.
And finally, the Senate's sergeant at arms, Nancy Clark, reminded lawmakers that much of the session will be televised publicly across the state.
"Don't scratch any place that you don't want anybody to see, because you are on television," she said.