Should your Montana House of Representatives move away from a Constitutional Republic?

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Rep. Forrest Mandeville, HD 57

Rep. Matt Reiger, HD 54

Guest Column

There has been some discussion on lowering the standards for Montana House rules from super majorities to simple (51 percent) majorities for the upcoming 66th legislative session all in the name of democracy.

The problem is, we are not a democracy. The wisdom of our founders saw the danger in having straight majority rule. When the government starts talking about consolidating power (moving more power to a simple majority is consolidation), the people always end up the victims.

America’s and Montana’s political systems were set up as Constitutional Republics. To quote the pledge, “to the Republic for which it stands.” We currently need super majorities to modify our constitution. We need three-fourths of the legislature to spend the coal tax fund. We have a U.S. Senate that skews representation to rural states like Montana. We have an Electoral College that gives Montana voters three times more say than a California voter. We have three branches of state government that provide checks and balances. It takes two-thirds majority vote to override a governor’s veto. The list of super majorities in our governmental system are many. In conjunction with these high standards, there are simple 51 percent majority standards, too. As a Republic, the Constitution provides for a healthy mix of power delegated to both the majority and minority.

Why do we have super majorities? To protect the minority idea. Our Constitutional Republic was set up so legislation should move slow and deliberate. It was set up to prevent tyranny of the majority. Since our founding there have been efforts to erode that Constitutional Republic and make government “easier,” by moving towards democracy. The word “fair” has been used to explain changing our Montana House rules to 51 percent. Is it fair to have the majority that fully controls the minority or should the minority have a voice?

Both parties have had policy or ideas that have been a casualty of the high standards of our Republic. Do we really want to deconstruct the system to get poorly crafted law passed? This goes way beyond partisanship. It goes to the heart of how fairly an idea is treated. The political landscape swings back and forth. One day you are in the majority, the next day you are not.

Let’s keep our checks and balances. Let’s keep the power dispersed proportionally. Let’s keep a voice for all Montanans. Let’s keep with the wisdom of our founders and keep our Constitutional Republic.

If you, too, would like to keep our great standards that have served us so equitably in the past, visit leg.mt.gov to email or call your local state legislator and tell them to stand with our Constitutional Republic form of government and vote no on the proposed Montana House rule changes.

The column was written by Rep. Forrest Mandeville HD 57, and Rep. Matt Regier HD 54.

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