Law Abiding Citizen

A term that does not apply to Montana Governor Greg Gianforte. His latest offense that he somehow talked himself out of was not possessing the required certificate to trap wolves. If you don’t know anything about hunting or licensing you’d probably think this is a pretty simple oversight. And, you’d be wrong. Gianforte purchased his wolf tag with full knowlege that he had no right to do so. If you’ve ever bought a hunting license of any kind you know damn well you have to either show proof of completion of the required courses or by marking ‘yes’ you are attesting that you have done so. And, equally as ugly, he kept his warning citation a secret from the people of Montana for over a month. Bottom line, he lied and he’s still lying. Of course this isn’t his first run in with FWP game wardens. Way back in 2000 Montana’s poacher in the corner office violated one of the cornerstones of the hunter’s education program by not absolutely indentifying the animal and being sure of his target and beyond.

wolf reg

So sure, there could be a plausible answer here.  He’s hunting on his wealthy buddy’s hobby ranch where the hired man had set traps.  The bonafide trapper let’s them know one has been caught and Jersey boy hops on a borrowed sled and rides out to shoot the wolf.  Now, did he trap the wolf, maybe not.  But did he engage in unethical ‘hunting’?  You’re damn right.  And never mind the amount of time wasted by a law enforcement officer tasked to deal with this.  It’s just not very back the blue-ish of Governor Gianforte.

There are plenty of rumors, as there always are, surrounging something like this and, Gianforte, having experience in such situations has learned that his best response is a press release and then answer no further questions on the matter.  ‘I said I was sorry, well sort of.’  But what some enterprising reporter who doesn’t work for a Sinclair Broadcasting station should look into is a significant anynomous donation made to one of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks special programs right arouind the time the that the warning citation was issued.  Seems entirely too conicidental.  Of course it’ll be difficult to piece any of that together given the Trumpian gag order that the new governor has placed on state employees.


But here’s the real issue- Gianforte isn’t remotely like the rest of us.  He’s an unbelievablely wealthy sociopath.  It’s entirely possible he staged this entire thing to pander to his base because after all, the only good wolf is a dead wolf and if you don’t believe in that then you probably don’t believe in packing your six shooter into the Quicky Mart for protection either.  But seriously, wealthy narcissists like the govenor are above reproach because they don’t understand or know the concept and reality ‘need and want’.  Any problem is solved with dollars and cents that represent a drop in the bucket compared to the totallity of thier amassed wealth.  To make things even worse, Montana is thier personal playground and the common folk can clean up the mess.

People who feel remorse make amends.  In Greg’s case and as he’s shown in the past, there is no remorse.  He’s kept the wolf hide and skull for mounting.  Maybe he can get it mounted wearing the collar and hang the framed citation underneath the carcus.  


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

RTW And A Throne of Lies

It’s a sad day for 38 members of the House of Representatives and a joyous day for 45,000 working Montana families who rely on their union rights for power in the work place. Amy Regier and Caleb Hinkle’s House Bill 251 met it’s comeuppance on the House floor this morning and died the same death as all of its sister bills this session. Montana’s union workers and union leaders should relish in this moment since the worst scenario they had seen in many decades was playing out and yet they have won the battle. But make no mistake, the war will continue on.

Now what about this sad story that Caleb Hinkle tells about the big bad United Food and Commercial Workers and how they ruined his short life. In Hinkle’s bill presentation to House Business and Labor he claims that the union let him know before he started work about this obligation to join the union, also a time when the steward surely would have let him know about any initiation fee. Lie 1: he was not obligated to join the union and instead could have paid a representation fee as a non-member. Next came his difficult to believe tale regarding the union initiation fee that had yet to be paid some two months into the job, in this case and in his words, a $500 initiation fee. Pay or be fired. Lie 2: the UFCW does not have an exorbitant initiation fee and after doing a little checking it’s actually less than $50 with ability to pay over the course of six months and are cut in half if the new member attends a new member meeting. No need to believe what you’re reading, it’s all right here. Finally, young Caleb claims he was forced to leave. Lie 3: no, he made a choice to leave rather than contact the union and make arrangements to pay his fifty dollars or twenty-five discounted/show up fee.

garrisonSo here’s the thing, and aside from the outright blatant falsehoods, Hinkle wasn’t forced to do anything and could have easily stayed in his new found deli job at minimum wage.  Well, he called it minimum wage but neglected to mention the union negotiated health insurance, sick leave, vacation leave, job protections, just cause, due process, seniority and all the other benefits of a union contract to hopefully include a pension.  You see he could have stayed on in his much needed job and rather than cry and complain about the union fees and initiation fee, he would have met his agreed upon obligation and then dug into the union and got himself elected as a local officer much like he did as a representative.  From there he could have worked towards a better understanding of that initiation fee and where his dues went, but even more importantly, he could have worked towards change on those issues and helped guide the union for newly hired, young workers like himself.  In the floor session today Representative Tschida gave the boy a pat on the head and uttered the word ‘courage’.  Not sure where that courage was then, but sure.  

Hinkle’s misrepresentations are a tiny part of today’s story but needed to be exposed. The real story today, and this week for that matter, is the death of every anti-labor bill brought forward in a session where the unions were sure of another pound of pressure on their necks by corporately funded forces that wish to kill them. That is no exaggeration folks. The important story today is labor remembered it’s roots, it’s power and who labor really is. Today’s presence was made up of trade union members in sticker plastered hard hats, firefighters, nurses, teachers, state employees, professionals, high school graduates and dropouts. You name it, they were there. The middle class of Montana showed up and made their voices heard. There’s a reprieve that’s been given here and it’s not the first time which begs the question to union members and union bosses alike. What will you do with this opportunity? Montana’s middle class, working poor and poor need you. Do not squander this opportunity. Educate, Agitate and Organize!!



‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

The Regier Solution

Yesterday Senator Keith Regier’s anti union bill found it’s way out of committee after amending the bill down to a simply outlawing dues deduction by public employers. Reiger, who is now in his seventh term as a legislator, made clear in his presentation of the bill that his issue was about all the dues money spent on political campaigns by unions and enlightened the masses on what unions do by quoting Wikipedia as his source of valid information. Since the Clan Regier has so many union busters in process a brief review is in order.

Amy Regier currently has two union buster bills lined up with one scheduled for hearing. LC0946 dictates affirmative consent for the collection of dues and representation fees from nurses in a non profit organization. In this case you should read ‘Kalispell Regional Hospital’ where Amy works which makes this a ‘constituent bill’ with nurse Amy being the constituent. Daughter Amy’s second killer bill is the current mother of all Right to Work bills that fully implements RTW for both private and public unions. Carried by Caleb Hinkle, this ugliness will see a hearing on February 11th and will draw out the parade of labor leaders to oppose a third body blow bill in less than thirty days.

Next up, Matt Reiger, who is now in his third session and look for Matt to take his dad’s place over in the Senate down the road. Matt’s bill, HB 289, is short and simple. It fixes Montana law related to the collection of representation fee that was outlawed by SCOTUS in 2018. Keep in mind that the Governor Bullock could have fixed this in the last session and taken one landmine off the field for labor, but he did not. One important fact to pay attention to here, Son Matt’s draft was ready for pick up on January 29th and introduced on February 2nd. More on that later.

Back to Daddy Regier and SB 89. Most unions wisely bargained payroll deduction into contracts which has been legal for decades. On it’s face, this bill would make those provisions illegal by adjusting a law that has been on the books since 1973. The patriarch simply changes ‘shall’ to ‘may not’ and what that ultimately means, and if it is a discriminatory change, will make a lot of lawyers a tidy sum of money. It’s important to note that public employers authorize payroll deduction for a long, long, long list of payments. The State of Montana, as a sampling, uses payroll deduction to send employee money to: Montana Human Rights Network, Montana Outfitters and Guides, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, PETA, EarthShare, Defenders of Wildlife, National Wildlife Federation, The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Catholic Social Services, Montana Environmental Information Center, Montana Wilderness Association, Trout Unlimited, Pride Foundation, Disability Rights Montana and are you ready for the two biggies? The National Rifle Association and Planned Parenthood. Spend a little time on Keith’s primary source of information, Wikipedia, and you’ll see that all of those organizations spend a hefty amount of money (aka member dues) on campaigns, lobbying and lobbyist. But that’s beside the point in his mind.

Back to the odd timing of Regeir Jr’s bill drop and Regeir Sr’s amendment rollout. Again, Jr had a draft ready for pick up on January 29th and the next day Sr’s amendments were passed out for review. Coincidence? Maybe. But here’s the rest of the story. For the past few weeks lobbyist from labor have been talking about Jr carrying a bill to fix the Janus situation with the law and supposedly get dad to let his bill die in process. Well, dad amended his bill to make the boy’s bill work without a hitch. And Keith’s bill is now really about what his true agenda is, stopping employers from collecting dues for unions and ultimately shutting off the cash flow to the coffers. Maybe it really is just happenstance in the timing and proposed legislation.


The Clan Regier meets for dinner every night, says grace for the bounty before them, then plans, plots and coordinates the family agenda to take out Montana’s unions, both public and private, once and for all. It could be, just maybe, those union bosses got played and the real joke will be on them.

good fellas


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Praise RTW and Pass The Basket

And now my dear congregants, please open your hymnals to page HB 251 for our next song of praise in anti union bills. We will be led by brother Caleb Hinkle of Belgrade who will in turn be led by Keith Regeir through daughter Amy Regeir. Now please rise so we may all better stand on the necks of the working class in Montana.


The disdain for workers must have been a nightly conversation during dinner at the Regeir home while Amy was growing up. As they say, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Clearly, daughter Amy shares father Keith’s dislike for employee rights as you can see from her LC’s. Besides her hand off to Hinkle with 251 she also has in place LC 0946 which drills down into her place of work which was not so recently organized by SEIU 1199 in a bizarre organizing effort that involved the Montana Nurses Association and the Montana Teamsters Local 2. No one is quite sure what her ax grinding is all about, but she’s clearly not happy. Of course that may go back to being raised by the Flathead’s most unhappy dad.


Amy’s bill, now Caleb’s bill, goes all the way and rams Janus down the throats of Montana’s private sector workers. It also wipes out the withdrawal window for union membership despite that process being upheld as legal by courts across the country. She also goes so far as to outlaw the ultimate and age old worker two by four- the strike. Add in a few more things like an obligation on the part of the employer to post notice of ‘Employee Freedom of Choice’ and criminal penalties of up to $1000 for violations of the law. For folks who don’t much care for government, they sure seem to like the idea of government regulation. It’s a bill that has a big impact on organized workers in Montana both private and public. It’s too big for lil’ Amy to carry so young Caleb will do the dirty work. After all, those union bosses can be shady characters and no reason to put an innocent in danger. Come to think of it, a female legislator hasn’t been ‘allowed’ to carry a Right to Work bill in the last three decades. This is clearly a man’s work!

Praise the Lord!!!

Pastor Lovejoy

So bless those Regiers! They’re doing their damnedest to kill the union and reduce what’s left of the middle class to the working poor. Please rise once again as we sing ‘Shall we gather at the food bank.’


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

This Ain’t a Business

This is going to be tough for even his supporters to swallow, but Greg Gianforte just grew government and increased spending. Wait, what? Yep, he just increased pay to his highest positions, all of which are appointed by him. Sounds like a great deal for his buddies, particularly his male buddies since the male appointees will see far greater increases than their female counter parts. But how can this be? He swore to make state government more efficient and would be sure it would live within it’s means. And yet Gianforte has increased by almost 50% the pay of his unproven director and unconfirmed director of DPHHS, Adam Meier.


“For too long, state spending has grown out of control as taxpayers send more money to Helena. Its appetite has been insatiable,” Gianforte said. And yet, that appetite has now grown and will need to be fed. Historically, agency director pay has hovered just below an annual salary of $100,000 plus benefits. Make no mistake, these are hard and demanding jobs that require and understanding of the agency mission, the ability to work with multiple stakeholders at once, a sense of the political process, the ability not to do and say stupid things and most importantly, that by accepting an appointment you are accepting the job as a public servant for the good of the public. The job is absolutely not about compensation. That has always been the case in Montana until today. Well, that’s not entirely true. Right after being elected ol’ Money Bags Gianforte started asking around at the Department of Administration if agency directors could take a stipend for their work and continue to collect a corporate salary at the same time. Nothing fishy there at all.

Gianforte has been known to say that he believes in paying employees. Fair enough something a lot of employers like to say until they understand what exactly it takes to pay employees. In this case he’s taken care of 12 of his some 12,000 state employees with increases anywhere from 5% to 46%. As for the his other 11,988 employees, the MFPE ,and AFSCME negotiated pay plan in HB 13 made it out of committee last week which will give that much larger group a whopping $.55 an hour increase in 2022. Never mind the historically underfunded state employee pay plan that is administered on flawed methodology. But yes, you read that right, they will all take a pay freeze this year and gain a total of $1,144 annually before taxes. Meanwhile over at DPHHS, the director hasn’t even found the Overland Express yet and he’s raking in an additional $50,000 year before the Montana Senate even says he gets to put his name on the door.


Maybe this isn’t as bad as it really seems after all. Gianforte has already announced he won’t be using the state plane for his travel at a savings of $320,000 annually. Surely that will pay for the raises to his cronies, of course he laid off the state pilot but you gotta cut somewhere. Further savings for travel will come when they all pile on his private jet for a joyride.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

It’s Right To Work Day…Again

Yep, that’s right. It’s legislative day 16 and Montana’s unions will face a second anti union bill in the afternoon. Queuing up today is Senate Bill 89 sponsored by union hater Keith Reiger as part of his long game of killing labor in Montana. Just four days ago Bill Mercer had his time in committee to present his poorly written and baseless bill which he believes fully implements the Janus decision based on AG opinions in three out of fifty states. Bill must have a very low bar if that’s what he believes sets a standard, or maybe it’s really Billings that has the low bar if he’s what they send to represent them.

For the last few decades organized labor in Montana has had it pretty easy in terms of union busting legislation. Schweitzer and Bullock committed to oppose any right to work legislation with a simple ‘of course’ and in fact Bullock took it so far that he refused to sign a bill in his last session that would have simply codified the Janus in Montana law. The union bosses asked him to sign off on HB 323, but there was drama to be had by not signing, so he didn’t and here we are today. While it wouldn’t have prevented the onslaught by the Reiger clan, it certainly would have eliminated one point of contention and confusion. In the end, the favor really wasn’t a favor.


Back to those years gone by. Union leaders, and by default, union members, had little to worry about when it came to union hating legislators because there was either a veto pen waiting at the end of the trail as the ultimate threat or a bill simply would never make it out of the committee room for the floor or either chamber. From day one of this session that has not been the case. While those solutions republicans have valued their union relationships, they can only hit the red button so many times before finding themselves in someone’s crosshairs. It’s all fair game and anyone’s guess as to which bill lands on the governor’s desk for signature. Given that Mr. Burns, errr, Governor Gianforte, has never met with any labor union to answer questions about his position on right to work, it’s all a guess if he signs or not. While he did recently take the opportunity to call out his support for workers in his statement on the keystone pipeline, he, of course, stopped short on recognizing the union jobs therein.

So later today all those union leaders will line up again, but this time to a very different approach. The word is that Reiger doesn’t like union dues being spent on politicians like himself. He’s right and he’s wrong, of course. He’s right in that union dues do get spent on him or rather against him. Like any entity that operates in the political world, unions have the right to communicate with their members and in this particular case they did. Reiger is not on the ‘vote for’ list and for obvious reasons. And of course he is wrong, unions cannot directly contribute to a political campaign unless they use funds voluntarily donated by members for that specific purpose. Fine lines right? No matter to the Reiger clan because the only good union, is a dead union.

While his legislation doesn’t directly kill the operation of a union, it definitely allows the bao constrictor to make one more coil to slowly choke the life out of Montana’s public employee unions. The Montana AFL-CIO boasts a membership of 45,000 working Montana members in it’s ranks with about 35,000 of those dues payers being in the public sector. If Reiger and his ilk can kill the MFPE and others with his bad bill, he won’t have to work on the private sector unions, they’ll die of starvation in the end. Remember sisters and brothers, an injury to one is an injury to all.



‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Son of Senate Bill 89

If you thought a Republican controlled House, Senate and Governor’s office would only bring you one Right To Work bill in their first shot at destroying unions in decades, you are, well, you are all hopped up on goofballs. A week ago Keith Reiger opened the crypt door on SB 89 and in doing so, roused organized labor in Montana from their post election daze. Enter House Bill 168. Billings Representative Bill Mercer is working up his own anti labor bill to work towards crippling Montana’s public employees and their unions. If you read both bills you have to wonder if these guys talk to each other and coordinate strategies, then again, maybe they do and maybe they are.


What’s the difference between 168 and 89? Mercer isn’t outlawing the collection of union dues by a public employer. However, he does put a whole bunch of odd parameters on the process that will, quite honestly, grow government at every level. For the most part, 168 puts into Montana law the Janus ruling and references an employee’s 1st Amendment right to free speech, a right that an ’employee’ ironically now shares with corporations. Taking Janus one step farther, the bill puts the obligation of dues authorization on the employer rather than continuing with the current standard that membership and dues is between a member and their union. So how does he grow government? Well some poor payroll technician is going to have to get a physically signed document each year to authorize dues for the coming year along with the reading of statement of waiving the above mentioned constitutional right. Perhaps after signing, pledging and crossing their hearts, union members could also dip their thumb in red ink as proof that want to be part of the union. Mercer’s bill also allows union members to withdraw membership at any time, more work for management.

Today, and even after Janus and despite much posturing by anti union politicians like Mercer and Reiger, unions have legally kept the right to set a membership period, set a time frame when members can decide they don’t want to pay and become a freeloader, and continue to own the right to the membership conversation. Unions have continued to view the issue of membership as one where members must assert their desire to get the milk for free, much like that analogy of a gym membership. If you want to get fat, you have to quit the gym membership. Maybe these guys could drum up a bill for that too.

What else does his bill do? It opens the door for litigation at every level of government in Montana. Some poor hourly employee (who gets pay raises and improved benefits because the union bargains it for their members and a public employer is going to give what the union gets to everyone) will have to have a conversation about the union with it’s members every single year. That conversation will surely involve questions like ‘why should I belong to the union’ and depending on the answer, could in turn be the basis of an unfair labor practice filed by the union for interfering with the union’s right to do business. At least lawyers like Mercer will make money off this deal.

Now a little about Mercer. He too belly’s up to that state health insurance trough and even better, makes his living off suing both the state and federal government. Seems a little duplicitous doesn’t it? Then again, what did you expect?

So, do you pick 168 or 89? Or better than having to make a decision and given the true roots of Right To Work, could someone plug these numbers into a Mercer-Reiger-QAnon conspiracy number generator and let us know if all these right to work bills really just give us the longitude and latitude of the next Montana Ku Klux Klan meeting? No hoods or masks required, Swastikas optional.



‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

How Do You Kill The Union?

Go ask Keith Reiger, he’s got a few ideas. Well, he’s been handed a few ideas, because he’s just not smart enough to write this bill on his own. Late Friday afternoon Senate Bill 89 was introduced on first reading. As of yet there is no committee assigned but the rumors are flying and the talk is that this garbage gets a hearing soon. Or mabye it dangles out there a while so those union bosses can wring their hands to the bone.

What does a bill with a short title ‘Revise laws related to the collection of union dues’ actually accomplish? In short it outlaws an employer’s right to automatically deduct funds from an employee’s pay through payroll deduction. In this case, that outlawed deduction is for union dues that the employee pays to be a member of the union. By no means should this be confused with the idea that they are obligated to join the union or be fired. Those days have been gone since the spring of 2018 when the Supreme Court of the United States ran a sharp blade through the fat stomach of public employee unions and ended representation fee with the Janus decision. Ironically, those same unions were granted a short reprieve when Justice Scalia miraculously died in early 2016. The big bosses drew a sigh of relief and bet the farm on Hillary Clinton to win the presidential election. There is no need to explain what happened from there.


Back to the 67th Montana Legislature. Reiger’s bill does a lot of damage to public employee unions in just three pages. To make a long blog post longer, it allows union members to withdraw membership at any time rather than in the prescribed ‘window’ that unions are currently allowed to set. Ol’ Keith apperently can’t wait until the next SCOTUS case related to public employee unions and may not get his wish anyway given the changes to Congress and POTUS.

Next, he strikes long established law which encourages the practice of arriving at ‘friendly adjustments’ to end labor disputes and no longer acknowledges the idea that labor and management can solve problems for the good of all involved. That’s right folks, you have just traveled back to the 1960s where the Reiger family wants your wages, employment and reproductive rights.

Then comes the big hit for labor organizations in Montana, a prohibition of payroll deduction- more on this in a bit. But wait, there’s more! He allows the employer to voluntarily bargain with the union, if it can survive, and then cut sweet deals with it’s non members in hopes of convincing dues payers to give it up and let the union go because the employer is always benevolent. Get ready Montana unions, the MFPE, AFSCME, Teamsters and the AFL-CIO in particular, if this Hades’ Bident gets thrown there will be blood.

Now back to that dues deduction thing, because that was the short title of the bill before Reiger loaded it up with plenty of sharp points. Back in the ‘old days’ dues were collected at the union hall for trades unions and for public employee unions like teachers, members willingly paid up each month to the local treasurer and funds eventually found their way to the parent union. When the collective bargaining act passed in Montana two things happened to pave the road for unions: join as a member, pay a representation fee or go work somewhere else; and payroll deduction for dues. A captive audience and the employer to act as the dues collector and even better, to write the check to the union. A damn good stroke of business!

On its face, the bill is clearly prejudicial in singling out unions to be outlawed from payroll deduction. There’s a long, long list of deductions public employers will allow for their employees with union dues being just one. There are also plenty of ‘advocate’ organizations that fill their bank accounts with ‘dues’ collected through payroll deduction so they can belly up to the public trough for their members. How about a sample list? The Montana Troopers Association, Montana Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association, the Montana Police Protective Association and the Montana Game Wardens Association. No doubt there are more, but everyone wants to ‘Back the Blue’ and Reiger’s bill does not exclude cops or firefighters. All of the above mentioned groups collect fees through payroll deduction and then hire lobbyists to work on pensions and benefits for their members. Very much like a union, but not as ‘dirty’.

One last point that absolutely must be made. Keith is a retired teacher and collects a monthly check from the Teachers Retirement System. No doubt he earned that benefit, but where did it come from? Unions. Unions demanded retirement benefits for their members and have worked hard to improve those retirement benefits so that members could actually enjoy those golden years as comfortably as possible. Keith also has employer paid health insurance, of course his employer is the State of Montana as a sitting legislator. He’s been slurping up that public dollar slop on a monthly basis since 2009. That’s right, he’s been enjoying a union negotiated benefit for state employees for twelve years now. If you’re struggling to find a word for him, the one you’re looking for is ‘hypocrite’.

So how do you kill the union? Sad news Keith, you don’t. You can do everything in your power to break and bankrupt the union now that you have the Governor’s office and hope he’ll sign your batshit crazy bills. But you don’t kill the union because the union is a spirit and a will to make life better for yourself, your family and your community. The union is the pathway to the future of your children and their children to come. The union is the guardian of the downtrodden and the disadvantaged to prevent their exploitation. Senator Reiger, the union was here long before you and will be here long after you find yourself in a hot place shoveling coal into an unexpected furnace when you’re gone.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

To Mask or Not To Mask

In his first Covid press conference, Governor Greg Gianforte announced that he would soon be lifting the mask mandate, but in the meantime he would continue to wear a mask out of respect for others and encouraged everyone to wear a mask. Wonderful idea and wouldn’t it be great if his own party followed that that suggestion?

On that mask and respect thing, they aren’t and they won’t. In fact, they’ve even gone so far as to shame anyone wearing a mask. To say it’s disturbing to see the young and old white guys like Jeremy Trebas and David Howard picking on a widowed retiree is the current understatement of the session. Classic tough guys who probably experienced too many wedgies in middle school.

So let’s see it GOP (Grumpy Old People), how about that respect and consideration? Can the citizens of Montana count on you to follow the de facto head of your party, Greg Gianforte, or will you breath and cough in his face and then bully him about being weak and afraid too?


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’

Something Wicked This Way Comes

It always seems that the first Sunday of January every other year blows a storm in for at least part of the day. Dust and dirt fly, trash rolls down streets, discarded Christmas trees pile up at the end of alleys and from the four cardinal points come some 150 guests who will call Helena home for the next four months. Some first timers come filled with naïve good intentions, then there are the second and third termers who understand the game and their small role, and last but by no means least, senators turned representatives and vice versa who do their damnedest to keep the session on the rails to the bitter end. All well and good in predictable times, but we haven’t felt that sense of comfort in a while.

Despite a global pandemic, despite science, and despite technology that can allow a legislative session to move forward while protecting everyone involved, the Capital doors will open. And yet no one knows the plan, mostly because there really isn’t one. Montana’s new governor has raised his hand and taken his oath in a very small ceremony and then insist that the show must go on. Pay no attention to the fact that former Congressman Gianforte has already been vaccinated. Then again, as the wealthiest man to have ever bought a Montana election, he certainly could have just paid his way to the front of the line.

But the rumor is that he actually has a plan. Gianforte has openly talked about taking front line vaccines and giving every legislator a dose in the arm so they are safe to go on about their business and getting those 3000 bill drafts out for a hearing. But think about this. Much mockery has already been made of senators and representatives on the national scene who have made so much noise about the hoax that is the virus, or bullied citizens living in fear, or think that frontline workers who are too exhausted to go on just aren’t dedicated enough. But now it’s Montana’s turn as the likes of Derek Skees and Theresa Manzella pull up a sleeve to expose their ghoulish, translucent skin for a shot, despite their fear of a microchip hidden in the thick serum.


In case your stomach hasn’t turned yet, you should also know that all 150 legislators, even the ones whose greatest dream is to see government fail and fade away, get to step in line for free government health care. Yes, FREE! By simply being elected each legislator can now sign up for health insurance through the State of Montana at the cost to taxpayers of $1054 per month for the duration of their term in office and maybe more if unions bargain a higher amount down the road. Almost forgot, they also have front of the line privileges at the state employee health clinic down street. Smells a lot like socialism doesn’t it?

So what will richest man in the governor’s office do? Will he commander 150 doses to prop up the herd on the third floor? Or will he save every valuable drop for workers who patiently wait for the next covid case to come through the hospital door, who teach in a classroom, the paraprofessional tasked with restraining an autistic student, the 67 year old lunch lady who provides the most nutritious meal some students see in a day, the police officers assigned to patrol a freedom rally or at risk citizens of Montana who don’t have the luxury of never worrying about how much their next paycheck will be? Safest bet? Catch the mass legislative inoculation in the rotunda, but never mind that legislative staff because so many Montanans will gladly take their jobs when they finally tip over.


‘Maybe all men got one big soul ever’body’s a part of.’