There is a knight errant who stalks the halls of the 65th Legislative Assembly wielding a handful of bills that legislative pundits have labeled dead on arrival. Four of her bills have already been tabled in committee lending credence to the claims made by the doubters of Representative Mary Ann Dunwell (HD 84). In the vaunted chambers of the “Peoples’ House,” it does not take long to get the impression that Representative Dunwell is the Doña Quixote of the legislature tilting at windmills others give a wide birth: HB 215 revise oil and gas tax laws – tabled in committee; HB 169 raise the minimum wage in Montana – tabled in committee; HB 275 expanded safety standards for workplace health and safety for public employees – tabled in committee; HB 210 revise liquor laws clarifying distance requirements with respect to schools – tabled in committee. And then there were two.
Doña Quixote has not given up on her last two bills. HB 309 revises housing laws for disabled and criminally convicted individuals. Doesn’t sound like a real barn burner for the Republican majority but I’m sure the left of left, you know those who helped shut down the Montana Development Center in Boulder last session, love it and it does sound noble. But let’s be honest it is the proverbial snowball pitched into the realm of the original Great Satan. And then there was one.
HB 341 has all the earmarks of a special interest bill considering the Doña Dunwell is a state employee. As such, revising the travel expenses and per diem for state employees seems somewhat self-serving, but let’s peel that back a bit like an onion. The current rate for in-state and out-of-state travel were set by HB 74 carried by Representative Gay Ann Masolo in 1997. 1997! Five bucks for breakfast six for lunch and twelve for dinner and if you go beyond the borders of Montana hang onto your hat…eleven for breakfast twelve for lunch and a whopping twenty-three for dinner. BRING ON THE FEAST! Are your eyes watering yet? And then there were none.
Let’s not be too hasty about brushing aside our Doña Quixote. Representative Dunwell might seem a bit naïve bringing bills of this stripe to the legislature especially when her party is the minority, but neither does she deserve derision from those in both parties, but what is particularly galling is snickering from the House of Labor who seemed to have forgotten what it’s like to rise up “in dubious battle.” Oh don’t get me wrong they haven’t lost the ability to act the martyr but over the last four decades they have forgotten that martyrs suffer in their dying for the cause. I can already hear the howls from The Gibraltar, “get thee behind me you collective bargaining denier!” In the meantime, Representative Dunwell, Doña Quixote, fights the fight against incredible odds, aware or not, that the jaded on both sides of the aisle silently curse themselves for their lack of courage in dubious battle.
T-Bone Slim – “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.”