Posted by (+2873) 10 years ago
This was sent to me in an email. I'm trying to find the source...
PANDEMONIUM IN MONTANA SENATE; Constitutional Crisis could arise
There was chaos in the Montana Senate today, with shouting, jumping, chanting and jeering. Some observers said it seemed for a while like a riot might break out.
Democrats made a motion for what is called a "Call of the Senate."
This is apparently a procedural move by which five Senators or more may demand that all 50 senators be present in the chamber before any further business is conducted. At the time, one senator, Shannon Augare, was far away on an Indian reservation. By legal right, therefore, Democrats could suspend Senate business until Augare returned. Is it a good rule? Not necessarily. It's of the same class of parliamentary maneuvers as a filibuster in the US Senate.
But it's the law. And that's a real problem because Republican Senate President Jeff Essman ignored the Democrats' Call of the Senate motion when they made it, and continued on with Senate business even though he had no legal right to do so. Democrats protested, and refused to vote on a series of measures that Essman brought to a vote and then announced as passed even though only Republicans had voted.
Things got raucous. Democrats started shouting down Essman, banging on their desks, chanting, even standing on the desks at one point.
Why did the Democrats make this motion to require the attendance of all 50 Senators or else cease business? Today was the deadline for ballot measures to be approved by the Senate. Republicans have a handful of right-wing bills that could never get past a Democratic Governor's veto, and thus they are trying to bypass the governor altogether and place these proposed laws directly on the ballot.
They do this all the time, with things like bans on abortion, or bans on gay marriage, or changes to electoral law that will give the GOP an advantage at the polls such as closing down voting locations in the week before election day. Standard GOP crap has been permanently barred from becoming law in the tradional route, because we have a Democratic governor and because the GOP does not have enough votes to override his vetoes. Thus the GOP takes its crazy proposals directly to voters, hoping to deceive them into voting for bad ideas.
And today was the deadline for the legislature to get these measures voted up so that they can be put on the ballot. With one Senator far away in the sticks, Democrats made a smart move to run the clock out. They had every right to do so and Essman, the Senate President, had no legal right to continue business. But he did anyway, and the Senate voted up a bunch of referenda with only 27 total votes, the Democrats abstaining.
So the big question now is, do we have a constitutional crisis? Could Essman be arrested for what he did? And what will be the legal status of the items that the Senate voted for today?