Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


An Honest Day’s Work

My first column from Montana’s legislative trenches this session, “GOP Advances Agenda to Barbeque the Easter Bunny,” cautioned readers news reports from Helena sometimes stretch the truth to promote readership. A dozy hit print last weekend, so I will explain the rest of the story.

The legislative process is purposely slow and deliberative—exactly as our framers intended. Each legislative thought is drafted into a standard format, submitted for legal review, read across the rostrum of the first chamber, heard in committee, possibly amended and acted on, sent back to the original chamber for a second reading, possibly more amendments and then acted on, before the third and final reading where the bill then travels to the second chamber for a repeat of the above procedure. Just like forking hay into the feed trough of a previously starving cow, it takes a couple days of ruminating before you need a manure fork. This is a dangerous analogy, but to stick with it, our legislative cow is not producing manure yet and probably will not for a couple more weeks, then there will be cow pies everywhere.

With both chambers actually ahead of schedule, the House Speaker decided the workload was too small to hold a floor session on Saturday, January 26th, so Representatives and staff adjourned for a rare two-day weekend. The Senate convened on Saturday, so by rule the legislature was officially in session and all 150 elected officials received their $82 day’s wage. Later in the session as the workload ebbs and flows, the reverse will likely happen and the Senate will enjoy a day off while the House convenes. When averaged across the entire 90 day session, and without considering the time spent campaigning, this job requires 70-80 hours of effort every week, so this is not easy street.

I zipped home for the weekend and was surprised to read Saturday’s Billings Gazette headlines with Senator Jim Keane (D-Butte) implying we Representatives were not giving the Montana taxpayers “a fair day’s work for a day’s pay.” Senator Keane is a likeable fellow and such partisanship is completely out of character for him, so I concluded the column was the desperate act of a story starved journalist facing a deadline. Later, I noticed the Gazette hosting an on-line poll asking readers if legislators should be paid for days they do not work, so they managed to keep this non-story churning for several days.

Just so you know the story behind the headlines, Senator Keane along with 49 other Montana Senators did hold session on Saturday so they could give Montana taxpayers an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay. They adjourned their session 37 minutes after it opened. Apparently, honest work days in Senator Keane’s hometown of Butte are significantly shorter than the honest work days of my youth on Pass Creek. My mother’s reaction to me spinning the idea 37 minutes being a full day’s work would have left a few marks on my psyche. Fortunately for me and my brothers, we were raised before the contaminating influence of self-esteem became the supreme ideal.

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