Weekly Posting of the Conservative Cow Doctor


Those are the Rules

City kids do not know the rules about corral gates, or so I learned in vet school while on call to a dairy farm. We five vet students followed the clinician across the driveway to the big corral gate leading to the dairy barn. Wired to the top pipe was a handmade metal sign which read, “KEEP OFF THE GATE—VET STUDENTS TOO.” I am uncertain as to how this rule was enforced, but based on the bold font; I figured the dairy farmer meant it. On the trip back to the university, I explained the gate swing-versus-sag rule to my city-kid colleagues in case they ever saw a gate without a sign. It is important to know the rules.

Our constitutional republic is a nation of rules enacted after securing the consent of the governed. This unique American experiment in freedom and self-governance has bestowed more good upon humanity in our short 236 years than the cumulative effort of all the world’s other governments. In times of turmoil, these rules have served us well as demonstrated in Montana’s Senate Chamber on Friday, April 4th. Here is the story from the beginning.

Montana enacted same-day voter registration rules in 2005. Treasure State Democrats have masterfully used this rule to pad victories by bussing loads of will-work-for-food constituents and college students to the polls. Republicans scream, but those are the rules. Since 2005, Montana Republican legislators have repeatedly attempted to change the closing date of voter registration to the Friday prior to the election. In addition to lessening Election Day chaos, this could weaken the electoral advantage the Democrats gained in 2005. Every legislative effort has been either repulsed by Democrats controlling the opposing chamber or been vetoed by the Democrat governor. The Republicans scream, but those are the rules.

During this 63rd legislative session, Senate Republicans passed referendum SB405 again changing the registration deadline to the Friday before Election Day. As a referendum, this decision will bypass the governor’s veto and go direct to a vote of the people. Because Republicans control both legislative chambers, success is likely and this makes the Democrats scream, but those are the rules. SB405 was up for its third and final vote on Friday, April 4th; the day of a looming transmittal deadline. It either passed from the Senate to the House on Friday, or it was dead legislation.

Senate Democrats knew they could not stop SB405 with votes, so they arranged for one of their members, Senator Augare, to be absent and made plans to make a motion for a “Call of the Senate” when their chamber convened. This puts the Senate in a lockdown mode until the missing Senator could be found and forcibly delivered to the chamber. This would run out the clock on the 71st legislate day thereby killing SB405 without a vote. The Senate Republicans screamed, but those are the rules.

Senate Republican leadership recessed, strategized, and conferred with legislative legal staff for possible options. Senate President Essmann re-convened the session, verbally opened and then skimmed through the “Motions” section of the agenda without calling on the Democrat Floor Leader Sesso who was frantically waving his microphone so as to move a “Call of the Senate”. Under Mason’s Rules, the chair of every meeting has the prerogative of recognizing who may speak, so President Essmann simply did not recognize Senator Sesso. The Senate Democrats screamed, but those are the rules. SB405 quickly passed third reading 28-0 and is now headed to the House. Montana voters will likely see it on their next ballot, so ultimately they will decide if the Friday before Election Day is the proper deadline for voter registration. Here is my point. America’s founders established a phenomenal system of organized checks and balances. Disputes, discussions and debates may appear chaotic when viewed from the outside, but those are the rules.

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