Libertarians delay state convention

The Montana Libertarian Party has canceled the state convention they had scheduled for Sunday in Helena.

Its agenda included nominating a candidate for the anticipated special election for U.S. House of Representatives.

Party chairman Ron Vandevender said in an email Friday that the party did not want its candidate's eligibility challenged by Democrats or Republicans on the grounds that the nomination had occurred before Rep. Ryan Zinke's resignation.

"We are bumping our convention to March 11 at the same location and starting time," said Vandevender

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Hearing gets awkward for pharma lobbyist

The House Business & Labor Committee was 45 minutes into hearing Rep. Jessica Karjala's drug price transparency bill when things got strange.

After PhRMA lobbyist Tara Ryan testified against House Bill 326, committee members began a Q&A with her and others.

Unexpectedly, Chairman Mark Noland asked, "Ms. Ryan, are you a registered lobbyist?" as she stood at the lectern.

Ryan: I'm not.

Noland: Are you going to before the 14th?

Ryan: I think I have to do it in some states, so I'll check so we comply with all the laws.

After the unusual question, Ryan continued to answer others on pharmaceutical pricing.

A few minutes later, Rep. Windy Boy, D-Box Elder, said "Mr. Chairman, if I may, I object to further comments from this [lobbyist] because of the possible legal [issues] and I will not be involved in any possible legal liabilities because of an unregistered lobbyist."

"I'll go register... should I go do that now," Ryan said. "I'll do it now."

As the hearing continued, the committee contacted the Office of Political Practices.

"The person testifying as a lobbyist has five days once they testify to actually get registered. So Ms. Ryan can continue answering questions," Noland said.

Here's what the state's lobbying statute I think he was referring to says (emphasis added):

5-7-108 Inspection of applications and reports — order of noncompliance — notification. (1) Each application and report filed with the commissioner must be inspected within 10 days after it is filed. If a person has not satisfied the provisions of this chapter, the commissioner shall immediately notify the person of the noncompliance.

(2) An order of noncompliance may be issued when:

(a) it is determined that an application or report filed with the commissioner does not conform to the requirements of this chapter; or

(b) a person has failed to file an application or report required by law.

(3) The person notified of noncompliance shall submit the necessary information within 5 days after receiving the notice of noncompliance. If the person notified of noncompliance fails to submit the required information within 5 days, the commissioner may initiate a civil action pursuant to the procedures contained in 5-7-305.

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John Rogers backs Rep. McCarthy for Dems nomination

John Rogers, who left the Bullock administration this month, endorsed on Friday Billings state Rep. Kelly McCarthy's bid to become the Democrat in the anticipated special election to replace Ryan Zinke.

Rogers was the chief business development officer in the governor's office.

In a prepared statement sent out by McCarthy's team, Rogers highlighted McCarthy's military service and said McCarthy has proven "he is committed to growing an economy that is built on the strength of thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs working to create a bright outlook for our state and to bring jobs to our local communities."

John Rogers formerly served Gov. Steve Bullock as chief business officer.

McCarthy has served three terms in the state legislature, and 23 years in the United States Air Force, the statement said.

McCarthy said he is proud to have the endorsement.

"Making sure that everyday hardworking Montanans have access to high quality jobs to support their families and pursue their dreams is a top priority for me - and I am honored to have the endorsement of such an outstanding member of the business development community," he said.

Rogers is not a member of the state central committee. McCarthy, who is a member of the state central committee vis-a-vis his chairmanship of the Yellowstone Co. Democrats, has not said who will nominate him at the convention.

Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings

Montana Democrats are preparing to hold a special nominating convention on Feb. 11 or Feb. 18, depending on when Zinke is confirmed by the Senate.

The convention will be held at the Radisson Colonial Hotel in Helena at 10 a.m. on one of those two Saturdays.

Others seeking the Democratic nomination include: State Rep. Amanda Curtis, musician Rob Quist, Gary Stein of Missoula, and attorney John Meyer of Bozeman. More could be nominated at the convention.

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Tester promotes research director to campaign manager

Sen. Tester has hired Christie Roberts as his campaign manager for his 2018 re-election bid.

In 2012, Roberts worked as the Research Director for Tester’s campaign and was the political director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee during the 2016 cycle, according to a press release sent Friday.

In the 2014 election season, Roberts served as Deputy Research Director and then Research Director of the DSCC.

Roberts also worked as a research associate at the DSCC in 2010, and her previous work experiences include Senate races in Colorado, Maine, and Georgia.

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Rule change proposed ahead of Montana GOP's congressional nomination

The following is an excerpt from a Jan. 14 email by the Montana Republican Party's chairman Jeff Essmann.

The Permanent Rules Committee, ably chaired by Park County Chair Debra Lamm, met on Tuesday January 10, 2017 to review the bylaws pertaining to the candidate nomination process. I have attached the report of the Rules Committee chair which outlines the two proposed changes to the bylaws that the Rules Committee will be bringing to the State Central Committee for adoption at its next meeting.

The first proposed change will require that a candidate must receive more than 50% of the vote to get the nomination and sets forth a procedure to be followed to get to a majority vote. The second is a change of punctuation to clarify the sentence dealing with scheduling.

As you know, I polled the committee on the issue of whether you wished to call a special meeting of the State Central Committee using video conferencing technology in order to have a meeting focused only on the proposed bylaws changes. The vote on that issue was 47 in favor and 68 against. So the proposed Bylaw changes will be brought to the State Central Committee at the Nomination Meeting and will need a two thirds vote of those present to be adopted.

Why is this important? Under plurality rules, the moderate Republican strategy is to win the nomination while two or three conservatives split the conservatives delegates. So the conservative Republicans either need to reduce their candidate field to one ahead of the vote, or change the rules.

Debra Lamm is the chair of the Montana Republican Party's Permanent Rule Committee.

Essmann also detailed what it would take to get into the race.

The Executive Board met and discussed a number of proposals that had been received in response to a request that I issued to the Board for a set of procedures to be followed by candidates wishing to put themselves forward for consideration for nomination as our candidate for Congress. After review and discussion, the board adopted a policy requiring interested parties to pay a $1740 filing fee and present the signatures of at least 10 members of the state committee representing at least 5 counties. Both these steps must be completed 72 hours before the commencement of the Special Nomination Meeting.

 An application form that includes the procedures adopted by the Executive Board is attached. After the deadline has passed I will be appointing a committee to verify that the candidates meet the constitutional and statutory requirements to be elected to the position. That Committee will be chaired by Attorney General Tim Fox.

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Quist touring county central committees, in Bozeman tomorrow

  • Updated

Montana musician Rob Quist will be in Bozeman on Tuesday.

Quist will be stopping by the Chronicle tomorrow after he meets with members of the Gallatin County Democratic Central Committee.

County central committee members from around the state would vote in a special nominating convention anticipated sometime next month after U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke vacates his seat in Congress to become the secretary of interior.

Quist is seeking the Dem nomination. He will face off with a trio of state Democratic lawmakers, and an attorney from Bozeman.

And sources with direct knowledge say Zeno Baucus is considering, if not outright preparing, to also seek the nomination. Baucus, an assistant U.S. attorney in Billings, is the son of former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus.

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Zinke's ethics questionnaire, hearing Tuesday

The document below is Rep. Ryan Zinke's answers to the nomination hearing questionnaire.

Remember that the Senate Energy & Natural Resources hearing is set for Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. MST. Witness testimony will be available on the website at the start of the hearing.

Here's the link to the webcast: LINK

Want to do some more reading before the hearing? Try "Zinke donors include oil and gas firms using public land"

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In addition to new job, Hansen gets GOP post

State Sen. Kris Hansen, R-Havre, recently resigned to become the chief legal counsel to the state auditor. But she also got a new job in her political party.

Following the resignation of the Montana Republican Party's long-serving Party Secretary Cynthia Johnson from her post, Chairman Jeff Essmann sought applications from those who might be interested in serving, according to an email Essmann sent to party members Saturday.

"I am pleased to announce that former Senator Kris Hansen, who is now chief counsel for recently elected State Auditor Matt Rosendale expressed interest and was appointed to the position with the approval of the Executive Board. If you run into either Cynthia or Kris, thank them for their service to the Montana Republican Party," Essmann wrote.

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Sen. Daines joins Committees on Agriculture, Homeland Security

Montana Sen. Steve Daines is leaving the Commerce Committee but joining the committees on Agriculture and Homeland Security.

According to a press release on Tuesday, in addition to the two assignments, Daines will be returning to the U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations, Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, and the Committee on Indian Affairs. 

“I am honored to represent Montana’s interests on five diverse committees to address issues facing hardworking Montana families,” Daines said in a prepared statement. “As Montana’s U.S. Senator, I will continue advocating to rein in federal spending, protect our public lands, restore active forest management, fight for our farmers, ranchers and small business owners and ensure that we uphold the government’s trust responsibility to Montana’s tribes. I will work diligently to advance legislation that puts forth real solutions for Montana families to create more high-paying jobs.”

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Senate's first day included speech on executive, judicial intrusions

Republican lawmakers in Montana are frustrated with their ability to check the other two branches of government.

On Monday, Sen. Scott Sales of Bozeman, the newly-elected senate president, greeted his colleagues on their first day in session with a speech from the rostrum asking them to guard their powers.

I don't have a long speech today and I'm not going to lecture you on policy or politics.

But I would just have you ponder the historical significance of the Legislature and the unique powers that are granted to us by the U.S. and Montana Constitution.

It's a little troubling to me because recently we've had some [...] District Court decisions that have in my opinion intruded upon our authority and that's troubling because as stewards and guardians, jealous guardians I might say, of our powers, that over the years we've allowed an erosion to take place where we have given unnecessary power to the executive branch and the judiciary.

Sometimes we have done it on our own, but more than that we allow decisions to be made, where like I said they conflict or they intrude with what our rightful powers are and it blurs the lines that the founders created to clearly mark the differences and the separations of powers between the different branches of government.

So it is my hope that we won't view these things in the light of whether we are Democrats or Republicans but as members of a unique and special assembly and we will guard those powers with great diligence as we go forward.

-Jan. 2 speech by Senate President Scott Sales

It's pretty safe to assume Sales is thinking – at least in part – of the order from Lewis and Clark District Court Judge Kathy Seeley last week staying the term expiration of Commissioner of Political Practices Jon Motl.

When confirmed by the Senate in 2015, Motl's term as commissioner clearly was to expire on Dec. 31.

But an Eleventh Hour lawsuit aimed at keeping him longer was filed and Judge Seeley issued the temporary order until a hearing can be scheduled.

(Sales was among the nine Republican candidates that Motl issued decisions against for their involvement with Western Tradition Partnership. In a 2014 settlement with Motl, Sales said he regretted his involvement with the direct mail company run by WTP's agents, and paid a $500 fine.)

But Sen. Sales isn't alone in looking at the GOP's majority, frustrated that they are not checking the other two branches of government.

As we reported, Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, has been in discussion with other Republicans about the interim months between legislative sessions, during which committee makeup is split equally, four Democrats and four Republicans.

He believes that the Republican majority should be reflected in the interim committees, that it would strengthen their ability to check the (currently Democratic) governor's executive branch of government.

Thomas is also looking at term limits, arguing that they also weaken the Legislature.

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