HELENA — As he introduced his resolution on states’ rights to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rep. Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway, said it was unfortunate debate over the issue has “digressed” into a partisan issue.
“My goal in this is not to be inflammatory in any way,” More said.
More said the resolution is about political theory and makes a statement that the most local form of government is best. Opponents said the resolution raised questions about possible secession.
“This bill reads like the recruiting manual for the anti-government patriot movement,” said Jamee Greer of the Montana Human Rights Network.
In his testimony against the resolution, Greer said he does not believe More intends for Montana to secede but that his resolution emboldens “right-wing, antigovernment” sentiment.
Greer was one of two people to testify against the bill.
Four people spoke in favor of the bill.
Montana resident Dave Ponte said the issue of state rights is an important one.
“It does speak directly to the overbearing imposition of laws, rules, and regulations that the federal government is slamming us with,” Ponte said of the resolution. “This really is just a statement. It has no force of law.”
After testimony, several senators questioned More about the resolution.
Sen. Anders Blewett, D-Great Falls, said he thinks it send a message that, “Hey, federal government, if you don’t do it our way, we’re out of here.”
More said his resolution is not about secession.
Republican Sen. Jim Shockley, of Victor, said he is one of the few members of the GOP in the state that came out against the Patriot Act, but that he also served 25 years in the Marine Corps.
“I’m concerned about some of this language,” Shockley said.
Specifically, Shockley pointed to language in the resolution that if certain conditions are met, “Montana’s ‘Compact With the United States’ may be considered breached and all powers previously delegated to the United States via the United States Constitution revert to the states individually.”
“The place we resolve these conflicts is in the courts,” Shockley said. “I’m concerned that it says we can take all our marbles and go home.”
More said the resolution is about making a statement to the federal government.
“Make no mistake, this is a bold resolution,” More said. “It’s a bold statement.”
The resolution passed a third reading of the House in February by a vote of 54 to 45. No action was taken by the committee on Friday.
Michael Noyes is a reporter for the Montana Watchdog online news service, a project of the Bozeman-based Montana Policy Institute. Reach him at email@example.com, call 219-0510 or visit montana.watchdog.org.