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Letters to the editor March 26

| March 26, 2024 12:00 AM

Checks and balances

Matt Regier recently opined in "Ruling distorts role of judicial branch" (March 19) that Judge Kathy Seeley's decision in Held v. Montana wanders "beyond constitutional directive into policy making." He cites 13 references to the Legislature in Article IX of the Montana Constitution to zero references to the Judiciary in said article to conclude that the Judicial branch has no power to check the Legislature on environmental policy-making.

This simplistic straw-man argument is disingenuous at best. For starters, Mr. Regier's claim that "each branch of state government has distinct and separate roles" seeks to deify "separation of powers" while completely ignoring the equally important principle of "checks and balances." In perhaps its most important case ever, the U.S. Supreme Court in Marbury v. Madison (1803) clearly established the principle of judicial review, under which the job of deciding "what the law is" is a judicial, not legislative function. Indeed, the Legislature's own website recognizes this unremarkable principle by stating that the mission of the courts includes "protect[ing] the rights and liberties guaranteed by the Constitutions of the United States and Montana."

Put simply, if the Montana Constitution says the Legislature must consider a factor in setting policy, but the Legislature passes a law which explicitly prohibits consideration of that factor in setting policy, it is the proper job of the courts to tell the Legislature it must consider that factor.

Judge Seeley's opinion does precisely that. HB 971 purports to instruct the Department of Environmental Quality to ignore greenhouse gas emissions and their potential impacts on Montana's environment in conducting environmental reviews and issuing permits — contrary to the Article IX directive that the Legislature must "maintain and improve" Montana's environment for both present and future generations.  

It is not policy-making simply to tell the Legislature it must follow the Constitution.

— Roy Antley, Kalispell

Purity tests not wanted

It has taken me a while to adjust to what ‘being a Republican’ means in the age of MAGA, but the recent Daily Inter Lake article “County Republican committee endorses primary challengers to Brockman, Sprunger” (March 20) was helpful in illustrating the new rules: Republican candidates are expected to abandon their principles and bow down in homage and fear to party leaders, not only on the national level, but at the state and local level as well.

The article illustrates that Republican candidates must profess allegiance to all parts of the radical party line — or the party will fund opposing candidates. (We can save the twisted logic between being “pro-life” and “pro-death penalty” for another day. And really, is “transgenderism” the biggest challenge facing Montana today?)

The questions the local Republican Party asked incumbents to answer as part of their vetting process shows they fear any deviation from absolute and unthinking conformity. We all know a country where total adherence to a party line is demanded, but until now that country wasn’t America.

There is only one way to show the Republican party that “we the people” will not be bullied or manipulated. It’s in the voting booth!  We Montanans can think for ourselves.

— Walter Rowntree, Kalispell

Money for first responders

No one wants increased taxes, however in some cases it is necessary.

Repeatedly news agencies are telling us there is quite a financial shortfall to support our county emergency services. Perhaps a solution to this ongoing dilemma would be setting up a 1% retail tax to support these much-needed services. This tax would be funded by residents and tourism.  

Consider contacting Whitefish city offices for additional information. In the 1990s Whitefish successfully implemented a resort tax in their community that funded much needed infrastructure. 

It is time for those outside our communities (not just homeowners) to be involved in supporting our emergency services. Please keep it simple. The raised finances should be designated solely to support the 911 call centers, fire services, first responder services and ambulance, police and sheriff’s offices.

Lives depend on these services. They are nonnegotiable.

— Kimberly Jones, Elmo