By Ron VandenBoom
Havre area legislators said they often find some proposed bills to be little more than a nuisance that deprive them of valuable time that should be devoted to more important issues facing Montana.
One such piece of legislation is a public nudity bill, HB-361, proposed by Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Hobson.
The bill, which would ban public nudity, skinny-dipping, strip clubs, streakers, and even the wearing of thongs and other garments, was heard Tuesday by the House Judiciary Committee.
Proponents testified before the committee that the bill would close several loopholes under existing law and make Montana safer for Montana children and families.
Opponents of the bill believe it casts too broad of a net that could be used to snare unintended victims. The bill, among other things, bans the wearing of thongs, bans a noticeable arousal in men, even if clothed, and could be used, according to Melvin Beattie, a member of the Montana Naturist Organization, to arrest overweight people and the construction people who can't keep their pants above their waistline.
Rep. John Musgrove, D-Havre, said Wednesday that bills like these are quite costly to put through the system and there should be some way to deal with them so legislators don't have to spend so much time on them.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Big Sandy, said there are definitely a lot of bills that are of questionable constitutionality before the legislature this year.
"And there are also a lot of bills that encourage big brother to come in and tell people how to run their lives," Tester said, adding that maybe it's not a question of doing what's right, "but a matter of doing what they feel is individually right."
Sen Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, said he read the bill proposed by Thomas and think there should be a warning put out to parents.
"They should not let their children read bills introduced in the legislature because it is very graphic," he said. "The bill is embarrassing to read."
No action was taken on the bill by the committee Tuesday.