By Tim Leeds 

Local legislators favor sovereignty bill


Two local legislators said the intent of a bill asserting state sovereignty is to tell the federal government not to abuse its powers.

Havreite Val Murri, during a legislative video conference with the legislators in Havre, asked about House Joint Resolution 14, sponsored by Rep. Mike Moore, R-Gallatin Gateway, which asserts Montana's sovereignty and says the state must only submit to lawful federal actions in areas authorized in the U. S. Constitution.

"That bothers me, " Murri said.

The bill passed out of the House Feb. 23, 54-45. Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, voted against it while Reps. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre, and Kris Hansen, R-Havre, voted in favor.

It was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee March 18.

Sen. Rowlie Hutton, R-Havre, said he did not want to speak for the author of the bill, which has not yet been debated on the floor of the Senate, but he believed the intent was to say that any authority not granted to the federal government are reserved to the states.

"As a lot of you know, there's big concern down here of the federal government overstepping their bounds, " Hutton said.

He added that the Phillips County commissioners are down at the Legislature weekly, with concerns about the creation of a national prairie monument in Phillips and Valley counties and the director of the Bureau of Land Management enacting a policy to allow the agency to declare federal lands wild lands without congressional approval.

Warburton said the intent of a resolution is send Congress and the federal government a message.

It means Montana is saying, "Look, you've exceeded your constitutional authority and we're not happy about it and we'd appreciate you basically taking another look at the Constitution and back off the areas … that should be left to the states. Basically, that's all it's about, " she said.

Warburton said health care representatives have told her that they must deal with massive amounts of federal regulations that often are not appropriate for rural states such as Montana. The federal government also mandates services such as Medicaid and Medicare but aren't fully covering the costs, leading health care providers to increase other patients.

"This is just one example, " she said. "This same thing happens in many, many, many realms and a lot of times things that just don't make sense for a rural state like Montana where the feds apply this cookie-cutter approach.

"Its one of the big things that harms business of all kinds, " Warburton added.

She said it seems to be getting attention.

After Gov. Brian Schweitzer and the 2011 Legislature have pushed on the wolf being delisted as an endangered species, the federal government has offered to negotiate state regulation of the predator.

She said another example is a federal raid on several medical marijuana businesses, which happened after the state legislature proposed new regulations including repealing the medical marijuana law.

The U. S. Attorney for Montana said the raids, which occurred March 15, followed an 18-month investigation on medical marijuana operations that were possibly in violation of the state law.

Warburton said getting results such as the action on the wolves and on medical marijuana operations are the intent of bills like Moore's resolution.

"That's why its important to make statements like this, and sometimes it needs to be more than a resolution, " Warburton said.


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