On January 2, 2023, the 68th legislative session made its debut swearing in the newest batch of Montana legislators. This also marked the first time that one party formed a supermajority since Montana’s constitution was adopted 50 years ago. Speaking of which, this Republican supermajority is champing at the bit to introduce a slew of amendments to the constitution. They’ve proposed 54 such amendments already. Some of the topics they want to legislate on are: the way elections are handled, the way judges are selected, redistricting rules (read: gerrymandering) amendments defining gender, banning abortions, and enshrining school choice and a parental bill of rights.Their plans are clear. They want Big Government to control Montanan’s personal lives and public institutions. Confusingly, Sen Steve Fitzpatrick has proposed a constitutional amendment on proposing constitutional amendments. If Republicans have their way, Montana’s constitution will be unrecognizable before the session is through.
Concerned about Republican’s extremist agenda, a group of activists from Great Falls organized an event – Occupy MT Leg. We were joined by concerned citizens from around the state. Why occupy space on the first day of the session? To let these legislators know that we will hold them accountable for everything they do during this session. Our sizeable group from Great Falls, Helena, Belgrade, Conrad, and more, first gathered in the rotunda to protest Superintendent of Public School’s Elsie Artnzen, who had brought in a slate of far-right speakers (an abuse of the office) to mount yet another unfounded attack on our public school teachers and administrators. Artnzen’s “event” was small, disorganized, and met with Boo’s from protestors in the crowd.
We then moved to the Old Supreme Court Chamber, where the public reception was to be held for the newly-sworn lawmakers. Cakes were there, ready to be served, doubtless alongside much back-slapping and self-congratulations. We had aimed to speak with our legislators and make sure they know what we expect of them, but it turns out that they didn’t want to face the public. Not to be deterred, we gathered around the balcony of the rotunda, displayed our signs, and filled the space. We are here, and we will not be ignored.
Finally, following the swearing-in, we marched around the capitol building. The group was comprised of people from different generations, different parts of Montana, with different advocacy issues. But we experienced a solidarity that we believe we share with a large portion of Montanans. Far-right extremism is not representative of most of us, and this “super majority” does not represent us. They are not some aristocracy, and we are not some peasantry. We can and will raise our voice when they eat their cake and throw us the crumbs. We’ll be keeping a close eye on their votes, and the bills they sponsor. With this supermajority, they feel emboldened to show their true colors. And we are committed to rejecting fascist ideology wherever we see it.
Join us, it’s going to be a wild ride!
Get involved here: