With mere days left in the 2023 session, Montana legislators have failed to perform even their most basic duties, like passing our state’s budget. Instead, they’ve moved full-bore into a culture war. House Speaker Matt Regier and the antithetically-named “Freedom Caucus” have cast an international shadow over Montana. Their spurious attacks against Representative Zooey Zephyr have been featured in outlets ranging from the New York Times to the BBC.
Regier has argued that Zephyr violated decorum and that Regier is simply following the rules and standards of the Legislative body. A quick examination of those arguments shows that Republicans have spent the session spewing their own indecorous rhetoric, far exceeding the mild metaphor used by Rep. Zephyr. We’ve seen the likes of Representative Braxton Mitchell claim that those testifying against his bill were unemployed folks who have nothing better to do with their time. We’ve watched the Freedom Caucus intentionally and consistently misgender Representative Zephyr. We’ve even seen Republicans explicitly state that neither students in schools nor members of the Montana Legislature owe one another respect. Listening to his own party’s dialogue through the session, Regier’s sudden pearl-clutching and calls for decorum ring entirely hollow.
Let’s call it what it really is. Republicans can say anything they want – with no standards for basic human decency or even scientific accuracy. They can lie. They can insult their colleagues and the voters, and they will have no consequences. Whereas Democrats must listen quietly and daren’t say anything that would hold these evil-doers accountable for their discriminatory laws and words.
Yesterday, every single Montana House Republican voted to censure Zephyr. That censure banned Zephyr from the floor for the rest of the session. However, Regier assured Zephyr could continue to participate on her assigned committees and vote remotely.
That lie lasted less than 24 hours.
Today Zephyr sat on a bench in the Capitol and worked from her laptop. She may not be allowed on the floor, but she’s allowed elsewhere in the building. But shutting Zephyr out, literally, wasn’t enough for the GOP. Instead, they attempted to move Zephyr from that bench, despite her being in full compliance with the terms of her censure. It’s clear they don’t want Zephyr seen nor heard. This is some petty bullshit.
But wait, there’s more!
Multiple Representatives confirmed that their committees have been canceled. The remaining bills have been transferred to different (and many wholly inappropriate) committees. Those sudden cancellations only occurred in the committees on which Rep. Zephyr sits. This move not only silences Zephyr, but all of us whose Representatives are on those canceled committees. Now, not only is Zephyr’s district losing its representation, but so are thousands of other Montanans, including Great Falls.
Republicans are taking their fascism one step further, and it’s a huge fucking step.
They’re keeping the gallery closed, locking out both citizens and journalists, in what many online speculate is a clear violation of Montana’s open meeting laws. Journalists are not being allowed entry into meetings and some have even reported having their press passes revoked.
Silencing duly elected representatives, moving bills to the wrong committees, disenfranchising the voices of thousands of Montanans, and locking out the press. This is the Montana GOP, and they’re a fucking embarrassment.