Montana Constitution applies to all Montanans (including the governor) – Daily Montanan

In the a few years I had the privilege of educating Montana historical past, considered one of my absolute favourite chapters was on the 1972 Montana Constitutional Convention. The variety of individuals gathered at our state capitol throughout the wintry months of 1972 created a doc that has stood the take a look at of time and been admired and emulated throughout this nation.

Tragically, on this 12 months of celebrating the 50th anniversary of that doc, our Montana structure is dealing with unprecedented assaults by the very individuals who have sworn to uphold it. 

Our Declaration of Rights is broader and larger than the Bill of Rights and its “Right to Know” ensures that all Montanans have the potential to look at authorities operations and train citizen affect towards authorities energy. This “Right to Know” together with the “Right of Participation” are affectionately, and appropriately, generally known as the “Sunshine Laws.”

Recently, a legislative committee met to talk about and look at how the courts reply to the public’s requests for data on their inside workings. As it seems, not simply the courts however the Legislature and state companies are doing a variety of work to ensure that the public can train its proper to know. One evident omission from that examination was the Governor’s Office. Republicans have completed a lot hand-wringing over the judiciary’s practices, however have failed to look into whether or not Gov. Greg Gianforte maintains the similar requirements of transparency and accountability to the public.

 This week, we discovered extra about Gianforte’s try to deny the proper to know to Montanans searching for data on how and why he determined which payments to assist or oppose throughout the most up-to-date legislative session. The governor’s workplace wouldn’t hand over the memos monitoring that call making, claiming that these paperwork are beneath “attorney-client privilege.” But that’s not how the proper to know works. You can’t defeat our rights simply by having a lawyer write your paperwork or copying one on an electronic mail. The public has the proper to know what coverage recommendation the governor asks for and receives.

 We additionally know that the governor’s workplace has been charging exorbitant charges to keep away from giving members of the public entry to their authorities information. Requests have been made for the lieutenant governor’s emails, that are unquestionably data the public has a proper to know. The selections and communications of senior authorities officers are at the coronary heart of what proper to know means. But these requests had been successfully denied when the governor’s workplace stated the information can be handed over solely after charging the residents tens of hundreds of {dollars}. The information have been compiled, however the Governor received’t give them over with out a huge payout.

 Finally, the governor’s workplace has obstructed the public’s proper to know by way of unconscionable delays. For instance, a citizen needed to uncover why the Governor determined to drop “dangerous actor” actions towards Hecla Mining, which had beforehand stopped that company from persevering with to poison our land and water. The governor’s workplace workers and their compensation have grown massively, so it shouldn’t take lengthy for somebody to carry out one easy search on their electronic mail server. But months later, the governor’s workplace nonetheless hasn’t handed over the paperwork the public clearly has a proper to see.

With these indefensible actions, the governor is betraying our historical past, our Constitution and our rights, together with the proper to know what he’s up to behind closed doorways. This is what we’d like to examine–and alter–if we care about upholding our Constitution, and if we’re severe about limiting authorities energy.

Rep. Moffie Funk (D-Helena) is a retired instructor and represents House District 82 in the Montana Legislature.

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