Rep. Ken Peterson (R-Billings) presented his bill to address croneyism to the House State Administration committee last Thursday. HB145 would “Require resignation of legislative seat prior to taking government job”. Rep. Peterson introduced the legislation in response to the current administration’s liberal policy of – or policy of liberally – appointing or hiring sitting legislators to executive positions in the administrative branch. He’s probably correct in calling that an unconstitutional infringement on the separation of powers between the branches of government. His response, however, was akin to using an elephant gun to take out a flea on a donkey’s butt.
HB145, as written and introduced, prohibits any federal, state, or local government employee or contractor from being a legislator. As the testimony during the hearing pointed out, that would impact at least 16 members of the current legislature. Even his fellow republicans on the committee could clearly see the flaws in the bill; some of them valiantly offering to assist him in amending the bill.
In the interests of public service, let me offer the following:
Amend the bill to read: “An Act Prohibiting a sitting member of the Montana House or Senate from seeking or accepting an exempt or non-exempt position in either the executive or judicial branches or on any compensated advisory board of any state executive or judicial agency during the legislator’s term of office…” and then make the rest of the language reflect that specific change.
Rep. Peterson is a lawyer, not a doctor, but he ought to be able to come up with a proposal that addresses the issue – elected officials rewarding “friendly” legislators with cushy state jobs – without killing the patient in the process. HB145 in its present form is botched surgery at best; legislative malpractice at a minimum.