Governance with different branches (Legislative, Executive and Judicial) and multiple bureaucracies means a tussle of authority on a particular issue.  It's practically the nature of this beast called government.  Politics and Parties muddy the waters.  Perhaps more often than we would like, when a measure can't get through an open, legitimate channel, the advocates for that measure may try a workaround to bypass a branch.  Then that branch catches them in the act, then a dust-up and so forth.

An amendment to the Montana Constitution to legalize Abortion is such a rope in this tug-of-war.

First of all, for the sake of this article, I'm not taking one side or the other on abortion.  This is more about the sequence of actions on this amendment.  Hopefully I got this correct.

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A group called Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights (MSRR) is promoting an amendment to enshrine abortion rights, and they want to put the amendment proposal on the upcoming ballot.

The AG

Republican Attorney General Austin Knudsen drafted another version of the ballot measure, more critical of it and the supporters, and iterated that the proposal must be reviewed by an interim committee from the State Legislature within the next 14 days.

MSRR didn't like Knudsen's take and ran to the Montana Supreme Court.

Credit: BrianAJackson, Getty Images, TSM Media Center

The Court

In a 6-0 ruling on April 1st (yes, April Fools Day) with one judge abstaining, the Court favored the MSRR.  Furthermore the Court wrote their own version of the ballot measure that is very similar to the MSRR's, and sent it directly to the Secretary of State.  A footnote in the ruling also stated that a review by the Legislature is not needed.

You following along so far?

The Legislature

Well, the Montana Senate President, Republican Jason Ellsworth thought What the... and issued a subpoena to the Secretary of State the very next day, for all the records pertaining to this constitutional initiative.  "Yesterday the Montana Supreme Court was effing around in a footnote" he said in a statement.  "...the lawmaking branch of government needs to have a voice in proposed laws regardless of where they originate."

Credit: PeopleImages, Getty Images, TSM Media Center

Is This Runaround a Good Thing?

Ask a group of people and you would get different answers.  While governance may be an aggravating process, as messy as making sausage and doing your own taxes, perhaps the oversight is a reassurance that no one department can run unfettered and get away with it.

What are your thoughts on this?  Please feel free to email me at

Now go outside and get some fresh air.

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