State Senator Duane Ankney has a message for fellow Republicans scrambling to kickstart a special session in order to deal with the whole redistricting thing: the Public Service Commission (PSC) is dysfunctional, and the adults in the court need to step in and intervene.
Back in December, former Republican Secretary of State Bob Brown launched a federal lawsuit, arguing that districts are using some wonky math in order to used to elect the state’s utility regulation board, the PCS. Ankney explains that “the PSC consists of five members, each elected from a distinct geographic Montana district, whose primary charge is keeping your lights on and power costs low.”
That’s who we’re dealing with here. His lawsuit claims that the PSC has actually violated the constitution because they’re using numbers from two decades ago that skew the results, which is a violation of the ‘one person, one vote’ rules.
The current map was drawn back in 2003 and it’s wildly out of date. While District 3, which includes cities like Buttes and Bozeman gained some 60,000 residents in the intervening years, District 1 only gained a couple of thousand. Yet rather than having more representation on account of their vastly increased numbers, they have the same, based on bad intel, which is a big no-no.
Ankney claims that rather than focus on its regulatory role, the PSC devolved into a hot mess of dysfunction, squabbling, gridlock, and the liberal use of insults and jeering. For years some half-hearted attempts have been made to redraw the districts in a way that makes more sense and which properly align with the growing numbers, but both parties quickly grew distracted by the prospect of gerrymandering them into zones that would give them more power and influence over their political enemies, ensuring those efforts died in committee.
For this reason, the courts have stepped in, with a three-judge panel consisting of two from Montana and one from California taking it upon themselves to wrest control away from the Legislature and redraw the map themselves, without direct Republican influence or input.
Ankney believes this is preferable to the idea that has been floated of the GOP in recent weeks, which is forming an emergency session to resolve it. He argues an emergency session would barely solve anything, only result in “hastily redrawn redistricting lines” that would cost too much money, all the while self-serving politicians would cut it up in a way to gain self-serving advantages. From his ‘throw-up-his-hands-in-frustration; perspective, let the courts take care of it for now, and then the Legislature can resolve it during the 2023 session. This seems good to many Republicans, who don’t want to deal with the hassle that it could be.
Not only this, but special sessions are a special time because they let people throw in and tack on pet projects that can be decided on with a simple majority vote-a prospect that is too attractive for some politicians not to try, licking their chops as they plot what they can and can’t get away with.
Yet this is the sort of thing that many RINO’s are writing their hands over. They’re concerned about some ‘immoderate’ legislation that some in their party would seek to pursue and that they’re embarrassed by, such as perhaps wedging in a vote on investigating election fraud. Better to let their courts decide and leave some money on the table, rather than the very real fear that a colleague, with his proposed legislation, will basically flip the whole thing over.
While that seems like it should be a done deal, Republicans further down on the right are less than thrilled with the idea that judges, and one from California no less, are just taking over and making the decision in these matters. They’re keen for a special session and want this to go down, so they can address the redistricting in their favor, or at least in a way that does not harm them. They have the perspective of “do not give an inch, ever” and “do all you can to see conservative republicanism flourish and grow”
Giving the courts control would be giving more than a few inches, and therefore would be highly counterproductive For the hardliners, this is a battle worth fighting.