Opinion: Republicans have accomplished nothing to advance freedoms – The Missoulian

opinion:-republicans-have-accomplished-nothing-to-advance-freedoms-–-the-missoulian

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Senator Greg Hertz, chair of the Montana Republican Legislative Campaign Committee, published a recent oped (Missoulian Feb. 17) proclaiming that “Montana Republicans will protect your freedoms.” While this oped may help his fundraising efforts, it twists the facts like a pretzel. Rather than spewing divisive and polarizing rhetoric, Republicans like Hertz would do better to take a good, hard look in the mirror and ask themselves why they did not pass much sensible policy that benefits Montanans.Democrats in the last session were laser-focused on improving the lives of ordinary Montanans, promoting affordable housing, access to child care, infrastructure, sensible COVID policy, improving our health care and mental health systems, protecting our public lands and wildlife and hunting and fishing rights and addressing climate and energy issues, all of which were blocked by Republicans.The good senator’s claims about Republican bills in the last session are highly misleading. He failed to mention that over 80% of the Republicans’ supposed tax cuts went to Montana’s wealthiest 20%. While the average Montana family may save a measly $50, the family with a million-dollar income will save over $1,500. That doesn’t take into account the ability Hertz and his party created for Montana’s wealthiest to receive tax credits for as much as $200,000 for donating to private religious schools at the expense of our public schools.
Republicans chose tax breaks for the wealthy over funding our collapsing mental health system, critical care for the elderly and those with disabilities, and housing for at-risk youth. In recent weeks, we’ve seen how the Montana State Hospital, children’s mental health programs, and Montana’s mental health facilities are barely functioning and vulnerable children are being housed out of state instead of staying in Montana. We’re losing health care workers, mental health professionals, and teachers because Republicans prioritized tax breaks for the wealthy. Perhaps the senator should explain how such policies enhance our “freedoms” and help Montanans.The senator’s other claims are equally misleading. So-called Republican “voter integrity” laws are in reality voter disenfranchisement laws. The senator well knows Montana’s elections are free and fair (and resulted in a Republican sweep), and that these new laws are merely an attempt to advance the “Big Lie.” In fact, Montana’s elections are some of the most secure in the nation. New Republican laws “limiting government’s ability” in the public health arena are in reality laws dismantling our public health systems and putting Montanans' health at risk.Religious freedom in Montana is already robust, and any person can practice any religion of their choosing. New Republican laws that purport to “protect everyone’s religious freedom” are just more Republican identity politics to bully LGBTQ and minority Montanans. New laws blocking access to abortion violate Montana women’s fundamental right to autonomy. Instead of empty rhetoric, perhaps the senator can explain how Republicans' disrespect for families and intrusion on our privacy enhances our “freedoms”.The good senator also falsely claims that while Republicans are advancing their radical culture war policies, Democrats are focused on so-called critical race theory, defunding the police, and opposing control of the southern border. We must have attended different legislative sessions, because none of these subjects was raised by Montana Democrats even once. CRT is not taught in Montana's K-12 schools, Montana Democrats have a demonstrated history of supporting public safety, and Montana doesn't have jurisdiction over the southern border.Despite Senator Hertz’s claims, the Republican sweep of all statewide Montana offices and nearly 2/3 of the Legislature has accomplished nothing to advance freedoms for ordinary Montanans. Their greatest accomplishments were making the wealthy wealthier, selling our wildlife to the highest bidder, and unprecedented power grabs by the far right.Rep. Jessica Karjala (D-Billings) represents House District 48 in the Montana Legislature. Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell (D-East Helena) represents House District 84.

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