The partisan wrangling over Senate Bill 305 continued today as the House Judiciary Committee voted to table the bill after efforts to force the bill through as the meeting was coming to a close.

Representative Ellie Hill-Smith of House District 90 in Missoula said there were what she termed 'partisan hijinks' involved in the tabling of the bill.

"In my four terms in the legislature, one of the biggest partisan hijinks I've ever seen," Hill-Smith said. "The bill was carried by Republican Senator Fitzpatrick of Great Falls and overwhelmingly passed the Senate by a vote of 37-13. 54 of the 56 county commissions in the state supported the bill and passed resolutions authorizing the one time only special election mail ballot."

Hill-Smith said county elections administrators supported the bill because of the potential cost savings.

"They're saying it will cost at least $750,000 to put on this election, when the county clerks say they can put on the election safely and fairly," she said. "Also written in Senate Bill 305 is the opportunity for any county to opt out of the mail in ballot, and that's what I mean with the 'partisan hijinks' because if your county didn't want to participate, they didn't have to."

Hill-Smith says the only remaining option is to 'blast' the bill out of committee back onto the floor.

"We're going to blast it to the floor," she said. "That does take a two-thirds majority, so we will need 60 votes. A blast motion in the house literally means we're blasting it off the table where it's being held hostage. Representative Geraldine Custer will move to blast the bill probably Thursday or Friday. The county clerks need to know within a few days whether they'll have the bill or not. We know it's going to be close, so we'll see."

Last week at the same House Judiciary Committee, the Sergeant at Arms had to clear the room after Chairman Allan Doane ejected a Helena woman who violated committee rules by speaking to long at the podium. The woman, Carol Mackin, asked the chairman to have the Sergeant at Arms escort her out in protest.

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