My Take on the Montana PSC Redistricting Debate
Why the rush on redistricting? That's my take on this latest debate concerning the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC).
First, a little background. Didn't we just do redistricting in Montana, you might ask. Yes, but that was for the newly designed Congressional districts. Montana is going from one member of the US House of Representatives to two members. So, once the state's Districting and Apportionment Commission got the latest Census data, they began drawing the lines for the two new Congressional districts.
That commission is made up of two Republican appointees, and two Democrat appointees. The Democrats and the Republicans are supposed to decide on a chair for the 5th vote, but it always ends up deadlocked so what ends up happening is that the liberal majority on the Montana Supreme Court gets to pick the chair. It is what it is.
Redistricting for the PSC is a whole different story. The task of redistricting for Montana's Public Service Commission rests solely with the Montana Legislature. Here's the challenge: liberal judges are trying to interfere with the process and force a rushed redistricting process. That's the best case scenario, the more likely scenario is far worse- liberal judges will attempt to unilaterally make the redistricting decisions on their own and ignore the Montana Constitution.
Earlier this week we had a great conversation on this topic. It led to a bit of a fiery back and forth between some of the callers and guests. Former State Senator Ed Butcher (R-Winifred) joined me on the radio to speak out against the judges interfering in the redistricting process. He also took a shot at Joe Dooling for being too closely aligned with the more moderate Republicans.
Joe Dooling of Helena, who is exploring a run for the PSC's Northwest Montana seat as a Republican, then called in and fired back at Butcher. He also called out Rep. Derek Skees (R-Kalispell) for not getting the redistricting job done in previous legislative sessions.
Skees then followed up afterward and made a good point- we didn't do PSC redistricting in the last legislative session because we didn't have the latest 2020 Census data available yet.
That makes sense to me. We didn't have the county Census data available yet, which you would want in order to properly design any new districts. That's why they waited until the Fall in order to draw up the US House districts.
So now the question is- do we call a special session and get PSC redistricting done prior to the 2022 elections, or simply wait until the next regularly scheduled session following the Census? What we can't have; though, is a group of liberal federal judges deciding what the maps will look like, especially when that task rests, Constitutionally, with our state legislature.