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In the April 23 Bitterroot Star, Lilya McAlister stated that Pat Connell is trying to fool the voters “using a chart that completely distorts the facts.” Maybe it is distorted in Ms. McAlister’s mind, but, let me tell you how the chart was made, and then you decide.

The bills used were all 423 bills passed by both chambers of the legislature. Same bills in both chambers; comparing apples to apples.  The graph shows the percentage of time the individual voted with the majority of the Republican caucus. This assumes a majority is a Republican position, whether some folks like majority rule or not.

There were 61 Republicans in the House, so a majority is 31. There were 29 in the Senate, so a majority is 15. By looking up each bill you can count the number of votes on 3rd reading to determine whether the majority is a Yes or No vote. Then compare the individual’s vote to the majority. The graph illustrates this.

Anyone can verify this by going to Session Laws to get the list of all bills. Then go to and do the counting. It takes about 8 hours. It’s simple; all votes on all bills passed by both chambers. Is that distorted?

Ms. McAlister says the chart is “worthless.” I would suggest that it is far more representative than the so-called TAB report being circulated by the Montana Conservatives. That is plural, and that is correct because there are two of them: Scott Orr and Roger Koopman, a self-proclaimed Libertarian. Their scorecard had 15 pages of justification for using only 90 bills; using ALL bills requires no justification. I don’t think the rationale of two people who were recognized in their own legislative days as extremists qualifies over a majority of the Republican caucus. Anyone can justify any conclusion if they just select 21% of the data from a given set.

Ms. McAlister goes on to complain that Pat Connell, “…fails to say that the ‘majority’ included the ones who voted like Democrats.” Actually, there were 258 bills, or 61% that passed the House by 90+ votes. That’s a lot of R’s voting with D’s (or are D’s voting with R’s??).

Ms. McAlister declares she is supporting Pat Connell’s opponent, Scott Boulanger, which is her prerogative. Sen. Boulanger voted against what he called the “Pension bailout.” To do so is irresponsible! The Montana Constitution, Article VIII, Sec. 15(1): “Public retirement systems shall be funded on an actuarially sound basis.” This is one part of the constitution that extremists don’t like, but it is part of the constitution.

Sen. Boulanger voted against HB 354, carried by Rep. Connell, claiming it is a “slush fund.” On the contrary, it establishes a permanent fund to pay for fire fighting. Ray Hawk, supported by the Ravalli delegation, tried each session to do this, but it was always vetoed by Gov. Schweitzer because it deprived him of all the little slush funds he squirreled away in various departments. Rep. Connell’s bill establishes a permanent, budgeted, item to pay for fire fighting, rather than unbudgeted funds from the “next session.” Maybe we should just hope there are no fires rather than to prepare for them.

Pat Connell passed several other bills as well. Sen. Boulanger passed none – zero. I would rather support a record of responsible solutions for the people of Montana than ideological sound-bites and gridlock.

I support Pat Connell for State Senate District 43.

Gary MacLaren


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