Even before the official start of the 68th Montana Legislature, efforts were afoot to silence an important tool that our Montana Constitution grants us. Senator Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls) – the son of former NorthWestern Energy chief lobbyist John Fitzpatrick – drafted a rule that would have blocked Montana’s Consumer Counsel from weighing in on legislation without permission from legislators.
The Consumer Counsel was created during Montana’s 1972 Constitutional Convention as a safeguard against narrow, moneyed interests, especially in light of Montana’s history of corruption by the Copper Kings. The office was designed to represent the interests of consumers in legislation and proceedings that involve energy policy. Fitzpatrick’s rule was a clear effort to muzzle a voice advocating on behalf of We the People.
Late last month, Northern Plains member Richard Parks authored an op-ed drawing attention to this underhanded effort to silence our advocate. The piece was published across the state. Thanks to Richard and others who held Sen. Fitzpatrick accountable in public, the rule was amended, and our constitutionally-created watchdog can continue to do its job!