Guest view: My accidental Constitutional Convention opportunity | Columnists


Fifty several years back, in 1972, I served hammer out a new Montana Constitution.

I’d missing my bid for a seat in the condition legislature in the 1970 election — per-haps in part simply because my campaign cards experienced my name and qualifications on one particular facet and a recipe for Rooster Delight on the other. That failed election paved the way for a extra enduring role in Montana federal government.

If I had gained that seat in the legislature, I could not have been elected to the Constitutional Conference. Montana’s 1889 Structure was a creaky, verbose doc with very little benefit, but it contained a provision that prevented any elected official, such as condition legislators, from serving as delegates to upcoming Conventions.

That provision meant that our assorted body of Constitutional Conference delegates experienced plenty of refreshing faces. There were being business enterprise homeowners, farmers and ranchers, like a honey farmer, a librarian, five ministers, and yes, a smattering of legal professionals. As a member of the Montana League of Women Voters, I’m proud that organization had strong representation and that 19 of the 100 Constitutional Convention delegates ended up women as when compared to the 1971 Legislature that experienced only two women among the its 156 legislators.

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While the election was partisan, we chose to sit alphabetically. This sim-ple act of “eliminating the aisle” led to good conversation, collaboration, and enduring, if not likely, friendships

We were being supplied just sixty times to craft a basis for Montana’s long run. The new Structure had to be durable, simple, and shield our individuals. We reduce a lot of phrase lumber: the stale 28,000 phrase old Constitution often benefited the impressive economic interests of 1889, together with mining. One particular provision we eradicated experienced constrained the taxing of mining land to a paltry “$2.50 to $5 an acre.”

Through the 83 several years after the passage of the 1889 Constitution, legislative committees could keep “executive sessions” to make solution decisions behind closed doors. In 1972, we opened the lawmaking approach, enacting “sunshine” provisions together with demanding recorded votes.

We actively solicited ideas from all above the state. ConCon hearings ended up broadly publicized and attended by individuals who braved very long treks in a tricky Montana wintertime to enable us establish a citizen’s Structure in Helena.

We shielded our precious water legal rights. We mandated Indigenous American his-tory be taught in our colleges. We cemented our proper to a “clean and health-ful surroundings.” Many thanks to this doc, Montanans have a appropriate to know, a proper to take part, and an increased proper to privacy.

Just after completing our job in 54 of the 60 times allotted to compose a new Structure, we rebated funds to Montana taxpayers. We built our constitution underneath time, and under budget.

Unlike the Montana legislature, our efficient Constitutional Conference operated with only a single chamber. We would do well, I thought, to comply with Nebraska’s case in point: get rid of the Property and Senate, in favor of a unicameral legislature. So I championed this proposal, which was offered as a sub-alternative on the ballot. I campaigned tough for both equally the passage of Montana’s Structure and the unicameral option. The Structure passed, but Unicameral didn’t. I’m proud to have been one particular of the framers of this product constitution, even if my “one house” design undertaking turned into sawdust.

The Montana Structure has much more than stood the test of time. It is been cit-ed as a product document for other states, and has defended the rights of normal Montanans like us for fifty percent a century.

Fifty years right after its passage, the Montana Structure is deserving of celebration.

At 96 many years of age, I think we’re extremely privileged to have this Constitution…let’s do every little thing we can to preserve it and prosper underneath its provisions.

Arlyne Reichert, 96, life in Terrific Falls. Reichert retired right after a lot of a long time at the McLaughlin Exploration Institute.  She served as a delegate to the 1972 Constitutional Convention and afterwards just one term in the Legislature.  She continues to be incredibly energetic as the President of Preservation Cascade, which saved the 10th Street Bridge, which has been renamed in her honor.


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