© 2015 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Our sincerest thanks to the hundreds of people who joined us in Helena for the Senate Committee hearing on the CSKT Water Compact.  The day went quite well considering the fact that the committee we plead our cause to was made up of legislators that were not favorable to our position on the compact.

One by one by one, like beating a tribal drum, proponents filed through the line expressing their never ending threats of litigation.   How sad to see so many people willing to submit themselves and their neighbors to tribal jurisdiction through their blind acceptance of this “water compact”.

Opponents outnumbered proponents 2 to 1, and it was heartwarming to see the balconies full of people wearing their anti compact buttons on their lapels.

It was difficult to watch some of the legislators on the committee turn a deaf ear to the arguments of opponents, as though their decisions were a foregone conclusion and the hearing was merely a step in the process toward getting senate ratification of Vincent’s bill.  Imagine that.

Considering the fact we faced an essentially “hostile” committee, we left feeling upbeat about moving forward in our battle to oppose the compact.  We also came out of the hearing with some very helpful information about proponents:

1)  Proponents had nothing new to offer about the compact except to simply use the tribe’s mantra of threatened litigation.

2) Senator Vincent’s disdain of those opposing the compact was clearly on display at the hearing.  After more than two years of watching his political theatrics, he’s finally come out of the closet and shown us the real Chas Vincent.  Good for us, bad for him.

3)  It appears that tribal leadership has not read the compact themselves and had great difficulty answering any questions about it.  Instead they had to defer to their attorney “experts”. This is no different that our own politicians who support the compact, and rely solely on state attorney talking points because they are unable to speak to its details too.

4)  Proponents were willing to lie about the compact, touting “significant changes” from the 2013 version, and instead of providing facts, continue to tell us that we can never win in court against the tribe.

5)  Some of the legislators that we presented our case to were seemingly uninterested in the legal / constitutional problems with the compact.  Instead, they prefer to defer to finely crafted statements by “state experts” that seemingly address or deflect away from these criticisms, when in fact they are not presenting any facts specific to what this compact proposes.  The attorneys and Vincent himself seem to believe that spouting off a few legal cases demonstrates enough expertise to stifle the debate as though only their cited cases are a golden key to magical constitutionality and compliance with the law.

6) The state still expects legislators to vote for the blank check compact in spite of the fact that they have not yet quantified the tribe’s water rights.  And because they failed to provide quantification they are not able to complete the important studies needed to understand its impacts.

Senator Vincent closed by telling opponents to read the bill, implying that no one had done that.  He also implied that only attorneys can speak to the constitution.

We beg to differ on both counts.

We have read the bill and the corresponding appendices and water abstracts, and because we HAVE READ THEM, we continue to have very serious concerns that the state has willfully failed to address.

Very little has changed in the compact between 2013 and 2015 except for the cosmetic lipstick in the form of “tweaks” Senator Vincent requested as chair of the Water Policy Interim Committee.  We not only understand the theater that went into his “fixes”, but the public was forced to watch of the political theater that went into his “transformation” from a (wink wink) non-believer to a compact believer.

When Chas swore his oath to protect and defend the United States and Montana constitutions, did he have an attorney interpret the constitution for him first, or does he consider himself to be smart enough to understand it without the benefit of an attorney?

Is he arrogant enough to think we aren’t smart enough to do the same?  Was the constitution written for lawyers?

Also in his closing, Vincent scolded opponents for wanting to force everyone into the courts, and suggested that we can go down that pathway alone, but vehemently insisted that he will not allow us to take him along with everyone else in that direction.

In other words, he made his deal and he is happy.  After all, he told other legislators to make their own deals with the tribe, and it’s not his fault if they didn’t follow his lead and instead chose to act only within the constraints of their legislative mandate and authority. For Senator Vincent, the thirty pieces of silver aren’t going to get him far.