Now that the federal government has reopened, the nation's bills are being paid and everybody in Washington is making nice until January 15 when America may run out of money again, it's nice to know some politicians can still work together and serve their constituents' best interests.
Take Montana for instance, one of only four states that feels the need to convene its legislature every other year (Nevada, Texas and North Dakota do the same.) In the most recent 90-day session, officials calmly completed all state business, including a hot button issue affecting any Montanan (or is it Montananian? Montananite?) with an automobile and a rumbling tummy.
What to do with roadkill?
Back in February Montana State Rep. Steve Lavin introduced a bill allowing residents to eat any deer, elk, moose, or antelope they inadvertently hit and killed on state roads, referring to it on the House floor as "the first true cleanup bill" and pleading with his fellow constituents not to "gut my roadkill bill." Disgusting as it may seem to those of us who prefer dining off plates as opposed to asphalt, the bill passed the House 95-3 without filibustering, 11th-hour wrangling or assertions from Tea Party loyalists that the government should not intervene in matters of dead antelope. The Montana Senate also heeded Lavin's wishes, passing the bill 28-20.
Naturally, Lavin's brainstorm was not without its detractors, this being American politics and all. Who would be liable if roadkill found its way to local food banks and those eating it became sick? Would residents abuse the law, intentionally gunning their engines every time they saw a poor, hapless yet meaty creature crossing the road?
"Kids what do you feel like for dinner tonight?"
"Moose, Daddy. We want moose!"
"Moose it is! Now help Daddy find his keys and I'll be back in a jiffy."
Still, it amazes me that a bill involving animals, human safety and transportation costs -- all lightning rods for controversy in Washington -- could pass so effortlessly. Perhaps it was because there were no lobbyists, bloggers, talking heads on radio or "professional activists who profit from conflict," President Obama's label for those he claimed aided the Washington shutdown. Or, unlike Congress, maybe the Montana legislature realizes delaying important matters solves nothing. Had Lavin's bill been tabled or bumped to an innocuous dead animal committee, it wouldn't reappear until 2015. How many perfectly scrumptious dead elk would have gone to waste during that time? Therefore, the Montana legislature did what Americans are asking Congress to do: introduce a bill, discuss it, take a vote and move on. What's so hard about that?
I observed Montana political camaraderie firsthand in January 2009 while staying at a Helena motel that was hosting a "Welcome Back" party for the government. Representatives and senators from both parties, many dressed in Stetson hats and cowboy boots, exchanged pleasantries and photos of their children. The only thing missing was a group photo for Facebook. Not once did I see teams huddled in corners, rubbing their hands together and cackling as they discussed ways to bring the business of governing to a halt.
The roadkill bill is awaiting Montana Governor Steve Bullock's signature and there is no reason to believe it won't become law. The Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission is even formulating a permit system so residents don't actually have to present the, um, carcass, to law enforcement officials. Just show the paper proving you are a certified roadkill connoisseur and then, bon appétit!
Congress, you definitely need a "time out." So please look to Big Sky Country. Finish your business, adjourn and take a year off. I think we can survive.
And should the nation find itself short of cash when paying creditors, perhaps it could make up the difference with an antelope carcass. Just a thought.
COPYRIGHT © 2013 GREG SCHWEM DISTRIBUTED BY TRIBUNE CONTENT SERVICES, INC