Gov looks ahead to ’06 By CHARLES S. JOHNSON - IR State Bureau - 01/02/06
HELENA — If Montanans thought Gov. Brian Schweitzer was everywhere last year, he has a surprise for them this year.
The Democratic governor won’t be grounding himself in 2006. Schweitzer said he plans to travel even more than he did last year — both inside and outside of Montana.
“The first year I hit the ground running with the Legislature right away,” Schweitzer said in an interview. “We had this school funding thing that we needed to get resolved. We’ve got that in the rear-view mirror. Now we’ve got this next year to start fine-tuning government and spend some time on the road. Without the Legislature, school funding I’m going to expand that.”
Schweitzer said he will travel to major cities in the West and Midwest and wherever he can to help Montanans living there form local chapters of the Montana Ambassadors to help bring business to Montana. He’s already done so in several West Coast cities.
“They still love Montana,” Schweitzer said of the transplanted Montanans in Seattle, San Francisco, Denver and other cities. “They still believe in Montana. They’ll still help to bring business here.”
Rebuffed by the Legislature, Schweitzer will be promoting a proposed ethics initiative for the 2006 ballot. After the final version is drafted and passes state review, Schweitzer and his allies will need to gather thousands of signatures to place it on the November ballot.
Schweitzer has been highly critical of the influence of lobbyists on state government and vowed to impose some restrictions. He has refused to appoint any lobbyists to state boards and commissions.
His proposal is expected to impose at least a two year waiting period to temporarily close the “revolving door” in which elected officials, particularly legislators, become lobbyists as soon as their terms expire. It’s also expected to impose stiffer reporting and disclosure requirements on lobbyists and perhaps add other restrictions.
This fall, Schweitzer figures to play a major role campaigning for Democratic state legislative candidates so his party can win majorities in both chambers. Democrats now control the Senate, 27-23, while the House is deadlocked, with 50 Republicans and 50 Democrats.
Schweitzer said he may not hit the campaign trail throughout the state, but likely would target races in key battlegrounds like Billings.
“I’ll be willing to help some people who’ve been helpful to us,” he said.
Schweitzer pooh-poohed speculation that he will devote his spare time to stump for Democrats out of state.
“Oh hell, I don’t know if I can help anybody anywhere else,” he said. “I might be helpful in Billings. I doubt that they care what I say in Baltimore.”