Posted: Mar 5, 2013 8:44 PM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
Updated: Mar 6, 2013 10:33 AM
HELENA - It was in 1913 that the Montana House of Representatives met for the first time in its current location.
Now 100 years later, Montana lawmakers celebrated the centennial with cigars and top hats, Charlie Russell and his mural, and spittoons and pinochle.
Lindsey Grovom, the Clerk of the House of Representatives, helped organize the historical celebration; she said, "This is the 100th year so we are actually going to reenact the 13th Legislative assembly."
With help from the Montana Historical Society and a handful of corporate sponsors, the House was transformed from floor to ceiling.
Grovom took us on a tour, pointing out some of the history: "This is currently the mail slot room where we have coffee and people can pick up their mail. But back then, it was whiskey, you could see a bookie, and a lot of other things the public didn't know about."
A lot has clearly changed since then. In 1913 the state budget was $1.5 million, now it's $10 billion. In 1913 there were 44 standing committees, now there are 24. Back then there were four political parties: Democrats, Republicans, Progressives and one Socialist.
As part of the ceremony, modern-day Representatives dressed in period-appropriate attire and debated actual issues that were on the floor 100 years ago.
Current Speaker of the House Mark Blasdel (R) portrayed then-Speaker A.D. MacDonald (D) and opened the debate.
Representative Tom Jacobson (D) played Representative F.A. Carnal (Progressive) and brought a bill which prevented "procreation by idiots, feeble minded and insane persons." He added the word Republicans for dramatic modern-day effect, eliciting some laughter.
Representative Gordon Pierson (D) played the part of Representative Lincoln Working (R) and brought a bill which defined the crime of seduction: "I am tired of seeing the rich cattlemen, gold miners and railroad kings of this state taking the chastity of the fine women of our state, leaving no women for the god fearing men of Montana."
All the women stood up on the House floor as Representative Amanda Curtis (D) played the part of Representative John Kiley (D) and read a statement supporting women's suffrage.
Then an actor playing famed Montana artist Charlie Russell made an appearance as they re-dedicated the giant mural that now sits above the rostrum.
Blasdel said, "Revisiting these historic issues illustrates how far we have come as a state. This reenactment is offered in a spirit of celebration of this great body."