Posted: Apr 10, 2013 11:35 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News
HELENA - Senate Republicans have agreed to squash the subpoenas they dropped on several leading Democrats in exchange for deal on a campaign reform bill.
The deal was reached Wednesday morning, just five days after the Montana Senate erupted into chaos.
Brock Lowrance, a spokesman for Senate President Jeff Essmann (R-Billings), confirms that Essmann and Minority Leader Jon Sesso (D-Butte) met on Tuesday and had a candid discussion about Friday's events.
Last week, Senate Democrats attempted to make a motion to halt business on the floor until Senator Shannon Augare (D-Browning) returned to the chamber. However, Senate President Jeff Essmann refused to acknowledge the motion.
That's when the fracas began. Democrats stood up and began chanting and pounding on their desks demanding to be recognized.
Republicans carried on with their business, voting on a handful of key bills.
Friday marked a critical deadline for referendum bills to be passed out of the Senate. Among them was Senate Bill 405, an act which eliminates same-day voter registration.
Democrats are adamantly opposed to it, saying the bill is aimed at disenfranchising voters.
On Friday, Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) said Democrats intentionally misled Montanans and the Senate about Augare's absence to stage a piece of political theatre.
"[It] was designed to try and deny Montanans the right to vote on two issues that would improve the integrity of our elections," Wittich said.
After the noise settled, Democrats threatened to take legal action challenging the votes taken amidst the chaos. Then Republicans subpoenaed phone and email records of Senators Augare and Sesso.
Essmann has agreed to not pursue the subpoenas. In return, Democrats and Republicans will work together to pass Senate Bill 387. The bill revamps the structure of the Commissioner of Political Practices office which is tasked with overseeing campaign finance and elections laws in Montana.
We will have more on this story as it develops.