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An Exchange

An Exchange

Below is an exchange of emails between Doug Lair of Sweet Grass Council for Community Integrity and Representative John Esp, who represents our district.  The discussion is about HJ 20, a joint House Resolution which would have nullified OBAMACARE.  Below the exchange is the complete text of that resolution.


How do you explain your vote on HJ 20 today?  Why did you switch your vote from the 2nd reading?

Doug Lair


You and others have asked me to explain my vote on House Joint Resolution 20 (HJ20) which ostensibly would have nullified the federal health care act in Montana (eds. note, Rep. Esp is referring to OBAMACARE).  For the past eight years, as a general rule, based on the principle outlined below, I rarely vote to pass a joint resolution of either House of the Legislature. I’ve been on the wrong end of many 49-1 votes or 48-2 on resolutions covering a wide gamut of issues, some of which were very compelling. I’d like to tell you why.

It is my belief that most resolutions have little effect except to waste our time and your tax dollars. Each bill or resolution introduced costs the taxpayer upwards of $3000.00 each to work its way through the legislative process. Couple that with the costs that citizens incur as they take time from work to travel to and from Helena to testify for or against the ideas embedded in the resolutions. It amounts to a significant investment of time and money for our citizens.

Now that may be worthwhile if anything concrete came at the end of all this effort and expense, but sadly, that is rarely the case. Most resolutions result in nothing more than a pile of fancy letters written and sent, again at your expense, to various public officials from Alaska to Washington D.C. and all points in between. I’d be willing to bet that most are read, if they are read, by some low level staffer and promptly filed and forgotten.

That happens because, under Montana law and Legislative rules, a joint resolution may only be used to express the desire, opinion, sympathy, or request of the Legislature. It may request, but not require, a legislative entity to conduct an interim study and it may    ratify or propose amendments to the United States Constitution. There are some other uses but, as a rule, they have no force of law except in certain narrow circumstances specifically referenced in the code.

Resolutions are, in my opinion, an impotent expression of some principle or desire, some of which I philosophically agree with, and some of which I don’t. To really have an impact on public policy and the federal government, at least in my opinion, the desired changes must be in the form of a bill that if passed and signed carries the full force of Montana law.

Although it may be politically advantageous for me to vote for some of these ideas, I have decided that my principles are what they are. I will continue to vote no on nearly every resolution that comes before us. I think our time and your money could be spent more effectively on other legislative business.

I have considered and may yet bring forward an actual bill that will defy, in part, Public Law 111-148, to allow Montana to balance its budget without the constraints contained in the Federal act. Because time is of the essence, I will decide that soon. Let me know if this is something you could support.


Representative John Esp


Thank you for taking the time to explain your No vote on HJ 20.  Your explanation doesn’t hold water .  First of all, be assured that I understand how you and other Republicans split the primary election vote and pulled the Democrats into your camp.  Consequently, when I refer to the “people that sent you to Helena” I include that group.  However, this letter is really referring to the wishes of the true conservative block of voters and Tea Party Patriots that are an awakening and growing force.

If there is one overarching issue that conservatives should be united on other than HJ 19- supporting our military armed forces, it is a nullification resolution of  “Obamacare” or the federal health care act as you prefer to describe it.  Any rational person recognizes that it is unconstitutional and illegal by virtue of the way it was enacted into law.  There are many, many of us that will never forget the criminal procedure by which it was forced upon our Country and our state.  You and the other 19 have chosen to stand with the Democrats, representing big government, the union agenda and job crippling policy.  That is politically unforgivable and unaffordable .

As far as the cost of the resolution, $3000 is a small price to pay for a chance to demonstrate party unity on a matter of such great importance.  Not to mention the fact that the money is already spent by the time you voted and I thought public participation in the hearings process was what citizens are encouraged to do.  I am stunned that you don’t think HJ 20 was a worthwhile endeavor and statement of intention.  Instead, you have chosen to play politics.

Regarding your principles, they seem to be moving with the Montana wind, which blows pretty hard around here.  You voted twice to support HJ 20, then changed your vote and joined the other 7 Republicans that magically switched on the 3rd vote and made the Party lose its’ majority which caused the resolution to fail.  Again, this is unforgivable.  I suspect that you changed your vote because you thought it was politically advantageous as encouraged by the Republican leadership.  To put it another way you might grasp, you are not being on the square with us.

You say you vote no on an overwhelming number of House Joint Resolutions yet in the first half of the session you voted Yes 8 times and No 3 times out of the 11 resolutions that saw floor action,

You were elected to the legislature to uphold the Constitution and do the will of the majority who sent you to Helena.  You may want to re-check your polling data.  If you have some prospective legislation that actually protects our freedoms, lessens our bureaucratic burden and creates private sector jobs, then by all means produce it.

With Regret,

Doug Lair, SGCCI

House Joint Resolution 20

Introduced by D. Skees


WHEREAS, the members of the Montana Senate and Montana House of Representatives have taken an oath of office to support, protect, and defend the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, while the American legal and political system does not draw exclusively from a single tradition, the American system draws heavily on the English system with certain principles dating back to the Magna Carta; andWHEREAS, in the era when the Magna Carta was drafted, King John was unjustly accumulating powers
to himself deemed to be beyond the proper scope of his office; and

WHEREAS, the English barons checked the unjust exercise of power by King John by obtaining his assent to the terms of the Magna Carta; and

WHEREAS, the 18th century American colonials protested the overreaching of British authority through  lesser magistrates after the fashion of the barons at Runnymede; and

WHEREAS, with the success of the American Revolution, the claim of temporal sovereignty being unified within the British crown was cast off; and

WHEREAS, it follows that the former American colonies were populated by residents possessing individual sovereignty; and

WHEREAS, the signers of the Declaration of Independence recognized that liberty and other human rights were the grant of God, the eternal creator; and

WHEREAS, to secure to themselves and posterity the blessing of divinely bestowed sovereignty and liberty, well-limited, specific grants of individual sovereignty were contracted to government through compact for specifically limited exercise; and

WHEREAS, the limitation of the grant of sovereignty is memorialized in the 10th Amendment to the 62nd Legislature HJ 20  United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, for the sake of the preservation of liberty, the drafters of the United States Constitution sought to thwart the accumulation and concentration of power and the resulting despotism by diffusing governmental power at the federal level among three separate but equal branches of government; and

WHEREAS, the United States Constitution was designed to very narrowly limit the purview of the federal government and preserve to individual citizens first and then to state and local governments those powers not  specifically granted to the federal government; and

WHEREAS, such 18th century luminaries as James Madison and Thomas Jefferson readily discerned the unconstitutional nature of the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798; and

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of Kentucky, with the aid of James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, respectively, reviewed and declared unconstitutional the Alien and Sedition Acts by means of resolutions in the legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky passed in 1798 and 1799; and

WHEREAS, the resolutions regarding the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 that were passed in Virginia and Kentucky predated Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. 137 (1803); and

WHEREAS, in 1809 the General Court of Massachusetts passed a resolution concerning the Embargo Act and stated “the act of the Congress of the United States . . . for enforcing the act laying an embargo . . . is, in the opinion of the legislature, in many respects, unjust, oppressive and unconstitutional, and not legally binding on the citizens of the state”; and

WHEREAS, in 1820 when Ohio was fighting against the unconstitutional Bank of the United States, it recognized and approved “the doctrines asserted by the legislatures of Virginia and Kentucky, in their resolutions of November and December, 1798 and January 1800 . . . and do consider that their principles have been recognized and adopted by a majority of the American people”; and

WHEREAS, courts are not infallible arbiters of justice and constitutionality as notoriously evidenced by Dred Scott v. Sandford, U.S. 393 (1857); and

WHEREAS, for preservation of liberty, constitutional review must not be confined to a horizontal course that is solely among the three branches of government at the federal level because such confinement would tempt toward the accumulation of power by the federal government; and

WHEREAS, there is need for a vertical course that is a review conducted by discourse between the federal government and the states to prevent an unjust accumulation of power to the federal judicial branch with respect to the federal executive and legislative branches; and

WHEREAS, the appropriation of power at the federal level must be thwarted by the just exercise of power by the individual states, including Montana, on the basis of sound principles tracing their course in history through  the Virginia and Kentucky resolutions and the Magna Carta; and

WHEREAS, Governor Brian Schweitzer provided a clear and excellent example of opposition to the unjust and unconstitutional federal overreach of power when, in his television advertising promoting his election to his second term as Governor of Montana, he rightly and proudly proclaimed that he stood up and said no to Public Law 109-13 known as the REAL ID Act of 2005; and

WHEREAS, as of October of 2009, 25 states have approved resolutions or legislation against participation in the requirements of the REAL ID Act of 2005; and

WHEREAS, the Sedition Act of Montana was passed during a special session of the Legislature in 1918 and became the basis of the federal Sedition Act of 1918; and

WHEREAS, the United States Supreme Court erred in its decision in Abrams v. United States, 250 U.S.  616 (1919); and

WHEREAS, within the great State of Montana, Governor Brian Schweitzer has given a clear and excellent example of opposition to unjust laws in his posthumous pardons of those convicted under the World War I era Sedition Act of Montana (and by logical extension the federal Sedition Act of 1918) memorialized in the television program “Jailed for Their Words” aired on Montana Public Television; and

WHEREAS, the pardons by Governor Brian Schweitzer are also discussed on the internet site for the Montana Sedition Project; and

WHEREAS, the Montana House of Representatives and the Senate of Montana have reviewed DETERMINED Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 and have found these laws to be grossly deficient by any test by which they could be judged to be in compliance with the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, these deficiencies include an overly broad application of Article I, section 8, clause 3, of the United States Constitution, known as the Commerce Clause, by affecting commerce in such a way as to exceed the breadth and scope of the Commerce Clause; and

WHEREAS, the drafters of the United States Constitution intended the document to place strict limitations on the federal government by granting only narrow and limited areas of authority; and

WHEREAS, the strict limitations upon the federal government are plainly evident in the 10th Amendment to the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, within Montana the Legislature is given authority to recognize relations with other governmental agencies under legislative Joint Rule 40-60; and

WHEREAS, the United States constitution does not specifically grant the federal government authority to compel people to purchase a particular product or service; and

WHEREAS, because the federal government does not have the grant of authority to compel the purchase of a particular product or service, Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 violate the United States Constitution, and Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 were enacted in defiance of the United States Constitution; and

WHEREAS, Article VI, clause 2, of the United States Constitution containing the Supremacy clause only applies to those laws that are consistent with the United States Constitution as a whole; and

WHEREAS, by simple and self-evident logic, Article VI, clause 2, of the United States Constitution containing the Supremacy Clause does not trump the 9th and 10th Amendments to the United States Constitution because an amendment to the United States Constitution that does not restrict the federal government would have been empty, vain, and meaningless and thus, would not have been proposed and adopted.


That Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 are unconstitutional, and therefore the 62nd Session of the Montana Legislature finds that Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 are null and void and  unenforceable under the United States Constitution and the compact of the state of Montana with the United States.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that Public Law 111-148 and Public Law 111-152 cannot be implemented or enforced in the state of Montana.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the 62nd Session of the Montana Legislature urges each of the  legislatures of the other 49 states of the United States to adopt similar resolutions.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Secretary of State send a copy of this resolution to the legislature of each of the other 49 states of the United States, to the Governor of Montana, and to the Chief Justice of the Montana Supreme Court.

One Response to “An Exchange”

  1. Maggi Dunakin says:

    It seems like if a person did not believe in resolutions, their voting record would be more consistent. It would show a person not voting or voting no across the board.

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