The hypocrisy wafting from the Montana legislature reached a new level of foulness this week. In fact, the 63rd legislature is likely to be remembered in future years only as a bunch of two timing double talking phonies.
You see, all session Montana lawmakers held forth in their committees about the importance of protecting kids from abuse. Our lawmakers have been patting themselves on the back for introducing some 15 bills they claim will help address the problem through tougher penalties or tweaks to existing laws.
In reality however, these same lawmakers eliminated thirteen of the people who actually do the child abuse investigation and protection work across the state to fund. That's right. While they were railing against child abuse out of one side of their mouths, GOP legislators gutted the 13 positions from Montana’s Child and Family Service Division saying they wished to save $1.3 million.
Meanwhile, these same lawmakers okayed over $200 million in tax giveaways to benefit the wealthy and corporations.
GOP lawmakers eliminating the jobs of public employees who last year alone completed 8,060 investigations of child abuse and neglect reports involving 11,835 children, as you can read in the Billings Gazette. "Abuse or neglect was substantiated in 2,037 investigations, including:
-203 cases of physical abuse.
-90 cases of psychological abuse.
-53 cases of sexual abuse.
-0 cases of medical neglect.
-34 case of other abuse or neglect."
To be sure, the legislature appears to be moving forward with a bill that makes some additional kinds of abuse a crime and a bill to require child protection staff to take on additional duties. But how are these additional abuses to be investigated and duties be carried out when the number of people who do this work is drastically cut rather than increased?
Tweaks to disclosure or reporting laws aren't bad ideas. But these bills won't help protect kids when there aren't enough people to carry out the old requirements--not to mention the new ones. If there aren't enough qualified employees to investigate allegations of abuse, help find safe places for kids to live, or even respond to the calls that come in, kids will remain in harm's way.
When all this is over, 32 members of the Montana Senate who voted for a budget bill that eliminates the child protection employees --and every Republican who voted to gut this protection for kids--will go back home and try to tell you they've done something to address child abuse. They should be asked instead why they voted to make it more difficult to project Montana's kids from abuse and neglect.
Cross posted at the Montana Cowgirl Blog.