Tribune, Bronson To Legislature: Just Trust Us

The Great Falls Tribune got its smarm on today in dissing Rep. Jeremy Trebas:

Somebody might want to pick up the phone and remind Jeremy Trebas that as a Republican, he’s supposed to be for small government and local control.

This type of rhetoric is always rich. The Trib’s editors are not Republicans. They’re just happy to give advice to elected Republicans on what Republicans believe.

The Trib is referring to Trebas’ idea, which he’s written about here, to pass a state law that would forbid local governments from playing nanny to Montanans who use cell phones while driving.  

Just as Montana lawmakers would cry foul if a ban on cellphone bans came from the feds, so, too, should city officials decry attempts by the state to overstep its bounds on this issue.”

So under this logic, what is the Trib’s limiting principle? What shouldn’t cities and counties be able to regulate?

Teacher accreditation? (That’s currently a matter of state policy, not local school boards.)

How about hunting tags? (That’s a state FWP thing, not local conservation districts or county commissions.)

How about whether a city gets to set up an electric utility? Well, that used to be a city power, admittedly. Maybe City Commissioner Bill Bronson would offer the same defense about the City of Great Falls’ history in that business as he offered in the Trib today about the cell phone ordinance:

“We spent a great deal of time studying this.”

The state took away the keys from city governments on that issue, because they simply could not be trusted to make that decision.

Cities don’t get to make their own special laws with respect to DUIs. They don’t get to make their own special laws regarding reckless driving. The state has decided that a uniform code that is generally applicable to drivers throughout the state is the better way to go. Why? Presumably because drivers — like teachers, like wildlife — are mobile.

They are less a part of a given city or a school district or a county, than they are part of a state. It makes sense to have a standard, to promote the concept that, unless there is a very good reason to the contrary, Montanans who drive from one city to another can live under the same set of rules everywhere in our state and not risk getting home-town’ed.

Zoning of property might be one thing. But is there really any argument that the streets of the City of Great Falls, and the people driving on them, are so different from the City of Kalispell that it should have a different set of driving laws?

We don’t think so.

Reader interactions

7 Replies to “Tribune, Bronson To Legislature: Just Trust Us”

  1. When food and drink contribute to the number 1 cause ,of accidents and number2 is radio / media stuff and 3 is cell phone so we go after number 3 ? Ask Bronson for a copy of the research and see how fast he backpedals he is so full of crap !! and I should know !!I set there for 14 years !!


  2. My question is this: If texting is so clearly the cause of the vast majority of accidents, why are we destroying people’s lives because they have 2 beers after work and drive home?


  3. Michael J Winters January 23, 2017 at 1:53 PM

    You both know me and know full well I am NOT a big government advocate—-how ever ! I believe it was I who introduced the cell phone city ordinance. Two things to remember are first—-while there most probably isn’t much written re: stats on cell phone usage there are many reasons to have this ordinance in place. There is a danger ever present , have you seen these idiots holding up traffic at a stop light ? Have you seen these idiots running stop lights (red lights) ? Have you seen them weaving back and forth from lane to lane? This conduct and habit will catch up to us sooner than later. Then the second : ate there not bigger fish to fry in the legislature? Should a first term legislator be thinking of having the state decide which city ordinance and regulation is ok and which is not ? This is a good ordinance and should be followed and decided on locally not in Helena. Is John right? Perhaps is Gregg or Bill right–I think we are all right to some degree –but the kite is already flying so why try to shoot it down ?


    1. Mike – We miss you at City Hall! But to the point, then Great Falls should pass a local ordinance that people have to wear seat belts in the city. No state law on that, and it is way more of a problem than cell phones. If we are going to have a cell phone ban, then enforce it. I have been out driving and watched a patrol car driving someone clearly on a cell phone. Driving in this town isn’t a spectator sport, and gets worse all the time. Is that because…


  4. If officers are required to actually see someone using a cell phone before writing a ticket, then the officer would be required to see the user, actively using the device, while an accident occurs. So if the officer doesn’t see this occur, all he can do is write a careless ticket anyway. A careless puts points on your driving record. A local violation does not. No one has provided objective data that the ban has reduced cell phone use, reduced accidents, or provided a safer public environment. Absent that information, all the ban really does is provide a revenue source to the city, by imposing a fine for a potentially negligent action that has not yet occurred, and may not ever occur. With all due respect, this ban has been in effect since July, 2012, and I have seen little change. When may we expect this “conduct and habit” to catch up to us?


  5. Michael J Winters January 23, 2017 at 7:46 PM

    Aspen !–It has already caught up to us __Check out the running red lights- watch how users drift from one lane to another or stand at a green light before moving–at least notice the lack of driving courtesy –I would say it has caught us napping–perhaps you would see it differently should you be the victim of such conduct.


    1. I have to make a couple responses to my friend, and our former Mayor Winters.

      First, anecdote is not evidence. In other words, the fact that I have seen people drive poorly while using their cell phones does not prove what percentage of drivers do this, whether is is any more dangerous than any other distraction, or whether the ban is having any effect. (…among a host of other things, it does not prove.)

      Second, considering whether or not someone happens to be victim of distracted driving in considering her opposition to the cell phone ban is a fallacious argument as well. Someone whose son died in a car wreck with a driver eating a cheeseburger might think it should be a felony to eat and drive. Someone injured in an accident with a drunk driver might well argue alcohol should be entirely illegal. The fact is that our society balances these burdens and benefits all the time, and there is no guarantee that any one person will agree. For example, a teetotaller might well be more likely to agree to a ban of alcohol, but when an environmentalist wants to take away the fellow’s golf course, all of a sudden the teetotaller isn’t quite so interested in what other people think.

      There are all kinds of emotional components to all these issues. That’s why regulators should try to base their decisions on evidence.

      For example, after 4 1/2 years of a cell phone ban, there are statistics in place. If it cannot be demonstrated that the ban has had a statistically significant impact on driving safety, there is absolutely no reason to keep it other than as a revenue source.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *