Opinion – Work with elected officials for better state government

Talk to your friends and neighbors. You’ll find that some of them have experienced problems with certain state government agencies. Sometimes it’s things like poor personal service, an inadequate response to a question, or a miscalculated tax bill. These instances are annoying, aggravating and downright irritating. They cost time, effort and money.

By Michael Lange in the Ravalli Republic

In spite of these mistakes, people do their best to deal with them. Usually, a call or letter to the agency will get things handled. When that doesn’t work, your elected representatives should get involved and help. In most instances, things are resolved in an appropriate manner. This doesn’t mean we always agree with the outcome, but at least we feel that the system was responsive to us.

When these steps fail, the next one is usually to call an attorney. Perhaps the issue ends up in court and a judge decides if the actions were legally correct. Sometimes however, the agencies are technically correct with their actions, but the action is simply wrong. In these cases, people work to change the law, rule or policy. Other times, agencies fail to adequately enforce the law. Either way, the damage is done.

The events described here happen too often. Sometimes though, things go terribly wrong. In certain cases, people’s lives are unjustly destroyed by the actions of government. These instances are inexcusable. When the net of justice is torn, people fall through. Families can be ruined and lives shattered.

Without picking on any particular agency – although you probably have a few in mind – it is crucial that we take further steps to strengthen people’s rights under the law. The right to due process, the right to a redress of grievances, the right to a trial by jury, the right to meet the witness against you face to face, the right to know and the right to equal protection under the law come specifically to mind. Each of these rights is absolute and constitutionally guaranteed.

Our rights must be protected before, during and after we are subjected to the actions of a state agency. Each branch, division, department, agency, bureau, board, committee, council, and commissions of state government must be directed to establish a clear, concise and formal process for a citizen to file complaints against its specific actions.

Currently, government agencies have hodge – podge methods of providing citizens a way to file a complaint, ranging from no formal process at all, or just taking notes over the phone, to perhaps a procedure that nobody in the agency even understands. Worse yet, many complaints receive no action or decision of any kind when they are filed.

A formal complaint should be easy to file. It should be recorded, tracked, and always responded to in a timely manner. With effective oversight, this process provides a clear record of each complaint and how it is addressed. Besides the obvious benefits, this reduces the amount of frivolous complaints, if there is such a thing.

Secondly, agencies must fully and adequately disclose, to the affected citizens, all relevant and pertinent information related to the agencies actions or decisions prior to, or at the time of the action. You have the right to know what you are accused of, what the evidence against you is, who your accusers are and the basis of the decision. Unfortunately, this does not always happen, sometimes with tragic results.

We must also review and improve the adequacy and effectiveness of each agencies internal investigation process. Other questions arise as to adequate legislative and executive oversights, rules implementation, proper enforcement or compliance methods and even the judicial review process itself. It’s a lot to consider, but the urgency is high and it’s the right thing to do.

As a freshman legislator, I’ve learned that a positive, pro-active approach is the best way to bring about beneficial reforms to state government.

Talk to your friends and neighbors. Then tell your elected representatives to look closely and enact the right changes so that our government will operate the way it should. Our rights are at stake.

Michael Lange is a Republican state representative from Billings.



BILLINGS, MT 59102-5734

Home: (406)651-2084

[email protected]

Sorry, we couldn't find any posts. Please try a different search.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.