No sanctions for Montana lawmaker over socialism comments

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This March 27, 2014 photo shows Rep. Rodney Garcia, R-Billings. Garcia on Monday, Feb. 3, 2020, rejected legislative leaders’ call for his resignation over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot. House leaders called the remarks he made Friday “inflammatory” and “deeply disturbing” and called for him to resign immediately. Garcia has filed to run for a seat in the state Senate. (Casey Page/The Billings Gazette via AP)

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The speaker of the Montana House conceded Wednesday that the Legislature will likely do nothing to sanction a Republican state representative after the lawmaker refused calls to resign over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot.

Republican House leaders, including Speaker Greg Hertz, wrote to Rep. Rodney Garcia on Monday, asking him to resign following his “inflammatory” and “deeply disturbing” comments at a Republican gathering in Helena last Friday. Lee Newspapers of Montana first reported Garcia’s remarks.

Garcia told The Associated Press on Monday the only way he would resign is “if God asked me to.”

It’s not practical to call Montana’s part-time lawmakers into a special session to sanction Garcia, given the estimated minimum cost of $50,000, Hertz said.

Hertz said he has the authority to remove House members from interim committees that keep working when the Legislature is not in session, but that Garcia is not serving on any interim committees.

Constituents in Garcia’s legislative district could gather signatures on a petition for a an election to remove him from office, but there are no indications that anyone is doing so.

Grounds for recall include physical or mental lack of fitness, incompetence, violation of the oath of office, official misconduct or conviction of a felony offense, said Todd Everts, director of legal services for the Legislature. It’s not clear whether Garcia’s comments would meet any of those grounds for removal.

If Garcia’s constituents did seek to recall him, it could be close to the June primary election by the time a petition could be filed with Montana’s Secretary of State’s Office and signatures could be gathered, Hertz said. Garcia is running for the state Senate this year.

“I think people just need to understand there’s very little that a legislator can do during the interim, particularly if they’re not on interim committees,” Hertz said.

Garcia likens socialism to treason and asserts that people who are found to be socialists could be jailed or shot. He could not cite which part of the Constitution supports his claims. The Constitution defines treason as levying war against the United States or providing aid and comfort to their enemies.

“But more than likely they would never be shot because we just don’t do that in today’s society,” Garcia said Monday. “We’re supposed to be civilized.”

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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