Gazette opinion: Give Fox a 2nd term at Montana justice department

Since taking office in January 2013, Attorney General Tim Fox has worked to:

  • Streamline voter registration with driver’s licensing.
  • Raise awareness of the number of untested rape evidence kits stored by Montana law enforcement agencies. He obtained a federal grant for testing that could lead to prosecution of rapists.
  • Reduce the wait for chemical testing of suspected illegal drugs from 11 months to two months.
  • Collaborate with the Montana Medical Association in educating health care professionals and the general public about the risks of prescription drug abuse.
  • Champion tougher penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
  • Expand eligibility for the 24/7 Sobriety testing program.
  • Protect Montana consumers through litigation and education.

The most effective changes for Billings and Eastern Montana on Fox’s watch involve the Montana State Crime Lab. Longstanding friction between forensic pathologists has been resolved. Three new highly qualified pathologists have been hired and one works full time in Billings, so autopsies can be conducted here, instead of in Missoula.

The lab is now under the direction of a scientist who has raised the professionalism and performance of the very busy staff.

A new satellite crime lab opened in Billings earlier this year with staffing and equipment to analyze samples of suspected illegal drugs. The satellite has speeded up the process of getting results in cases throughout central and Eastern Montana. The closer proximity of the satellite lab also allows the region’s law enforcement officers to minimize the time they must devote to transferring samples to the lab.

The satellite lab wasn’t Fox’s idea. It was proposed by Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito and championed by legislators from Billings and Eastern Montana. But credit Fox for getting the satellite up and running — even after it was discovered that the authorizing legislation didn’t actually include the needed appropriation.

Republican Fox has joined a number of national lawsuits on behalf of Montana, some important to Montana, some not. But overall, he has succeeded in managing his myriad duties as head of the Department of Justice. He and his staff effectively presented bipartisan legislation that became laws to improve the protection of Montana citizens.

Democratic attorney general candidate Larry Jent is a long-time Bozeman attorney, who served in the Montana Senate. He sponsored DUI law reform. Jent also carried the bill that made Montana Highway Patrol salaries competitive with pay for deputy sheriffs — and provided a funding stream to support the plan, which is still working.

But we think Fox has earned another term. He dove into the attorney general role with energy and enthusiasm, resulting in accomplishments that serve Montanans regardless of partisan viewpoints. The Gazette recommends that Montanans re-elect Fox.

From Billings Gazette