Archive for February 8th, 2009

by jhwygirl

101 committee hearings between Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, folks. Plenty have moved through one house, into the other…so stuff is moving forward. There’s no time like the present to involve yourself with a letter or a phone call to Helena.

On Monday, in House Judiciary, we’ve got one that addresses an issue that is becoming increasingly important (sadly) in today’s world of divorces and broken marriages. Rep. Deb Kottel has HB350 and HB397 which help to gain more more rights for grandparents. Jennifer Eck is the secretary for the committee, jeck@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Judiciary committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Rep. Art Noonan has HB343 in the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee. It would revise definitions in the administration of renewable resource standards for public utilities. Importantly, it considers the importance of dispatch ability, geographic diversity, seasonality, and other operational characteristics of the eligible renewable resource when considering the procurement of renewable energy credits. Putting forth as credit something that can’t be created year-round is an empty credit towards other requirements the state has to requiring portfolios to include alternative energy sources. This is a good one. Bryce Bennett is the secretary for the committee, bbennett@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

In Senate Natural Resources, Sen. David Wanzenried has HB393 which would require that certain sections of the state’s water plan address issues on the Clark Fork, Flathead, Missouri and Yellowstone river basins. It would also create a water user council that would represent interests and water users in the basins. Obviously, I’m loving this one…Lindsey Hern is the secretary for the committee, lhern@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the Senate Natural Resources committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Wanzenried is also looking to increase school funding with SB302. This is in Senate Education and Cultural Resources – Nadine Spencer the secretary for the committee, nspencer@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Tuesday brings us Rep. Michele Reinhart’s proposed HB420, which would allow local governments to adopt energy conservation building codes. Currently building codes are formally adopted by the state and then local governments must subsequently adopt the same. Its a ridiculous exercise, frankly, because local government has no option…but I digress. This is a good bill, because it allows local government to add good stuff to the state’s official building code. This one in House Local Government – Katie Butcher the secretary for the committee, kbutcher@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Local Government committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Reinhart also has in House Local Government HB406 which would clarify current county interim zoning laws. Clarification is always good.

Rep. Margaret MacDonald wants to exempt biodiesel fuels made from waste vegetable oil with HB416. How smart is that? Very supportable, folks. In House Agriculture – Marshall McEwen the secretary for the committee, mmcewen@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Agriculture committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

In Senate Taxation, Sen. Mike Cooney has SB301 which would give tax credits for the purchase of certain nonfossil energy systems and certain energy-conserving capital expenditures even for residential rental buildings. Debra Polhemus is the secretary for the committee, dpolhemus@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the Senate Taxation committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Now to Wednesday…. in House Taxation is Missoula Rep. Dave McAlpin’s bill to revise tax code with a new top marginal rate for income tax. HB395 would raise the maximum rate to 7.9% for anyone making more than $250,000. That’s a 1% increase for what was previously a ceiling of $13,900. Seems to me not many Montanans incomes would be affected by this one, considering the median income for a Montana family of 4 is $55,641. Give this bill some love, folks. Jennifer O’Loughlin is the secretary for the committee, joloughlin@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Taxation committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Rep. Jill Cohenour wants to submit to the electorate an amendment that would repeal term limits with HB458. In House State Administration, Marshall McEwen the secretary, mmcewen@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House State Administration committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Rep. Julie French seeks to increase funding for the senior and disabled transportation funding account. This is in House Appropriations, Samuel Speerschneider the secretary, sspeerschneider@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the House Appropriations committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

Retirees will like these two, SB284 (from Sen. John Brueggeman) and SB282 (from Sen. Jesse Laslovich). SB284 would increase income phase-out cap for pension and annuity exclusions, while SB282 would increase threshold at which certain retirement income is exempt from income tax. Both in Senate Taxation – Debra Polhemus the secretary, dpolhemus@mt.gov. Please make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the Senate Taxation committee members, and be sure to mention the bill numbers in your correspondence.

That’s my wrap on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday’s committee meetings. Don’t forget to check out Threatening Both the Taxpayer and Local Government: Senator Shockley’s SB310 and Gravel Week Comes to the Legislature. Both of those posts contain important information on additional upcoming committee hearings for this week.

by jhwygirl

Monday starts off with Rep. JP Pomnichowski’s proposals HB359, which would require public notice for open cut mining (gravel pit) permits and HB313, which would revise open cut mining permit regulations, and allow counties to permit operations. This one gives back to counties that which was removed in the 2005 legislative session that (initially) was attempting to remedy a bad, bad situation in a residential neighborhood in the Flathead.

Rep. Bill Nooney competes with Pomnichowski’s HB359, by proposing HB77, which also proposes a notification requirement for open pit mines.

Now – both of these proposals have similar elements, but Pomnichowski’s HB359 goes a few steps further with adding elements of what is required to be contained within the public notification documents.

Support Pomnichowski’s bill by telling the House Natural Resources committee that both bills are good, but that HB359 goes a step further in defining the specifics of content in the public notification documents.

On Wednesday, Pomnichoswki has HB446 which would revise open cut mining laws by requiring water monitoring in certain situations and control of water runoff. It provides for legal action when there is damage to the water supply, provides for a write of mandamus and allows awarding of attorney fees. A big YES to this one….

Still, yet, on Wednesday – and still coming from Rep. Pomnichowski – is HB429, which would require annual fees for opencut mining operations.

Pomnichowski, still, with HB447 which would require reviews and limit expansions of certain opencut mining operations.

Rep. Jill Cohenour has HB319 which would require that proof of all other permit applications are submitted as part of the permitting process for opencut mining.

~~~~

All of these are in the House Natural Resources committee. Below are the members, along with their contact information. Remember – the first hearings start on Monday. You know the mining industry will be out in force on these…so make your thoughts and support known for these bills. Take the time, too, to forward a link to this post to your friends and neighbors and anyone else who cares about water quality, air quality and neighborhood control. This isn’t just a Missoula issue – it’s a statewide issue that has affected people in Bozeman and Helena and Kalispell – just to name a few.

Mike Milburn (Chair) mmilburn@mcn.net
Gordon Hendrick (Vice Chair) hendrickhd14@yahoo.com
JP Pomnichowski (Vice Chair) pomnicho@montanadsl.net
Tony Belcourt tbelcourt@hotmail.com
Gerald Bennett jbenhd1@hotmail.com
Anders Blewett anders.blewett@gmail.com
Jill Cohenour utopiamt@prodigy.net
Sue Dickenson suedickenson@yahoo.com
Betsy Hands betsyhands@gmail.com
Brian Hoven (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Tom McGillvray tmcgillvray@bresnan.net
Mike Menahan mike@mikemenahan.com
Scott Mendenhall smendenhall@ineva.com
Mike Miller (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Michele Reinhart michelereinhart@gmail.com
Kendall Van Dyk kvandyk@mt.gov
Chas Vincent cvvincent@hotmail.com
Wendy Warburton wendywarburton@gmail.com

Remember – these are committee members. Feel free to contact each and every one of them.

by jhwygirl

Since conservabloggers Carol at Missoulapolis and Professor Natelson at Electric City Weblog are getting behind this one in full-force (I use that term loosely, because, as Wulfgar! has pointed out, their blogging sure has been waning), I figured I better kick in on this one because of the danger it presents to not only local government, but to local taxpayers who will be picking up the tab for subdivision development should the thing actually pass.

SB310, proposed by Sen. Jim Shockley of Victor, will prohibit waiver of protest provisions that are often required for subdivision approvals.

Waiver or protest provisions are used for special improvement districts that facilitate road and sewer and water improvements. They’re placed on subdivision plats by approving bodies, which allows for some known parameters when attempting to form special improvement districts. Currently, state law allows for quashing of a special improvement district by a 40% vote. So if 40% of freeholding landowners in said district protest its approval, the creation of the district is stopped.

Let’s look at this: a new subdivision that puts 46 new lots into town. That’s 92 new cars, 368 trips per day, 161 more people, and that much more water and sewage usage. Cities and counties will require a waiver of protest provision on the plat, which is applicable to each new lot, to assist with future attempts to deal with road and water and sewage system upgrades. Waiving the right of protest on these lots presents a known to elected officials when attempting to create these districts, while ensuring that upgrades that are needed to the road systems that these new subdivisions (and everyone else uses) are able to have the costs spread out as far as possible and with minimal impact to other landowners that may not be using these road systems at all.

I mean – if cities and counties really wanted to be mean, they’d look at impact fees that, by formula, look at the impact of the new subdivision on the existing road and project out when surface replacement would be needed and collect that money up front.

Beyond that – roads need maintained. Impact fee or SID – it has to get done.

Shockley wants to protect those individuals like the subdivider and the Linda Freys – who will vote pocketbook – regardless of actual need for road surfacing or safety improvements (that may actually present liabilities to the taxpayers), or negative impacts, verified by science, to water quality – a’la the perennial Rattlesnake sewer v septic battle – issues. In other words – hell be damned with what is the right thing to do, even if it results in litigation because of bad intersections, DEQ violatitions and shitty (literally) water – 40% of the Linda Frey’s out there in the world can say “Hell no” and push the costs of their neighborhood issues onto the taxpayer-at-large.

In other words – Jim Shockly wants to see cities and counties pass on new taxes to everyone….and never mind the fact that they are limited by state law as to the amount of new taxes they can increase every year.

Seeing the lunacy in this one, folks?

Shockley supports his special interest folks, not the taxpayer at large.

Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

Of all the crazy things to make it out of committee and onto the floor – and that’s not to diminish the lament of things that should of made it out of committee and onto the floor – Rep. Krayton Kern’s crazy HB228 has survived a House Judiciary vote (10 to 8!) and hits the floor Monday at 1 p.m.

Do make sure to check out amendment #1 and amendment #2 to this insanity.

Now, HB228 is called the Citizens Self-Defense and Firearms Rights bill. What it proposes to do is to reaffirm “the right of Montanans to defend their lives and liberties, as provided in Article II, section 3, of the Montana constitution, and their right to keep or bear arms in defense of their homes, persons, and property, as provided in Article II, section 12, of the Montana constitution, is fundamental and may not be called into question.”

How it proposes to do that is what is scary.

There is no duty on an individual to flee or summon law enforcement assistance (Section 2).

Now – think about that. That clause, in and of itself, is giving a person the right to take and hold the law – regardless of their knowledge of it – in their own hands. Certainly there are situations where, in an act of self-defense, there is no reasonable way to summon law enforcement assistance..but such a carte blanche grant of authority is regression to the days of citizens posses and hang-’em-high justice.

Who falls for this stuff?

Section 3 states that the “defensive display of firearms is not an offense.” It goes on to define, under Section 3, clause 2, what exactly is a “defensive display of firearms” – and note the inclusion of the words “but is not limited to” in that definition.

This first version is scary enough….it places the burden of proof that such “defensive display” was needed in the judgment of the law enforcement called to the scene after an incident (keeping in mind there was no obligation to call them there if there had been an opportunity to do so), and, in a scenario where one lays dead, it becomes a he said versus he-who-is-dead said scene. Unfrickin’ real.

Go to reading those definitions (“but not limited to”) of defensive display:

2(c) holding a firearm in a position so that the firearm does not point directly at another person.

Let’s think about that one for a moment: An elevated situation, and I’m now allowed – or whomever is feeling threatened (“you look mad!”) is allowed – to get out a gun and wave it around. Just don’t point it directly at me, and you’re OK.

Wow.

Or should I simply not be scared because people are allowed to wave their guns all around, so long as – lawfully as defined under this nutcase law – they’re not waving it in my face.

Simply because they feel threatened.

Are we exempting mentally unstable people from this law? Because I’m not seeing that.

Or angry people?

Or angry husbands? Or angry wives? Or scared teenagers?

Or drunks?

Nope – anyone who feels threatened can go waving a gun around, just not in anyone’s face

And just how threatened do I have to feel?

“They were in my personal space” threatened?

“They gave me a look-to-kill” threatened?

“They yelled at me and made me scared” threatened?

Yi, yi, yi.

Now, Kerns and his crew of co-sponsors (ANKNEY, ARNTZEN, BALYEAT, BENNETT, BLACK, BLASDEL, BONIEK, R. BROWN, T. BROWN, CAMPBELL, CURTISS, GALLUS, HAMLETT, HENDRICK, HINKLE, HOVEN, INGRAHAM, JACKSON, JONES, KOTTEL, MCGEE, MEHLHOFF, MILLER, MORE, RANDALL, ROUNDSTONE, SMITH, SONJU, VANCE, WARBURTON) went ahead and graciously added this mucky-muck:

When an investigation is conducted by a peace officer of an incident that appears to have been or is alleged to have been in self-defense, the investigation must be conducted so as to disclose all evidence, including testimony, that might support the alleged offense and the apparent or alleged self-defense.

So, again – here we go with an officer called to the scene – after the fact – which is often the case, but under this law, may well be always the case – and he has to sort out what has occurred under a law which granted, carte blanche, an ability to go waiving a gun around under an “apparent or alleged” (their words, not mine) claim of self-defense.

Of all the absolutely insane and inane laws to come forward – as I look at it – in a bipartisan fashion, this one has got to be the most ridiculous.

Democrats, I’m ashamed to say, are falling in support of this bill as being beneficial to domestic violence situations.

Wow. Really?

Why has the Montana County Attorney’s Association spoke in opposition to this bill?

Gallatin County Sheriff Jim Cashell came out strongly against the bill at the hearing, saying it could escalate gun violence and make it easier for criminals to cite self defense to avoid prosecution.

Dennis Paxinos, Yellowstone County attorney, said the bill fixes a problem that doesn’t exist:

“There is no case, there is no reason, for such a huge change in our criminal code,” he said.

Paxinos described a scenario in which two gangs approached each other in a public park. Under Kern’s bill, he said, it would be legal for both gangs to display their weapons to each other, then open fire.

“It eviscerates the tools we use now to combat these idiots,” he said.

In fact, an existing law that allows for justifiable use of force (MCA 45-3-102) and use the affirmative defense of self defense.

Why is the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence spoken in opposition to this bill?

HB 228 is NOT good for victims of domestic or sexual violence in Montana. Proponents of this bill have alluded to the fact that the self defense provisions are somehow beneficial for victims of domestic violence. NOT TRUE! HB 228 proposes an overhaul of our current criminal justice system by asserting that self defense can be used in any criminal action and puts the burden of proof to prove otherwise on the State.

Who supports this bill? Gary Marbut one-man member of the Montana Shooting Sports Association.

That’s enough said there now, isn’t it?

Help stop this lunacy NOW. The House Floor vote is 1 p.m. on Monday. Contact your legislators – all of ’em, Democratic and Republicans – and tell them that this bill endangers your safety and the ability of law enforcement officers to enforce the peace. It places greater burden on county prosecutors and has the potential to escalate gun violence. It makes it easier for criminals to utilize a self-defense claim to avoid prosecution for gun related crimes.

You can click on this map to find the legislators in your district. This link will take you to a list of legislators, along with their contact information.

You can also fill out an online form to send comments to legislators – and you can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for as many as five legislators per call. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

Be sure to mention HB228 in all correspondence or phone calls.

These legislators have indicated that they are ‘on the fence’ about this vote. Please contact these legislators to let them know your thoughts:
Bob Bergren of Havre – bergren@bobbergren.com
Bob Ebbinger of Livingston – buffalojump@imt.net
Dennis Getz of Glendive – ddgetz@peoplepc.com
Dan Vila of Anaconda – danvillaformontana@hotmail.com
Cynthia Hiner of Deerlodge – matthiner@hotmail.com
Cheryl Steenson of Kalispell – casteenson@gmail.com
Bill Wilson of Great Falls – bw208@bresnan.net
Bill Nooney of Missoula – bnooney@inv-ent.com
Don Roberts of Billings (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Jesse O’hara of Great Falls (you need to use the online form to contact him)
Gary MacLaren of Victor – garymaclaren@yahoo.com

~~~~~~~~
Don’t miss Matt Singer’s take on this at Left in the West. He does it in a lot less words than I.




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