Archive for March, 2009

by Pete Talbot

After a pitcher of Badlander IPA, the mayor and the planners relaxed, and then gave a concise and passionate argument for the Missoula Zoning Rewrite.

The title of the event sucked me in: “Everybody Must Get Zoned.” But it turned out to be a straight-forward look at the zoning process and policy, and what Missoula could be in the future.

Missoula’s zoning laws, except for some tweaking here-and-there, are 30-to-50-years-old — based on an Ozzie and Harriet family model. The demographics in Missoula, however, have changed.  Now, 22 percent are single family, and then there’s the rest of us (mixed families, singles, empty-nesters, students, retired) but we’re still zoned like it’s the 1950’s.

OPG Director Roger Millar and senior planner Mike Barton were with the mayor at the invitation of Forward Montana. It was informal, about 35 people at the Badlander: politicos, seniors, organizers, students and folks like me.

Mayor Engen reminded everyone that it’s been a two-year, open-to-the-public, process. All points of view are in play and there are no deal breakers. Millar spoke to the history of zoning — laws that basically said ‘no’ to how we develop instead of ‘yes’ to what we’d like to see. Barton talked about specifics and how the rewrites would make laws clearer.

All three speakers have been around the block, understand Missoula, and have a vision for what’s going to sustain and enhance our community.

To hear the critics, the proposed zoning changes would have a radical impact on our neighborhoods. What I heard seemed pretty mild to me: minor changes in lot size and density calculations and height allowance, etc.; maybe some B&B’s, and accessory dwelling units here-and-there. The kind of things forward-looking cities have been doing for awhile.

I didn’t take my notebook, again, so I’m paraphrasing at best. I needed to get out of the house, have a beverage and catch up on local stuff, so this was a good diversion on a late March, wintry evening. I’m glad I went and was encouraged by what I heard.

Please folks, get involved. Here’s the info, and if you can’t make it to a planning meeting or talk to your ward representative or go to a PAZ committee meeting, at least you can comment. This is an opportunity to shape the future of Missoula.

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  by problembear

it doesn’t take much to feel a little overwhelmed by the problems of the world. this is when i think about family…like those grand-kids who visit in the summer and we go to seeley lake to camp and swim and fish…or the mid may trip along the rocky mountain front to chester to stay at philip aaberg’s great northern bed and breakfast …

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and the morning trip to check out the birdlife along the marias river with a liesurely lunch at big sandy and a short drive along the missouri to stay at our old friend’s homestead cabins in virgelle….then it is easy to remember just how lucky we are to live so close to this much beauty and good folks. yeah, even with all the hard work and all the worry- we really have it good here. thank you montana and thank all you good montanans out there. we will see you soon…

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by problembear

joe nickell of the missoulian’s entertainer uncovers a problem which threatens our very soul in this live music loving state. i cannot imagine showing up at the bar in Chico on a friday night from a flyfish float on the yellowstone and seeing no live band performing….this needs fixing folks and fast….with all the good bills in Helena going down in flames along with some bad ones it would seem that our legislators can at least protect our right as montanans to hunker down over a beer and hear our friends and neighbors wail out a good riff of music during these hard times.

by jhwygirl

Subject: AIG

Some of the best:

AIG is not equipped to be able to balance the ethical considerations involved in paying huge executive bonuses. Although a “person” under the law, there’s no person called AIG who can undertake this type of a priori moralizing. Paying the bonuses was the only way this corporate “person” could get a sound night’s sleep. It could rest assured that it was satisfying its marching orders, its prime directive. It’s really a simple “life,” being a corporation-person. No complicated morality issues, no fear of death by natural causes, but certainly a fear of death by dissolution, or bankruptcy. Every part of those articles of incorporation and bylaws are designed to avoid this type of death. And it’s avoided by making shareholders happy, by maximizing profits. The only consideration running through the corporation’s “mind” is how can “I” do these things?

Over at Left in the West.

by jhwygirl

Over at Session 61, Executive Director Bob Decker of The Policy Institute has a great analysis on the 4 bills, in various status, working through the legislative session.

Rep. Jill Cohenour has HB649 which has good and bad. Session 61 doesn’t like the “one step forward and one step backward” of the bill, and I don’t blame him.

Frankly, I wonder why we have to have a law – a law – to go after tax cheats and scofflaws. Isn’t that a bit crazy? Unfair? Seriously – what goes on in the mind of a legislator that votes against efforts to go after people who aren’t paying their taxes?

It was attempted last legislative session as I recall – probably before that too – and failed.

You hear quite a bit from certain members regarding Montana’s monstrously evil business equipment tax. Really? Decker explains:

Montana’s tax rate on business equipment, i.e., the percentage of the appraised market value of the equipment that is paid annually as tax, has been reduced several times in the past 20 years:
— In 1989, the Legislature consolidated the various equipment tax rates at the time, which varied from 11% to 16%, into one rate of 9;
— In 1995, the Legislature reduced the rate from 9% to 6%;
— In 1999, the Legislature reduced the rate from 6% to 3%, and it also established a tax exemption for business equipment valued at $5,000 or less;
— In 2005, the Legislature increased the exemption from $5,000 to $20,000.

Summing up his analysis of the bills, Decker says “At this point, the question is: How much more does Montana’s Legislature have to lower taxes on the business community? The state currently ranks high as a favorable place to do business, and further reductions in that sector’s tax responsibility simply mean that other Montana taxpayers – homeowners and individual income tax payers – take on the burden. ”

Which sounds much nicer than the public comment he offered during testimony for HB395:

During the question-and-answer part of the hearing, Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, and a retired economics professor, asked one witness:

“If we pursue the logic of the argument that reducing taxes rates increases tax revenues, don’t we maximize tax revenues when we make the tax rate zero?” Barrett asked, tongue-in-cheek.

Replied Decker: “That’s where the logic leads.”

by jhwygirl

Montana’s conservative side is already rounding up the troops….championing some of this bad environmental legislation.

In the Senate there are 2 crappy environmental bills – HB483, one of this sessions infamous Crappy Environmental Legislation bills. The Editor at the Button Valley Bugle had a fantabulous write-up on this one (and others), titled Your Coal, Their Rights.

This bills comes from Rep. Llew Jones of Conrad. It has already passed the House on a very disappointing 68-32 vote.

It has come out of Senate Energy and Telecommunications committee on a straight party-line 6-5 vote – where it was amended, but is still as offensive as it was in the first place.

SB507 is also on the Senate floor for 2nd reading, and boy is this one speeding along. The bill itself was only available to the public less than two weeks ago. I wrote about it here.

This bill stinks for two reasons: It allows for permanent easements for existing structures within the states navigable waterbodies – many of which don’t allow navigability. And it does it without MEPA review.

It also allows for leases and licenses – but why – WHY? – would we want to grant permanent easements to structures that block navigability?

Exempting them from MEPA is all the worse. No chance at mitigation. No chance at fish screening – no chance and incorporating or requiring portage.

The entirety of the bill is worse. Just check out the fiscal note. Not only that – it allows these things to increase in footprint with just a notice “when a footprint or associated facilities are relocated.”

Take a moment to let your Senators know what you think about these bills. You can go to Project Vote Smart and enter your address to figure out who it is – or you can use the nifty interactive Legislative District Map.

From there – head on over to this list of Senators for email addresses – or 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.

by jhwygirl

From the press release:

Nominating petitions are now available for four seats that are up for election on the Missoula County Public Schools’ Board of Trustees. The election will be held on Tuesday, May 5.

Petitions can be obtained from Pat McHugh, director of business services, at the District’s Business Building, 915 South Avenue W., in Missoula. The Building is open at 7:30 a.m. Petitions should be returned to the District by 4 p.m. on Thursday, March 26.

The terms of four trustees will expire in May; two positions represent the elementary and high school districts on the Board, and two positions represent only the high school district.

Joseph F. Knapp, Jr. and Nancy L. Pickhardt currently hold the expiring elementary seats on the board. Anyone interested in these positions must live within the MCPS Elementary District boundary. Knapp was appointed by trustees on March 5 to assume a vacant trustee seat which had been filled by Jenda Hemphill, a longtime trustee who resigned because of health concerns.

James H. Sadler currently holds the expiring high school district seat that represents the Target Range and Bonner school districts, and Rick Johns holds the expiring high school district seat that represents Hellgate Elementary District on the MCPS Board.

Here is a list of the current trustees along with their terms and expirations.

by Pete Talbot

Over at Missoula Red Tape, Keila Szpaller hints that Missoula Councilman John Hendickson might make a run for mayor.

Please, please let it be true. We’ve posted on Ward Two’s Councilor a few times here, here and here, for starters.

I can’t think of a more divisive, thoughtless, regressive and downright mean-spirited member on city council. This would be a cakewalk for sitting Mayor Engen.

Szpaller notes that Hendrickson did refile for his old ward seat and may actually be happy in that position. So if he’s not running for mayor, I’m praying someone will take him on in Ward Two. They’d be doing that ward and the city a huge favor.

The municipal primary election is Tuesday, Sept. 8 and the general election is Tuesday, Nov. 3. It may seem early to talk about local elections but before you know it, they’re upon us.

by jhwygirl

Articles – news, blog, and even radio reports and emails – that don’t mention the bill numbers on legislation that is the topic of discussion.

I’m betting there are probably 40+ bills regarding renewable energy in some capacity or another.

I see this all the time.

by jhwygirl

The Editor at the Button Valley Bugle has two bills that have both had their hearings and are awaiting committee action.

Both bills deal with carbon sequestration – which sounds nice and green, but as The Very Worthy Editor puts forth, really isn’t. Quite an informative post over there on HB338 and SB498.

All in support of the ultimate energy fallacy: Clean Coal.

One question I have – why does Montana want to store Canada’s CO2? Or, better asked: Why doesn’t Canada want to store its own CO2?

You really must read that post over at the Button Valley Bugle.

HB338 is in Senate Energy and Telecommunications, after having passed the House on a 90-9 vote. HB338 expands eminent domain. Wow. Nadine Spencer the secretary – nspencer@mt.gov.

If you look at the 9 who are listed as having voted NO there, you’ll know that I’m finding it very scary to find myself in agreement with that group. But I’ll try to sleep well tonight believing that while we might agree on the outcome, the road we’ve taken has been drastically different.

SB498 is in House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications, having passed the Senate on a 42-8 vote. Bryce Bennett the secretary – bbennett@mt.gov.

The list of NO bedfellows on this one isn’t as strange – but I’ll note that this probably the first time I’ve found myself in agreement with Sen. Verdell Jackson.

Did I mention these bills could have devastating affects on water quality?

by jhwygirl

Sen. David Wanzenried’s bill – SB236, which would abolish the death penalty in Montana, has its second round of hearings today (Wednesday) at 8 a.m. in House Judiciary.

This one has passed the Senate floor on a 27-23 bipartisan vote.

One person that has spoken in support of this bill is Marietta Jaeger Lane of Three Forks. Marietta is a former resident of Michigan who has now lived in Montana for 9 years. Her seven-year old daughter was abducted in 1973 from the Missouri Headwaters State Park while the family was on a camping trip. For more than a year, Ms. Jaeger Lane was left without answers. She made it known to the press that she wanted to speak to the person that took her precious little girl – and 15 months later, on the anniversary day of her daughter’s disappearance, that person called her, asking “”So what do you want to talk to me about?”

Marietta has testified in support of abolishing the death penalty.

To say the death of any other person would be just retribution is to insult the immeasurable worth of our loved ones who are victims. We can not put a price on their lives.

In my case, my own daughter was such a gift of joy and sweetness and beauty, that to kill someone in her name would have been to violate and profane the goodness of her life; The idea is offensive and repulsive to me.

I first heard those words during debate on the Senate floor. They absolutely moved me. I don’t describe myself as a religious person, but I found myself pondering may things in the days following that hearing – concepts of forgiveness and revenge, life and death, God…right and wrong. I’m not a religious person – I’ve not been inside a church for services in….in more than a decade?

I’ve also heard more than I needed ever to know about the kidnapping of Shasta and Dylan Groene – and Dylan’s subsequent murder at the hands of now-convicted Joseph Duncan III. There’s been other times in my life, too, where certainly I’ve (without reservations) unquestionably supported a death sentence.

But hearing Ms. Lane’s words made me feel, honestly – petty. Small. Ignorant.

The death penalty is something that I’ve wrestled with for decades. I’ve found myself of either side based on moral decision; based on the inequity with which it is overwhelmingly applied with regards to those of lesser means, based on the permanence of such a sentence and the possibility of imposing it falsely; based on a feeling that what that person did was so horrific that they aren’t worthy of living; based on killing the guilty is too easy of a sentence for those that committed the crime (in other words, it’s too easy of a way out); and, yes, based even on the costs to taxpayers.

There is much that can be found about Ms. Marietta Jaeger Lane – here is her testimony given during the 2007 legislature.

…………….

I’ve come to my own personal realization that more death does not bring closure. I’ve experienced situations – thankfully rarely – that have provoked real rage and feelings desirous of revenge. I’ve thankfully not acted upon those feelings, but I’ve also learned that things have a way of coming back around. Revenge, I don’t think, is for our hands. It is best left to something much more capable of passing judgment on that which it created than a mere mortal like me. And beyond those thoughts, I don’t believe that more killing serves justice to those that are killed, and it only prolongs coming to whatever closure is able to be had out of a horrific loss.

Consider contacting the House Judiciary committee to support SB 236 and abolish Montana’s death penalty. Jennifer Eck is the secretary, jeck@mt.gov. If you contact Jennifer, make sure to request that your comments be forwarded and provided to the entire committee.

You can also call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire House Judiciary legislative committee. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

by jhwygirl

This post covers the scheduled committee hearings (my picks) for just Thursday and Friday. Click this to see them all.

On Thursday we have one that sounds like a good idea, but in reality, it’s pretty crappy. HB675, proposed by Rep. Brady Wiseman, would eliminate the statewide school mill tax and utilize an education trust fund funded by energy development. This bill is made to sound even better because it would abolish oil and gas production tax holidays. All of this is a bad idea because if this bill is passed, there will be a huge push for energy production all in the name of education. MEPA will fly out the window – as we are currently seeing now in the legislature – but this time, it will be backed with the lovely smiling faces of school children. Need a new school? New computers? Guess we gotta drill under the Yellowstone River. Now – that river drilling might certainly be an exaggeration – but you do get my point, no? Contact the House Taxation committee and tell them NO WAY. Jennifer O’Loughlin the secretary – joloughlin@mt.gov

Sen. Dan McGee has SB406 – which has passed out of the Senate on a 26-24 vote – would submit to the voters an amendment to the Montana Constitution to define a person as a human being at all stages of human development of life, including the state of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, or condition of dependency. Yeah – Sen. McGee and the rest of the state needs to stay out of women’s vaginas. Say NO to this one, too – in House Judiciary – Jennifer Eck the secretary – jeck@mt.gov.

Here’s one that has a huge negative impact on local government authority. SB310, from Sen. Jim Shockley would prohibit the use of waiver of right to protest SID and RSID’s as conditions on subdivision approval. In other words – this bill wants developers to put the burden of their infrastructure on the neighbors who didn’t have any enjoyment in the profit said developer got out of said subdivision approval. Either that or subdivisions are going to get mighty expensive as cities and counties determine the depreciated value of their infrastructure, and require buy-in’s by developers to pay for their fair share of costs impacts. See that Sen. Shockley? I’ve already figured out a way to get around what you are trying to do….This is in House Local Government – Katie Butcher the secretary – kbutcher@mt.gov.

…well – that’s about all of interest to me and in need of NO WAY’s….make sure, like I said, to view the entire schedule for both days.

If you can’t get to email, always remember that you can call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire legislative committee in one call. Just make sure to have the bill number and the appropriate committee. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

Keep on keeping on…..

by jhwygirl

SB337 has already had its hearing in the House Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee last week, on the 19th. What it has not had is an executive action.

This bill has also already passed the Senate on a 31-19 vote.

This is an absolutely horribly unreasonable piece of legislation that would prevent the transfer of quarantined, disease-free buffalo – currently in pens near Gardiner, Montana – to any place in Montana other than the tiny National Bison Range located within the boundaries of the Flathead Reservation.

SB 337 needs to die in committee. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks opposes SB 337, saying that if it becomes law, the quarantined, disease-fee buffalo “will likely be slaughtered.”

SB 337 is based on a load of unfounded crap – sorry there Sen. John Brendan. Bison have not been the culprit of Montana’s loss in status as brucellosis-free….and that is something I’ve been saying for years and getting slammed (at least not that long ago) by people who have ignored and continue to ignore the overwhelming evidence that elk are the problem.hal

SB 337 disrespects the tribes. Montana’s American Indian tribes on the eastern side of the state have attempted to – for 4 years now – relocate these animals to reservations throughout the state, only to be stopped because of unreasonable and unfounded fears. This has got to stop.

Until – and honestly, I don’t imagine how it is going to happen – elk are eliminated from co-mingling with livestock herds around brucellosis-central (that being Yellowstone National Park), brucellosis is going to be a threat. Until the Feds quit feeding elk down there in Jackson Wyoming on the National Elk Refuge and the adjacent National Forests, brucellosis is going to be a threat. Until the State of Wyoming quits feeding elk in its own feedgrounds, brucellosis is going to be an issue.

See what I’m saying? Feed elk and you breed brucellosis. Breed brucellosis in Wyoming, and you cause brucellosis to perpetuate itself anywhere those elk travel.

Please take a moment tomorrow to call the legislative information desk – soon, because as I mentioned, this unreasonable bill really needs to just die a death in committee, and having had it’s hearing last week, executive action is pending any day now. The lines open at 7:30. The number is 406-444-4800, and all you have to do is leave a message for the House Fish, Wildlife & Parks committee, for SB 337, telling the committee to please vote NO.

by jhwygirl

Sen. Greg Barkus, of Kalispell has proposed SB329 which would eliminate virtually all specialty license plates and the money that goes with them to non-profits around the state.

That one has its hearing scheduled for tomorrow – tomorrow being Tuesday.

Barkus, the man behind SB481, which would exempt all stimulus projects from MEPA – which is, incidentally, still in House Federal Relations, Energy, and Telecommunications, awaiting executive action OR death on a tied committee vote (hint-hint?).

I liked this post, from Politics, Peaks & Valleys so much, I think I’m giving it to ya’all a third time. The Editor at Button Valley Bugle really likes Barkus – they’ve written about him 4 times.

The mean-spirited specialty plate legislation is in Senate Highways and Transportation – Libby Goodwin the secretary – lgoodwin@mt.gov.

The unconstitutional anti-MEPA legislation is in House FRET, Nadine Spencer the secretary – nspencer@mt.gov

Of course, you could make it easy on yourself and call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for both legislative committees in one sweet, short call.

by jhwygirl

This is a high-alert action needed now post, people.

Now, I got nothing against funding education – K-12, higher education – I’m all for it. But when it comes to limited funds and a shitty economy, I’m going to say that maintaining the services for those that need it the most – those that can’t survive without those services is more important than increasing funding for Montana’s university systems.

Tomorrow – Monday – House Appropriations will be taking up discussion on HB645 in an effort to garner enough votes for a deal which has apparently been struck between Democratic Representatives John Sesso (of Butte) and Dan Villa (of Anaconda) and Republican Representatives Walter McNutt (of Sydney) and William Glaser (of Huntley).

Sesso is chair of House Appropriations – McNutt is vice-chair.

A deal that would increase university funding by $9 million and further underfund an already cut and somewhat underfunded Medicaid and social services system.

And think about this – once that extra $9 million goes out and the cuts are made to social services, more pressure will rise for the Republican’s continued attack on not funding the Healthy Montana Kids Initiative.

Beyond that, with a shitty economy the state’s local city and county health departments along with non-profits pick up the slack of an already somewhat underfunded Public Health & Human Services department. These agencies are already suffering because of decreasing donations from the private sector and decreasing tax revenues, resulting in budget cuts at local levels too. How – HOW? – will the most needy of our society – the aging, the disabled, the poor – get the access they need to the most basic of services?

Governor Schweitzer has pushed for a tuition freeze, promising the Board of Regents $10 million of stimulus money providing the freeze is put in place. The Board of Regents, on the other hand, continues to push for an additional $8.2 million, saying that it can’t freeze tuition and make due with its $1 billion biennium budget.

The Governor has proposed across-the-board cuts for all departments. The university system’s cut, proposed by the Governor, is $5.6 million. Now, maybe my math is wrong – but a $5.6 million biennium cut to a $1 billion biennium budget is barely over 1/2 of 1%.

Are you kidding me?!

Schweitzer had strong words for Board of Regents, university administrators and student leaders who met with him on Friday in Helena.

Meanwhile, university student leaders from UM and MSU are apparently drinking the kool-aid too – we want what we want and we just want it so give it to us.

And UM President George Dennison has apparently taken a liking to socialism, saying that “it’s unfair to compare the university system to the private sector.”

Really? That .56% cut in your budget hurt that much?

I’m ashamed of this. I’m ashamed that there are Democrats out there kow-towing to the Board of Regents at the expense of social services. Do they realize they are feeding the drumbeat calling to eliminate funding for Healthy Montana Kids?

Everybody – Everybody – is making cuts. The Board of Regents, I dare say, should just have to make due with $10 million in stimulus money – strings attached – and a tuition freeze and its .56% cut to its budget. Deal.

Time for emailing, folks…that House Appropriations meeting is scheduled for 8 a.m. tomorrow (Monday). Here is a list of the committee members, and following is their email addresses which you can just cut-and-paste.

Jon Sesso (D) (Chair)
Cynthia Hiner (D) (Vice Chair)
Walter McNutt (R) (Vice Chair)
Duane Ankney (R)
Dennis Getz (D)
William Glaser (R)
Ray Hawk (R)
Teresa Henry (D)
Roy Hollandsworth (R)
Galen Hollenbaugh (D)
Llew Jones (R)
Dave Kasten (R)
Bill McChesney (D)
Robert Mehlhoff (D)
Penny Morgan (R)
Bill Nooney (R)
Carolyn Pease-Lopez (D)
Don Roberts (R)
Cheryl Steenson (D)
Dan Villa (D)

jonsesso@yahoo.com; walt@midrivers.com; matthiner@hotmail.com; goodwind.duane@gmail.com; ddgetz@peoplepc.com; glaser@mcn.net; rhawk@bresnan.net; tkh@tkhenry.com; hgrain@3riversdbs.net; lcjones@3rivers.net; macwilly66@msn.com; rmehlhoff@yahoo.com; pjm511@hotmail.com; bnooney@inv-ent.com; casteenson@gmail.com; danvillaformontana@hotmail.com

Rep. Dave Kasten, Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, and Rep. Don Roberts have no email listed – you can reach them by calling the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leaving a message for them.

You can also call that number and leave a message for the entire House Appropriations committee. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

Tell these legislators that the university system needs to live withing the budgetary means of the State and this poor economy – that a .56% cut to their budget, with $10 in stimulus funding, and a tuition freeze is something they need to learn to live with – and that cost-savings through attrition and – dare I suggest – some cuts to things like the well-funding athletics departments – could and should be implemented for the next 2 years.

by jhwygirl

AP has the story, 6 minutes ago.

CNN is reporting 7 17 14 confirmed dead.

(Some more updates on this tragedy here and here. PT)

by jhwygirl

65 committee meetings scheduled for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Argh. Looks like something is FUBAR (for a Sunday) – can’t read the bills.

The network path was not found.

Of note, I guess, based on previous posts, I see SB236, which is from Sen. David Wanzenried has its House committee hearing on Wednesday. This is the bill that would abolish Montana’s death penalty. It’s passed the Senate on a 27-23 vote. Help give this one the help that it needs to get it out of committee and onto the House floor. In House Judiciary – Jennifer Eck the secretary – jeck@mt.gov.

SB360, from Sen. Jim Kean, of Butte, has its second round of hearings on Wednesday, too. This one made my list of bad environmental legislation. It exempts 10 miles or up to 10% of new right-of-way from the major facility siting act. It also defines sensitive areas as “government recognized” only, which really exempts out a bunch of federally- owned lands. Automatically exempting new ROW on the premise that what is there is already there is piss-poor. What if conditions have changed? Won’t matter – it’s exempt – no need to look. Ugh. In House Natural Resources – Shirley Chovanak the secretary – schovanak@mt.gov. Don’t wait until some enlargement of a major facility like the Yellowstone Pipeline – which runs right here through Missoula, folks – is proposed…because then it’ll be too late.

Well, that’s all I got.

Cheers!

by Pete Talbot

From AP Medical Writer Mike Stobbe and Pope Benedict XVI: keep cranking out those babies, and spreading AIDS.

It started out with this headline:

US births break record

” … Behind the number is both good and bad news. While it shows the U.S. population is more than replacing itself, a healthy trend, the teen birth rate was up for a second year in a row.”

Obviously, an increase in the teen birth rate is bad news (although Sarah Palin might not agree).

But the U.S population “more than replacing itself” is good news? A new, bigger baby boom is cause to celebrate? There aren’t enough people in the world? There are just too many natural resources to go around?

These would be rhetorical questions.

The old economic model of popping out babies to ensure an adequate labor force and a big enough tax base to take care of us old folks is still in play, according to the AP writer:

“Countries with much lower rates — such as Japan and Italy — face future labor shortages and eroding tax bases as they fail to reproduce enough to take care of their aging elders.”

The word “sustainable” must not be in the vocabulary of this writer, or at least the economists/statisticians that he’s quoting, because this model is not sustainable.

And then El Papa comes out with this zinger: condom use will increase AIDS. Huh?

Of course, taking sex advice from the pope is like taking financial advice from Bernie Madoff.

There’s also the added benefit that condom use might prevent unwanted pregnancies. The continent he’s visiting, Africa, is already suffering from inadequate supplies of food and clean water. Its women, many of them barely adolescents, are having kids they can’t care for, often with the additional burden of having contracted HIV.

But I guess the pope doesn’t just want the ravages of AIDS decimating a population, he wants that population awash in malnutrition and starvation, too. What a guy.

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by problembear

well, that makes a bear feel better. now let’s protect the badger two medicine and many more deserving areas in montana by finally passing a wilderness bill deserving of big sky country.

i know there will be appeals by four wheelers clubs and  rv’ers and lots of arguing about the motorized ban in this area sacred to the blackfeet nation and all of us who love the rocky mt front. but it is the right thing to do.

there are just some places we need to leave alone…where the earth and it’s creatures can rest up and catch their breath from all our fooling with it.

by jhwygirl

Is Twitter even narcissistic?

I vote Facebook.

You?

by jhwygirl

Rep. Ed Butcher’s HB418 had its second reading on the Senate floor yesterday, but not without impassioned debate. In the end, the vote was 27-23 with a small handful of legislators crossing the aisle – including Sen. Gary L. Perry (R), who has sponsored a number of good environmental bills this session; and Sen. Rick Liable (R), of Darby. Both voted NO.

Democrats Sen. Ken “Kim” Hansen and Sen. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy crossed the aisle to vote YES for this environmental disaster.

Missoula’s Senator David Wanzenried spoke forcefully in debate against the bill:

Several Democrats, however, said HB418 grants “special favors” to plant developers and questioned why they need such protections to do business.

“The business model doesn’t work,” said Sen. Dave Wanzenried, D-Missoula. “If it did work, they wouldn’t be here asking for this. Who’s going to be in here next asking for a special deal?”

Missoula’s senators all voted against the bill.

Overwhelmingly, the opposition testimony to this bill focused on the “free pass” on environmental review being given to the horse slaughter business. A “free pass” which is an affront to Montana citizens guarantee to a clean and healthful environment.

For those of you unfamiliar with the history of the Montana Environmental Protection Act, the Button Valley Bugle had a great post about a week ago detailing not only some of the current assaults against it, but a history of how Montana came to enact MEPA

Today sets up the final vote, after which – and it does look like it’s heading that way – the bill will head to Governor Schweiter’s desk for signature.

The question now – that many are asking – is will the Governor sign a bill (any of these bills) that assault MEPA and ignore our constitutional rights to a clean and healthful environment? Bills that have little chance of survival in a court challenge – a court challenge that will cost Montana taxpayers a whole hell of a lot of cash – and I’m talking costs from both sides of the litigation.

Politics, Peaks, and Valleys has an especially scathing post regarding that subject. I highly recommend that, too, for reading.

.

by jhwygirl

While the State of Montana ranks just 41 in political clout, its congressional representation fairs fares much better.

On a clout-per-member basis, Montana ranks 6.

Capitol Hill publication Roll Call just dished out its biennial rankings, which are based on a number of things including size of delegation, positions on committees and the importance of those committees, seniority, spread of members in the majority party, and per-capita federal dollars put into the state.

Funny. We’d probably gain to 40 in the state ranking if we ditched Denny and elected a Democrat. Notice how Minnesota will drop a slot if it ends up that Norm Coleman (somehow) comes out on top.

by jhwygirl

I’m asking. Seriously. It’s been on my mind.

Is the environment a ‘platform’ issue for progressives? Or is just one of the 10,000 things that they/we care about? I mean – is not caring about the environment a deal breaker? Does not caring make you not a progressive?

Obviously I care about it…but that doesn’t mean everyone does. Hell – I even wonder sometimes if I’m a progressive. So my ability to know whether the environment is something everyone cares about is somewhat shaded by my own prejudices (and ignorance as I’m sure some would say.)

Seeking some clarity on that matter. Whatever you can offer up will be kindly appreciated.

by jhwygirl

Just Thursday and Friday here, folks. For a complete list of committee hearings, check this out.

On Thursday, in Senate Fish & Game, is HB190, which is Rep. Kendall Van Dyke’s bridge access bill. The surviving bill which has a pretty large showdown not only in committee, but on the House floor. HB190 was blogged several times here. Time to send a second round of support for this bill into the Senate committee – Lindsey Hern is the secretary – lhern@mt.gov

Sen. Bob Story has SB507 which would allow for the issuance of “easements, leases and licenses” on the beds of navigable rivers, for water appropriators. While this one is for current users, there is no MEPA requirement. Ugh. Further, doesn’t look like there is any concern about ensuring public access across the streambed. Some of these structures block entire channels. Think Tucker Headgate on the Mitchell. Think any one of a half-dozen or so large overflow dams on the Bitterroot, the Blackfoot and the Clark Fork (and hey – that’s just around here). What about endangered fish species? Bull trout? This state is significantly funding those efforts and we’re going to permanently grant easements for these things? This is in Senate Taxation (Senate Taxation? Really?) Debra Polhemus the secretary – dpolhemus@mt.gov.

Now to Friday: Remember Sen. Shockley’s Protect-the-Protester bill? SB497 has been amended quite a bit and has now passed through the Senate. Honestly, the ridiculous things that time gets wasted on up there. Read the amended version. We need a law to say that people are allowed to protest demonstrate? And we need a law to protect protesters demonstrators? Let’s just kill this thing in House Judiciary, shall we? Let them get the real work done of budget and approving the Governor’s appointees?/snark Jennifer Eck the secretary – jeck@mt.gov.

Sen. Keith Bales wants to expand types of elections that may be conducted by mail ballot election. SB394 has made it out of the Senate and is now in the House. Mail in elections save taxpayers money. Save local governments money. Help this one along, people. In House State Administration – Marshall McEwen the secretary – mmcewen@mt.gov.

Sen. Ron Erickson has SB326 out of the Senate and now in the House. It would revise medical marijuana laws by allowing licensed caregivers to grow and provide the stuff registered patients. In House Human Services, Santella Baglivo the secretary – sbaglivo@mt.gov.

Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez has HB591 which would require an American Indian member on the Board of Parole and Pardons. This has made it out of the House with decent bipartisan support. Montana’s Constitution requires equal representation on boards and committees – yet the current Board of Parole and Pardons has no American Indian. Via Left in the West, Jay points us award-winning American Indian journalist Jodi Rave’s report on the disproportionate share of American Indians in Montana prisons and the ugly system it produces. Montana Human Rights Network member and lobbyist Jamee Greer writes, too, about why having an American Indian member on the Board of Parole and Pardons in important. Make sure this one gets some support. In Senate Judiciary – Pam Schindler the secretary – pschindler@mt.gov.

Rep. JP Pomnichowski has HB156, which would provide for uniform penalties for zoning violations. This one could use the extra insurance of public support, people – since it is now in Senate Local Government. Try and give this one some support – Debra Polhemus the secretary – dpolhemus@mt.gov.

I got to this late, I know. Please, if you can, get a call out to the committees for the above-mentioned Thursday hearings? The Session Information Desk phone lines open at 7:30 – 406-444-4800 to leave a message for an entire legislative committee. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.

If using the email addresses above, make sure to mention both the bill number and to request that your email be forwarded to the committee members.

Keep on keeping on….

by Pete Talbot

Missoula’s Sustainable Business Council, a seven-year-old, non-profit organization with over 150 members from the business community, sponsors a lecture series on sustainability.

A fine example will be the Thursday, March 19, Perspectives on Sustainable Community. It starts at 5:30 p.m. at the Missoula Children’s Theatre mezzanine, 200 N. Adams St., and is free and open to the public. There’ll be some snacks and beverages there, too.

This presentation features Missoula Mayor John Engen and former Missoula Mayors Daniel Kemmis and Mike Kadas, with former Bozeman Mayor Steven Kirchhoff, discussing how to create and maintain sustainable communities in Montana.

The SBC does a bunch of other stuff, too, like promoting a Buy Local campaign. You can check out its website at www.sbcmontana.org.

(Full disclosure: I’m a past board member but resigned recently. SBC is a nonpartisan organization and in case you hadn’t noticed, I have a political agenda and I didn’t want to tarnish that fine group.)

by jhwygirl

I’ve gone and added 4 new links (including one blog) from three very fine organizations – and I’m sure you all are going to be just as interested in ’em. The blog is a collaborative effort that includes posters from all of these orgs, plus some others, including former State Senator Jim Elliot. All of them are going into the Citizen’s Info category.

The Montana Human Rights Network is a fine organization that has been doing great work in Montana, exposing hate crimes, racism and social injustice for decades. All-too-occasional blogger Jamee Greer is now a lobbyist for that MHRN.

See – some lobbyists are good!

The Montana Environmental Information Center has been hard at work railing against the wealth of bad environmental laws proposed this session, and speaking in support of the good ones.

The Policy Institute is a Helena-based organization that blends authoritative research and hands-on political engagement to create public policy based on economic justice, fair taxation, corporate accountability and environmental responsibility.

I’ve caught some of their testimony a while back in the House Taxation committee. That was when I first heard of The Policy Institute. It was during proponent testimony to Rep. Dave McAlpin’s HB395 (now stalled in committee). The bill wished to add a new top tax rate to those making $250,000 a year or more. During the hearing, the following exchange occurred – and it was then I knew that The Policy Institute people were both good people and smart people:

During the question-and-answer part of the hearing, Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, and a retired economics professor, asked one witness:

“If we pursue the logic of the argument that reducing taxes rates increases tax revenues, don’t we maximize tax revenues when we make the tax rate zero?” Barrett asked, tongue-in-cheek.

Replied Decker: “That’s where the logic leads.”

Finally – The Policy Institute has its own legislative session blog. I’m just finding out about this one, and it will be daily reading for me. Excellent stuff here – Session 61

by jhwygirl

Update: I want to update this to say that placement of this bill in a subcommittee is certainly indicative that cooler heads are at work here. Continued opposition to this bill – via calls or emails to the Senate Judiciary – will continue to be helpful.

HB228 faced growing opposition, with significant opposition testimony in a Senate Judiciary hearing on Tuesday.

This Seattle Times article reports on that hearing, and notes that while the NRA has promised to make this a priority bill, it has fractured the organization, with members openly speaking in opposition to the bill.

“It’s our most important bill of the session,” NRA regional lobbyist Brian Judy said in an interview. “NRA members will be apprised of developments.”

That means lawmakers can expect a steady stream of e-mails from gun rights advocates. And Judy said the measure will be used to help craft the NRA scorecard so important to many Montana politicians.

Police officers — touting their own NRA credentials — said the bill goes too far and creates loopholes for criminals.

Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir said the NRA does not speak for every member. His opposition stems from a “fear of armed criminals,” he said.

Some of the groups that testified in opposition?

Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence
Montana Association of Chiefs of Police
Montana Police Protective Association
Montana County Attorney’s Association
Montana Sheriff’s and Peace Officers Association
Montana Human Rights Network
The Associated Students of Montana State University
The Associated Students of the University of Montana

Why?

Ø Allows for the brandishing of a weapon at any time without justification.

Ø Provides for the carrying of a concealed weapon by anyone without a permit.

Ø Undermines 18 years of improvements to domestic violence statutes by shifting the presumption of self-defense and effectively allowing a partner to use deadly force as the first option as opposed to the last resort.

Ø Montana University system students are concerned about the potential impacts on safety in their communities and on their campuses.

Ø Addresses no present problem. Sponsors were unable to demonstrate a single case in which prosecutors or law enforcement deprived Montana citizens of their self-defense rights.

Ø Contains serious technical problems and sets up conflicts within the legal statutes.

Ø Despite the Proponent’s intentions, this bill threatens public safety in Montana.

It is not too late to call the Senate Judiciary Committee members. Do not allow out-of-state NRA lobbyists and interest drive this issue. Frankly, the arrogance expressed by Brian Judy is shameful, but not surprising.

Incidentally, there is a saner version of the castle doctrine/rightful use of force legislation. SB92 has passed out of the Senate (on a 45-3 vote) and is in the House Judiciary where it awaits its executive action committee vote. Consider calling the number below and leaving a message for the House Judiciary, in support of SB92.

To be clear here – the “bad” bill is in Senate Judiciary (HB228) and the “good” bill is in House Judiciary (SB92).

Call the Session Information Desk at 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the entire Senate Judiciary committee. Mention HB 228. Your message will be delivered directly to the legislators. The TTY (Telephone Device for the Deaf) number is 406-444-4462.




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