Archive for April 10th, 2011

by jhwygirl

Once again, Montana is at a crossroads of importance with regards to the amount of power our legislators will hand to a private company for private gain.

Oddly, you’d think that the concept of handing over condemnation rights for the private property of Montana citizens to a private corporations wouldn’t fly in a GOP-controlled legislature, but here we are with HB198, a bill requested by Democrat Governor Schweitzer. This ugly bill passed the House on a 69 – 30 vote on third reading (having gained a few from second reading where the vote was 56 – 44.

That’s quite a gain from second to third reading, over a period of 3 days. Clearly pressure is on.

Opposition to this bill, like support, is bi-partisan. Drum-beating House conservatives like Steve Fitzpatrick (R-Great Falls), Janna Taylor (R-Dayton), Wendy Warburton (R-Havre) and Wayne Stahl (R-Saco) voted in support of handing over condemnation rights to private corporations… did Democrats Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings), Carolyn Squires (D-Missoula), Betsy Hands (D-Missoula) and Mike Phillips (D-Bozeman).

So we have Republicans wanting to expand condemnation and eminent domain rights, and we have Dems handing the keys to private corporations. Both are doing so with Governor Schweitzer cheering from the sidelines.

Every hearing, along with the floor debate, has been pretty heated – rightfully so, I might add. Montana is taking its newest resource – wind – and leaving it largely unregulated (unlike coal oil gas gold silver timber and hell, even gravel and CO2 storage rights) in terms of ownership, development rights and taxation, and handing over condemnation rights for transport of this resource to private corporations.

Colonialism? Stupidity? Laziness?

It’s a disgrace of the 2011 legislature and any advocate for this bill that the solution here wasn’t to look for protections for the private property owner here in the state, but that the solution was to rewrite laws concerning eminent domain in the easiest laziest and most invasive way as possible, handing over the courts to private corporations.

A disgrace.

What’s even more disappointing is that two Missoula legislators are co-sponsors of HB198: Senators Ron Erickson and Tom Facey.

Senator Ron Erickson support is apparently unwavering. He recently told Concerned Citizens for Montana and the Northern Plains Resource Council that he intends to vote “Yes” on the bill on the “environmental promise of corporate wind.”

Really Senator Erickson? Disappointing doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt when I read that.

Maybe Erickson missed this editorial from PSC commissioner John Vincent.

Make no mistake – wheeling and dealing and some pretty serious horse trading is going on with regards to this bill. The Governor wants this bill, along with Northwestern Energy, one of Montana’s largest lobbying interests here in Montana. The money they dump into both state-level and federal-level elections is astounding. In fact, I recall a delicious steak-and-eggs breakfast in Denver 2008 that was paid for by Northwestern Energy. Don’t think that the Republicans didn’t get the same treatment at their own convention that year.

Rumor has it that this bill is such the objet d’affection of Schweitzer that he has agreed to trade his support of HB439 (a nice porky bonding bill that was fattened with an additional $7.9 million to MSU – which might explain the support coming out of the Bozeman Democrats) in order to get the votes for HB198.

The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee is meeting tomorrow at 11 am to do executive action on HB198. The goal is to get this to the floor as quickly and with as little fanfare as possible. Chair Alan Olson (R-Roundup) believes he has has the votes necessary in his committee to move this forward. That means he believes he has the majority of these votes:
Vice Chair: Verdell Jackson (R-Kalispell)
Vice Chair: Ron Erickson (D-Missoula)
Shannon Augare (D-Browning)
Jeff Essmann (R-Billings)
Bob Lake (R-Hamilton)
Lynda Moss (D-Billings)
Jason Priest (R-Red Lodge)
Mitch Tropila (D-Great Falls)
Kendall Van Dyk (D-Billings)
Chas Vincent (R-Libby)
Edward Walker (R-Billings)

Well, boy – you’d think that looking at this, Verdell Jackson, Bob Lake and Chas Vincent would be difficult to get…and we already know that Ron Erickson has decided where he is going on this bill. Jason Priest? Isn’t he supposed to be some conservative?

And what about Democrats Linda Moss and Kendall Van Dyk?

This bill is such a mess and the politics behind it are ugly. If approved, Montanans will be talking about this bill much like we still talk about the dismantling of Montana Power into the hands of corporate ownership.

Democrats are betting on Montanans remembering this being done under the GOP controlled House and Senate, while the corporate-loving GOP is betting on being able to blame it all on Schweitzer, who will, it appears, gladly sign this bothersome behemoth into law.

In the end, it’s Montana private property owners that are on the losing end.

Information on contacting your legislators can be found here.

You can also contact the entire Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee by calling 406-444-4800 and leaving a message.

The legislative desk begins taking calls at 7:30 a.m.

by Pete Talbot

Misdirection is the nicest word I could think of.

Montana GOP Chairman Will Deschamps had a pathetic letter in the Missoulian attacking progressive Missoula City Council candidates.  Never mind that council general elections are six months off and Montana Republicans have some other, more pressing issues on the table.  It’s easier to take pot shots at the local council members, inaccurate as they may be, than face party problems.

Karl Rove with Will Deschamps












These problems range from a schism in the Republican Party in neighboring Sanders County (the Tea Party isn’t far enough to the right!) to a very low approval rating of the Republican controlled Montana Legislature (only 24 percent gave it a positive rating).

What to do?  Well, attack Missoula’s council members.  Headlined “Missoula City Council: Voters: Get rid of the ‘Dwarfs’,” here’s an outtake:

Missoula, help remove part of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” this fall. Help return the shop owners’ right to refuse service to anyone. Help allow folks to visit downtown without stepping around folks with their hands out. Help defeat those who allow homeless to defecate and urinate in alleys downtown. Help defeat the elitist liberals who believe in tax-and-spend economics. Help defeat those who are anti-Pledge of Allegiance.

Now there’s a litany of intolerance: Help return the shop owners’ right to refuse service to anyone?  Like gays? He also takes on the homeless, twice, saying that our councilors support panhandling and defecating and urinating downtown.  And let’s beat that Pledge of Allegiance horse some more.

He calls the candidates: “anti-freedoms” and “anti-choice” (gotta love it when a Republican calls people “anti-choice”).

Then he goes on to nickname them Grumpy, Sleepy, Happy and Queen Grimhilde.  It’ really hard to believe that this LTE came from the head of Montana’s Republican Party.  It’s one of the poorest excuses for a letter that I’ve seen, and there have been some doozies as of late.

Mr. Deschamps, you have enough problems with your own party at the state and county level.  Please keep your nose out of Missoula’s city elections.

(Update: Pogie over at Intelligent Discontent has an additional, insightful take on Deschamps’ letter.)

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