Archive for April 11th, 2011

by jhwygirl

The Senate Energy & Telecommunications tied 6-6 today in committee on HB198, and then subsequently voted to table the bill, effectively killing it.

Senate Legislative Rules allow for the committee to reconsider its votes providing the committee has not yet reported to the Secretary of the Senate.

Which is the likely explanation for why Sen. Olson, chair of Senate Energy & Telecommunications, called a special meeting of his committee for tomorrow at 3 p.m.

Reporter Mike Dennison the story on what happened today.

Despite continued reading of information concerning HB198, I still think it is a dangerous door to open. Eminent domain statutes are situation under Title 70, Chapter 30. Public uses are defined there under Part 102.

Only that isn’t where HB198 changes the law. It adds a more expansive definition of what a public utility is under Title 69 – a definition that was exclusive to that Title….and applies it to the not-that-narrow constraints of eminent domain in Title 70.

The key word there in Title 70 resting on public uses that are used by the public in Montana. Title 70 allows for condemnation of a long laundry list of things – including distribution lines for electricity. To suggest that some major crisis happens should pass-through lines owned by private companies be unable to condemn is hysterics.

What is different here with MATL is that those lines are passing on through Montana. They will not be regulated for Montana. There is simply no assurance that that these lines can be used by smaller users.

Nor is there any guarantee of fairness to those seeking accessibility to these lines.

Until such time that the state can guarantee a true fair and equitable public use of those transmission lines.

The current bill, as it stands, is lazy and inadequate to protect the citizens of Montana against unchecked private interests. If approved it will surely stand as yet another famous Montana give away to private interests.

By relying on the Major Facilities Siting Act, it allows major decisions to be made about private property large and small without any input whatsoever from the private property owners. Keep in mind, at least one county has sued for being left out of the loop – so involvement and scoping under the Major Facilities Siting Act is clearly flawed (to say the least).

So, like I wrote yesterday, please take the time to contact members of the Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee and let them know that HB198 has significant flaws and does NOT provide for public uses and as such should not allow for condemnation of private property for purely private purposes.

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.

Here are the members of Senate Energy and Telecommunications. The ones with a * voted NO today…and are being pressured to change their vote:
Chair: Alan Olson (R-Roundup)
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)

On the Brink…

Guest post by Stacey Anderson, Public Affairs Director of Planned Parenthood of Montana

Will Montana be brought to the brink of a shutdown like the federal government over women’s healthcare? That is the $6.9 million dollar question for us to consider.

Montana’s Republican leaders have waged an all-out assault on women’s access to healthcare this legislative session. With bills ranging from mandatory ultrasounds to eliminating non-gender insurance to complete elimination of the state’s family planning clinic funding streams, we are at a crossroads. In the next several weeks a number of things could happen with the state’s budget including an outright governor’s veto, a governor’s amendatory veto, a last-minute deal, or a special session. Given the power plays over women’s healthcare this year, I strongly suspect that family planning will be one of the final sticking points to passing a our state’s budget.

On Friday, many of us who are political or policy wonks watched with fascination as the federal government averted a shutdown with 90 minutes to spare. That sticking point? A controversial policy rider that would eliminate the federal family planning program (Title X) in a cynical effort to de-fund Planned Parenthoods across the country.

What conservatives fail to consider or even recognize is that federal family planning funding is prohibited from being used for abortion-related services – a little thing called the Hyde amendment has been in place since 1976. What conservatives also fail to consider or recognize is that 3,000,000 men and women CHOOSE Planned Parenthood as their primary care provider every year, including over 17,000 in Montana. PP is a trusted source of healthcare, education, and counseling for millions of Americans and denying patients’ access will not end the debate, but rather end access to healthcare for thousands upon thousands of low-income individuals.

The Republicans in Montana have picked this battle as well – a fight about women’s healthcare that is cloaked in the politicized battle over abortion rights and care. Montana’s family planning clinic network, including Planned Parenthood, serves 27,731 patients a year, 85% of whom qualify for reduced or no-cost care. Family planning clinics across Montana provide routine reproductive healthcare for women and men, breast and cervical cancer screenings, contraceptive services, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infects, and HIV testing and education.  Family planning is not only proven to be incredibly cost effective — saving $4 for every $1 spent — but it is proven effective in the reduction of unplanned pregnancy and abortion.

In the next few days, the U.S. House and Senate will vote on whether to “allow” federal funding of ANY SORT to be distributed to Planned Parenthood – including family planning (Title X), Medicaid, CHIP, STI/STD testing and treatment funds, sexual assault nurse examiner training funds, etc (U.S. Capitol Switchboard: 202-224-3121).  In addition, in an eerie shadow of the federal budget showdown, Montana Republicans will also be asked a very similar question – is their opposition to Planned Parenthood so great that they would deny Montana women access to preventive healthcare? Will they throw all women under the bus in order to score the political points they need with their base? Finally, will Montana’s Republicans be so irresponsible in this vote that they would risk increasing Montana’s abortion rate and costing millions more in taxpayer expenditures? (Montana Capitol Switchboard:  406-444-4800).

Let’s hope not. Let’s hope, for the sake of believing in our fellow man — and let’s be honest, most of our opponents are men — that common sense and fiscal responsibility will prevail. Even in this polarized world of politics, I cannot fathom that women in 2011 would be used as political pawns to bring a government to the brink, be it the U.S. or Montana. The investment in family planning speaks volumes of how we think of our daughters, our sisters, and our neighbors and this is not a fight we can afford to lose.


Jhwygirl asks the correct question over at Left in the West:

“Congress should be the decision maker? Not science?”

in response to Rob Kailey’s statement in his diary “Donald Molloy Maintains Judicial Integrity” yesterday:

“For the record, this judgment goes beyond a simple defense of wolves in the Northern Rockies. This was a defense of the federal separation of powers and the integrity of the judicial branch. So, the legislative efforts move forward, precisely as Molloy said they should or shouldn’t. That’s up to Congress, as it should be. “

For those who may not be following the story closely, on Saturday, Federal District Court Judge Donald Molloy ruled in a case involving an attempted Settlement Agreement between a coalition of organizations attempting to head off Congressional action over wolf delisting in Montana and Idaho.

That coalition included 10 out of 14 plaintiffs in a lawsuit that had been filed to challenge the way the federal government was going about delisting wolves in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The other 4 organizations refused to settle, believing that they had won important legal issues already, and were set to prevail on their Complaint challenging the way the government was proceeding with wolf delisting.

When those 10 organizations discovered that Senator Tester was going to do an end-around the court case by introducing a rider to delist the wolf in Congress, they decided to settle their case with the government as a way to obviate the need for the rider. And on Friday, they were relieved to find that most of the policy riders had been struck from the Continuing Resolution that had been agreed upon that would fund the government for another week.

But on Saturday, Senator Tester indicated that he had reattached his wolf delisting rider to the compromise 2011 budget agreement that is supposed to get worked out this week:
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by jhwygirl

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. Click on it and you’ll get a nice full-size version of it.

It’s astounding, really, the politicians of both sides of the aisle lining up to hand over private property rights to corporations and private interests large and small.

And foreign, at that! Tonbridge, a Canadian company is the big push on this bill, with Northwestern Energy also a big player in lobbying efforts on HB198.

As the Montana Farmers Union said

“It has been said that politics can make for strange bed-fellows. Watchers of the 62nd Montana Legislature certainly can attest to that.”

All eyes are on Senate Energy & Telecommunications today as they take executive action on HB198.

Have you called 406-444-4800 to leave a message for the Senate Energy & Telecommunications Committee telling them NO to handing private property rights to private entities?

Protect private property rights.

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