Archive for the ‘Brian Schweitzer’ Category

by jhwygirl

Updated below.

So Governor Brian Schweitzer is a fan of nullification.

Why am I not surprised?

How is a progressive blogger like me supposed to criticize unconstitutional GOP-proposed legislation when the highest elected official – a Democrat at that – is out there espousing to national media that he’ll ignore federal law and shoot wolves?

Triangulation at its best.

~~~~~
Newly elected Wyoming Governor Matthew Mead, a Republican, disagrees with Gov. Schweitzer:

“I think you have to be cautious about telling people to go break federal law,” said Mead, a former chief federal prosecutor for Wyoming.

Mead’s a good guy. If I had lived in Wyoming this last election, he’da had my vote.

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By JC

Governor Schweitzer issued an Executive Order yesterday halting the importation of bison into Montana. This action is in direct response to the National Park Service’s capture and holding of 525 bison in capture facilities within the Park.

The AP, in an article in the Billings Gazette, frames the story this way:

“Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer blocked the impending slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone National Park bison on Tuesday, in a surprise move intended to spark an overhaul of how the federal government deals with the iconic but disease-plagued animals.

Schweitzer signed an executive order to prohibit the importation of park bison into Montana for 90 days. That effectively blocks all potential routes out of the park to slaughter plants in Montana and neighboring states.

The Democratic governor told The Associated Press that he was worried the shipments could spread brucellosis to Montana livestock. And he said he was sending a message to federal officials in Washington, D.C. to rein in a diseased bison population that regularly spills out of the park and into Montana.

In the interim, Schweitzer suggested the park bring in loads of hay to feed 525 bison captured so far this winter [and held at Stephens Creek,] after trying to migrate out of the snow-packed park in search of food at lower elevations.

“More than anything else, this is a direct signal to the Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. to get their hat screwed on right and manage this bison population,” Schweitzer said. “Their plan is, when there gets to be a lot of snow, buffalo will go into Montana and then somebody else will have to deal with it.”

Of course, the immediate ramification of Schweitzer’s actions is that captured bison have been given a reprieve from being slaughtered, hopefully to be released in the spring when heavy snow conditions abate in the Park.

Schweitzer’s actions comes on the heel of a lawsuit brought by the Buffalo Field Campaign and others trying to get an injunction on the pending slaughter. That lawsuit was dismissed by Judge Charles Lovell a few days ago. Judge Lovell is a retired federal judge and longtime curmudgeon and thorn in the side of bison advocates, who has ruled against bison 100% of the time.

Buffalo Field Campaign’s habitat coordinator, Darrell Geist, had this to say about the Governor’s action in a press release sent out yesterday:

“We, the people, have stopped the slaughter of America’s last wild buffalo before it has begun! I am at a loss for words.

The effect and outcome of Governor Schweitzer’s order is the National Park Service cannot use any of Montana’s gateway communities as exit points to ship buffalo now held in traps inside Yellowstone National Park to slaughter houses…

There is a lot of hard work ahead to make large cores of habitat and corridors available for America’s last wild buffalo herd to roam. That is our next step, it must happen, we the people can do it. For now, you should dance a little buffalo jig, and give thanks to everyone who has worked very hard to make this happen. Thanks for all you do, for the wild buffaloes.”

So the battle for habitat outside Yellowstone National Park for wild buffalo continues, with the lives of hundreds, if not thousands of bison on the line caught in a crossfire between federal, state and livestock interests. And at the forefront, Buffalo Field Campaign continues its relentless observance of these events both on the frontlines, and in the courtroom, advocating for wild bison, and the habitat they need in Montana on which to roam.

Send them your support if you can, and let your state reps and others know that you stand with the buffalo and BFC in the quest to bring some sanity and  a resolution to this senseless slaughter and management quagmire that has been going on for decades.

baby buffalo in Yellowstone

By JC

Well, it was just a matter of time until our Governor’s hollow words took a turn to the right. In a little noticed story tucked back inside the B Section of last Sunday’s Missoulian, we find out that Exxon–the world’s richest corporation–is protesting nearly a million dollars in taxes in the small Montana town of Lockwood. The protest amounts to 44% of the town’s tax base, and will cost 18 jobs:

Leaders in Lockwood met with ExxonMobil executives and representatives from the Montana Department of Revenue on Thursday to discuss Exxon’s decision and the ramifications it could have for the school district.

“What we will do we don’t know at this point,” said Eileen Johnson, superintendent of the Lockwood School District.

District officials first heard the news from Exxon officials when they met on Thursday. Exxon sent five officials to the meeting, including two of its tax experts from Houston.

Those officials traveled to Helena on Friday to meet with state leaders. A call to Exxon’s Lockwood office Friday was not returned.

“Meet with state leaders…” Hmm, I wonder just what the governor or his underlings are telling Exxon? “C’mon on in, the door’s open, we need your ‘jobs, jobs, jobs.'” I wonder what the next public proclamations from Schweitzer will be about this situation? Push harder for the project because we need even more jobs now? Maybe Exxon is pushing for a little bit of quid pro quo? Pay to play? Extortion…??? So many questions, and so few answers.

I know many of our commenters here think that Exxon and the Canadian oil cartel are such fine upstanding corporate citizens, what with they provide us all the tar for our hippy bike paths. But when the world’s richest corporation has the ability to throw small communities in our state into total disarray and turmoil by simply protesting its taxes, well then, they are no friend to our state and should be dealt with accordingly.

And in related news:
tar sands resistance

International Tar Sands Resistance Summit, Nov 19-22 at Lubrecht

The Indigenous Environmental Network and Northern Rockies Rising Tide are pleased to announce the “International Tar Sands Resistance Summit,” which will take place November 19-22 at the Lubrecht Experimental Forest conference center, 30 miles east of Missoula, Montana, USA. The summit is designed to be a place where individuals representing tar sands-impacted communities can come together to strategize, learn skills and network in order to grow and strengthen the international effort to effectively resist the most destructive industrial project on the planet, the Alberta tar sands. The four-day convergence will focus primarily on connecting individuals and communities affected by the Alberta Tar Sands, the XL Energy Pipeline, and the proposed mega-load shipments. This event is free and open to the public, but due to limited space we will have to cap the number of attendees. Feel free to register online , but please be sure to read the information provided on the form.

By Duganz

Ronald Smith is set to die on January 31, 2011. That’s 88 days.

His final sentence came down yesterday in Deer Lodge, Montana, two days after a Helena judge imposed an injunction staying Smith’s execution.

But there are many more issues behind this: the state doesn’t have any sodium thiopental on hand to kill Smith, nor does the state have a place to execute Smith since they took Montana’s least homely trailer off its foundation–not to mention that Smith’s attorney’s filed papers back in January arguing that executing someone in a trailer, without medical staff was wrong (thus the injunction). So there’s that.

So what will happen now? District Judge John Larson says it’ll be up to the State Supreme Court to figure out which order needs to be followed.

Meanwhile, Smith’s attorneys will send a clemency request to the Board of Pardons within the next 10 days. The BoP will recommend to Brian what they think is the correct choice. Ultimately Brian will decide what to do. And we already know his answer: Kill.

It’s going to be a long couple of months for Ronald Smith, and it will be interesting to see how everything works out legally–and with international relations. It’s also interesting to read the international spin on this. From  the Toronto Sun:

“We’ll have to start a fairly elaborate planning process which begins with identifying staff to volunteer,” said [Montana State Prison Warden Mike] Mahoney.

Executions aren’t in the prison job description, so Mahoney needs people willing to work the equipment.

“We’ll have a meeting to ask for volunteers — by law, the only one who’s required to be involved is me.”

You might expect the warden to be a man hardened to the task, but Mahoney admits his three visits to the death chamber have been the worst part of his job.

“It’s without question the most difficult thing that I have to do as the warden,” said Mahoney.

“I can’t speak for other people who witness it, but you walk into a room, and when you walk out again, someone has lost their life.

“That, I think, is a life-changing experience — you know what will happen, but when it does, it’s a very profound moment.”

A callous killer of killers, Mahoney isn’t.

As an aside, I think it should be mentioned that Mike Mahoney is carrying a terrible burden on his shoulders, and I can’t imagine how difficult his day is just knowing that he’s going to go through it. Again. I truly wish that even if you’re a person for executing Smith, you take a moment to think of Mr. Mahoney, and how this will weigh on him.

And while you do that, read this:

The warden expresses sympathy for staff at the prison where Smith has lived since 1983, when he pleaded guilty to the murders of Thomas Running Rabbit Jr. and Harvey Mad Man Jr..

Twenty-seven years is a long time to get to know someone. In a facility filled with difficult criminals, Mahoney says Smith — now a grandfather — has always been an easy inmate to work with.

“This is a guy who we’ve provided custody and care for years, and that’s another dimension people don’t often think about,” said Mahoney.

“You’re not satisfying the order of a court on some total stranger — this is a person that all of us have dealt with for a good number of years, and staff would tell you he’s been a fairly easy inmate to deal with.”

If Mahoney is worried about his staff, the warden is also concerned about Smith’s reaction to the looming execution date.

“We obviously will be concerned about his state of mind, so we’ll have the mental health staff go around, to see if he has a desire to speak to anyone in that capacity, or a clergyman,” said Mahoney.

Those are some tough words to read, and I think a tough concept for people “on the outside” to understand. Having worked with incarcerated felons (several summers working at Montana State Hospital) I can say that eventually, for the most part, you stop thinking about people as murderers, and criminals, and start thinking of them as “the guy really good at cribbage” and “the one with the dirtiest jokes.” It’s the only way you can deal with that population: by remembering each day that no matter what they did, they are here now, and you’ve got to deal with them or find a new job. In Deer Lodge, Butte, and Anaconda, a “new job” is sometimes not gonna happen, especially with the benefits the state provides, so people adapt.

So whether or not you see Ronald Smith as human, someone working at MSP does. They may even see him as a person that — in another situation — they’d count as a friend. That’s a price for the death penalty that we’re not wont to talk about, and I’m glad the Sun brings it up.

But no matter what we all still have one question to answer: Is state-sanctioned murder okay?

by jhwygirl

The latest meme from our bloviating Governor Brian Schweitzer is that the Canadian tar sands – slated for expansion – are (get this) “conflict free”:

“I would say this is conflict-free oil and I don’t want to send one more son or daughter from Montana to defend an oil supply from one of these dictators and become dependent on that energy supply,” he said in an interview with the Canadian Press from his office in Helena.

Really?

There are Canadiansordinary citizens, doctors and Fort Chipewyan tribal members – that would disagree with you.

Does the fact that they don’t have bombs and guns make it conflict free? Because I don’t agree with that. I know I’m not the only one.

Hypocrisy and ignorance barely begins to describe the irony behind Schweitzer’s comments to the Canadian press this past week. Governor Schweitzer is a guy who doesn’t want to see the Flathead mined, yet approved a coal mine next to a Class 1 air shed (tromping on Crow tribal rights) and an alluvial floodplain right in Montana’s Tongue River valley.

Governor Schweitzer is a guy – born in Montana – who doesn’t seem to know his history, or even the higher cancer rates we saw right here in the upper Clark Fork basin because of the rape and pillage by the Anaconda Copper Mining Company (think Atlas Shrugs by Ayn Rand) that polluted everything near it from Butte to Missoula and beyond.

Schweitzer’s comments were made all the more pornographic given they occurred 30 years from when corporate irresponsibility suffocated Anaconda Montana.

Maybe The Brian should read Anaconda native Patrick Duganz’s words?

If they aren’t enough to expose him to the conflict of corporate irresponsibility, perhaps he should try and learn the lessons so many others haven’t forgotten of the dirty filth that mining has layed upon our lands.

Schweitzer sure is oblivious to this stuff isn’t he – and consider he’s got 130 million or so dollars of Natural Resource Damage Protection Program funds to spend to try and buy back lands to mitigate that environmental disaster thrust upon our state 100 years ago.

Maybe he forgot where that money came from?

Schweitzer is spouting off his newest talking point of “conflict free” as pressure mounts, nationwide, to stop the transport of the Korean-built Kearl modules up and over the Montana-Idaho border, adjacent to the Clearwater and Lochsa River, adjacent to Lolo Creek…through Missoula and next to the Blackfoot A-River-Runs-Through-It River, then up and over another mountain pass and on to the tar sands in Alberta.

Movie director and producer James Cameron? This Montanan thanks you.

Our Governor feigns to respect tribal peoples – yet the Nez Pierce, over who’s native lands these modules will travel – have objected to the modules.

Scientific journals are confirming high levels of carcinogens, mutagens, and teratogens such as mercury, arsenic, lead, and cadmium being thrust upon the native peoples of Canada. The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science of the United States of America has published a paper explaining the pornography of the situation.

Discover Magazine has a pedestrian-friendly article on the issue.

Governor Schweitzer? You call yourself a scientist, don’t you? If cancer was reigning down in your watershed, would you call that “conflict free”?

Did Montana call that conflict free when it happened here?

by jhwygirl

….in Idaho, it seems.

Idahoans don’t seem to have any love for Exxon/Imperial Oil’s Kearl module transport plan to move oversized loads over the historic and scenic highway 12 which runs adjacent to the Wild and Scenic designated Lochsa River and Lolo Creek.

There’s a group of Idahoans suing the state to halt the movement of the oversized loads, charging that Idaho did not follow its own rules to issue the permit. The cite concerns over could threaten public safety, harm tourism in an area that relies on it and pose a risk to the pristine river corridors:

“Whether Highway 12 will remain an outstanding tourist and recreation destination that provides jobs and revenues to the local community – or become a congested industrial ‘high and wide’ corridor for the conveniences of the oil industry … – are matters of great concern to the plaintiffs and many others in the area.”

Idaho residents have also called for a full Environmental Impact Statement from the Clearwater National Forest on the project, saying that the USFS has a responsibility to protect that corridor.

Now – this route passes through the Lolo National Forest, too. What has the Lolo done? They didn’t consult with the tribes (as they are required to do under NEPA and they categorically excluded the project from need of any additional environmental analysis.

Burying power lines on federal lands (as opposed to the overhead lines there currently) apparently doesn’t have any impacts, according to the Lolo.

Hard to believe.

NEPA, unlike the MEPA review that the Montana Department of Transportation is attempting (and truncated one – an “environmental analysis” – at that, requires an analysis of connected actions – connected actions such as the impact on air and water quality as a result of these big things being delivered to Canada for tar sands processing. The economic impact of having these things assembled in Korea, shipped here and transported whole to Canada.

The list goes on for this one.

Exxon/Imperial, for their part haven’t been very neighborly here in Montana – but it might be that they don’t have to: As JC pointed out, our carbon fuel-loving Governor supports all those flag-waving jobs the project will bring for Montanans.

Yeah! Go Korea!

MDOT, for its part, should be should be releasing its decision any day now

I know I wait with bated breath.

Got that right this time, I think.

I hope someone on this side of the pass is scrutinizing that “categorical exclusion” of the Lolo National Forest….and I guess we’ll all have to wait and see what comes out of MDOT in the next few days.

It is possible that MDOT has determined that there are significant enough impacts that a full EIS is needed. Both Missoula County Commissioners and Missoula City Council have requested an EIS – as did much of the public comment.

But of course, this is the same department that said that this was the only oversized load in the pipeline, which was an outright lie. Multiple loads line await on the docks in Lewistown.

Of course, they could be banking on the low median income of the people of the state and the financial stress on non-profits to sue ’em.

It’s wait and see…wait and see.

by jhwygirl

I am beyond disgusted with this kind of stuff. If I’ve never written to the fact that the Constitution is the ultimate law of the land, I’ve written nothing.

Today I find that the MT GOP, at its most recent convention, re-affirmed its 2008 platform calling for making homosexual acts criminal.

And lest you think I’m making this up – mainly because the page link I provided has been removed today by the MT GOP – here is a cached version, courtesy of the google.

Now – these Einsteins of the MT GOP apparently have no respect for the Montana Constitution, nor the United State’s Constitution. See, both the Montana Supreme Court and the Supreme Court of the United States of America have struck down “anti-sodomy” laws.

The Montana Supreme Court did so in Gryczan v. State, 942 P.2d 112 (1997). Not only that, Gryczan and the right of privacy it has conferred has been reaffirmed over and over again by both the Montana courts and other state and federal courts repeatedly since its rendering.

The United States Supreme Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Lawrence et. al. V. Texas (02-102) 539 U.S. 558 (2003), finding a constitutional protection to sexuality. Only Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas dissented.

In other words – it’s no government’s business what anyone does in their bedroom.

Where does it stop, MT GOP? What is it you want? Are there not enough problems out there facing Montanan’s? Have you no respect for the ultimate law of our land? Of our nation?

By Goddess, something is really failing us here, Montana – I am gosh darn sick and tired of politicians on both sides of the aisle proposing voting for passing and signing bills into law that violate the constitution (be it the Montana Constitution or the Constitution of the United States).

It’s beyond disrespectful that politicians think they can push the boundaries of these precious documents as if saying to The People “Go ahead and sue me – you can’t afford the fight.”

It’s pretty friggin’ simple – policies must obey rules; rules must obey laws; laws must obey the Constitution. It’s not a “sometimes” thing. It’s not something that should only followed when it’s convenient or when the “other party” is in charge

It’s all the time.

by jhwygirl

Yellowstone Kelly has a post up at Left in the West, aptly titled Ambition is a dream with a V8 engine, which reports on Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s travelling the state with Governor Brian Schweitzer and her own entourage comprised of her top 3 staffers (and yes…who is in charge when she’s out helping the Governor with his daily schedule?)

The whisper YK puts out there is that she may be considering a gubernatorial run in 2012, when The Brian’s term (finally) expires.  This is something I’ve been saying for months now, but sadly, only in private emails and conversations.  It’s been clear in her interactions with the Governor during the Land Board hearings – and with Brian looked at her almost downright adoringly as she made the motion to approve Otter Creek and the motion to add the bonus bid (which wasn’t one, in the end.)

McCulloch offered an afterthought to the final approval of the $86 million bid on Otter Creek, throwing the responsibility of seeing that its millions are spent on schools to the citizens of the state and called on everyone to ‘hold their elected officials responsible’ in making sure the money was spent on schools.

Not only did that contradict the constitutional blackout she had when she added the bonus bid, assuring the public ‘that the bonus bid will go directly to the schools’ as an over-and-above amount from what the legislature appropriated….it flew in the face of who she is.

She’s an elected official. Was it even two days after the approval of that lease before her paramour Schweitzer was out letting the world know he saved the state’s budget with the Otter Creek millions?

Where was she then?

Where was McCulloch when megalomaniac Schweitzer was out politically blackmailing county and city local governments, requesting a pledge to coal in order to secure release of legislatively appropriated stimulus money?

She won’t be getting my vote again. Evah. Same for Auditor Monica Lindeen.

YK mentions that Attorney General Steve Bulloch is another one rumored to be seeking the Governorship. I’ve got one eye on Bulloch, and so far he’s done a pretty righteous job…extraordinarily so as the Attorney General.

But it’s one eye only – my other eye is still on the lookout, given that Bulloch’s vote against Otter Creek was driven solely by his responsibility to the trust – and not his constitutional obligations to ensure a clean and healthful environment for Montanans.

Time will tell. Who knows – maybe someone I’m a big fan of might decide to take the leap. I can only hope.

by jhwygirl

MDOT refused to extend the 30-day public comment deadline on the environmental assessment written by Exxon/Imperial Oil for transport of its oversized Korean-built Canadian tar sands equipment, despite a wealth of public comment requesting just that – some of which came directly from the City of Missoula City Council. And despite the fact that the state’s email system shut down from the overload of public comment being submitted.

Lovely.

I pondered in this post who was pulling the strings on this project, considering that MDT Director Jim Lynch testified last July before the legislature that (a) this project should undergo an Environmental Impact Statement scrutiny and (b) that this proposal was essentially a permanent high-and-wide corridor proposal.

Not only that – but the Exxon/Imperial Oil written environmental assessment said it would be a permanent corridor within its EA. It’s also fair to note that this EA was signed by MDT’s very own Dwayne Kailey.

Didn’t take much to figure out who was pulling the strings – Governor Brian Schweitzer, who said it was about ..jobs, jobs, jobs.” Maybe he doesn’t understand the funky math that got Exxon/Imperial Oil to that $68 million figure? Because I heard the president of Imperial Oil explain here in Missoula that they came to that number “through a complex economic calculation,” that “takes into account that dollars will be spent repeatedly throughout the community.”

Sounds like trickle down economic theory to me – and we all know how that works, don’t we? Kinda funny how we’ll sell ourselves for flag-waving jobs and no one will stand up (save for a bunch of citizens and a Canadian parliament member) for having these things brought here in pieces and contract assembled somewhere here in North America.

Yep – Montanan’s should aspire to waving the flags to clear the traffic for these Korean-built things to head on through the state.

I ruminated during the Otter Creek fiasco on how Montana could aspire to be like that teeming economic power state of coal-rich West Virginia. Now maybe what we’re hoping to be is the new inland version of Louisiana.

Maybe he doesn’t care. The Good Gov sure loves his fossil fuels, that’s for sure. So much so that he’s willing to repeat the same tired old misinformed fact over and over – that the proposal is “temporary.”

He did it in this Missoulian article weeks ago, and he did it again, recently, in supermontanareporter John S. Adams’ that was published this past Friday in the Great Falls Tribune.

Adams did a great in-depth look at the Exxon/Imperial Oil proposal to transport these oversized loads which includes a repeat (by both MDOT – who I noted signed the industry-written EA – and Schweitzer) that this is only a temporary proposal. He also gets to Imperial Oil spokesman Pius Rolheiser, who also repeats the lie that his very own consultants acknowledged in the environmental document they submitted.

I guess, like Bush or Cheney, if you repeat it enough, someone’ll start believing it as truth.

Different communities have different perspectives – and Adams talks to Teton County Commissioner Dellwo and Manager of the Port of Lewiston Idaho David Doeringsfeld, who is looking for between $1.8 to $2.8 million in upgrades to double the capacity to his ports.

Yeah – it’s about money, but who’s gonna benefit the most? Exxon/Imperial Oil with its one-time influx of flag-waving and turnout-building money? Lewistown with its trucking/motel industry and the multi-million dollar upgrades that will generate long-term jobs and expansion? Or Montana with it being on the receiving end of the one-time influx of Exxon/Imperial Oil money and a few motel rooms rented out along the way? Calculated by a “complex economic calculation”?

Who else has gotten into it, too? Ochenski asked, weeks ago, how long it would be before the Gulf disaster would be repeated in Montana – and truthout pressed forward this past Saturday with a lengthy article titled Trucking Toward Climate Change.

Nick Stocks, co-founder of the group Northern Rockies Rising Tide is interviewed for the article, as is Brett Haverstick with the group Friends of the Clearwater and Missoula County Commissioner Jean Curtiss.

by jhwygirl

Here you go, smokey – here’s some of that irony I was talking about.

Remember just a few months ago when the Good Gov was blocking payments to Sen. Greg Barkus’ friends – $600,000 in state money to clean up environmental contamination on a site that Swank bought at a discounted price knowing it had to clean it up?

The Good Gov was rounding up all kinds of cash, slashing money for remodeling of the state hospital, asking for money-saving ideas from citizens, and cutting funding for lots of obscure boards. Populists loved it….even when he took the school trust money $86 million from the Otter Creek coal leases and added it to the general budget to shore up slipping revenues.

Last month, Schweitzer approved a freeze on provider-rate increases as part of a $40 million cut in state spending. This cut will cost $2 million to Montana nursing homes, which care for about 3,000 people funded by Medicaid. That’s 60 percent of their patients.

These cuts can’t occur without rule changes – and public comment is due May 28th. A hearing was held Wednesday – this link takes you to the public notice from the Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS).

Rose Hughes, executive director of the Montana Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes, said Montana pays an average of $161 a day for nursing home patients covered by Medicaid, while the average cost for all patients is $179 a day.

Hughes argued Wednesday it’s not necessary to cancel the scheduled 2 percent increase in Medicaid rates, because the state’s budget picture has improved since earlier this year and Congress may approve additional Medicaid funding for all states.

She also said that as much as $1.6 million in state Medicaid nursing-home funds remain unspent, because of fewer “patient days” than expected this year.

Nursing-home administrators said they’re already operating on a very thin margin and that freezing Medicaid rates can’t help but affect care for all elderly residents.

“It’s going to result in diminished quality of care,” said Jackie Meyers, director of nursing at Laurel Health and Rehabilitation Center. “It will result in increased unemployment. … Nursing home care is a necessity. It’s not a luxury.”

DPHHS is facing serious cuts – and we’ve not even gotten into the 2011 legislative session where the legislature is going to have to make deeper cuts to make up for the last-minute budget deal in the ’09 session in which permanent cuts were made that were shored up with stimulus cash. If it was one agency where this shouldn’t have been done, it was DPHHS.

Check out the DPHHS public notice page – there are cuts proposed to Medicaid inpatient and outpatient hospital services, cuts proposed to Medicaid reimbursement for hearing aid services, outpatient drugs, and eyeglasses, early and periodic screening, diagnostic and treatment services.

Cuts to home and community-based services for adults with severe disabling mental illness. Cuts to psychiatric residential treatment facility services.

The list goes on.

Many of these things are part of that “an ounce of prevention goes a long way” type of things? Early screening? Psychiatric treatment? Long-term effects will be felt in communities throughout the state.

I’m glad our Governor is watching out for our budget and working hard to keep us flush….but is he consistent? I have trouble seeing it. And as a Democrat, you’d think he’d find other things to save cash – like, perhaps, the Department of Livestock and its hazing of Yellowstone bison? Especially when you consider that our own State Veterinarian has verified that every known transmission of brucellosis to livestock has been the result of interaction with elk, and not bison.

How much does that hazing cost?

But cutting DPHHS services for Medicaid patients? Yeah – irony abounds. This is one where I find that both irony and inconsistency.

by jhwygirl

That’s what many said to the State Land Board (and to 3 of its 5 members, Governor Schweitzer, Secretary of State Linda McDulloch and Auditor Monica Lindeen) before then went ahead anyway and approved the Otter Creek coal leases.

Not before – let’s not forget – a poorly orchestrated show between Governor Schweitzer and Linda McCulloch, who first added a bonus bid of 15 cents/ton. Four of ’em played along in that one (with State Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau casting the lone dissenting vote), but in the end, even Attorney General Steve Bullock changed his mind, seeing through the corporate welfare that was, eventually, approved – a 40% drop in price (and let’s not feign that this was in any way a “bid” given that only one entity could competitively bid on it, given the land-locked nature of the state lands involved and the fact that the bidder is the one that land-locks the land) along with a $57 million instant subsidy of the coal corporate giants.

Can’t forget, either, that a railroad that will also need to be condemned through Montana’s eminent domain laws – that’s condemnation of private land in the interest of a private corporate entity, folks – a railroad that will save that private corporate entity well in the range of $100 million a year in hauling costs from Wyoming’s extensive coal fields down south.

Don’t try and tell me that coal isn’t subsidized – a industry as old as the world is still gaining both federal and state subsidy to operate. Ridiculous.

Oh, yeah – there was more. The votes were disappointing (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Monica I-campaigned-on-a-biodiesel-bus Lindeen). Even Button Valley was getting an overload of it, as was I, as Governor Brian Schweitizer headed out around the state pushing on communities to sign a oath to coal in order to get their legislatively appropriated stimulus money.

An illegal transgression that was largely overlooked – as was the stashing of that Otter Creek bid money in this year’s general budget instead of going to schools as it is legally obligated to do (along with that whole the-legislature-is-the-only-lawful-appropriator-of-money thing). It’s something that is coming home to roost, those illegal transgressions, and quickly becoming a private joke amongst many of us who railed against both of these things when they were occurring.

But we’ll leave that for another post, and the real journalists who are already asking the questions. Enable once, shame on you..enable twice, shame again…but sure as hell don’t get indignant about it the third time around…

Enter now Northern Plains Resource Council, the Wildlife Federation, Montana Environmental Information Center and the Sierra Club, who collectively filed two lawsuits this week challenging the Otter Creek coal lease approval.

NPRC and WF said that the state land board failed to adequately analyze the environmental effects of the project. MEIC and SC challenged on the basis of the economic and global warming effects of the project.

There are a myriad of problems with Otter Creek. I’m mystified as to the embracing – in a state that seems to champion individual property rights – of a project that will railroad over the private property rights of individuals (pun intended).

I’m also mystified that a state – in a time of general budget distress not only internally, but nationwide – would dish out such corporate welfare to the detriment of our very own children’s education funding.

What’s the real shame is that Montana’s citizens – and its very worthy non-profits – have to sue to get the state to meet its constitutional obligations outlined in what is known in our state constitution as the Montana Environmental Policy Act.

This can not and should not be taken lightly. I don’t care how many laws that the legislature passes or tries to pass attacking it. This is a constitutional guarantee. Guarantee. And this word can not be overemphasized enough. This isn’t some old state constitution. It is a modern document, with words that were carefully chosen, discussed and debated in modern many-remember-them times. Guarantee was not a word chosen or placed lightly, and it leaves little room for discussion.

It is the law of the land. Our state agencies, our land board and our Governor all have the obligation to make sure that guarantee is met each and every day. Shame on them for having to be sued to comply with constitutional obligations.

Schweitzer Waves White Flag on Big Rigs

By JC

super sized

It seems that in lieu of any rational economic development proposals from Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-Imperial/Exxon) to mitigate the impacts of the collapse of the housing construction (timber) industry and Stone Container, it is best to lay down and let another multinational corporation walk all over us:

“If I could wave a magic wand and get Stone Container open again and get the timber industry going again, I’d do that,” Schweitzer said Friday. “In lieu of that, $68 million worth of road work and flaggers and utility work along the highways – I guess we’ll take it. It’s $68 million worth of jobs [associated with the Kearl big rig project].”

Well, no. 32 million of those 63 million oil dollars are the cost of transport. Not jobs or mitigation costs. Those are dollars paid to out of state/country employees to move the dang things–not jobs for locals. Never mind that the project will disrupt traffic along highways 12 and 200 in western Montana, and create safety hazards and emergency response nightmares. It’s full speed ahead, damn the EA:

“[Schweitzer] scoffed at fears that western Montana will become a permanent vessel for big rigs to the Canadian oil fields and elsewhere.

“That’s not the proposal at all,” he said. “This is temporary for 200 loads and nobody’s proposed a permanent corridor. That’s why it’s an (environmental assessment) and not an (environmental impact statement).”

Except, Governor Big Oil, Exxon did “Propose to create permanent ‘High/Wide Corridor’s through Montana”, as revealed in this MDOT presentation prepared by MDOT Director Jim Lynch last July:
permanent corridor

Of course, in the another quote from him in the Missoulian article, he contradicts himself by saying he’ll try harder the next time a proposal like this comes along:

The governor said he pitched hard – “but I’ll pitch even harder next time” – to see that the equipment to be hauled through the state is built “in some place like Great Falls or Cut Bank or Havre, as opposed to being built in Korea.”

So you say we need an EIS if it is going to be a permanent corridor? Then you’d better order Exxon and MDOT to get to work on an EIS. Or are you just a liar? How dumb do you think we are that you think we can’t read and put 2+2 together???

Even Missoula’s City Council recognizes the falsehoods behind those who want to dismiss this project as a one-off needing just an EA, and have prepared a resolution dated May 10th, 2010 that one would assume would be presented to City Council soon:

WHEREAS, the construction required for these large loads will create a permanent high/wide corridor through Montana and Missoula that will attract the interest of additional oversize trucking projects destined for Alberta, as set forth in the draft Environmental Assessment’s (EA) Past, Present and Reasonably Foreseeable Impacts section and in MDT Director Jim Lynch’s 2009 “Proposed High and Wide Corridors Briefing” to a Montana Legislature committee; and

WHEREAS, the draft EA’s Purpose of the Project does not address the creation of a permanent corridor to serve future oversize;

NOW, THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, the Missoula City Council hereby declares that complying with the spirit and letter of MEPA and NEPA will require environmental review taking the form of a programmatic joint EIS under MEPA and NEPA and urges MDT to begin such a process in cooperation with affected or involved federal agencies, fully involving the public and exhaustively evaluating the impacts of creating a permanent high/wide commercial transportation corridor from the Port of Vancouver to the Alberta tar sands.

PASSED AND ADOPTED this 10th day of May, 2010.

So folks, get out there and make sure this resolution passes City Council, and get on Schweitzer’s case about his blatant lying here.

And the Clark Fork Coalition noted in its Take Action bulletin that:

“The Port of Lewiston anticipates that “If one oil company is successful with this alternate transportation route, many other companies will follow their lead.” It is obvious that this route is planned to be a permanent industrial corridor to be in use for the forseeable future.”

Somebody needs to get his head out of Imperial/Exxon’s ass the sand and call for a full blown EIS.

by jhwygirl

I’m over the maddening part…and at this point I actually find solace in the fact that I did not vote for him. I voted none of the above.

Bear with me…We’ve got 3 more years…it’s all I got.

Governor Brian Schweitzer really is a megalomaniac. That isn’t news, but his over-the-top demand for a pledge to coal has everyone I know cracking jokes that end with “well, maybe you can write Brian and pledge an oath to coal and it’ll all work out.”

The story itself is pretty hard to believe, frankly…but add the letter and you clearly have major delusion going on there.

Button Valley was first on it, calling it Political blackmail. The Editor also goes on to ponder whether ultimately, if what’s next is a pledge to cow dogs.

God only knows, right?

Matt’s calling it Jumping the Kingfisher. Jay’s got it pegged pretty accurately at extortion.

My personal editorial savior, The Indy’s George Ochenski sliced and diced it up as darned near thoroughly as you can, calling it “coercion” and here’s the basics:
1.) Only the legislature appropriates money.
2.) The $89,000,000 Otter Creek bonus payment is school trust money.
3.) By law, 95% of that must be put back into the school trust, and 5% of it goes towards schools.
4.) Directly equating Otter Creek money with road repair and the like exposes the state to lawsuit from any darn person in the public that doesn’t like the fact that school trust money is being used not only for roads, but also for political gain.

Of course, he goes through plenty of other relevant facts: The “645 money” (as local officials are calling it) was approved lawfullly and signed into law by Governor Brian Schweitzer. He could have line-item vetoed it. He didn’t.

Keep that in mind while he flies around the state in a plane that is pretty expensive to operate, heading down to Republican represented districts for what Montana Cowgirl touted the The Say Uncle Tour. I couldn’t even leave a comment on that post, I was speechless that even the most rabid of Schweitzer supporters wouldn’t stop to think of what they’d think if the tables were turned.

What is my favorite epithet? Hypocrite? And all to stroke an ego? At the state’s expense, nonetheless.

What else does Ochenski point out? This gem:

Public sentiment, if last week’s unscientific poll in the Helena Independent Record is any measure, runs 75 percent against the decision. And, of course, the impacts of global warming are eminently visible in western Montana, with an estimated 2 million acres of dead, beetle-killed trees.

This isn’t just lost on just the blogs – here’s a roundup, in no particular order:

The Bozeman Chronicle
The Missoulian
The Helena IR
The Helena IR (again)
The Flathead Beacon
The Flathead Beacon (again)

Update

Great Falls Tribune
Firedoglake
The New York Times
Triplepundit

I said he was dangerous – “This is not a monarchy,” were my words back in December when he was picking on leaning-conservative town Bozeman. Those loving the 30-second news cycle thought it was great…hell be damned to the laws and the constitutional issues.

Triangulation anyone? I’m starting to think that Governor Brian Schweitzer is Montana’s very own Sarah Palin…and not only that – I’m betting it’s exactly what he wants!

A few weeks ago – and supermontanareporter John S. Adams gets the goods here – Governor Brian Schweitzer’s office (story gets into a who-said-what realm) “rushed along” the retirement of a Dept. of Commerce employee that spoke out against Schweitzer withholding stimulus funds:

During a hearing at the Capitol, legislators questioned Kelly Casillas, acting administrator for the Department of Commerce’s Community Development Division, about why grants for some 50 projects aren’t being released to local communities.

“The state had to make the difficult decision to put them on hold pending the current fiscal situation,” Casillas told the panel….

Cole said earlier this week that the Schweitzer administration forced him to resign last Friday after the release of a list of local grants that had been frozen by the Schweitzer administration.

Schweitzer spokeswoman Sarah Elliott said the administration didn’t know about Cole’s early retirement until after it happened.

Makes you wonder what he’s gonna do with this guy.

Democrat leaders need to speak out. This is damage being done, and a bill will come due, and I’m not talking about stimulus cash. Thought Judy Martz was bad? Imagine what the product is going to be of this behavior. Of course – Schweitzer is termed, so this year’s election is of little concern. For him.

Ask yourself: Do you want a Republican governor running around doing the same thing Schweitzer’s doing? What if it becomes cuts to DPHHS? Education? I don’t like birth control pills under Medicaid? Let’s quit with all this fancy forestry stuff – clearcut! CHIP sucks and I never liked it anyways?

See where this has the potential to go?

So – considering that I didn’t vote for the guy, what do I regret? I regret that he was allowed and enabled to get to such a point that sending out written letters demanding adherence to his coal carbon Church of Brian are now part of the ordinary course of business for the guy who calls himself “Montana’s CEO”.

~~~~~
(I want to point out, as I know I was pretty rabid on Otter Creek and have been on coal and carbon issues – I’ve wanted to let this Otter Creek thing go. They’ll be other battles to save the Tongue – and frankly, it ain’t over. But gosh giddy god darn, The Brian sure is doing his best to keep the thing in the news.)

(I also continue to cast shame on State Auditor Monica Lindeen and Secretary of State Linda McCulloch. They basically produced this current episode that is part of what will be a scour on our state for decades to come.)

TGFGOAAH

by jhwygirl

Superprogressiveeditorialist The George Ochenski has his latest column up for the Missoula Independent taking on the Fire Sale that the state land board put forward (by a 3-2 vote) on Monday by dropping the .25/ton bid price on Otter Creek coal by a full 20% 40% to .15/ton.

(I should note I stole that headline right out of GO’s post, too)

He lays out the hypocrisy of saving the Flathead from coal mining, while approving Otter Creek, knowing darn well it will destroy that valley.

That’s the difficult thing to reconcile. And while I’ve been called “bitter” for railing on Otter Creek (and yes, as a pro-coal cheerleader for Otter Creek, Governor Brian Schweitzer has been on the receiving end of this wrath) while not mentioning a peep about the wind projects approved – one was actually approved by Judy Martz (Judith Gap) – I believe that is a bit unfair.

Since Brian likes to tell stories – he compared the dropping of the bid price to an auctioneer trying to sell a couch – I’ll put forth my reasoning for not championing these wind projects.

Two rights don’t fix a wrong. If your 16-year old son takes your car for the night and comes home drunk, but still makes it home safely and by curfew, do you reward him because he came home on time without a scratch on the car? I doubt it. You aren’t going to overlook that he is drunk and that he drove drunk. Frankly, once you realize he’s drunk, the fact that he got home on time and the car was unharmed won’t mean a damned thing. And if he says to you as you drill down on him for drinking and drinking and driving “but I got home on time,” that might even piss you off more.

So approving 3 wind projects (this is kind of an extension of that hypocrisy that Ochenski was talking about, isn’t it?) over the last 5 years doesn’t make approving Otter Creek right.

These kinds of decisions aren’t like elections. It isn’t a popularity contest. There are people that don’t keep a score of good and bad and whichever you do more of in the end negates all that other stuff. I dare say that most people expect their electeds to do the right thing.

And Otter Creek was the wrong thing.

And George Ochenski kicks ass.

~~~~~~
There are other things that don’t have me all happy and cheery about those wind projects. Every single one of ’em is taking power to California or Oregon or Washington or Colorado or Nevada. They require major transmission lines crossing our state – and those transmission lines are going to mean private property is going to be taken in some cases under eminent domain (or threat of – most people end up knowing that they really can’t afford a fight with those big corporations).

So it’s kind of hard to champion wind power when we aren’t getting any of it…but what we are getting is a whole bunch of power lines crossing the state, carrying that power over our heads and over to California. AND private landowners (ranchers), some of which are reluctantly acquiescing to the presence of those lines, under the inevitable threat of a government takings lawsuit.

What is Montana? A colonial outpost for California’s electricity and Wyoming’s coal rail road market line?

Call me crazy, call me whatever – but when someone’s talking green energy, I expect it to be for us here in Montana. At least some of it.

by jhwygirl

In a 3 – 2 vote (Schweitzer, McCulloch and Lindeen voting yes), the Land Board voted to lower the minimum bid price on the Otter Creek tracts from .25/ton to .15/ton.

I’ve yet to stomach a viewing of the entire hearing – but thanks to my DVR (and since the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio and video like the legislature has been able to do for quite a number of years), I’ll be watching it tonight.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Attorney General Steve Bullock both voted against the project. For that, I am deeply grateful.

I hope to transcribe the testimony and comments of at least two individuals from today’s hearing. AG Bullock spoke to the corporate welfare that he saw about to be dispensed. Another opponent spoke to the corporate money of Arch Coal – where they put it and the return they would get if the leases were approved.

Those words – like Juneau’s “no” vote in December – need to be out there so that people can be reminded of precisely what was at stake when Otter Creek becomes the disaster that will be.

And make no mistake, those that voted yes were keenly aware of that impending disaster. Lee reporter Mike Dennison captured that awareness by referencing Governor Schweitzer’s promises to Montana’s water resources prior to the yes vote by he and Lindeen and McCulloch. I’ve gone ahead and transcribed them word for word. Read them and ponder why the taxpayers must forego $5 million in coal revenues to the general fund or to the school trust (he didn’t say where he planned to take that $5 million) to protect Montana’s water resources.

I’m going to instruct my budget director, to put in my budget that we take to the legislature, $5 million so that every high school in Montana will either have solar panels or a wind turbine at their school and in order for them to receive this money – which is approximately $32,000 per school – they’ll have to sign a contract with the Department of Commerce that they will spend a minimum of 5 hours teaching time in each of those classrooms with every high school student in Montana explaining to them how this alternative energy works and how it is the energy of the future. I’m also going to instruct the budget director to put $5 million in the budget to protect those that live in Otter Creek and their water. I don’t know who the director of DEQ will be 8 years, 12 years, 20 years from now. I’ve no idea who will be seated on this land board…who will be responsible at the DNRC. We can’t control that – the people of Montana will elect those positions, and the rest of ’em will be appointed. So that’s why whether the DEQ or the DNRC has the fortitude to make sure that the mining companies are protecting the water assets of the people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children will not be in doubt – because there will be $5 million put aside. And those monies – $5 million and $5 million – would come from this bonus bid.

While the “people that live there and farm there and ranch there and raise children” can’t take that $5 million to the bank – only the legislature can appropriate – what they can take to the bank is proof, given to us today by the 3 yes votes, that corporate coal money reigns supreme over their water, their lives, their farms, their ranches and their children.

by jhwygirl

Inquiring minds are wondering. Tomorrow’s Land Board meeting may provide the answer, as the state’s executive branch (Gov. Schweitzer, Sec. of State Linda McCulloch, Attorney General Steve Bullock, State Auditor Monica Lindeen and Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau) consider whether to lower the minimum bid for the Otter Creek coal tracts.

Most readers may recall that the Land Board, after delaying the vote in November, went ahead and approved the leases (sans Denise Juneau’s vote), back in December.

But not before listening (for the upteenth time) to hours of opponent testimony that ranged from environmentalists, tribal members and ranchers who will be directly affected by the rape of the land, litany of industry lies, and the permanent assault on both the environment and private property rights.

Their testimony of which, notably, was kept to a 3-minute time limit while proponents representing big coal interests (the Montana Coal Council) and the only likely leaser (Great Northern/Arch Coal) were allowed to ramble on. Watch the video in JC’s post on Otter Creek to hear what one opponent had to say about that treatment.

And not before adding a .15/ton bonus to the minimum bid recommendation, which was, perhaps not so ironically, arrived at through negotiation with the only potential leaser Great Norther/Arch Coal.

So it should be no surprise that the only potential bidder on the coal is whining about the minimum bid. Which, speaking of – it’s a little ridiculous to call this a bid process, IMNSHO. It sorta creates an image that there is the potential for the bid to go higher – that someone else might place a bid. Which isn’t the case here.

~~~~~~
The level to which we find our electeds here in Montana kowtowing to corporate interests all in worship to the almighty – yet elusive – “business” and “jobs” still astounds me. Proponents say that these tracts will create massive numbers of jobs, yet the total of all 5 working coal mines here in Montana doesn’t employ even 1,000 people. Factor in that the highest paid of those jobs go to out-of-state engineers and corporate big dogs, and that number becomes even lower. Mining is highly automated – and is becoming more and more automated with larger and larger machines.

The level of corporate kowtowing won’t stop with a lower of the bid price – if they do it….it’ll continue with a tromping of private property rights over those of (yep, you guess it) the developer Great Northern Arch Coal.

Certain members of the Land Board (no sense in calling anyone out in particular, and yes, Denise Juneau can be exempted here) have gone through great pains through the several hearings on Otter Creek to say that “this isn’t about the rail road” and “this isn’t about the actual mine – what we’re talking about here is just the lease” as if leasing the tracts doesn’t bring the other two.

In federal language, this is called “connected actions” and this is where federal agencies often meet their legal woes. Simply put, actions that are a result of the intended outcome must be considered.

In this previous post, titled Montana GOP leaders support federal condemnation for Otter Creek, I explained how the railroad will require condemnation (i.e., eminent domain takings) of private property. Whether the railroad will be looked at as a common carrier has yet to be seen, but even if that doesn’t occur, state law can and will be used in an attempt to condemn for that railroad.

Great Northern/Arch Coal will use MCA 70.30.102 – using a pretty wide interpretation of “public uses” (since the only one truly benefiting from the railroad will be Great Northern/Arch Coal) – to condemn private property to build this railroad. A railroad that will help Arch Coal move its Wyoming coal more cheaply to markets both east and west.

And before any wingers go screaming “tax revenue” as a public use, let me remind you of the Kelo case (which is linked to within the condemnation piece above).

I’ll also remind you that the private property of Kelo, condemned in the Kelo case, still sits unused by a now bankrupt private entity that had successfully gained the property through eminent domain.

Yessiree, this Otter Creek is one big mess. The Land Board added the .15/ton bonus payment saying it wouldn’t sell the coal cheaply. That the kids would benefit (McCulloch had some constitutional blackout with that one, since only the legislature can appropriate). Even the Good Gov has long said he would not sell Otter Creek cheaply.

We’ll see, won’t we.

~~~~~~~~
For those of you interested, you can watch the Land Board hearing live by watching it on TVMT (Channel 67 here in Missoula, other channel listings for around the state can be found here.)

You could also stream it live from the state’s website, links which can be found here, at the top of the page.

Oddly – and even the Land Board’s website is pretty clear about this – the Land Board doesn’t archive its audio or video of the Land Board meetings. This is opposite the very efficient and public-information friendly legislative branch who archives not only audio and video from years past sessions, but committee meetings along with the written minutes.

SO – if you want to watch the Land Board hearing, you best set 4 or 5 hours on the DVR or VCR to tape, or catch it live. Because after that, it’s only a memory. Of course, a month later you can read the typed minutes, but those aren’t complete transcriptions.

Nothing like seeing your elected officials in action, peeps.

~~~~~~
In closing – please take the time to call or email the Land Board members tonight…or before 9 a.m. tomorrow. Tell them that leasing that coal at a lower price further perpetuates corporate welfare.

Also, don’t just listen to me – read Button Valley’s 2 most recent Otter Creek-related posts: Value of school children plummets and “If not now, when? If not us, who?”. You can also search the term “otter” over there for a whole wealth of informative posts on Otter Creek.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

by jhwygirl

Boy, sure hope the Governor doesn’t read this Missoulian article, otherwise he’ll have to head to town to protest the expenditure.

Of course – Drudge hasn’t picked up on it yet. Neither has Fox News. So maybe we’re in the clear.

by jhwygirl

…or was it more a chance to cater to the Faux News crowd?

Now cities and towns across the state are now wondering about some of their stimulus funds – stimulus funds granted via HB645…stimulus funds approved by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Brian Schweitzer himself….a governor who vetoed and partially vetoed a number of bills but didn’t see fit to do anything about those park and recreational facility funding when he signed HB645 into law…and finally – stimulus funds appropriated through HB645, a bill which Governor Schweitzer line-item vetoed for certain objects as having been unconstitutional.

Let’s also take the time to point out that under section 47 of HB645, MCA 90-5-101 was amended to include recreational facilities as projects eligible for stimulus funds. Family service projects were included too, as were electric energy generation facilities (Smurfit-Stone, anyone?), and “any facilities that are used or considered necessary to create or produce any intangible item, as defined in section 197(d)(1)(C)(iii) of the Internal Revenue Code, 26 U.S.C. 197(d)(1)(C)(iii), including any patent, copyright, formula, process, design, pattern, knowledge, format, or other similar intangible item.”

That last one there is pretty broad, no?

Now let’s say here first – the Governor has been looking to cut and save money from the budget. That’s a good thing. He recently denied over a half-million bucks in funding to Swank Enterprises – a late insert into the state’s budget bill by Senator Barkus – the Barkus that sailed that boat up on the rocks on Flathead Lake, severely injuring himself and the rest of his drinking buddies, one of which was our own congressperson Representative Dennis Rehberg – based on political tomfoolery, if not the clever use of the word “may” instead of “shall.”

Stuff like that is great.

Now that we’ve gotten the pleasantries out of the way…

What towns are wondering about whether they’ll be next in the Governor’s scrutiny of legislatively-approved, signed-into-law-by-him stimulus money? Why, the Governor’s own current hometown of Helena should be one of them. They got a nice chunk of cash – nearly $500,000 – that will, in part, build an entirely new park. It’ll also get them a hand-painted mural and the installation of sound reflective tile. Drummond? Dutton? Fairview? The list goes on: Livingston, Ryegate Superior? All improvements to the local park infrastructure. Terry? Twin Bridges? Bainville?

Will these towns be losing their pathways? The park benches and shelters? What about those bathroom upgrades? Sprinkler systems?

How about that county ground fairground grandstand replacement in Prairie?

What’s good for the goose, is good for the gander. Why should Prairie get a new grandstand and Bozeman be begrudged the repair of its tennis courts?

Because if Schweitzer’s gonna ignore Section 57 of HB645, what’s next? There’s a whole bunch of stuff in there that was approved by both houses of the legislature. And signed into law by you.

Is it all up for game? Where does that line stop? Or is there a line at all?

In other words: This is not a monarchy, Brian. As Bozeman City Commissioner (and soon-to-be-Mayor) Jeff Krauss points out, “It’s not frivolous. When we introduced this in the fall, a bunch of citizens came in to say how much they supported repairing our recreational facilities. It’s all about getting these kids and prying them away from the video game controls. We’re having a big crisis over health care in this country. Every time you can get a kid away from the electronic entertainment and outside recreating, that’s a good thing.”

As for Faux News? Maybe they should look at what other states are spending their stimulus money on. I highly doubt Montana is unique…and not only that – maybe they should look at our laws and see who, ultimately, got the final say on what the stimulus funds would be used.

When it comes down to it, parks are infrastructure to any community. Infrastructure just like roads and street signs and police stations.

Infrastructure requires upkeep due not only to wear-and-tear, but population growth . Ignore that upkeep and it costs more in the long run because….infrastructure doesn’t really go away.

These cities and towns could say that they are using their stimulus funds for road repair and instead redirect the money that their own budget would have paid for in road repair and place it in the local ball fields that have been neglected for the last decade…..OR they could be more honest, keep their baseline budget intact for streets and roads and the bare minimum basics that they themselves have been scraping by on for the last 2 years while businesses are closing and houses are being foreclosed upon and building permits are down, and ask for stimulus funds to employ local people to keep the local infrastructure maintained.

Frankly, I’m a fan of the latter,but I’m not so sure about other state democrats – certain state democrats, trying to negotiate our own budget bill this last session (for example, folks) agreed to defund the Department of Public Health and Human Services and use supplemental stimulus funding to supplement DPHHS for the next two years. This was, at the time, called a “negotiating tactic,” meant to conceded ‘temporarily’ some funding of DPHHS (because you know how that GOP loves social services) in order to get that budget passed.

Well – tell me what is going to happen next legislative session? DPHHS and other socially conscience elected officials are going to be scrapping and scraping to bring DPHHS up to 2009 levels, yet along make adjustments that are normal for increases in population or service needs.

This isn’t about tennis courts. It’s about local governments being able to govern their local governments. It’s about laws and legislative powers of appropriation. It’s about separate branches of government. It’s about democracy, not a monarchy.

Give Bozeman its tennis courts. Give all the other towns their money. And bring us some sustainable, high-paying, low-impact technology and health industry jobs.

by jhwygirl

Left in the West’s Yellowstone Kelly has a post up predicting tomorrow’s state Land Board decision regarding the leasing of the Otter Creek coal leases in eastern Montana.

I won’t be so bold as to make a prediction – and even if I were, it wouldn’t be the 4-1 supposition that Yellowstone Kelly put up, mainly due to my continued hope that Montana’s 5 highest elected officials will see the sense in their party’s platform that supports clean energy and the lunacy in bringing up a billion tons of coal from the ground. Someone’s gonna burn it, and it’s gonna be dirty and that is an unchanging fact.

Not only do we – do Democrats – have a responsibility to our school children, we have a responsibility to the environment. Leasing 1 billion tons of coal is not environmentally responsible.

Sec. of State Linda McCulloch can speak all she wants about funding the school children, but she makes that statement without any regards to the other income potentials to the Otter Creek tracts – income that can be cleaner and sustainable (as opposed to mining for coal).

In fact, the decision on Otter Creek has been framed as being “for the children” and “for the schools” – and anyone saying that is taking advantage of the public’s lack of knowledge concerning trust land revenue and how it effects school funding. It’s irresponsible, and it is dangerously close to being untruthful.

Let’s say this to be clear: Leasing the Otter Creek tracts will have NO direct effect on the funding levels for schools. That is a fact, pointed out aptly enough by MEA-MFT president Eric Feaver MEA-MFT is the union which represents teachers, and has been behind repeated calls for increased funding to the state’s K-12 schools.

Funding for schools is set by the legislature. Revenue from any income generated on school trust land is deposited in the trust (which is really what having a trust is all about) and the interest is what may be used to fund schools. It is the interest, and that amount it what helps fund schools. What is available and what the legislature uses are completely independent of each other.

Montana’s citizens – and its press – would do well to better understand the school trust and the school funding system. It’s complex – I won’t pretend to be an expert – but I will say that hearing what I’ve heard from a number of elected officials has made me cringe over the years.

Leasing of the Otter Creek tracts has along list of ramifications – degradation to the environment, degradation to water quality…condemnations under governmental actions of eminent domain – all of which being with the destructive act of bringing the stuff up out of the ground.

Help out the many ranchers who live in and near the Otter Creek tracts that will be effected, and write a short email to the Land Board members tonight and let them know that leasing the tracts is a bad, bad idea. Monday’s meeting is 9, so time’s a wastin’ people – get ‘er done:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

OR you could cut and past these into your email: governor@mt.gov; OPISupt@mt.gov; doj@mt.gov; mlindeen@mt.gov; sos@mt.gov Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.

~~~~~
For more information on Otter Creek, you can put the words “otter” or “Tongue” into our search here (over there on the rigth) or, even better, head on over to The Button Valley Bugle and do the same. The Editor at The BV Bugle has done the finest of jobs in covering the issues on Otter Creek – and both of us have peppered our posts with plenty of links providing additional sources of information. In fact, I see The Editor has a “final push” post up too – titled “Otter Creek and Utter Rhetoric” that shouldn’t be missed.

by jhwygirl

Update: I have turned off comments to this post.

Please consider this an open thread.

I’m a volcano/Yellowstone/earthquake/geology geek. Geek may be the wrong word, but whatever. This is the coolest thing. Then there’s the video 3-D imagery showing the plume, which can be found here. Wild stuff.

Seem like someone has finally decided to give the Kootenai sturgeon some water. That would be a good thing. Here is where the sturgeon survive today:

If you click on the pic, you get a report that includes some interesting how-did-we-get-here information. NewWest has a great article with more information on the current situation surrounding the sturgeon.

Former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfield has bought a ranch in the Big Hole.

I’ve actually pondered this recent situation in Helena, wondering whether that sort of thing’d be a problem. Apparently it is.

Them teenagers in Helena sure seem to get in to a whole lot of trouble, don’t they?

Don’t miss this shocking post from Mark Tokarski.

Just to be clear, it’s the “there, I said it,” part that is shocking. NOT.

I read this and I think this is harassment of the homeless. I mean – does this town allow its citizens to lock up its bikes? What is the point in fining him?

Now, here’s a class act, NOT.

I can’t get why people like her. I get the sense that at a party, I’d want to avoid her..

Our Governor has been on, quite frankly, a roll. First, as guestnote speaker for the Montana Stockgrowers Association meeting in Billings last week, Schweitzer took a big ole’ jab at the leadership, telling its 2,000 members (over dinner) that they “don’t always act” in their best interests. That, after making peace with them a while back.

Then Schweitzer blocked payment of some mis-appropriated funds to Kalispell-based Swank Enterprises, a long-time generous supporter of the Montana GOP’s latest felon, Sen. Barkus. Schweitzer’s taking the late-minute insertion into the state’s budget bill quite literally – using the words “up to” in “up to $600,000” quite literally, and saying he’ll get nothing.

Now, I’ve no love for the Stockgrower’s Association, nor Barkus – so reading these had me, quite frankly, laughing. Pretty damned bold. But then I read this, where he brags to the Stockgrowers that he’d “sent more bison to slaughter than any other governor,” which only leaves me shaking my head, reminded that slaughtering wildlife for no frickin’ reason is one of his several UNendearing qualities.

Way to go.

Speaking of “way to go” and Sen. Barkus, seems they guy wants all his felonies dismissed.

My thoughts? Hey – a guy can dream. I’m also sure Rep. Rehberg is just thrilled to have Barkus eeking out every delay possible, especially when you consider the possibility of Rehberg’s subpoena increasing looking like it will be coinciding right smack-dab in the middle of his 2010 re-election campaign. Whee!

(jhwygirl) Public comment for the proposed leasing of the state’s Otter Creek coal closes soon. A public hearing, continued from last month, is next Monday. I question our state’s commitment to green energy. You don’t pull a billion tons of coal out of the ground to look at it. Coal is filthy. Someone’s burning it somewhere. Ironically, Otter Creek is an area identified as viable for wind energy. The Button Valley Bugle (who has been on a roll lately) reminds us that some dogs are best left sleeping.

Anne Millbrooke, of Bozeman, has done a lovely job at touching at the myriad of issues surrounding the decision on whether to lease the coal tracts. I thank Anne for sharing her letter to our State Land Board, which is comprised of Governor Schweitzer, Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau, Attorney General Steve Bullock, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, and State Auditor Monica Lindeen:

Dear Montana Land Board:

As the state’s website says, the Montana Land Board oversees more than five million acres of school trust lands in order to generate revenue for the trust — for schools in the state. But the task is not simply economic. Inherent in public education are responsibilities for the health and well being of the students and the future of the students. That is why the Land Board should carefully consider all decisions about coal lands.

The environmental damage and health consequences of mining and burning coal are enormous, and the projected 40-year life of the proposed Otter Creek mines means any contemporary decision to lease coal lands binds the future to a dirty-energy infrastructure.

Otter Creek is the decision at hand. There are options for revenue that do not required strip mining the land and polluting air, land, and water, and the associated negative impacts on the health and well-being of children. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean: step by step, decision by decision, we should be going green.

Furthermore, Otter Creek is not about jobs, nor the economic health of Montana families. According to the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council website, the five big strip mines and the new underground mine in the state employ a total of only 1008 people. The state Department of Natural Resources and Conservation estimated in its June fact sheet that two proposed mines on Otter Creek lands would employ fewer than 500 people. Coal mining is highly mechanized. It is not labor intensive. The poorest counties in the poor state of West Virginia have coal mines: corporate coal takes the local resources to enrich distant stakeholders.

In the big picture, Otter Creek is not really even about revenue. The nearly $6 million coal revenue reported for 2008 is helpful, but it is a very small percent of the school funding in Montana. Coal mining is not funding our schools, and not mining will not financially break our schools.

By treaty and ethics, the State of Montana has responsibility for the young people of the indigenous tribes of Montana. A few jobs will not compensate for the negative impacts on Native Americans and their lands. Coal’s negative impacts on Native Americans are fact, as recorded in the documentary film “Power Paths” about the Navajo experience with coal.

Montana’s state lands are held in trust, for perpetuity, not for a limited revenue stream. There is a responsibility to protect the land in trust. Yet reclamation remains more promise than reality in lands already disturbed by coal mining, and much of the restoration done has not been to natural habitat.

The out-of-state corporation that holds an in-state railroad monopoly and the out-of-state coal corporation that wants Otter Creek coal could take the educational, economic, environmental viability and sustainability of coal development beyond state’s borders and perhaps beyond the state’s control and regulation.

There is even a question whether development would happen, or whether the coal corporation simply wants to acquire the rights as a immediate tax maneuver and for possible development someday in the future under the financial and regulatory terms of this depressed economy. According to the Trust Land Management Division’s 2008 Annual Report, there are currently 29 coal leases, but only four producing leases. I think the coal industry has plenty of reserves on hold without acquiring the leases to more state lands.

Coal need not be developed at Otter Creek, where the wind blows mightily; for example, the school trust lands could become fields of wind turbines. Now is the time to transition away from coal, not the the time to expand the dirty-energy infrastructure in Montana. Mining Otter Creek coal — with current technology — would not teach our children well about living in an economically and environmentally sustainable manner, and it would harm the health of school children near the mines as well as downstream and downwind of the mines and coal-fired plants burning the coal.

Building new dirty-energy infrastructure designed to operate for 40 years is not in Montana’s interest in terms of the health and education of school children, the sustainability of local economies, clean air and water, and respect for downstream and downwind neighbors of the mines and the coal-fired plants to be fueled by Montana coal.

Please understand that Otter Creek has potential beyond coal and that coal lands should not be leased lightly. High environmental standards for any coal operations in Montana are necessary. Regulation and enforcement are necessary. But coal development is not necessary.

Yes, coal is a reality in our existing energy structure. Any new coal mining to support the existing infrastructure during our transition to clean-energy technologies, and any coal burning, should require CO2 sequestration. Coal seams sequester CO2 naturally. Mining and burning coal releases the CO2. The cost of developing and using new sequestration techniques will be offset by savings in terms of the health and in terms of the environment. Any plant burning Montana coal should be sequestering CO2 — by terms of contract as required by the State of Montana.

It is time to move beyond our historical reliance upon coal. In a popular and accurate analogy, we live in a global coal mine. We have since the 19th century. Now the “canaries” are dying: frog, bee, and bat populations are plummeting around the world, and those deaths are but symptoms of the larger problem of polluting our planet, our state, our homes. It’s time to clean-up our act, step by step, decision by decision.

Montana’s students need a clean, healthy environment in which to live and learn. They need a sustainable economy in which some day to work. They need to grow and learn in a setting with sustainable energy more than they need royalties from another coal lease. Please remember this as you consider appropriate use of Otter Creek and other trust lands.

by jhwygirl

This comes to me via a reader from Bozeman. I’ve edited it slightly for posting.

The Billings Gazette reports on the Otter Creek coal tracts and the decision to be made Monday by the State Land Board. Letters sent via email are needed NOW to stop the giveaway of state resources to out-of-state corporate coal. Slow down. Coal is not clean, coal power is not clean, and coal mining is not clean. If coal development happens, it should not happen in rushed manner without benefit to Montana.

This is NOT about jobs. With six big strip mines and a new underground mine, Montana is already the 5th largest coal producer in the country, and that has translated into only 1008 jobs total, according the the coal companies’ own Montana Coal Council.

The important thing is write an email NOW and send it to the members of the Montana State Land Board:

Gov. Brian Schweitzer — (406) 444-3111, governor@mt.gov

Superintendent of Public Instruction, Denise Juneau — In-State Toll-Free 1-888-231-9393, Local (406) 444-3095 OPISupt@mt.gov

Attorney General Steve Bullock – (406) 444-2026 contact doj@mt.gov

State Auditor Monica Lindeen – (406) 444-2040 mlindeen@mt.gov

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch – (406) 444-2034 sos.mt.gov

OR you could cut and past these into your email: governor@mt.gov; OPISupt@mt.gov; doj@mt.gov; mlindeen@mt.gov; sos@mt.gov Be sure to put “Otter Creek” in the subject line.

~~~~~
Monday’s Land Board hearing begins at 9 a.m., so as you can see action is needed now.

Many have blogged on Otter Creek. For a great start, Button Valley has done a number of pieces. Remember the Tongue River Valley and Maybe We Shouldn’t Otter are two that contain a number of links to other sources, including one to 4&20 hero and Indy columnist extraordinaire George Ochenski.

The Northern Cheyenne, who darn near border the area and who will be affected directly by any development, have – officially – barely endorsed the plan. As you can see from their comment provided to the Land Board earlier this year, they are suspicious that the promises made to them for jobs won’t be followed through. Seeing the facts on jobs from the Montana Coal Council, they should be suspicious.

Despite the official response of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, meetings held this summer showed even less support amongst the tribes, and native American news source Reznet has that perspective.

Coal isn’t clean. Montana is not the Saudi Arabia of coal as the Governor and Arch Coal and Great Northern would want us to believe. Many organizations have been working hard to drive this message home to the Land Board, including Northern Plains Resource Council and the the Montana Environmental Information Center, two very fine organizations that have fought the good fight, taking up against the state in a number of environmental cases and winning. Economists here in the state (and elsewhere) have said the Otter Creek tracts are overvalued.

Arch Coal will now use pressure to get final approval of its leases at the Land Board on Monday. They have no access – they have no railroad. Two significant impediments to that access are the heir to the Mars candy fortune – who has said “NO” to the railroad moving through his property – and FWP, whose board recently denied a request from Great Northern for its railroad through some of its land. Condemnations and eminent domain requests are messy and lengthy. Why should the state lease its land now when not only is access lacking, but once (and if) major impediments are removed, the value of that coal (if there really is value) and the leases themselves will increase immensely?

Please take the time as you read this to send and email and ask the Land Board to say “NO” to Otter Creek until all effects and affects of both the mine and the railroad can be assessed.

Below is the news alert from the Sierra Club. Continue Reading »

by jhwygirl

I’ve found this, from the Huffington Post….Last Friday, Schweitzer is quoted with a pretty darn clear statement in support of a single-payer system of health care:

“I ask [Canadian officials] a lot about their system,” he said. “And they ask a lot about our system. And I read a lot of Canadian press. And one thing I noticed about Canada is that they are flummoxed about this debate we have down here from time to time when someone lobs an insult to the Canadian health care system. I’ll tell you folks there is a better chance of someone getting struck by lightening in Canada then there is for a Canadian to come to the United States to get their health care. And yet, we are disparaging a system that has been working in Saskatchewan, my neighbor, since 1946.”

Still more, from The Atlantic:

On health care, Schweitzer and other governors have expressed concern that health care reform will amount to an unfunded mandate to force states to cover more people. After a few jokes about Washington, Schweitzer admitted that he wouldn’t support reform “if the end result of this bill is to shift the cost of this bill to the states that have to balance budgets. Forty eight states are in budget deficit.” Montana’s cash reserves, he noted, are at historic highs.

What about the public option? Schweitzer, in an amusing and winding story, noted that the most respected person in Canadian history isn’t their founder, it’s the man who instituted universal single-payer health care.

“So you like the public option?” Weisberg asked bluntly.

Schweitzer summed up. “I like the public option.”

That’s pretty crystal, no?

by jhwygirl

Roll Call (hate that firewall…) reports that Sen. Tester is “withholding a direct appeal to Baucus to strike the proposal pending the outcome of the forthcoming merger of Baucus’ Finance bill and legislation previously approved by the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. But Tester is prepared to press his case to Baucus and Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) if the Medicaid expansion survives.”

Schweitzer and Tester both take issue with having states absorb some of the costs of expanding Medicaid. Schweitzer “couldn’t be reached for comment,” (How whack is that? Seriously?) but Tester articulated his feelings regarding the possibility that states would have to absorb some of those costs:

“Well, they’re concerned about it, same as I am. Gov. Schweitzer’s concerned about the impacts on the budget. Our budget’s in pretty good shape in Montana right now, and if those costs have to be reimbursed, it could break the bank in Montana. I just want to make sure all states are held as harmless as they possibly can.”

Getting back to the ‘How whack is that?’ part….

According to Sen. Baucus, he said Schweitzer has yet to come to him with any complaints: “I’m not concerned. [Gov.] Schweitzer and I talk about this stuff. We’re on board. Last time we talked about it, he said: ‘Fine. Great,’” Baucus said. “We spent a lot of time talking to governors about that. And some governors are OK, and some are not OK.”

Whaa?

Before you shake your head and go blaming all that crazy miscommunication stuff on Baucus, Roll Call point out this tidbit:

In fact, Schweitzer, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, was one of 22 Democratic governors who recently signed a letter expressing support generally for the Finance Committee’s health care reform bill, which included a statement about the need for states to contribute to health care reform.
“We recognize that health reform is a shared responsibility and everyone, including state governments, needs to partner to reform our broken health care system,” the Oct. 1 letter reads.

Under the Senate Finance proposal, states would pick up 11% of the cost of expanding Medicaid eligibility up to 133% of poverty.

Up to 133% of poverty? Seems like there’s gonna be a big gap there….

Currently, most states currently cover parents with children earning around 100 percent of poverty, with the federal government picking up around 57 percent of the tab and the states 43 percent.

So who else is lining up to oppose healthcare under the heinous requirement of this 11% unfunded mandate? Senate Republicans.

All this has me wondering: Where does a health insurance reform wanting Montanan have to go for some support?

Damn.

by jhwygirl

As in the Governor and his brother, Walter.

Probably State Auditor Monica Lindeen, too, when you think about it.

I won’t editorialize too much, except to say that Governor Schweitzer caught his bad Sunday with this story and its accompaniment which tell what I’ve known – that Hagener was fired unceremoniously, and rather than throw daggers (Hagener by all accounts is a class act) he intended to move on. Hagener didn’t want to talk about it, and for someone in that situation, it’s very understandable.

That is until daggers were thrown in his reputation’s direction.

Walter – and State Auditor Monica Lindeen – caught the bad Sunday with this piece in the Great Falls Tribune.

In that story – it’ll fall to paid archives in a week or so – state employee Laura McGee claims she was fired in retaliation for bringing forward allegations of harassment by Deputy State Auditor Walter Schweitzer who was allegedly soliciting campaign funds.

The comments are quite interesting on that one, too. Don’t miss ’em…and a star for the day to whomever figures out which one is Larry Krajl first, OK?

She resigned a $45,000 a year job (in this economy!) but she was fired…but she got a letter of recommendation…aww, who the hell knows.

Only the Billings Gazette picked up on that story. Unusual, no? A story that involves the State Auditor and her Deputy, and only one other state paper picks it up? It’s not like it wasn’t on Associated Press.

Anyways – thought I’d provide the links and short run-down. Our searches here for 4&20 show that people are looking for the pieces – I thought I’d provide ’em.

~~~~~
Addendum: More I think about it, there are some further questions to this story as it stands with its unproven allegations: Is she getting unemployment? Did she file?

If she was dismissed, as she says, then she should file for unemployment…it she quit, she knows better. She’ll be denied unemployment without extenuating circumstances. OR – if she gets unemployment, with no challenge by the employer, that tells a story in and of itself. If the employer challenges it, there’s hearings and everything to determine the validity of her claim

Puts the state in a position. They gave her a recommendation…but said she was fired. If they flat-out leave a claim for unemployment unchallenged (effectively granting her unemployment payments), then there’s more questions. I mean – they’re on the record saying she was fired.

If she gets unemployment, that’s costing the state (i.e., taxpayers,) directly. Under unemployment, the check comes, 50%, from unemployment insurance, the other 50% directly from the employers. Unless that’s changed….

So it seems to me, a relevant question is: Is Ms. McGee collecting unemployment? Taxpayers should want to know.

by JC

Governor Schweitzer was on C-SPAN this morning eviscerating Congressional attempts to reform health care. HuffPo’s Ben Stein reported on his remarks:

“The second problem we have is that one of the least effective programs in terms of health care, in the history of this country, is something called Medicaid… Now Medicaid is a system that isn’t working, almost everyone agrees. But what Congress intends to do is increase the number [of people] on Medicaid so they could do it for the cheap. It is not working for anybody.”

Not working for anybody? Really? How about all of the poor people who rely on Medicaid as their only avenue to get any form of comprehensive health care? Works for them just fine. How about all of them people that voted for SCHIP and Medicaid expansions last fall? They liked it just fine.

Now what is happening in Congress right now, things that disturb us as governors, is first they are looking at the rules and one of the proposals would be that the way we are going to pay for a portion of this health care is we will turn to the states and ask them to bond, to pay for some of the health care. They want to do some financial trickery, simply stated, we can’t afford what we are doing today so we will get the states to borrow some money. Well we are not going to do that, because it is going to hurt our bond rating. We as states, we have as prizes our bond rating and this would tend to decrease our bond rating. By the way, the federal government, if Congress wants to have a health care program, then they need to pay for it. They can’t dump it back on the states.”

“If Congress want to have a health care program”??? Doesn’t almost 3/4 of Americans want health care reform? And if Montana (and other states) had a real health care plan, Congress wouldn’t have to act.

So our prized bond rating is more important than bringing health care reform to Montana and its nearly 20% uninsured population? Maybe its time for Brian to start thinking about retirement and heading home to rope up some ponies.

Gotta better plan Brian? Or have you just turned into one of them naysayers. If ya got some cards, ya better lay em out on the table. A few years ago you were singing a different tune, as you proposed a Medicaid waiver to expand coverage to the poor (or was that just some “must get reelected” happyspeak?):

As Governor of the state of Montana, I am focused on ensuring affordable and accessible health care is a reality for all Montanans with special concern for our citizens that are the last and have the least… approximately 19% of Montanans are uninsured. This level is unacceptable to me.

And you didn’t raise any concerns about Medicaid when the Stimulus Act sent $60 million to the state to help out with Medicaid for the newly unemployed and/or uninsured. What gives?

Update: Schweitzer’s interview on C-SPAN has been posted. Another notable quote: “What we need Congress to do is cost control.” I guess the good guv is calling for price controls? To be fair to Brian, he comes out supporting a public option, and looks to Canada’s system favorably, saying that Montanans would trade our system for theirs in a heartbeat.

by jhwygirl

Thought I’d let everyone know. I don’t have HBO – maybe someone can give me the highlights.




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