Archive for the ‘Carol Williams’ Category

by Pete Talbot

And here I thought Sen. Max Baucus was retiring from the U.S. Senate so he could spend more time in Montana with his lovely, young wife.  He’s even building a home in the Bozeman area.

It looks like I was wrong.  The blogs are awash with the news that Max will most likely be the next U.S. Ambassador to China.  I won’t link to them all — they range from kudos to criticism — and you’ve probably already read them.  Here’s the NY Times story, though.

Now China will be his legacy since tax reform is off the table and the Affordable Care Act isn’t exactly being warmly embraced.

The big question: who will be appointed by Gov. Bullock as Baucus’ place holder until the 2014 election?

Ahh, to be a fly on the wall in those smoke-filled back rooms (although not as smokey as they used to be thanks to anti-tobacco trends).  Who to pick: Lt. Gov. John Walsh, Brian Schweitzer, Pat or Carol Williams, one of our Tier-B women (Juneau, McCulloch, Lindeen)?

Now former Baucus/Obama staffer Jim Messina is being mentioned.  How the hell did he get in the mix?

And if Bullock appoints Walsh, who will he then appoint as lieutenant governor?  (Bohlinger?  That would be ironic, n’est pas?)

I’m sure all these questions were hashed out and answered many months ago by the powers that be.  The rest of us are just along for the ride.

UPDATE: It’s official.  Obama nominates Baucus for Ambassador to China position.  Max’s appointment should sail through Senate hearings.

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by Pete Talbot

Special session?

There are rumors in Helena that this session could end early.  It’s all coming down to the budget, now, and since the Republicans aren’t accepting any amendments or, really, compromising on anything, their budget proposal will head straight to the governor. Schweitzer will veto it.  That pretty much guarantees an early out — I’ve heard April 2 instead of the scheduled April 21 end date — and a special session.  Thanks, GOP, for not reaching across the aisle and getting the people’s business done in 90 days … and costing the state more money in a special session.

Champ is still a chump

They don’t mind spending money on a special session but are loathe to spend money on children, Montana college kids, seniors and the poor.  Republican Champ Edmunds (HD-100) has a letter to the editor today that plays fast-and-loose with the facts-and-figures in explaining the Republican budget.

A more accurate description comes from Democrat Carol Williams (SD-46):

“The Governor’s budget is balanced, funds critical services and maintains the second largest savings account in Montana history.  The Republican budget is balanced on the backs of women, children and seniors.  Republicans took an ax to the budget when we have money in the bank,” she said.  “I had hoped that we would be able to say to Montana’s families: we’re going to take care of your children if they get sick, make sure you put food on your table, and keep your homes warm.  But the Republican majority turned a deaf ear to the pleas of Montanans who came before the committee asking for services to be restored.”

Here are some of the facts:

* $206.2 million in cuts to the Montana families, kids, students, and seniors

* $49 million eliminated from Medicaid which would result in 4,084 babies losing coverage.

* $34.9 million cut from SNAP/Food Assistance impacting 53,000 kids, 30,000 seniors, and 42,000 adults who would go without food benefits for two months.

* $35 million rejected in healthcare information technology for 47 critical access hospitals in rural areas across the state.

* $26 million slashed from Healthy Montana Kids that would boot 5,000 children off of health insurance.

* $9.6 million removed from LIEAP that will force 12,000 families to go without heating assistance the next two winters.

* $4.7 million cut from family services eliminating services used by over 27,000 Montana families every year for healthcare, screenings and reproductive care.

* $32 million in cuts to higher education, which will result in a tuition increase of 26% over the next two years.

Williams added that with the $174.2 million in cuts to the Health and Human Services budget, Republicans turned back over $80 million in federal money, which could go to other states.  She also noted that the Bureau of Business and Economic Research at the University of Montana estimates that for every $10 million cut in healthcare, about 144 jobs are lost.  These cuts could result in a loss of over 2,508 healthcare jobs.

The tale of two headlines

I’ve been visiting the Magic City of Billings and reading the Billings Gazette. Here was the Front Page, above the fold, headline on Sunday:

Poll: Tightening up medical marijuana law preferable to repeal

When I checked my hometown paper, the Missoulian, here was its Front Page headline:

Most Favor Repeal

And it had a subhead that read: Lee Newspaper poll shows that 52 percent support dumping law.

Here’s the story, and while the Missoulian headline is technically correct, if you read the entire piece you’ll notice that if not given any other choice, yeah, Montanans would be in favor of a repeal. But, if given the option, 57 percent backed stricter regulations and licensing requirements, while 31 percent wanted to repeal the law and 11 percent favored keeping the current law intact.  So basically, 68 percent don’t favor repeal.

The Gazette got it right.  Missoulian: that’s lazy headline writing.

Molnar screws Missoula

I was pleasantly surprised when two of the three Republicans on the PSC voted to allow the Clark Fork Coalition “intervenor status” in the review of Mountain Water’s sale to the Carlyle Group, a private global investment firm.  Republicans Bill Gallagher and Travis Kavulla joined Democrats Gail Gutsche and John Vincent in the votes.  Volatile Republican Brad Molnar voted against CFC in intervening on behalf of Missoula water drinkers saying, “it’s a purchase issue and they don’t have standing.”  Thanks, four out of five, for voting (initially at least) in Missoula’s interest.  The Garden City needs all the friends it can get while battling this international conglomerate.

Some newspaper kudos

I’m one of the first to throw brickbats at our state’s newspapers. We are, however, extremely fortunate to have veteran Lee Newspaper reporters Mike Dennison and Chuck Johnson covering the state capitol.  An unscientific poll over at LiTW (you’ll have to scroll down a little) has blogs being the first source for information on the Montana Legislature — among bloggers, naturally.  That’s a nice ego stroke but I still continue to turn to seasoned reporters as my first source for news and analysis. Then I go to the blogs.  (I particularly respect anything Dennison writes on health care issues.  His Montana perspective on the effects of the national health care debate has been Pulitzer Prize calibre IMHO.)

John Adams of the Great Falls Tribune has done some outstanding legislative reporting although I don’t follow him as much.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Same with Montana Public Radio.  Thank you, all, and keep up the good work.

by jhwygirl

Aside from my own personal feelings on texting-while-driving regulations (texting only being pretty much unenforceable) the Montana GOP sent quite a message in the legislature on Friday, such that Senate Minority Leader Carol Williams at the end of the day called it “Black Friday” and “the absolute worst day of the legislative session.”

HB516 moves forward out of Senate Judiciary to a floor vote probably Monday. Amendments were made on Friday that aim it at ordinances only, leaving intact Bozeman’s equality resolution. (Search HB516 here for more background.)

The conservative attack on the budget was in full mode in Senate Finance Friday morning, and among the leaders speaking out against unnecessary cuts and a lack of priorities were the governor’s budget director David Ewer and Health & Human Services Director Anna Whiting-Sorrel. The message was loud and clear from Schweitzer’s office – and even Bloomberg Businessweek picked up the story.

There was more, and to be honest, I am ill-informed on the entirety of it all. As for the topic at hand, though…..

HB241, a bill that would make texting-while-driving illegal, with a $100 fine was postponed indefinitely on the floor of the Senate after passing Senate Judiciary on an 8-4 vote. The bill was proposed by Sen. Christine Kaufmann.

Match that up with the House Judiciary tabling Senator Tom Facey’s bill which would have taken Montana’s laws which make intercourse between two consenting people of the same sex illegal.

SB276 cleared the Republican-controlled Senate with a 49-1 vote.

That law is, btw, unconstitutional under the Montana Constitution….and it is also proudly part of the Montana Republican Party platform.

The Montana GOP is an embarrassment.

I wonder if the House Republicans have the guts to allow it to a floor blast vote.

If they don’t allow a floor blast vote, they’re cowards.

by Pete Talbot

Filing deadline isn’t until March 15 at 5 p.m. but there are already some interesting developments in Missoula area races.

First, a little flip-flop. Democratic Rep. Teresa Henry has filed for termed-out Democratic Sen. Carolyn Squires’ seat (SD 48). And Ms. Squires has filed for Ms. Henry’s house seat (HD 96). Teresa still had two years before she was termed out in her old house seat, so this is an unusual move. Adding to the mix is veteran Democratic legislator Tom Facey, who’s challenging Ms. Henry in the primary. No Republican has filed for SD 48 yet.

The only other senate seat up for grabs out of five in the Missoula area is SD 49. The incumbent Democrat, Sen. Dave Wanzenried, hasn’t filed, nor have any challengers.

Since they ran in 2008, SD 46’s Carol Williams, SD 47’s Ron Erickson and SD 50’s Cliff Larson — all Democrats — get a pass.

The Missoula area has ten Montana House districts, nine-out-of-ten are held by Democrats and they’re all on the 2010 ballot.

Democratic incumbent Tim Furey is the only one to file in HD 91. Same with Democratic incumbents Dick Barrett (HD 93), Diane Sands (HD 95), Michele Reinhart (HD 97) and Betsy Hands (HD 99).

There are some new faces on the landscape. Robin Hamilton, the incumbent in my district (HD 92) chose not to run again. Community organizer Bryce Bennett has filed and is actively campaigning. Another Democrat, Dean McGovern, head of UM’s Campus Compact, was vigorously exploring a run at this house seat earlier, but he hasn’t filed and I haven’t heard much from him lately. He does have a website up, though.

Then there’s Ellie Hill, a name synonymous with the Poverello Center and many other nonprofits. She’s the sole entry, and running as a Democrat, in HD 94. That’s Dave McAlpin’s old seat but he’s now the head of the state crime lab here in Missoula and he probably won’t get time off to run, or serve.

I’ve already mentioned Carolyn Squires in HD 96.

The only Republican to file in the Missoula area is Michael Sopuch in HD 98. This is incumbent Sue Malek’s seat but she hasn’t filed, yet. I couldn’t find a website for Sopuch. Indeed, the only reference I could find was testimony given by a Michael Sopuch of Cash King LTD, a title loan company. This was before the Montana Department of Administration about title loan company practices.

Finally, there’s HD 100. Democrat Willis Curdy has filed. He ran last time and lost to Incumbent Republican Bill Nooney by 79 votes. Nooney has yet to file but as Nooney’s arch-nemesis Bill Vaughn points out, Nooney has a lot on his plate these days (you’ll have to scroll down to the red sub-head that reads “Falling Down”).

By the way, here’s a map to show where these districts are. The primary election will be held Tuesday, June 8.

(I’m working on candidate website links.  Most are under construction or old, if I could find them at all.  Please contact me so I can update this and future posts with current website info.  Thanks.)

by jhwygirl

This one comes entirely from my good Democratic friend Joan Vetter Ehrenberg in the Flathead:

Here we go again, Republicans, now those in the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, are cutting the funding for the Healthy Kids Initiative (CHIP) out of HB 2 and losing necessary matching federal funds that are a win/win for our budget and the funding formula for CHIP. The voters of Montana overwhelmingly approved extending health benefits for the Children’s Health Insurance Program to more than 30,000 additional children with the Healthy Kids Ballot Initiative.

Voters knew what they where voting for and have every right to have the initiative fully funded and access to federal matching funds, not a refusal or a watered down version of the program by Senate Republicans.

Now more than ever, there will be increased demand for children whose families are unable to afford health insurance. Please, make the time to call now and get involved. All of our expenses go up when 30,000 children in Montana don’t have health insurance. That’s why 70% of Montanan’s voted for the Healthy Kids Initiative.

Hold your Senator accountable by emailing them at http://leg.mt.gov/css/Default.asp or calling them at 406-444-4800 and ask them to vote yes for fully funding the Healthy Kids Initiative. Thank you.

Farmer, over at Left in the West has another take on the situation.

Republicans are a piece of work. They keep talking cuts-cuts-cuts, yet isn’t that what we got stimulus money for? To, in part, shore up the state’s budget so that necessary programs didn’t see drastic or damaging reductions?

Sen. David Wanzenried (D-Missoula) said people getting laid off or facing hard times are the people who need government help from the programs in the budget, and that money exists to maintain them at needed levels. “It seems to me we can be bold if we want to, and figure out how we’re going to do that.”

Sen. Carol Williams (D-Missoula) explains that the Senate Republicans may not have the votes needed to make the changes they are pushing for:

Williams said late Thursday that Senate Republicans have been working with Democrats and the Schweitzer administration to find some agreement on “the really touchy issues,” but hadn’t found common ground.

She also said she wasn’t sure whether Senate Republicans had enough votes on their own to make changes in the budget bill or pass it. Republicans hold an 11-8 majority on the Finance Committee and a 27-23 majority in the full Senate.

Democrats in the Senate might offer some votes for the budget bills, but not if it means cutting substantial funds out of education or the Healthy Montana Kids program, Williams said.

~~~~

To reach the Senate Finance and Claims Committee, contact Prudence Gilroy the secretary – pgilroy@mt.gov. Make sure to request that your comments be forwarded to the entire Senate Finance and Claims Committee. You can also call the legislative information desk and leave a message for the entire committee in one easy phone call to 406-444-4800.

by jhwygirl

The 61st Legislative session may not convene until Thursday, January 5th, but start-up tasks are being dispatched quickly, with committee assignment having been rolled out this past week.

With the state House split 50-50 and a Democratic governor, the Speaker of the House went to the Democratic party. Initially, Speaker Bob Bergren (Havre) said he was going to pick democrats for all committee assignments, but later relented, announcing that republicans would hold the chairs of 3 of 5 of the state house’s most powerful committees. Overall, committee chairs are split 50-50.

Locally, Missoulians have Rep. Michele Reinhardt (D) as vice-chair of the Business & Labor Committee; Robin Hamilton (D) as vice-chair of both the Education Committee and of Ethics; Dave McAlpin (D) as vice-chair of both Fish, Wildlife & Parks (Superior’s Gordon Hendrick (R) co-chairs this spot) and Legislative Administration; and Betsy Hands (D) vice-chair’s Local Government – and shares this seat with Victor’s Gary MacLaren (R).

Other notables with chairs are Mike Jopek (D – Whitefish) who is chairing Agriculture (where Julie French (D – Scobey) vice-chairs); Franke Wilmer (D – Bozeman) who chairs Ethics; Kendall Van Dyk (D – Billings) chairing Fish, Wildlife & Parks; JP Pomnichowski (D – Bozeman) vice-chairs Natural Resources; and Jill Cohenour (D – Helena) vice-chairs Taxation.

For a full list of committee assigns, check this link out.

In the Senate, there isn’t anything for Missoulians in terms of chair or vice-chair seats – the Senate’s 50 seats are controlled by 27 republicans – but committee assigns for local representation include Ron Erickson (D) on Taxation and Local Government and Energy & Telecommunications; Carolyn Squires (D) on State Administration and Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Carol Williams (D) and Dave Wanzenried (D) on both Rules and Finance & Claims; Cliff Larsen (D) on Public Health, Welfare, and Safety and Judiciary and Agriculture, Livestock & Irrigation; and Wanzenried (again) on Natural Resources and Highways & Transportation.

Other notables to watch in the senate committees include Jonathan Windy Boy (D – Box Elder) in Business, Labor & Economic Affairs; Energy & Telecommunications includes Linda Moss (D – Billings) and Bob Hawks (D – Bozeman); Local Government includes Steve Gallus (D – Butte), Kim Gillan (D – Billings) and Jesse Laslovich (D – Anaconda); and Jim Keane (D – Butte) and Christine Kaufmann (D – Helena) on Natural Resources.

Another notable (as in WTH?! notable) is Rick Laible, who is chairing Education and Cultural Resources. Laible sponsored one education related bill in the 2007 session – SB 396 – in which he proposed to cut state funding support for schools by $84.5 million in FY 2008; $82.5 million in FY 2009; $80.7 million in FY 2010 and $79 million in FY 2011. It would have reduced general fund revenue by nearly $100 million in FY 2009 and FY 2010, while resulting in the need to hire two additional tax examiners for the Department of Revenue. It would have repealed county school transportation grants, quality educator payments and American Indian achievement gap payments.

A full listing of Senate committee assigns is here.

As an aside – The state Legislative Services Division is offering classes to the public to teach how to use the online Legislative Audit Workflow System (LAWS). While 2 sessions have already been held, there is one more being offered December 4th, from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. For more information on that, click here.

The 2009 LAWS is already up and running. I’ll be putting the link over on the right, under Citizen’s Info.

by Pete Talbot

Dear President-elect Obama,

I’m sorry we couldn’t deliver our three electoral votes to you. You worked hard for them. You visited the state and talked western policy. You set up offices and hired staff and had the best ground game I’ve ever seen. John McCain never set foot in Montana.

You came close — only 12,136 votes separated you from McCain. And compared to the 20-point win that George W. Bush had here four years ago, what you did was miraculous.

I’m still scratching my head, though. In almost every other statewide category, Montana went blue: senator, governor and all four tier b’s (unseating the sole Republican incumbent with a new secretary of state). And two-out-of-three newly-elected PSC commissioners are Democrats.

Another confusing example is Gallatin County. I hoped for better numbers from there. It did, after all, almost go for Sen. Tester in 2006 (Burns won by less than 200 votes). But this year, Obama goes down by over 1400. Perhaps Barack should work on a flattop haircut for 2012. Even Gallatin County voted for you, by a 1609 vote margin.

I don’t believe race was a factor. I think most Montanans who voted for McCain did so because of issues like taxes or defense or the “experience” card or some ingrained conservative Christian belief.

And guns played a role. Even though you came to Montana and assured us you wouldn’t take away our guns, ugly rumors persisted. Next time through, make sure to get that ubiquitous firearm photo op.

We wish you well, Mr. President, and may you bring people together to help solve the numerous problems facing our country. Godspeed.

An unpleasant aside

After saying race wasn’t a factor, well, you still run into this: On my way to Bozeman on election day, I stopped by the Cardwell Store, there between Whitehall and Three Forks, for a cup of coffee and a Slim Jim. Two good-old-boys were at the counter and one said, “I better go vote.” To which the other said, “Yeah, I’d hate to see this election get nigger-rigged.”

I’m not even sure what he meant but I left my merchandise on the counter and walked out. Came up with some really choice things I should have said about five miles down the road.

Now I’m sure that everyone in Cardwell isn’t an ignorant racist pig but I won’t be stopping by again, ever, to find out.

It’s a sad anecdote, but there’s one good thing about it; the guy was old and will soon be dead.

I love Missoula

On a more upbeat note: Missoula delivers. One or two flies in the ointment: that HD-100 race where Willis Curdy is losing by a measly 33 votes to Republican incumbent Bill Nooney (provisional votes still being counted, final results Monday). But that’s democracy; you can choose the anti-education, anti-senior, anti-young person, anti-environment candidate if you want.

Same with SD-7, which has a little bit of Missoula County in it and where veteran lawmaker Paul Clark lost to anti-government zealot Greg Hinkle.

Otherwise it was a sweep: Gutsche over Mood for the PSC, the improbable county commissioner outcome, nine-out-of-ten state reps, and two state senators.

The Emergency Operations Center Bond going down wasn’t really a surprise. With property taxes in the mail and it being a slow economy and all, folks are tightening their belts. In better times, I think it would have passed. It also wasn’t one of the strongest campaigns I’ve seen run in this town.

Ravalli County blues

Is it too harsh to recommend a toll booth at the Ravalli/Missoula County line? Those Bitterrooters should pay extra to come and visit an eclectic town that values education and planning. Maybe we could funnel the toll revenue into preserving Ravalli County open space, while there’s still some left.

I know that there are progressives in Ravalli County but time-and-time again their issues and candidates get hammered.

Both West Fork Blues and Rebecca have excellent comments on the results in the Bitterroot.

Statewide conundrum

Despite Democratic wins in most of the big-ticket races, the Montana House is tied and the senate losses seats (R’s 27-D’s 23). Throw in a Democratic governor and I smell gridlock. But maybe not, lots of talk from candidates of all stripes wanting to “reach across the aisle.” We’ll see.

I, like Jay and others, have to wonder about this split ticket voting. How can our Democratic governor win by an almost two-to-one margin and still have the Montana Senate lose its Democratic majority? Did the Republican Party focus on legislative races because it knew most of the others were hopeless? Any insights?

We’re a two party country

Third parties didn’t fare well. Libertarian Don Eisenmenger received about 7 percent in the OPI race, which I believe was the party’s best showing. Presidential candidate Bob Barr got 0.3 percent. In the U.S. House race, perennial candidate Mike Fellows got 3 percent, and Stan Jones got 2 percent in the governor’s race.

For Constitution Party candidates, Ron Paul got slightly over 2 percent in the presidential race. That party’s best showing was in Missoula County with Kandi Matthew-Jenkins getting a little better than one-third of the votes against Cliff Larson in SD 50 (there was no Republican in that contest). And in the SOS race, Sieglinde Sharbono received around 3.5 percent.

Nadar’s Independent ticket garnered slightly less than 1 percent.

And finally

Who ever thought we’d have a president with a name like Barack Obama? It pales in comparison, though, to the candidate from HD-15 — my favorite name on the ballot — Frosty Boss Calf Ribs. I’ve met some of the Boss Calf Ribs clan up in the Browning area but don’t know Frosty, who was unopposed. Kind of makes our Anglo names like John Smith and Jane Doe seem rather lame. Congratulations, Frosty.

by jhwygirl

Well, if you read Jay’s FUBAR post, you know I didn’t get my Monday credentials to get onto the floor with Montana’s fine delegates. I walked more than 35 city blocks yesterday in search of the darned thing – and now know that at one point I was in the right place but apparently the people I talked to weren’t aware they were there. The free pedestrian shuttle would have saved all kinds of urban hiking (which can get pretty miserable when it’s 85 degrees or more out, and you are carrying around 15 pounds of electronics), but that wasn’t functioning very well either because protesters are everywhere – including McCain DRILL NOW folks.

Lovely, huh?

But I’m well rested and back at it – today is Jay’s day for the floor credentials (good luck, Jay!), so I plan on trying to head to a Media Matters event (I hear they are here in our hotel), and then the Council for a Livable World and Veteran’s PAC event at Coors Field.

Just came from breakfast with Montana’s delegation, and they’re getting comfortable. I saw some regular old t-shirts and tevas – frankly, it’s just too darn hot and muggy for anything else.

Our wonderful Senator Max Baucus was the main speaker this morning, and he spoke quite passionately about the importance of the upcoming election. I have to say I honestly really like Max – he’s really very down to earth – he’s quick to pass credit to anyone he possibly can, including Dennis McDonald, our Montana Democratic Party Chair, this morning – and he seems genuinely taken aback at everyone’s admiration for him. Not everyone likes to share the spotlight – Max never has it any other way. Really.

In speaking about the upcoming election, Max laid out the work that needs to be done: “…in 70 days and 12 hours, the polls will be closed. We have an obligation for our kids and our grand kids – the promise of change, or hope, of the future.” He went on reiterating this very important mission several times. It is clear that Max sees the work that needs to be done in very far, generational terms, and he said in a very obviously heartfelt way: “Remember that it is our responsibility to do everything we possibly can to prevails. I do believe that we have a moral responsibility to leave this world a better place.”

When I watched him say those words, I know he means it and that he believes it. It clearly is his mission.

There are important issues at stake in November, and he reminded us of them – Healthcare, Tax Policy, Foreign Policy. He pointed out – angrily is how I would describe it – that “McCain wants to lower taxes of the very rich. Lower them!”

He may be the longest sitting US Senator from Montana, and he may spend a hell of a lot of time in Washington, but he comes off as my neighbor.

Max spoke of the importance of other races and how a 60-seat majority in the Senate is what really needs to happen. How hard it is to eek out those extra 9 votes to get a filibuster proof bill passed – and even here he was quick to throw credit to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her work in the House.

He ran down a list of seats where he felt that Democrats have a good chance to make a difference – Mark Warner in Virginia and Jeanne Shaheen New Hampshire (he said he was sure that Sununu was out – and Jeanne looks to be 10 points ahead there!); Tom Udall of New Mexico; Mark Udall of Colorado (now up by 4 or 5 points); and Jeff Merkley of Oregon (fighting a tough race against lots of $).

He mentioned some others that he thought were possible: Al Franken in Minnesota and state Senator Kay Hagen in North Carolina (Hagen in a dead heat with Elizabeth Dole – tell me that aint’ bad news for old Libby!); and Bruce Lunsford, facing a pretty uphill battle in Kentucky against Mitch McConnell.

“We’ll pick up seats,” he said. “4 will be OK – 6 would be a great night, and 8 would be fabulous.” The room roared with that statement.

I’m getting long winded here, so I will save Max’s Ted Kennedy story for another post.

But let me add just 2 more items….Max closed out by pouring more credit out there on Raph Graybill, Montana’s youngest delegate (19). Raph is blogging the election for the Great Falls Tribune, BTW….and then Max went on to shower more credit and sunshine on Stephanie Sherrick, a Butte native who is running Al Franken’s campaign (and who had worked her magic on our own Jon Tester’s amazing win in 2006).

Finally – this: Congressman Pat Williams spoke this morning too, commenting on the historic events before us. He lead off with his first experiences with the national convention in Chicago 1968. It seemed maybe Dennis McDonald had been there with him (?) too – and for those of you who don’t know (or don’t remember), Chicago was a hell of a time with Mayor Richard Daley and the anti-war protests.

“These protesters don’t know how to protest,” he said (only jokingly). “I saw a whole bunch of them last night – lined up in a single line, wearing dark black hoods, looking very serious – holding things in their hands – and I saw them walk out of the convention area, walk down the street, and come to a red light. They stopped.”

The room laughed.

“That wasn’t Chicago!”

Later, in all seriousness, Carol Williams and Sara Pyfer closed out this morning’s meeting reminding folks to be careful out there – police had to use pepper spray last night – that things were only going to get more active, and how the situation was very fluid….and that the police have a job to do out there and that we should all be aware that they need to be able to do it.

Off to downtown…..Cheers.

by jhwygirl

I’ll be crossposting these DNC bits at LiTW – because, after all, I wouldn’t be there – hell, I might not even be blogging – if it weren’t for those guys. Yep. Blame it all on Matt and Jay!

Well, folks – made it here in one piece. Tired but happy, and well fed by a BBQ hosted by New Era Colorado, a mighty-fine progressive organization bringing politics to younger folks a la Forward Montana.

Jay, Matt, Dante and Bob Struckman (of NewWest) and I all drove to Twin Falls to meet up with the Oregon Bus Project, a fabulous group of 20 and 30 somethings doing wonderful things for progressive politics on the west coast. We had a bus of 37 (?) passengers, from California, Washington, and (mostly) Oregon. Ian and Lucy and Jeff and everyone else? KICK ASS! I never had a finer bus trip – and some of you might remember my thoughts on bus trips.

I did some “stunt” driving for Public Television France. Let’s just say, when a cameraman wants to get the shot, he’ll do just about whatever it takes….but more on that later. But if ya’all have DSL, and you find something over there with a bus driving down the interstate, with the city in the background, well….I had a hand in that. Or two and a foot – on the gas pedal.

From what I hear, protesters are lining the streets more than a mile and half outside of the convention center…It’s hot, it’s muggy, and several tornadoes are being shown live on TV right now. Looks to be a pretty action-filled week.

I’ve already shook hands with Carol Williams, Ed Tinsley and Art Noonan…all people I am HUGE fans of….also had introductions with Walter Schweitzer, and without the beard, I mighta guessed who he was.

Now, if I can get off this blog and hit the shower – I might be able to go down and meet some of the rest of our delegation.

Time’s a wastin’

One more – Ed said that the Billings Gazette has asked them to post a blog of their experiences…he said he’s sent them something, but it hasn’t hit the web yet….so once I get a link for that, I’ll give it to you all.

He also told me that he reads 4&20 and he agrees with it 99% of the time. I think we’ll need to figure out that 1%, and try to find some common ground, and work toward solutions for all of us. Don’t you think?

After all, that’s what this blogging stuff is all about.

Nice. Welcome to the blog world, Ed!

by jhwygirl

Gary Brown, Democratic primary winner of HD-100’s race has made the tough decision to withdraw his candidacy due to health concerns. He and his family are in our thoughts and prayers.

As Pete noted in his most recent post, the Missoula County Democrats Central Committee will be meeting next Tuesday, August 12th (7:00 p.m., City Council Chambers on Pine Street) to select the replacement to run against Bill Nooney. And frequent readers of this site know that we really would love to show Nooney the door – the exit door – from the state legislature.

Curdy’s got the backing of Missoula’s Senators Dave Wanzenried and Carol Williams, along with Representatives Tim Furey and Robin Hamilton. Fine, get-‘er-done Democrats. In their letter to Jim Dayton, Chair of the Missoula County Democrats, they noted that August 19th is the deadline to name a replacement, and announcing Brown’s replacement is important to maintain momentum.

I also liked this (my emphasis added):

As a long-time resident and property-owner in the district who campaigned vigorously during the just-concluded primary, Mr. Curdy knows the district and understands the commitment and resources required to win in November.

Yep, living in your district should be a requirement…shouldn’t it?

I like Curdy – not that I didn’t like Brown – but I liked Curdy because of his wide background: a 30-year high school teacher (who could endure that long?!), a Bitterroot Hotshot and a Missoula Smokejumper (talk about demonstrating both teamwork and leadership!), and (and!) a USFS pilot (stress management, anyone?). There’s more – trustee on both the Missoula Rural Fire District and the Big Flat Irrigation District (ever had to work with irrigators?)…..Lot’s of great qualities in there to help bring the legislature closer to getting done the huge amounts of work it needs to do.

And voters sure need to consider electing candidates that can work together and get stuff done. We certainly don’t need a repeat of 2007, and it is important to ensure a Democratic majority in the state’s House of Representatives.

Don’t believe me? The 2007 legislature was a disaster for the stuff that never even made it out of committee, due to the roadblocks thrown up by the state’s republicans. The list is significantly longer for stuff that didn’t make it out of committee than stuff that did. And then there’s be the party-line vote for the stuff that did…Yoy, what a disaster.

And in reality, it’s sad. Because, in the end, it’s the citizens that suffer.

I mean – stuff like bills to study a problem (example: public access from county bridges) couldn’t even make it. Then there’s the stuff associated with some of my favorite subjects: water quality, water rights, zoning and subdivision, fire protection.

I won’t rehash all the gory details: Go search the 2007 legislative bills and see for yourself.

by Pete Talbot

In Montana, the Clinton campaign coaches are doing a better job than Obama’s. This is not an endorsement, just a fact.

There are a number of reasons for this and I’ll mention a couple here.

1) Messaging. Now, I can’t remember hearing a more dynamic speaker than Sen. Obama (Bill Clinton is close) but when it comes to Montana-centric prose, both Clintons have Obama beat. Check this Bill Clinton snippet out, as reported by the Missoulian:

“When I was president in 1995, the University of Montana won a national football championship,” Clinton said. “And I called the team to congratulate them. And I thought you might be interested to know or remember that one was won with a fourth-quarter comeback engineered by a quarterback named Dave Dickenson – and the game was won in West Virginia.

“Hillary won last night in West Virginia by 41 points,” he said to a cheering crowd. “I think it’s worth noting that no one has won the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916.”

Mention the Montana Grizzly football championship and Dave Dickenson to a Missoula crowd and then tie in the West Virginia primary win — sheer genius.

There’s also this account of Bill Clinton in Billings from Dave Crisp at the Billings Blog:

“The guy is a master. He started by talking about his last visit to Billings, including the name of the horse he rode when he was here (“Phirepower”) and his visit to the Kit-Kat Cafe. He even knew that the Kit-Kat was no longer around — a tribute to great staff work, or a great memory, or both.”

Obama’s main reference to Montana was that he might try a little fly fishing. Not a whole lot of research done there. Hillary, on the other hand, spoke of Jeanette Rankin and acknowledged current Montana women in politics, like Carol Williams and Dorothy Bradley and Carol Juneau, etc., etc.

And here’s an email I just received from the Clinton campaign:

“Team Hillary will pass out stickers and candy along the Bucking Horse Sale Parade in Miles City this weekend. All participants will go home with limited edition “Team Hillary” courtesy of the campaign.”

Now I don’t think “Team Hillary” actually includes Hillary but still, the Bucking Horse Sale in Miles City? Man, you can’t get much more Montanan than that.

2) The Williams family. There are few Democratic families in Montana that garner as much respect or are as well connected. Pat, Carol and daughters have all been active in the Clinton campaign, and they’ve brought a number of other influential folks into the fold. I have a feeling that the Williams’ insights into campaigning in Montana (and the insights from people that they brought to the campaign) have been picked up by the Clinton camp.

Is Barack slacking in Big Sky Country? Not really. Obama is starting to campaign as if the nomination is already his, which is good strategy.

The stakes are definitely higher for Ms. Clinton. There is no recent polling in Montana for the candidates but the pundits are giving the nod to Obama, so a win for Clinton would be huge. Our June 3 primary will tell us if Hillary’s messaging efforts pay off.

UPDATE: The above piece was edited substantially, by me, from the original post. The original headline was, “In Montana, Clinton is better organized” and the first sentence read, “Hillary Clinton’s field organization in Montana is doing a better job than Sen. Barack Obama’s.”

Well, I took some hits on this, and rightfully so — although I don’t agree with all the criticism and stand by my premise that the folks prepping the Clintons are doing a better job. But it was unfair of me to paint the entire Obama field organization as being behind the curve. I appreciate everyone’s comments.

by Jay Stevens 

Look who’s proposing legislation to overhaul the initiative process: old friends Ed and Trevis Butcher!

Trevis, of course, was the Montana money handler for Howie Rich’s terrible trio of initiatives: 154, 97, and 98. Trevis is also a good pal of the Republican Liberty Caucus sweethearts. The initiatives were, of course, struck down for the pervasive fraud found to mar the signature gathering.

Representative Ed Butcher (R-Winifred) is Trevis’ daddy.

The Butcher Bill (HB 777) — one of the worst-written bills I’ve seen, BTW – allows grievances to bypass many of the offices Howie Rich’s bills got caught up in (such as the Attorney General’s office or the district courts). The bill also targets volunteer signature gathers to extra scrutiny (in one line, considering a volunteer’s work to be a “campaign contribution”). (And in one section hints that blog entries on behalf of candidates could be considered “campaign contributions”!)

Basically the bill does two things: it makes it easier to challenge a petition, but almost impossible to get it off the ballot. And it seeks to exclude or punish all those who either opposed or worked against Rich’s initiatives.

The good news is that this bill probably isn’t leaving committee:

A proposal to overhaul the state’s ballot initiative process didn’t excite much interest on the part of the House State Administration Committee on Thursday morning.

Committee members had no questions for Rep. Ed Butcher, R-Winifred, the sponsor of House Bill 777, and the only comments from committee Chairman Dennis Himmelberger, R-Billings, were to urge Butcher, several times, to be more concise.

And the only people who spoke in support of the bill were Butcher’s son, conservative activist Trevis Butcher of Winifred, and Helena attorney Chris Gallus.

And better yet, there is a bipartisan bill that’s more likely to see its way past the legislature that would make good and needed change to the initiative process:

Six people spoke against the bill, led off by Assistant Attorney General Pam Bucy, who said the legislation was rife with problematic language and legal pitfalls. She, and most of the other opponents, urged the committee to give its support instead to Senate Bill 96, which was drafted with the concurrence of the Justice Department and the secretary of state.

SB96, introduced by Sen. Carol Williams, D-Missoula, would prohibit paying signature-gatherers on a per-signature basis and would require the gatherers to be residents of Montana. The bill would also seek to simplify and streamline other aspects of the initiative process.

A member of the House State Administration Committee, Rep. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, intends to sponsor Williams’ bill in the House.

In other words, good stuff. A bill that, in a reasonable world, would be passed without much of a fuss. But then, this year in the House, all bets are off.

by Jay Stevens 

Sarpy Sam has pointed out two bills going before the Montana, SB 91 and SB 86.

Senate Bill 86 is:

AN ACT ELIMINATING THE TIME RESTRICTION FOR BECOMING A LOBBYIST FOR STATE LEGISLATORS, ELECTED STATE OFFICIALS, DEPARTMENT DIRECTORS, APPOINTED STATE OFFICIALS, AND MEMBERS OF CERTAIN PERSONAL STAFFS; REPEALING SECTION 5-7-310, MCA; AND PROVIDING AN IMMEDIATE EFFECTIVE DATE.

Got it? It’s intended to reverse the initiative that was pretty much overwhelmingly approved of by Montana voters in the recent election.

Senate Bill 91 is:

AN ACT PROVIDING FOR THE ESTABLISHMENT OF CONSTITUENT SERVICES ACCOUNTS; PROVIDING FOR THE FUNDING AND USE OF MONEY IN A CONSTITUENT SERVICES ACCOUNT; PROVIDING REPORTING REQUIREMENTS FOR CONSTITUENT SERVICES ACCOUNTS; AND AMENDING SECTION 13-37-240, MCA.

Constituent services accounts are basically “slush funds” that candidates can use for just about everything. They’re shadowy, they’re easily abused, and they allow for politicians to get around campaign finance laws. In other words, they need exactly what this bill is requiring: transparency.

Often I’m criticized for favoring the Democratic over the Republican party. I’m partisan, untrustworthy, unreliable, biased, whatever, goes the crit. You know what? I think that’s bullsh*t. It assumes that both parties are equal in competency, ability, and ethics.

They’re not.

The first bill – an attempt to overturn an ethics reform bill approved of by a majority of Montanans – is sponsored by Republican Dan McGee. (You might remember him: he’s the lawmaker that proposed the “sour grapes” bill after Kitzenberg’s party switch. And he supported a bill that would allow the state to discriminate against gays.)

The second – an attempt to bring more transparency to government – is sponsored by Democrat Carol Williams, the state’s first female senate majority leader. (You might also remember that Williams is sponsoring the much-needed and popular initiative-reform bill.)

My point is, it’s pretty damn clear which lawmaker is working for Montana, and which is working in his own and his party’s interests.

by Jay Stevens 

Jennifer McKee has an amusing piece in today’s paper about the spirit of bipartisanship in the Montana legislature:

The first recorded vote of the 2007 Montana Legislature in the closely divided House of Representatives on Wednesday fell along party lines.

The 51-49 vote came just minutes after House Minority Leader John Parker, D-Great Falls, gave a gentlemanly speech on the spirit of cooperation.

Cooperation was in slim supply moments later when Democrats tried to change the makeup of the House committees that take first crack at all legislation.

All 50 Republicans and Constitution Party Rep. Rick Jore of Ronan, a former Republican, voted to reject the Democrats’ initiative.

Hilarious. As shown throughout the last six years of federal-level Republican rule, any GOP request for “co-operation” means “do as we say.” Yesterday, Montana Republicans operated under the old playbook.

But I also expect Senate Democrats to give House Republicans a difficult time, too. While everyone trumps up “bipartisanship,” it’s obvious that this legislature in reality is going to be rancorous. What else would you expect when the Republican House Speaker – Sideshow Scott Sales – declares “war” on state Democrats?

Compare Republican legislative promises – war, obstructionism, opposition to the Governor at every chance – to the Democrats’ agenda:

In the Democrat-controlled Senate on Wednesday, Majority Leader Carol Williams, D-Missoula, the first woman to hold that post in the Montana Legislature, outlined what she sees as core issues to address this session.

Those include investing in a “world-class education system,” extending health care coverage to children and others without it, improving relations with tribal governments and protecting Montanans’ access to “rivers, streams, hunting grounds and fishing holes,” she said.

I can’t wait for Sideshow Scott and his dog & pony show to obstruct health care for children, or protection of open spaces, or improving education. At least rhetorically, as a blogger. As a father, homeowner, and taxpayer…well…I’ll probably be p*ssed.

Yup, it will be fun in 2007 – for bloggers!

by Jay Stevens 

It’s nice to see some bipartisanship on initiative reform. Yesterday state attorney general Mike McGrath (D) and secretary of state Brad Johnson (R) called for changes in the initiative law that would limit signature gathering to state residents, and forbids paying signature gatherers by the signature. (The sponsors of the bill are Sen. Carol Williams [D-Missoula] and Rep. Alan Olson [R-Roundup].)

We know why these proposals were made, don’t we? Pervasive fraud in the signature gathering for Howie Rich’s anti-government initiatives.

Guess who’s against the reform?

[Trevis Butcher] questioned requiring state residency for signature gatherers and prohibiting per-signature payments. Residency is established easily and the payment rule could be circumvented by paying more to people who collect many signatures than to those collecting relatively few, said Butcher, son of legislator Ed Butcher, R-Winifred.

It’s sort of ironic that T. Butcher is complaining that the new rules could still be exploited, isn’t it? I mean, he’s living proof of why the current rules…well…suck:

Eric Feaver, the president of the MEA-MFT union, which helped lead the campaign against the proposed limit on increases in most state spending, welcomed the legislation. The ballot-measure process needs an overhaul to help control “fraud and deceit,” Feaver said.Payment per signature becomes an incentive to collect signatures that may not be valid, Feaver said. Signature gathering by nonresidents is a problem because “when they leave, if you have questions as to how they collected signatures, you can’t find them,” he said.

Basically, the old rules allowed one person to organize a ballot initiative drive quickly and quietly. All you have to do is dump a lot of money into the project, truck in a bunch of professional signature gatherers and get to work.

The new rules would help ensure that a Montana ballot initiative involves Montanans. After all, changing the state’s constitution should be difficult.

I’ve heard rumors that Sideshow Scott and his assorted geeks, bearded ladies, and fire-eaters would likely obstruct initiative reform. Hopefully Johnson and Olson’s participation in the reform signals a willingness by Republicans to do the right thing.

by Jay Stevens 

I linked to the Missoulian’s profile of incoming state Senate Majority Leader, Carol Williams of Missoula, but I feel it deserves more scrutiny, especially as it presents quite a contrast to the rhetoric and experience of the state House’s majority leader, Scott Sales and Senate Republican Dan McGee.

As I’ve already mentioned, Sales’ and McGee’s self-proclaimed goals are to increase divisiveness among Montanans and to try and wreak revenge on Sam Kitzenberg and Governor Brian Schweitzer for the fact that their party is alienating moderates. In short, we’re in for a lot of posturing and chest-thumping for the right while policy-making will be an afterthought.

Enter Carol Williams, one of the state’s citizens responsible for public kindergarten and other kid-oriented projects:

As a new mom in Helena in the 1970s, there was no such thing as public kindergarten. Believing strongly that Montana needed such a program, Williams became active in the American Association of University Women and the organization’s efforts to bring a bill forward.

She helped lobby the cause, and the bill was passed supporting half-day kindergarten.

Over the years, as she raised three children and championed related issues, she served on dozens of boards, all focusing on children: Missoula Boys and Girls Club; Montana Every Child By Two Immunization Program; Montana Kids First Political Action Committee; Montana Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies; and more.

So…what’s her main goal for the upcoming legislative session (besides full-day kindergarten?):

Aside from her new leadership duties, Williams said her larger goal is to promote civility and communication.“I want this session to be about policy, not politics,” she said.

Given the Democrats’ narrow winning margin, it is critical that everyone works hard to get along and work for the common good.

[snip]

Open communication with problem-solving and not sniping will hammer out the wrinkles in the challenges facing the Legislature, Williams said.

She plans to lead the civility charge by example.

“We need to keep this session respectful of each others’ positions,” she said, “and try to come to common ground. That is of utmost importance for the people we serve.”

Williams also plans to create the state’s first-ever Women’s Legislative Caucus. The goal of the Caucus would be to “serve as an information bridge between the Legislature…and the needs of Montana’s professionals, families, and individuals and services concerned with women’s issues.” That is, Williams is actively working to give a body of Montana’s voters and citizens a more direct line into the state’s government. The Caucus would also help mentor junior women legislative members and work to encourage more participation of women in local and state government.

Being a blogger means creating narrative about issues, government, policies, and issues. Good stories draw readers; good stories illustrate issues; good stories help motivate. And a good story makes you feel and understand what’s going on at a larger level: the story is a microcosm of the larger universe.

And honestly, the best political story of 2006 was the Tester-Burns match-up. You just couldn’t come up with a better villain than Boss Hogg Burns; and you couldn’t come up with a better white hat than Tester, the organic citizen-farmer.  The story matched the corrupt legislator rubber-stamping a bungling war policy against the honest farmer who stands up to big money and for honesty, integrity, and the American Dream. Throughout the election cycle, Burns kept coming up with great quotes for us to blog about, and kept everybody – and I mean everybody — focused on the race.

If you want confirmation of how a narrative helps the outcome of a race, compare the Senate race to the House race.

Now thanks to Sales and McGee, we’ve got a couple of clownish comic-book bad guys. (And throw in Koopman and Sinrud for good measure.) Against them array Carol Williams, the woman who helped bring kindergarten to Montana, and you’ve got ripe pickings for an eager left-wing blogger. Seriously, my blog will write itself in 2007.

Unfortunately for Montana, that also means there won’t be smooth sailing in the legislature. Of course, the session hasn’t started yet. Maybe Montana’s GOP will surprise me and legislate and leave me with nothing to write about.

I’m not holding my breath.




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