Archive for the ‘Mike Jopek’ Category

by jhwygirl

Kalispell’s Mike Jopek reminds taxpayers – most who are getting an average increase of 15%, but many out here on the western side of the state are getting hit much higher – who to thank when that bill comes in the mail.

All but one Senate Republican.
90% of House Republicans.
25% of House Democrats
50% of Senate Democrats.

House Republicans mangled his bill, so much so that even Jopek couldn’t vote for his own bill, in the end. “They ignored the fiscal note that said the bill would increase taxes dramatically for many,” Jopek said. The final days, in the Free Conference frenzy that is the last of the session, finals cuts and amendments were made that impacted many:

The Republican Senate hijacked the House version of the final mitigation bill and exempted only 85 percent of the effect of growth. The Senate amended the House bill, which mitigated 100 percent of reappraisal, and forced homeowners and downtown businesses to pay $6 million more in taxes over the biennium and another $6 million over the cycle.

Senate Republicans removed all the assistance to the elderly, disable, and poor homeowners and renters. Then Senate Republicans added a new tax on homes worth more that $1.5 million.

Take that new tax Republican’s added – Just where are all those $1.5 million homes? Oddly – Barkus voted for this bill, while Zinke, the lone Republican Senator, voted No.

Where else? Ravalli County – where both Sens. Liable and Shockley voted YES to the bill which added that special new tax.

In Bozeman? Only Sen. Bob Hawks held out, voting no.

$1.5 might sound like a lot – but in these places, it doesn’t take a lot to meet that threshold – especially if you are an older resident who bought your hope decades. In other words – maybe that threshold should have been a bit higher? So as not to capture up a bunch of lifelong residents, and instead maybe focused its grab on 2nd and 3rd home owners?

Jopek saves some love for realtors, too:

Over the years, the Montana Association of Realtors adamantly opposed our attempts to cap homeowner’s taxes to inflationary growth, to reappraise only upon the sale of a home, and to abate a portion of property taxes for homeowners whom file income taxes. Seems like lobbyists believe that if we stay put in our homes, it’s bad for their industry.

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 Jay Stevens 

It looks like Mike Jopek’s (D-Whitefish) proposed reform of constituency accounts is meeting resistance – the Billings Gazette suspects it has to do with lobbying efforts:

The first attempt this legislative session to shed light on secretive “constituency accounts” got little support Wednesday, as lobbying groups lined up to oppose an ethics measure that would also overhaul their reporting requirements.

Pogie has already written eloquently about why constituency accounts need reform — basically they’re unreported accounts candidates can use for whatever they like – and Jopek’s bill, HB202, would put an end to the accounts’ loopholes:

Jopek wants to set a cap on the amount of money put into constituency accounts, ban corporations from donating to the accounts and require annual disclosure reports on expenditures and donations.

But Jopek’s bill goes further than just reforming the constituency accounts. It would also “amend the ban on government officials becoming lobbyists to ban lobbyists from taking jobs as directors of state agencies or departments” and requires “those who hire lobbyists to report the source of the money for their activities.”

The last amendment is where the bill appears to be generating a buzz from lobbyists. Apparently the PACs and other interest groups that hire lobbyists want the right to keep their member lists confidential. And, you know, I can understand that. At the very least it deserves discussion.

In the end, I think Jopek’s bill tries to do too much. Reform of the constituency funds is sorely need and almost universally desired. One bill should be used to address that reform. The other issues deserve their own bills and separate discussions. Jopek’s desire to institute lobbying reform is commendable, and I might be inclined to support all of the provisions of this bill, but reform of the constituency funds should not depend on support of all the proposals.

(On a side note, Roger Koopman’s [R-Bozeman] reform bills get a little play in the same Billings Gazette article. To be honest, I’m left scratching my head. Here are the reforms Koopman wants:

LC 0792: allows private citizens to take civil action if their written complaints aren’t acted on by the commissioner of political practices within 30 days

HB 163: prohibits the use of public funds or employees in lobbying efforts

Weird, huh? They both seem to have been born out of personal experience, or something. Like he made a gazillion complaints that were duly ignored.

LC 0792 seems, well, impractical and expensive. What does it mean to “take action”? Can’t we agree some complaints are more valid than others? And it seems clear that this bill would create frivolous litigation at taxpayer expense. [Still…I certainly would have liked to see some action taken against those c*cksuckers who implemented the Burns-backing automated robo-push-polls before the recent election…]

The second seems impractical. Does HB 163 apply to, say, the governor’s staffers attempting to promote, say, the governor’s budget among legislators? Does this mean the different state agencies won’t have a say in drafting or considering legislation? Let’s be honest: usually the most informed people on, say, forest management or public education are public employees. Shouldn’t they have a say or some influence in the legislature on what policy the government takes?

I have to say that these reform bills don’t seem to be well-thought-out or effective. Just about what you’d expect from a guy who once started a near-fistfight on the floor of the state house and who wanted death certificates for abortions. In other words, we’re not dealing with someone who’s necessarily rational.)

by Jay Stevens 

There’s been some crowing among those on the right that Montana’s 2006 state elections were a victory for Republicans, because…well…they picked up a couple seats in the state senate, and their candidates generally out-polled Democratic nominees.

Fair enough, I suppose. While other states – like Colorado – were bleeding conservative state legislators, Montana’s GOP stemmed the flood and lost “only” their federal Senate seat. (I’ll take it!) I guess when your ideology is consistently and thoroughly rejected across the country, you take your victories where you can find them.

The only thing is, is that the Montana Republicans “won” this election with their legislative promises: the “handshake with Montana” (pdf), which said, “We will support and provide funding to reduce college tuition,” among other things.

So…what happened to this promise? “Sideshow” Scott Sales jettisoned it even before the legislature convened, and has replaced the “handshake” with “a kick to the b*lls.”

Is that the fastest dropped campaign promise, ever?

Is the “handshake” the Montana Republican Party’s “read my lips” moment?

Over on Left in the West, Matt published an email from Rep. Mike Jopek, a Democrat out of Whitefish, who reiterated the importance of education and introduced some of the legislation that will be proposed in the upcoming session. Concrete legislation, a strong interest in Montana’s children and the future of our state, coherent and reasoned rhetoric. This is your Democratic Party. No declarations of war, no promises kicked to the curb even before legislating starts, no planned obstruction of government.

So, to those GOPers crowing about “winning” state offices, how many more Montanans would have eschewed Republicans had they known the party was planning on (a) abandoning its promised platform a week after the election, (b) obstructing state government, and (c) declaring “war” on education?

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