Archive for the ‘Steve Bullock’ Category

by jhwygirl

Had a coworker say to me this morning as work begun “What’s with Jon Krakauer? Why does he hate UM?” Tone and history told me where they were on the University of Montana – City of Missoula – Mayor John Engen – President Engstrom rape “thing”: The “It’s over!” “Why bring this up again?” “Jordan Johnson was innocent!” “No one ever proved anything!” crowd.

Whatever. I’ll continue to call bs on the matter if anyone discusses to any great degree – and it’s likely they do so just to get a rise out of me. I’m OK with it. I have a decent memory, and I deal with facts. Google is easily accessible. The #truth was revealed in the Department of Justice report; the statutes of limitations haven’t expired; Montana’s current Attorney General Tim Fox has stated he feels the matter has been resolved; both the previous Governor Brian Schweitzer and the current Governor Steve Bullock have done nothing, either, to press for justice; and – the real kicker here that everyone seems to forget – the rapists walk free. Those are facts, but apparently there are many here that feel comfortable to ignore the reality.

It’s not like this isn’t free and open information – the Missoulian did fine reporting on the matter, and I still thank Gwen Florio for her fearless journalism, along with the editor and publisher that stood behind reporting on the matter while there was some huge advertising and Griz Nation backlash.

I wonder how the vicitims feel? I think of them. Do you think Freddie Van Valkenburg does? Or the ever-so-efficient, John Engen-endorsed Missoula County Attorney Kirsten B. Pabst? I doubt it.

Does Montana Attorney General Tim Fox – who was hot on the campaign pulpit on the issue of sexual predators – think about the gang rape that happened? That President Engstrom’s own “independent” investigator – a former Montana Supreme Court Justice – also found and placed in her report?

Does Fox think about the other sexual assaults? The 5 year old victim? I do.

Krakauer may be facing an unfriendly welcome here in Missoula when (and if) he comes to sign books. Or speak. But it sure isn’t going to be from me. I’m glad he took the rape issue on. I’m glad it’s the rape issue here. I hope he continues to push for the University papers. I hope he finds the alleged connections that are there between the former Governor’s office and his cronies and friends that came to the Board of Regents, and the weave of politics behind the whole sordid mess.

But getting back to my cowoker…..

I said that I wouldn’t be so sure that he hates the University of Montana – that maybe Krakauer loves Montana and just looks for any excuse to come here to write. (I was in a jolly mood this morning – and as I mentioned above, all parties know where I stand on the rape matter. Plus I added my own little sprinkle of sarcasm.)

The reply was that “Well, he hates the Two Cups of Tea guy too.”

And I love pink ponies and rainbows.

Addendum: One of my favorite posts from the University of Montana rape scandal is this from Patrick Duganz, as it epitomizes the head-in-the-sand Good-Ole-Boy’s Club and seemingly socially acceptable rape and sexual assault is (or was, depending on who you ask) here in Missoula: Rape is not “knuckleheaded,” Rape is a felony.

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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.

by jhwygirl

Late last month, U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell sent letters out to the states asking for a return of (presumably) 10% of the Secure Rural Schools funds payed out in January of this year.

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead was pretty quick to criticize the fed’s move – and just in the last few hours Mead appears to have made up his mind: He won’t be returning the money.

I won’t go into the specifics on SRS funds, though that link gives a great rundown on what they are where they come from and all that good stuff. Basically, though, SRS funds come from the revenue generated on federal lands. It’s paid out proportionally to each state – and each county – based on the amount of revenue generated and the amount of land in each county. It’s also based on the previous years revenues.

So the payments made in January of this year were based on 2012 revenues.

Is this government welfare? I don’t think so. Here in Missoula County, 49% of the lands are federal, state or local govt. owned. None of that land is taxed, and yet the Sheriff’s Department, for example, is out there dealing with criminal activity on USFS roads.

For the state’s lands, Fish Wildlife and Parks is, by some weird law, required to recycle its funding from the legislature back to the local county by paying taxes. How that makes sense, I’ll never understand.

I assume that Montana Dept. of Revenue has already distributed those SRS funds. I also assume most counties have incorporated it into their budgets. In Lincoln County, it’s a pretty significant hit, with their share of the sequestration return equaling their road fund.

Which could lead me to the messed up way the state’s gas tax money is distributed, but it’s a little late now and I’ve probably already bored ya’all to tears.

All of that being said, I’ll be calling Bullock tomorrow to tell him to tell Tidwell to “take a hike” – and calling Baucus, Tester and Daines to suggest to them that they should reassess the government wanting what is essentially their 2012 calendar year tax payment to Montana refunded.

By JC

Missoula’s Stone-Manning named state DEQ chief. (Just hit your browser’s “stop loading” button as soon as you see text to avoid the paywall).

If there’s one thing Tracy Stone-Manning knows about, it’s “opportunity!”

“Stone-Manning has been Tester’s policy director based in Missoula since 2007…

While on Tester’s staff, Stone-Manning worked on details and negotiations for the senator’s Forest Jobs and Recreation Act, which combined new wilderness and recreation designations with extensive logging and forest remediation projects. She also was involved in Tester’s legislation transferring gray wolves from federal Endangered Species Act protection to state management.”

This does not bode well for wilderness or wildlife. We’ll see where else her opportunism takes its toll.

by jhwygirl

Updated below

NBC KECI news reported last night that Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg is refusing to cooperate with the Department of Justice investigation into the handling of rape and sexual assaults by the University of Montana, the city police and the Missoula County Attorney’s office.

You’ll remember that Mr. Van Valkenburg was “deeply disturbed” over the investigation when the DOJ came knocking back in May.

Some of you might be familiar with Sheriff Arpaio and his latest civil rights violation? The arrest of a 6-year old which also violated a Presidential executive order?

Most Montanan’s probably don’t realize the connection that both Fred Valkenburg and Joe Arpaio have..and if history is any indicator, Mr. Van Valkenburg might want to reconsider his relection bid for Missoula County Attorney in 2014.

First off, remember Thomas Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice? Not only is he heading up the civil rights investigation into the University of Montana/Missoula rape and sexual assaults – announced May 1st – he’s the same guy who’s been investigating Sheriff Joe Arpaio since 2008 for civil rights violations. That’s back when George Bush Jr. was president.

Small world, huh?

In that investigation, Perez has recently filed suit against Arpaio’s department for a “pattern of unlawful discrimination” by law enforcement officials.

Hmmm…

Leading up to that – keeping in mind the DOJ has been down in Maricopa County since 2008 – Perez has dealt with a very uncooperative Sheriff Joe Arpaio, having to sue the guy into cooperation. The New York Times reported “Obama administration officials called the suit the first time in 30 years that the federal government had to sue to compel a law enforcement agency to cooperate with an investigation concerning Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”

Really?

Looks like Fred Van Valkenburg is gearing up for the same sort of lawsuit – and one has to wonder just how much his bloviating reticence is costing the taxpayers. Not only that, what does he have to hide?

Why wouldn’t an attorney cooperate with the deputy of the highest law officer in the United States?

Is this how a county attorney should behave? Why should I, for example, cooperate with Fred Van Valkenburg if he came knocking? Is this really the example of a county attorney that we want here in Missoula? In Montana?

And again – Where in the world is Montana’s Attorney General Steve Bullock on this DOJ civil rights investigation? Doesn’t Montana have civil rights laws?

I’ve also always been told that a county attorney is also a deputy of the state’s attorney general. If that is the case, what does Bullock have to say about Van Valkenburg’s lack of cooperation?

Bueller? Bueller?!?

And consider that last April Fred Van Valkenburg welcomed the feds into town as they came in a attacked the state’s medical marijuana laws.

Add him to that hypocrite tag, I guess.

Per the KECI report (make sure to watch, as Fred is in fine form whining about how he’s not going to be bullied) reporter Will Wadley waves around letters from both Van Valkenburg and the Department of Justice. Kind of a shame that he doesn’t link them on line. It’s not like they were one liners – he shows multiple pages with lots of little words and legal arguments. Would be nice if KECI would share that with the general public. I kind of think Fred’s letter would be quite interesting. Let’s see the guy’s defense.

Hell – Maybe Fred should put his response to the DOJ up on his website. Inquiring taxpayers want to know!

Still, Wadley breaks a good story – and I’m glad to have seen it. Frankly, I hope the national media picks up on it, too.

For Missoulians? This is your tax dollars at work. It’s also your vote at work, since Van Valkenburg is an elected official, accountable to the voters.

We’re in for a long haul folks – I’ve had numerous conversations and most people seem to be operating on an assumption that we’re going to seem some resolution to this investigation sometime in the near future – the end of summer…soon. If history is any lesson here, Perez is going to be coming to Missoula for many many visits…and with Van Valkenburg pulling an Arpaio on the whole DOJ investigation, the DOJ is going to be at it for years.

~~~
Missoulian reporter Jenna Cederberg has her report on Van Valkenburg’s refusal to cooperate with the DOJ. Her story includes links to the letters between Van Valkenburg and the DOJ.

By JC

Wish I would have come across this sooner, and raised some hell. Following up on a link provided by feralcatoffreedom in a comment yesterday, I discovered the controversy surrounding Montana Attorney General (and Dem gubernatorial candidate) Steve Bullock was not doing all he could to secure victory in his defense of Montana’s near century-old Montana Corrupt Practices Act against corporate campaign bribes contributions.

In the wake of the infamous Citizen’s United ruling, American Trade Partnerships (founded by former MT republican congressman Ron Marlenee) sued the State of Montana to vacate the state’s Supreme Court ruling upholding the Corrupt Practices Act. They lost that suit in a 5-2 decision. ATP then asked the Supreme Court of the US to overturn the Montana Supreme Court ruling.

Steve Bullock, as Montana Attorney General, has been the lead  attorney defending Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act against ATP and Citizen’s United. That case currently is being considered by the SCOTUS, but it seems that Bullock’s refusal to use a particularly important defense — 11th Amendment sovereign state immunity — does not square with his proclamations to be doing all he can to defend Montana in this most critical of lawsuits that could open the way for states to protect themselves from the onslaught of corporate political money.

As is being tracked by many courts and 11th amendment advocates, it is a mystery why Bullock has refused to invoke the state’s 11th Amendment sovereign immunity against being sued by a corporation or individual in federal court. This case could easily be won by Montana asserting its Constitutional rights. Many folks are raising this issue at the last minute, as the SCOTUS will decide soon, if not already, how it will proceed with this case.

According to a report published on Saturday by Russell Mokhiber in the well-established Washington, D.C. newsletter, Corporate Crime Reporter, Attorney General Bullock’s office told a lawyer who filed an amicus ”friend-of-the-court” brief in support of Montana that the attorney general is refusing to assert Montana’s 11th Amendment constitutional sovereign immunity from suit because it is feared that the immunity argument could actually win the case.”

So Bullock is being accused of pulling back because he doesn’t actually want to win the case. Incredible. And this is the man who wants to be the next Governor of Montana? If the Montana Supreme Court case is overturned by the SCOTUS, based on an ineffective — and possibly sabotaged — defense, it will go poorly for the dems and their candidate.

This case is the only current hope that any effective defense against Citizen’s United can be raised by the states until the Constitution can be amended to reverse it. Why the hell isn’t the dem gubernatorial candidate doing all he can to win it? Guess he took the 5th, says his PR flaks:

“We have filed our brief. We don’t intend to make any commentary until after the Supreme Court decides how it will proceed.”

Un-frickin’ unbelievable. Especially if the SCOTUS decides to do a summary reversal, meaning they undo the Montana Court’s decision, and refuse to hear the case. By then it is too late to raise the 11th Amendment jurisdictional issue. And Montana’s Corrupt Practices Act fades into history.

by jhwygirl

Quite a dust storm kicking up over the gay marriage position articulated by Montana’s Democratic candidate for governor and current Attorney General Steve Bullock in a recent interview with Charles S. Johnson, Billings Gazette’s State Bureau Chief.

Bullock joined all seven GOP candidates in an anti-gay marriage stance, taking what he surely felt was the safest bet, siding with civil unions instead. From the Billings Gazette:

Bullock said, “I do not favor changing the constitution but would support legislative measures giving committed same-sex couples the opportunity to be together, free from discrimination.” This would include allowing a person to visit his or her partner in the hospital, he said.

The first response I saw was a post from Roberta Zenker of Transmontana, titled Just Say No to the Bullock. Read the entire post, please…and I’ll leave you with how Roberta summed up her feelings on Bullock’s position:

Please forgive my passion on this, but I am hurting. I have been wounded too many times by the results of colloquial thinking. My view is that the LGBT community needs to see itself as a voting block – one that has been denied far too long. I can no longer accept the default position of voting for Dems not because they support our interests, but because they are the lesser of evils. I am getting to the point that I prefer the poison that I know – one whose ideals and actions are susceptible to court challenge, rather than the one that lurks in the conference rooms and minds of hypocrites who accept my donations and volunteer work, but would throw me under the bus for the sake of political expediency.

Forgive that opinion? Hell no – I stand with her.

Today I see D. Gregory Smith with a post titled Steve Bullock Just Lost My Vote. What does DGS have to say?:

I have to say I’m very disappointed in Steve Bullock. Ironically, he apparently is unaware of the pain and suffering of LGBT persons in his state because of legislative discrimination (including a sodomy law still on the books)- or he’s unwilling to acknowledge us in the face of staying safe and winning votes. Barack Obama, on the other hand, has done some amazing things, like already (2 years ago) extending LGBT partner visitation rights in most hospitals. What has Steve Bullock done for us lately ever? Not much. I’m taking the Bullock sticker off of my car.

Bullock is running in a Democratic primary taking a GOP position on gay marriage. Taking a position that will likely be a variation of Mitt Romney’s when-he’s-backed-into-a-corner position on LGBTQ marriage equality.

And to be clear to those of you who think that civil unions and gay marriage are two in the same? They are not.

Are gays a voting block – you betcha. I understand a little how both D. Gregory and Roberta feel – as an environmentalist I feel like every cycle where we near an election, I am supposed to STHU about any criticism of the Democratic candidate because there are other issues more important. Does that compare to being denied rights that my friends and neighbors have? Not at all – but I make that comparison noting that for some reason, my concerns – just like D. Gregory Smith and Roberta Zenker’s – are somehow less important than other issues. Which I’ve come to realize over many years of voting is solely the issue of getting re-elected. We are not supposed to criticize the Democratic candidate because any criticism can harm that candidate in the general. Because the alternative is (most absolutely) far worse.

Because. Because. Because.

Because if you don’t vote for (the Democrat) it’ll all be your fault.

I don’t know how far this is going to take Steve Bullock this time. Democrats across the state have been given a fake candidate and a real candidate – the real candidate taking a position on what many consider to be what should very much be a civil rights issue. Does it harm him in the general?

Its a disgrace for the Democratic Party – and and absolute disaster for the Montana Democrats.

I won’t hold my breath waiting for electeds and officers of the above to express any dissatisfaction with Steve Bullock’s comments. It is, of course, election season – when those electeds and officers abide by the democrat’s version of Ronald Reagan’s Golden Rule: Speak no evil of fellow Democrats. At least during election season. Something I spoke about that a little here in this previous post.

Bullock’s lost my vote. His anti-gay marriage position has sealed it (I had issues with his Otter Creek vote also) for me. And as it stands now, not just for the primary but for the general. I decided some time back that I’m not voting the lesser of two evils.

I will only vote for progressives that are progressives. DINOs, especially, are out of the running for my vote.

Anti gay marriage candidates like Steve Bullock? Not a chance.

By JC

…Why Democrats acting more and more like Republicans and moving to the right continues to be cause for cheer among Montana’s self-appointed dem cheerleading squad, and acting like a republican implies being “smart”:

“Once again, a smart Democrat is making inroads into a traditionally Republican place–the military.”

And glorifying our military excursions into the middle east is a positive moment for the Montana Dem Party and candidate Bullock… why???

I now return to my sabbatical. Talk amongst yourselves.

by jhwygirl

Dave Gallik’s resignation as Commissioner of Political Practices was quick and fast – Great Falls Tribune reporter John S. Adams continues the scandal story this morning with news of events at the Capitol yesterday, which include Gallik repeatedly stating that the staff had called the police on him, despite that apparently not being true.

I have to say, to me, it almost comes off as him making light of the situation as he walked off to the Governor’s Mansion to discuss his resignation.

What is disturbing in Adams’ story is not the soap-opera scene (which the public seems to need as blame is apparently cast on vengeful women), but the apparent lack of any oversight on the Commissioner of Political Practices. Or the lack of anyone willing to step up. Adams goes through the three offices that the office staff apparently reported their allegations to:

Two staff members from the commissioner’s office told the Tribune they raised detailed concerns about Gallik’s behavior with Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s office and the Legislative Audit Division. They said they also reached out to Attorney General Steve Bullock’s office, but were told by an attorney who works on political practices complaints that the matter did not fall within the attorney general’s jurisdiction.

So they went to the three most logical choices and all three failed to address the situation? And right now the State Administration and Veterans Affairs Interim Committee is trying to determine who has the authority to oversee the office?

Don’t you think Montana should of had these things figured out? There’s so much to say about what is wrong with what Adams’ lays out in his article, I don’t know where to begin. Luckily, I’m tired as it’s been a long day and tomorrow’s another. I do love winter.

It’s easy to get caught up in all the soap opera scene of this situation. It’s also pretty childish to immediately start a defense by making accusations of political motivations against Adams. Given his history for accuracy, quite frankly, it be best for most of the parties involved that this die a quick death.

It’s a sad state of affairs when rather than address the issues of oversight of the chief political oversight office in this state, we’re more concerned with the motivations behind the whistleblowers who attempted to seek compliance with what is – afterall – state law.

When accusations are thrown against a reporter when none of the facts have been called into question.

And guess what? With some oversight of the office, Dave Gallik might have still been in office today. Had any one of the three offices that the office staff contacted with their allegations had then contacted Gallik and reminded him of state policies, he might have taken a different path.

One nagging question I have? Was Gallik told that he could do his private practice and rental property work from his state office? I’m guessing SAVA will eventually figure that out?

~~~~~~~

A number of people around the Montana blogosphere have also written this story up. Don Pogreba has a couple of posts now (I actually missed his first post), and here is Don’s piece on Gallik’s resignation.

James Conner – who, really, all of you should be reading – has two posts up, one on Improving Montana’s commission on political practices and another The Political Practices mess.

Jack the Blogger also kicks in with his analysis of the mess of the office, first having called on Gallik to resign, and today with his assessment of the ineffective mess that is the Office Of Political Practices.

ALSO, Gregg Smith over at Electric City Weblog had this analysis of the situation and how it correlates with past allegations by the GOP. He also has a quick take on the resignation that undoubtedly has some truth to it, even though he admits it to being entirely speculatory.

Finally, Montana Watchdog, a conservative newsource for state politics, has a few posts also. Here’s Phil Drake’s piece on Gallik’s resignation.

by jhwygirl

A picture is worth only so much. An endorsement from Citzen United’s Political Victory Fund will be worth a whole lot more.

Apparently Denny Rehberg got that endorsement today after a lovely lunch with lots of corporate lobbyists looking on:

That’s David Bossie, president of Citizen’s United, there with Rehberg.

Let it not be said Rehberg doesn’t support unlimited corporate money in politics. Taking an endorsement from the chief money prostitute in politics is about as disgusting as it could get.

Citizen’s United, you may recall, won a landmark decision at the United States Supreme Court about a year and a half ago which concluded corporate political donations could not be limited by the 2002 McCain-Feingold Act.

Public outcry over this decision has been huge. There are calls for a constitutional amendment to limit spending – like here and here. Public polling is overwhelmingly in opposition to the decision.

Another org, People for the American Way are taking on the issue – and former Attorney Generals and other prominent lawyers around the nation submitted this letter to congress prior to hearings held last year to investigate into corporate spending and what the Citizen’s United SCOTUS case would mean.

Hell, even former gubernatorial candidate, Republican Bob Brown has spoken out on the evils of corporate money influence in politics.

Montanans should find Denny’s friendly embrace with Citizen’s United even more offensive. Anyone with rudimentary knowledge of Montana’s history – or anyone that’s seen the classic movie Mr. Smith Goes to Washington which based on one of Montana’s own Copper Kings, Sen. William Clark, who bought himself a senate seat that the U.S. Senate refused to seat – should find this utterly offensive.

Citizen’s United is a direct affront to Montana’s own Constitution. In 1912, citizens here in Montana united against the Copper King corruption in Helena and passed several citizen’s initiatives directed at quashing corporate influence in state politics.

It’s a fascinating history. All the makings of a soap opera with corruption and scandal and lots of money all thrown in for extra measure.

More recent history puts Montana and center at this issue – Attorney General Steve Bullock was called on to testify at at those senate hearings I mentioned above. This link will take you to a video of his testimony, while this link will take you to his written statement submitted at that hearing.

Rehberg’s a corporate whore. We can officially and unequivocally add that to his list of endearing qualities. Others of which include Homophobe and Elitist.

~~
Those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it – Edmund Burke, 1729-1797

by jhwygirl

Let me clarify that I mean Missoulians and Bozemanites are slacking, but not for lack of signature gatherers. People – you need to stop and sign these petitions (the eminent domain one too) when you see them!

Just about every b’birder here took the legislature to task on SB423 this past session – as did Montanafesto – the bill otherwise known as the Medical Marijuana reform Repeal bill.

The bill authored, incidentally, by Sen. Jeff Essmann who recently announced he will be entertaining a run for Governor…which had been written here back in early June.

Montanafesto carried on the cause, and has been working on signature gathering for a repeal of SB423 – Initiative Referendum 124.

On of the most obnoxious things about the so-called Marijuana Reform bill of the last legislative session was that it repealed a 2004 Citizen’s Initiative which assured medical marijuana for patients here in Montana.

Let’s be clear about how obnoxious this unconstitutional SB423 is – a judge has already placed an injunction halting implementation of most of it.

Collecting signatures for IR124 has been a bit harder than expected – though the training required for all signature gatherers has paid off with a high percentage of valid signatures. Intimidation and arrests of caregivers has cut down access for patients, which in turn has reduced the number of signatures gathered.

Who’s leading the pack on signatures? Yellowstone County. A bit shocking considering Missoula is supposedly filled with a bunch of pot-smoking hippy activists who will organize for anything.

Signature gathering ends September 30th.

The Montana Cannabis Industry Association is the lead group pursuing the lawsuit which has resulted in the injunction which has all but halted implementation of SB423….and they are in need of funding to continue to fight the appeal the State has made of that decision.

Shame on Bullock and Governor Schweitzer for wasting taxpayer money pursuing such an unconstitutional bill that has ignored a recent and overwhelmingly approved Citizen’s Initiative .

So if you can help out with a donation, hit this link or put a check in the mail to their address here.

You can also use that last link to contact MTCIA for information on where signatur gatherers will be across the state. I’m kinda hoping they might add to the comments here – Labor Day Weekend, I’m sure there’s lots of events where petition gatherers will be active.

by jhwygirl

Got a press release from Northern Plains Resource Council yesterday announcing Forest Mars, Jr.’s buy-in to the Tongue River railroad, which is needed to transport the dirty filthy coal of Otter Creek from Montana to China.

Later, I went and read my favorite supermontanareporter John S. Adams’ blog MT Lowdown and found a thorough report – with handouts – on the Mars/Warren Buffett/Arch Coal purchase deal on the dirty coal railroad.

Seems Mars – who had been fighting the railroad across his lands in the Tongue River – has purchased 1/3 into the railroad with a deal that would re-route it across Montanans to the east.

Mars had been one of the highest profile landowners fighting the impending eminent domain proceedings to place that railroad.

Of course – and you have to read MT Lowdown – Forrest Mars, Jr. is framing himself the saviour of the Tongue River Valley and he’s notified Northern Plains Resource Council of his decision to cease funding of legal challenges to the railroad.

Nice.

What I find in life is that karma is hard to avoid. So while Mars thinks he’s bought his freedom from that railroad crossing his ranch, his ranch lies in the path of the connection Wyoming needs to cheaply take their coal to china. And as state Attorney General laid out in his “NAY” vote to Otter Creek, Wyoming is all too eager to move their coal through to Montana to get it on the main BN line on its way to China.

Read Bullock’s words carefully. Understand the poor economic decisions made by leasing Otter Creek at a hugely discounted pro-coal industry price. the corporate welfare give-away that it is. Wyoming producers are not going to let go of $100 million a year in savings by saying bye-bye to a railroad that would save them that much money. Each year.

~~~~
I’m going to have to start a new category here. Something like “Colonization of Montana”. I just went and looked at some of our previous posts on Otter Creek and eminent domain. Should make anyone sick to their stomach.

I said this back when the Governor signed that eminent domain bill into law back in May – It is the rise of the ghosts of the Copper Kings. It will be a turning point in our history, just as the sale of Montana Power..

Remember that Montanans. We appear to have forgotten our history. I assure you, the next few years and court battles will remind us how fateful that misstep was.

by jhwygirl

A crime has occurred in our great state along the mighty Yellowstone River. There are private landowners affected by this spill – their property has been trashed, and to what degree of damage has yet to be known.

These landowners could use your assistance. Apparently, state officials are referring Montana citizens to Exxon’s help line.

It seems to me that the state would want to hear all they can about this violation on our major waterway? Isn’t there some sort of state investigation that is going to ensue?

Beyond that, you should be well aware of Exxon’s record of safety issues and their less-than-thorough clean-up efforts both in Valdez and the Gulf. The fishing industry of both of those disasters would undoubtedly send Montana a very strong warning about trusting Exxon to clean-up.

So please Mr. Attorney General – please make sure that landowners along the Yellowstone River and irrigation users that may be miles and miles away from their intakes on the Yellowstone have their concerns documented properly (so that Exxon doesn’t go screwing them like they did to the citizens of Alaska and the fishing industry of the Gulf). If the state’s response is that Exxon is heading up the clean-up of its own mess (both literally and legally), they’re sure going to go ahead and repeat the same thing they’ve done elsewhere.

This is an area where you have excelled Mr. Attorney General – holding corporate America responsible.

History does have a purpose. It’s a good harbinger of what happens if we do the same thing as before. Let’s hope Montana doesn’t have to suffer the same ‘clean-up’ results of Alaska and the Gulf. Exxon needs oversight, not just emergency efforts (though that is certainly priority at this time) – Exxon needs oversight to keep them from covering up any damages that busy evacuated landowners might not have time to document.

In closing, please hear the words of Alexis Bonogofsky describing the devastation on her ranch adjacent to the Yellowstone River to the Billings Gazette. If this doesn’t break a Montanan’s heart, I don’t know what would:

by jhwygirl

Please consider this an open thread.

A new study shows that the death penalty costs $300 million per person.

The main drug used in lethal injection is no longer in production in the U.S. That means that no state can obtain the drug legally. (with a hat tip to Steve Dogiakos)

If you haven’t read this piece, you should. From Time Magazine’s political blog Swampland, it’s an indepth look at Montana’s Tea Party. The piece is recent – June 17th.

So yeah…more national attention on Montana.

Has anyone read Sarah Palin’s InBox yet?

Public Policy Polling has all kinds of polling out on Montana 2012 races. With both a Senate and a Governor’s seat open, there’s lots of national interest.

Must read from The Nation on reimaging our economic future. There’s lot’s to it – a series of articles – but well worthy of bookmarking.

Pogie reports on this weekend’s gathering of the John Birch Society with featured guest Derek Skees. It’s a must read. And do remember – that’s straight-up serious stuff he’s talking about.

Button Valley recently threw down on the economic realities of Arch Coal, one of Montana’s newest raider of taxpayer-owned natural resources. Poor Arch Coal. Thank Goddess the Montana taxpayers were able to subsidize their bid for the state’s schoolchildren’s coal. Corporate coal welfare – what would the industry do without it.

Which reminds me – Steve Bullock for Attorney General. Only.

by jhwygirl

‘Cause I’d find that real funny. Especially given that they titled the thing “An Act Establishing the Montana Marijuana Act” when it established nothing and instead destroyed the 2004 citizen’s initiative that brought medical marijuana to Montana.

Medical marijuana advocates have sued the state, challenging the new law as unconstitutional and without merit to state’s legitimate interests. The judge has said that he is having a problem with several provisions in the bill, and has suggested that may grant the full injunction rather than pick and strike problematic aspects.

This is just emblematic of the ineptitude that results when ideology takes over common sense and the real purpose of legislating, which is service to the public good.

We here at 4&20 have written about SB423 and medical marijuana (just use that nifty search there on the right), but Montanafesto really has taken the lead in the Montana blogosphere regarding medical marijuana – you can certainly read our in-the-moment calls on the lunacy as it happened, but I digress….

If our Attorney General and Governor were to have some service to the public in mind – keeping in mind that the public, in this case, includes people who are dying and could benefit immensely from medical marijuana – perhaps they would start directing the Department of Public Health and Human Services to get to work drafting some rules and policies for the law that was in place prior to this legislative masturbation ideological boondoggle.

Our legislature had THREE chances at writing laws to reign in what they really hated, which was the commercialization and industrialization of medical marijuana and its associated dispensaries. They ignored the pleadings of law enforcement and city and county governments, all the while the state government having the ability to introduce rules and policies directed at implement the intent of the original law.

Now’s the time to get at it. Medical marijuana advocates should be advocating for it, just like vote-seekers like Bullock and Bozeman’s Larry Jent.

I will not let this opportunity pass without mentioning that all this lawsuit stuff over an unconstitutional law is costing the taxpayers dearly – and if, indeed, this law is struck down as unconstitutional, the taxpayers will indeed pick up a huge tab in legal bills for the medical marijuana advocates.

And if this medical marijuana bill is having this kind of difficulty you can bet your next paycheck that there are a bevvy of other bills out there that became law that will meet the same future.

It’s starting look like the only jobs created out of the 2011 legislative session were those for attorneys, court reporters and paralegals.

(Addendum: Here’s an example of the repeal talk we’ve gotten from Attorney General Steve Bullock:

(Regarding the judge potentially incinerating the entirety of the 2011 legislature’s medical marijuana repeal law): If that occurs, “the commercial marijuana industry and all the problems associated with it would continue to exist in this state,” according to the legal document from Attorney General Steve Bullock, chief of consumer protection Jim Molloy and Assistant Attorneys General Mark Mattioli and Stuart Segrest.

This is simply not true. With all the supplier-end problems – capitalism gone wild, if you will – that have occurred in the last 3 years, no state agency (or even the Attorney General’s office) has stepped forward to write administrative rules to address the issue in a manner consistent and within the parameters of the original citizen’s initiative.

Repeal of this last legislative session’s bill leaves us with the citizen’s initiative law. There’s still plenty of ways to address the problems that have surfaced in recent years – none of which were the cause of cancer patients, and all of which were the result of the supply end of the situation.

Montana’s government failed its citizens. Time to fix that and do the right thing Steve Bullock.

by jhwygirl

Word is that Sen. Jeff Essmann is preparing to add his name to the pile – and I do mean pile – of Montana Republicans seeking to the GOP gubernatorial nomination.

His soon-to-be entry brings the number of candidates on the GOP side up to a 6-count: Rick Hill (who will quickly reduced to “Rick who?” after Essmann’s entry); former state senator Ken Miller (going for a second shot after losing to Bob Brown in a 2004 run for the GOP nomination); Cory Stapleton, another former state senator; Neil Livingstone, some sort of national security I-don’t-know-what; and Jim O’Hara, a Choteau County Commissioner.

Essmann’s fame of late is authoring the medical marijuana repeal bill that Governor Schweitzer allowed to lapse into law. He met recently with medical marijuana advocates, and apparently it didn’t go over too well.

Democrats have two declared candidates: Sen. Dave Wanzenried of Missoula and DINO Sen. Larry Jent of Bozeman. Jent was quite the advocate for repeal, and in fact much has been said behind closed doors of his and as-of-yet undeclared Attorney General Steve Bullock involvement in the state-wide raids that still remain without indictment (while leaving behind dozens of damaged commercial properties.)

I’ve got a number of reasons for why I don’t want Bullock to run, but one I’ll put out there is that the AG office is pretty important and Steve has worked towards seeking beneficial solutions for Montana consumers.

Incumbency has advantages and energy and funds should be funneled prudently.

In other words – wait until 2016.

For me, I’m going with Wanzenried. I’ve been a fan for some time. He’s fiscally prudent and practicle. Wanzenried knows how to work across the aisle, and he’s gained a tremendous amount of respect from all sides of everything up there in Helena.

Wanzenried is also one of the hardest-working senators this state has, and his experience on the legislative side could go a long way. One of the larger errors of Schweitzer’s administration is his lack of active productive participation in the legislative process, especially when it starts getting all haywire. This session could have used some guidance instead of showboating – which, while showy and great for the camera really did nothing more than throw more divisiveness into the already toxic mix.

You simply don’t see Wanzenried playing into that. He’ll discuss issues with analysis and a presentation of the issues. That’s the kind of leadership I want to see.

Most recently, Sen. Wanzenried has stepped up front-and-center rallying against HB198, this last session’s abomination “Eminent Domain Bill” which hands private property taking rights to private corporations. Wanzenried’s also successfully pushed through the senate a bill to abolish the death penalty the last two sessions, only to have it die in the House.

In fact, I’m still wanting to write up Wanzenried’s statement on that ugly bill – and I WILL get to it one day. Sen. Wanzenried was the only Senator of the Missoula delegation to vote against HB198. (As for the house delegation, Rep. Ellie Hill was the sole Missoula rep. to maintain a “NO” vote for HB198.)

Want to get an idea of the name recognition and early polling on Montana’s 2012 election? Jack the Blogger over at Western World has some stats on the 2012 races in a post from back in February.

Footnote: When is the SOS going to update for the 2012 election? The list of candidates is still from the 2010.The SOS office can’t register candidates until January 1st, which answers my question.

by jhwygirl

Eminent domain has been something that our Governor Brian Schweitzer wants addressed.

What he and a whole bunch of others in both the legislature and in Canada and elsewhere want is for the Montana-Alberta Tie Limited (MATL) to be able to build its line where they want to build it. Meaning that Canadian company Tonbridge Power, Inc. needs to be able to condemn private property for the many that are standing in the way.

Wasn’t there an outcry back in 2005 over Kelo v. New London? In that case it was one homeowner.

Aren’t there whole skyscrapers built around little houses in NYC?

It seems to me this is capitalism and the free market at its finest. There’s a ranch owner up near Choteau that doesn’t want the lines going through a particular area on his property. Tonbridge is a private company. They don’t have the power of eminent domain. Eminent domain is for public uses. Tonbridge just wants to move its power from Alberta to Colorado and California.

Shouldn’t the private company then deal in the true free market?

Offer him more money. At some point, it’s either going to be cost effective or not. Then you move the line.

And I understand what that means – but that’s the free market. Embrace it, baby!

The Montana GOP is floating a new proposal. Remember, there’s a whole bunch of people that want this thing, not just Schweitzer, not just Tonbridge, not just Northwestern Energy, (who also wants to be able to condemn for its Mountain States Transmission Intertie (MSTI), and not just some Democrats.

The original bill, HB198 , was truly bipartisan creation..

Sen. Essmann, from Billings, has an amendment that would not allow condemnation of “collector” lines from smaller energy sources (say, a wind farm here in Montana?)…but would still bring the straight line of authority and loss/benefit between the private property (Tonbridge or Northwestern Energy).

The idea that the the state would not want to step in on this issue like is astounding.

Further, this opens a key to corporate interests picking the shortest most profitable line. Plan first, takings later. Guaranteed.

Essmann’s proposal, frankly, ensures that we’ll have tons of lines crossing the landscape and no planned consolidation which would make investment significantly easier and reducing impact on Montana’s greatest resource (and I shouldn’t have to say what that is).

The solution needs to eliminate that direct authority of private interests over private property and the individual Montanan.

There also has to be some true public benefit. not a handful of jobs.

One of these days – and especially after this session – someone’s going to count all the jobs, who they went to (brought in from out-of-state?) and what they did (my bet is that we end up with a whole bunch of attorneys, judges and copy stores).

Alas – those darned Montanans and their crazy property rights ethic. They take offense to handing over eminent domain powers to private corporations. I don’t know that it matters much that they’re from Canada..or that the people, benefiting from the power line are in California and Colorado.

And Canada too, I guess.

What Montanans don’t want to see is an open door for a private entity to come in and decide that they want to profit off of what many have called the west’s breadbasket of wind and have the feds authorizing lines with no regard to whether the private property owner or the locally and state-level elected authorities approve of the thing.

This reversion to and embracing of Montana colonialism astounds me. We’re prostituting ourselves with the state’s resources that are not unlimited.

Coal? Otter Creek, we gave that away. Oil & gas? Nowthey’ll be drilling first and then doing an environmental review.

Even these powerlines. While advocates for allowing a private corporation to condemn private property for their own private interests gain cry “this is for green energy” their calls are fake. Aside from the particular facts of MATL, the issue isn’t what it carries – it’s the power it gives to private entities.

Tonbridge and Northwestern Energy are ramping up pressure. Northwestern recent filed an amicus brief in the current case in Tonbridge’s appeal of a lower court which ruled that eminent domain authority only rests with the state. Teton County’s Choteau Acantha has the fullest reporting I’ve seen on this.

Concerned Citizens Montana is a website formed by those not supporting eminent domain ability for private companies, and it has an aggregate of information from many places.

Will the legislature hand over private property takings rights to private entities?

Let’s hope some true conservative libertarian sense reigns.

by jhwygirl

Otter Creek is never going to get mined. All Arch Coal wants is to be able to run a railroad through it, to get it to the port it owns a third of. to export the stuff to China.

That is, please note, the second port agreement for Arch is less than a month.

If that isn’t colonialism, I don’t know what is.

We’re waving traffic flags for $10/hour for Korean-built drilling equipment for China….and we’re condemning state federal and private property for a railroad to get it there.

Nice.

State Attorney General Steve Bullock talked about the economics of the bonus payment in relation to the amount of money that Arch will save immediately by shipping its coal across Montana with the railroad it’d be building (via eminent domain) in the Tongue River Basin. His staff researched that information pretty thoroughly.

How is that for an example of fine government coal subsidy on the backs of the taxpayers of Montana?

And keep in mind that Montana’s coal isn’t the quality of stuff that Wyoming has. That’s fact.

That $80 million so-called “bonus bid”? Nothing more than shush money to members of both parties for paving the way to a situation that has brought about ridiculous destructive environmental legislation in the name of “jobs”.

What’s even more hilarious is that the feds are complicit in this – the federal Surface Transportation Board has already approved the route and has told Montana (translate, so no one misses it: State’s Rights) Fish Wildlife & Parks to figure things out over the route that crosses a federally-funded sturgeon fishery.

Someone’s getting rich. It won’t be Montanan’s, you can bet on it.

Follow the money.

by jhwygirl

His “Steve Bullock for AG” facebook page was recently changed to “Steve Bullock“.

An address was also added.

Interesting timing to remove the “for AG” part, don’tcha think?

by jhwygirl

Capital reporter Mike Dennison is up with a story tonight on the Missoulian State Bureau’s request for a list of all legislators who have signed up for medical benefits – you know, those benefits paid for by state government?

For three weeks now he’s been waiting for a reply from Senate leadership (GOP) and Dennison is reporting that ” the Legislature has denied a request from the Missoulian State Bureau for the names, citing advice from its chief attorney that privacy rights overrule the public’s right to know the names of lawmakers signing up for the benefits.”

Them’s pretty strong words.

He goes on to write: “Jessica Sena, spokeswoman for Senate Republicans, said leadership had considered releasing the information, in response to the Missoulian State Bureau request, but that legal staff had advised that the disclosure would violate federal rules on privacy of medical information.”

I’m guessing that the legal staff he refers to there is not party-associated Republican legal staff.

And interwove in all there is a bill proposed by Sens. Anders Blewett of Great Falls and Kendall Van Dyk of Billings that would disclose which legislators who have signed up for medical benefits from the state.

128 of 150 legislators are signed up for medical benefits. 40 of which are using them to supplement their own benefits.

I’m far more interested in a legal opinion that is claiming some sort of medical confidentiality over the release of state expenditures? Where does the line stop there towards the right of the citizens to know?

Republicans in Helena want fuller micro-accounting transparency on the budget, yet they don’t want the citizens to know what they’re paying for?

No one’s asking for doctor bills or dental xrays.

Boy. Now, if I were Democratic leadership, I’d be releasing a list tomorrow morning of all the Democratic representatives that are taking health benefits. I’d include a huge thank you to the citizens of the state.

And in the meantime, maybe a citizen should appeal on the Attorney General on the whether there is some sort of privacy right involved here. While attorneys for all other agencies (and even county attorneys) work for the AG, the legislative side is an independent branch of government.

I’d sure like to know what Bullock has to say.

by jhwygirl

Montana’s resident gun nut and lunatic lobbyist had his lawsuit against the U.S. government dismissed this afternoon for what was basically a lack of standing.

See, Marbut and his Montana Shooting Sports Association tried to sue the federal government for relief from something that hadn’t happened. See, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms had yet to stop Montana from NOT regulating something that it doesn’t regulate already.

Get this circular logic?

See, Marbut successfully (so note that, people – HB246 passed a majority in the evenly split state house (84-14) and a majority in the Republican-controlled senate…and Governor Schweitzer signed the thing into law) lobbied a bill through the last legislative session that exempted Montana built guns from federal regulation.

So Montana legislators passed a bill and our Governor Schweitzer signed that bill into law that said that guns made in the state of Montana were not subject to federal law.

Make sense? A state passing a law saying it isn’t subject to federal law?

Pretty soon, one of these Einstein’s are going to want to secede from the Union….history be damned.

How we’re going to ensure that these guns stay in Montana? Don’t think that’s of consequence to Montana and its taxpayers? It will be once some gun manufacturer sells a gun to someone out of state or sells it to someone who takes the thing out of Montana. So the taxpayers will be paying Bullock and his staff to defend the thing once the feds try and enforce their regulations.

Awesome, huh?

You wonder why all the escaped convicts run here? Wonder why we have all those crazy doomsday groups here? Nazis?

And you can damned well bet Marbut considers himself a conservative. Spending taxpayer money to defend his political agenda follies.

Consider, too, the irony of him having to file in federal court. Kinda makes me laugh – him filing a suit without standing in federal court, asking the feds to basically give him legitimacy.

Gotta love that.

~~~~~
Want to learn more about Marbut and Joel Boniek (the sponsor the bill mentioned above)? Check out this previous post which includes a YouTube video of Marbut and Boniek’s appearance on Fox News w/Glenn Beck.

Wonder if ol’ Glenn Beck and Fox News will cover this dismissal?

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.

by jhwygirl

…in this post, I’d have to head to the first paragraph in this comment – and I’d take it as a cynical assessment of the problem: We can’t afford to jail them all, and the suspended sentences are a joke.

And so therein I agree with Carol Missoulapolis.

And maybe I’m stretching it, but I’m not doing it to intentionally misinterpret.

Whether she agrees with this, I don’t know – but the problem doesn’t start with the arrest, it starts with the culture that thinks it’s OK to get behind the wheel after having a few. I’ve found it to be ingrained in rural culture, and goes back to ranchers driving for hours across dirt roads on hot summer days and never seeing a thing. It’s the mentality that comes with that, which is the same mentality that fought the need to buckle in their kids or have a cold one in one hand and the steering wheel in the other.

The problem comes in when these people are killing other people. There’s no excuse for a government that allows that. The tragedies are frequent. It’s March 31st. How many DUI deaths to date?

Point is, no amount of penalty is going to get at the growing heart of the matter – there are more and more people all the time and therefore there are more and more people on the road that continue to think that drinking and driving is OK.

The best thing jail does is keeps someone off the road for a while – the worse it does is it jails them for what was more likely a non-violent arrest (non-accident also), exposes them to violent offenders, loss of job, disruption and then subsequent downfall. Not productive.

Focus has to be made on changing behavior. Should be starting that stuff in high school. Back in my day they’d drag that twisted truck out there to the front lawn of the high school on the busiest front street and leave it there for 4 or 5 weeks for everyone to see every day on their way to school. And for all the other visiting kids to see on a couple of Friday nights with football or basketball or wrestling. I didn’t get through my high school years without seeing (including “away” events) probably a dozen examples.

Makes it hard to romanticize a life lost when it happened in a big hunk of twisted metal. Flowers and teddy bears and tv cameras might seem all sad, but they don’t stick around as long as those vehicles did out there on the lawn.

A couple weeks back I wrote about AG Steve Bullock’s program to reduce multiple DUI’s that he is kicking off in Lewis & Clark County. That’s one way to get tough on actual offenders….clearly, jail isn’t working and it’s expensive It’s expensive for the state…it’s expensive for the person jailed. If having 1 or 2 full-time people around to take the twice-daily bac and administer the program is more effective and cheaper than therapy and jail, let’s get after it.

Next month, in fact, the Law and Justice Interim Committee is meeting to discuss Bullock’s initiative along with the model program in South Dakota. There’s attachments at that link that the legislators will be discussing.

Has the legislature…has the state… ever seriously tried to address the issue? Well….it’s 2010, and when I read stories like this I can’t help but shake my head to realize just how very little we’ve come from the days of the Anaconda Copper Kings and their influence in Helena.

In this case (if you clicked that last link), we’ve got state government writing legislation for the benefit of the body corporate….

But such is the state of Montana. For now. But unlike the cynics that inspired this post, this cynic thinks that the legislature is not going to get away with skulking out some pro-alcohol vote on the floor. Not in 2011.

The entire state will be watching.

by jhwygirl

A timely post, given that the corporate welfare 15 cent bid (or bids) for the Otter Creek coal tracts were announced late Monday.

Below are Attorney General Steve Bullock’s comments at the February hearing where the Land Board (in a 3-2 vote, with Bullock and Superintendent of the Office of Public Instruction Denise Juneau voting no) lowered the bid price from 25 cent/ton to 15 cent/ton, a 40% reduction.

Governor, my colleagues – this is certainly a decision that’s received its share of attention and I think that often the loss of the arguments both for and against – and it always doesn’t fit into a two-minute news story – are the requirements that the Constitution imposes upon us as Land Board members.

This isn’t a policy decision like a legislator can make for or against continued development of coal. And it’s not like the decision to sell off a piece of surplus property. Montana Supreme Court has said that we have a duty to the public that goes beyond that of the ordinary business man. The courts have also said that the Land Board must get full market value – the largest measure of legitimate advantage – for any property that we lease or sell.

When I voted in December to lease Otter Creek I said that I’ll support the project if it’s done right…and doing it in a manner consistent with our Constitutional duties carries with it in my mind at least three considerations: First, the coal must be leased and developed in a way that follows our environmental laws and includes continued oversight by this board. Second, the lease must maximize the benefit to the trust as the Constitution requires, and third – that Montana taxpayers shouldn’t be footing the bill for a railroad that benefits coal and power companies.

I don’t believe that lowering the bid price to 15 cents per ton or monkeying with royalty payments fulfills that obligation to maximize the benefit to the state treasury. And I think it’s easy to think that all we’re talking about today when we’re talking about the difference between 25 cents and 15 cents per ton for a bonus bid is one thin dime.

The drop in our bonus bid of 10 cents will cost the state $57 million. That’s $57 million dollars.

This 10 cent reduction will cost the treasury about the amount generated by every timber sale this board approved over the last 5 years.

Even in these tough times, Montana’s budget is in a stronger position than just about every other state because we’ve been fiscally conservative. Unloading the coal with a bonus bid that’s a fraction of what our neighbors are charging isn’t’ consistent with that fiscal responsibility that we’ve shown.

And it certainly, in my estimation, doesn’t meet the Constitutional obligations to maximize the amount of money we return to the state treasury.

And as the board is looking and considering to lower the bidder royalty to make this more attractive for the coal developers I don’t think that we can do that without acknowledging that we will be funding the Tongue River Railroad. I’ve said since the beginning that what I don’t want to see is Montana taxpayers footing the bill for a railroad to get coal and energy companies a windfall. And I’ve also said that were the railroad in place I think everyone would agree that we’d be getting more for this lease than what Arch has so-far signaled that it is willing to pay.

I’ve asked rail economists to independently analyze this..and provided that to the Board and they concluded that the Wyoming-originated coal will save $2.83/ton in shipping costs if this railroad is completed.

While we’re debating whether to reduce our bonus bid by another 10 cents a ton, Wyoming shippers will be getting a discount of 28 times that if the railroad is completed. And while we’re talking about reducing the amount to our treasury by $57 million, this review shows that a railroad in the Tongue River can save existing coal mines and power companies potentially well over $100 million each and every year.

I just don’t think that in these tough economic times Montana taxpayers should be asked to effectively be bailing out multi-national coal and energy companies. That’s not the state’s role.

Now – there will be a time when this project makes sense and I think there will be a bidder that will be willing to pay full market value for the right to develop this resource. And as members of the Land Board that at that time we do have a Constitutional obligation to lease that land. Until then, I don’t think that we need to have a fire sale. I will be voting against the motion to reduce the bonus bid from 25 to 15 cents.

After which the room broke out in applause.

Bullock’s decision was not easy. It showed. Saying the things he said contradicts much of what the proponents of the leases (on both sides of the table) had said.

Doing the right thing should not be so hard. Insider politics makes doing the right thing hard. I hope Bullock has seen the support that has stuck to him his decision to do the right thing.

I know I will remember. Thank you Denise – Thank you Steve.

by jhwygirl

An interesting news release from state Attorney General Steve Bullock, given the current discussion here in Missoula surrounding the same issue: Drinking Under the Influence.

The City of Helena and Lewis & Clark County, along with Bullock are instituting a program that will require 2nd or subsequent DUI to submit to a breathalyzer twice a day, 7 days a week. I suspect it lasts as long as the usual suspended sentences. A year?

I’m pretty sure blowing a breathalyzer twice a day would be a major pain in the ass, especially if you lost your license the second time around. Quite a dish of punishment.

I’ve personally known in my lifetime less than a handful of people that have gotten one DUI. Now – one of those had repeated DUI’s. He just was, frankly, not going to be stopped. Even after jail time. But the rest of those people? One time, and that was it.

Missoula resident Colleen McDowdall, of Worden, Thane (and also former county attorney) had an interesting comment in the very lengthy thread of discussion regarding councilperson Dave Strohmaier’s anti-DUI proposal.

The Indy covered the city’s proposal, most recently, from a civil libertarian point of view.

You can scroll down from this link and read the whole thread. I must admit, I don’t know where the proposal sits since this last story from Keila Szpaller at the Missoulian.

The Indy covered the city’s proposal, most recently, from a civil libertarian point of view.

Repeat DUI’s are clearly an issue here in Montana. 4th and 5th – even 7th DUI’s are not unheard of..and I dare say you won’t go a week in this state without some front page story regarding some DUI related accident or some multiple DUI charge.

I will say, aside from the reminders all around me about not drinking and driving – and my one repeat-offender friend in particular – I really would be unhappy with myself to have to spend my hard earned cash hiring an attorney and all that over stuff.

McDowdall is right about a change in thinking needing to occur – and the Boise example that she uses is probably the toughest example of punishment/deterrent from an 1st time DUI that I’ve ever heard. I guarantee that one or two people in your circle of friends (young college age or whenever) get a DUI and have to face that kind of penalty, drinking and driving practices would change for both you and most of your friends.

I laud the city’s attempt to address the issue. Should the county join together – you betcha – but also, don’t hold your breath. I’ve never seen a more skillful group of politicians able to accomplish so minuscule a number of truly policy-oriented tasks. For decades.

(Following continues into a rant that goes completely off topic from the main post)

Zoning? The Seeley Area Plan has been in hearings for what? 3 years? The County Commission had been on schedule for zoning (which they had promised to follow immediately, but now even that seems to be pulling back) for last year. Here we are a year later. But they’ve an easy scapegoat in Plum Creek. I say make the decision and let Plum Creek show how big and bad it wants to be. I doubt they’d do that, otherwise they’d have massive public outcry at every single subdivision that comes before the County Commission on any piece of what is currently Plum Creek Land. Who wants to face that when zoning give’s them a guarantee?

It’s clear – don’t expect guts from that Commission to make a decision.

Which, BTW, is anybody going to file for County Commission? Besides Bill Carey? There’s not one person out there that doesn’t think they can do a better job? Maybe someone who thinks that they can do more to bring better economic development? Instead of the “write letters to the judge and ask them to keep it open” approach to the Smurfit Stone closure?

Candidate, candidate, where are you? Come out, come out – wherever you are. {{clicking heels three times}}

by jhwygirl

Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock announced a settlement last week with pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly over its off-label marketing for the anti-psychotic drug Zyprexa.

Of the $13 million the state will receive, $9.5 million will be used for a trust designed to provide grants across the state for for crisis intervention services; training and education for law enforcement personnel and health care officers; funding for patients transitioning to independent living environments; children’s mental health programs; and peer-to-peer services. The Helena Independent reports that it is supposed to be spent by 2012, but that Bullock says that it’s “not a hard and fast rule.”

AG Bullock also extracted an agreement with Eli Lilly to undertake business reforms to prevent false, misleading or deceptive advertising and promotions.

Ravalli County Attorney George Corn lauded the settlement:

“It’s a minimum five-hour trip to (the state hospital in) Warm Springs. This grant allows local communities to develop facilities and nonprofit organizations to help people suffering from a mental health crisis stay in their communities. That’s so much more humane and so much less traumatic.”

The article points out that 45,000 people in the state suffer from a severe, disabling mental illness at some point in their life. That’s one out of every five families.

Here in Missoula, City Council has discussed the lack of funds and resources (i.e., doctors and councilors, beds that used to be held at St. Pat’s) to properly address the mental health issues here in both the city and the county. Without property facilities, incidents that might benefit from mere medical facilities are relegated to the detention center where the potential for escalation can compound the matter.

Before there’s a big grab at this money, I hope that advocates can come together and assess needs and perhaps look at using these funds in a regional manner where multiple communities are able to efficiently access and utilize the resources. Can a facility or resources be centrally located to serve multiple communities? Can some sort if internship program be created to assist with increasing the long-term availability of councilors? Where needs in certain communities are lesser, can a traveling councilor program help?

What do I know? Let’s have a plan for that $9.5 million, though, before we go passing out checks. That’s all.

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.




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