When I was campaigning in House District 67 last year, I had one woman tell me she would never vote for a Democrat because she didn’t want the government telling her what to do. I felt this woman had already judged me because I was running as a Democrat. It is really sad that “politics” are becoming so polarized that civilized individuals of differing views cannot sit respectfully in a normal conversation and find issues of mutual interest and concern.
I grew up in a strong Republican household. I’m talking about Republicans who cared about conservation and knew that you had to take care of the land so that it would take care of you. This household valued water, because the livestock needed clean water free from contaminants to thrive. So you see, this person really did not take a chance to get to know me. Perhaps if I had not been judged so harshly, we could have had a conversation.
When Congress started the 114th session, within the first 24 hours, a rule was passed that would not allow for the reallocation of the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSD-I) and Social Security Old Age Trust accounts. This has been done 11 times since 1950 without any issue.
Currently, 12.4 percent (6.2 percent employer, 6.2 percent employee) of a person’s wages go into FICA. Of this 1.8 percent goes into the Disability Insurance Trust Fund and the remainder goes into the Old Age Trust Fund. Reallocation means that for a period of two years, 2.8 percent would go into the Disability Insurance Trust. After two years, it reverts back to 1.8 percent. This would balance both funds and they would be able to make full payments through 2033. If this reallocation does not happen, at the end of 2016, every single person who receives SSD-I will take a 20 percent cut in their payment.
This is harmful to the most vulnerable in our state. These payments are modest and very difficult to get. Typically, it takes three tries to be accepted. I know two individuals who are on SSD-I who receive help from their parents because they cannot afford to pay for essentials. I’m sure there are more people in this situation. Imagine decreasing already stressed budgets by 20 percent. How many will be forced to decrease their prescription drugs, re-use disposable medical equipment and become susceptible to additional illness or disability?
In Montana, the public’s testimony has been falling on deaf ears. Perhaps with a little more time, our congressional leaders in Washington will do the right thing and allow a reallocation in Social Security. Please contact your congressmen and ask them to change this. Allow the reallocation so that people living in poverty won’t be hurt even more.
I want to thank Sen. [Jon] Tester for his recent votes to expand Social Security, refuse cuts to Social Security and allow legally married same-sex couples to be afforded equal access to Social Security Benefits. I would also like to point out that not a single Republican voted yes on any of these amendments.
Virjeana “Jeannie” Brown
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 14:02
On July 7, the Gazette opined that Congress should address real problems, not Obamacare. Amen to that, but the Gazette’s four priorities - budget, transportation, military resources and job growth - are inextricable from (unmentioned) climate change.
Most climate scientists, 97 percent, tell us that the evidence shows climate change is already upon us, and is caused by fossil-fuel emissions. Wildfires, drought, floods and storms are busting emergency and infrastructure budgets.
Climate change contributes to geopolitical instability, as the military has warned in its most recent assessment. Economic damage, especially in agriculture, imposes costs and is worst in poor countries. Future generations will have the transportation and energy systems we start building today, if we start.
Solving these problems means addressing climate change. Citizens Climate Lobby (citizensclimatelobby.org) lobbies Congress to create a Carbon Fee and Dividend, meaning a fee is collected on carbon and proceeds are refunded to all Americans, to offset the additional cost of fuel and products. Because higher income groups use far more fuel, most households would receive more in dividend than the fee costs them.
This is a revenue-neutral market-based plan to reduce carbon emissions. A study, conducted by Regional Economic Models Inc., examining a carbon fee and dividend, found that such a plan would add 2.1 million jobs over 10 years. Improvements in air quality would save 13,000 lives a year.
Climate change and its solutions are intertwined with the Gazette’s problem list and solutions. Everything is connected.
Last Updated on Thursday, 09 July 2015 14:01
Billings car salesman Steve Zabawa, along with Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, seek to overturn Montana’s Medical Marijuana law.
Steve Zabawa has once again had the language approved for a 2016 ballot initiative that seeks to overturn Montana’s medical marijuana program. Mr. Zabawa tried to have Initiative 174 added to the ballot in 2014, but received only about 3,600 of the approximately 25,000 signatures needed to qualify it for the ballot.
Mr. Zabawa is the founder and chairman of Safe Montana, a group that seeks to keep Montanans safe by making it illegal for sick and dying patients to have access to medical marijuana. Mr. Zabawa’s website claims that the “Safety of Montana’s kids and families a top priority” (sic). Mr. Zabawa has no formal medical training, but he seeks to end access to a doctor-recommended plant that helps thousands of sick Montanans.
The other man seeking to overturn Montana’s medical marijuana program is Attorney General Tim Fox. Mr. Fox has filed an appeal seeking to overturn Judge James Reynolds’ permanent injunction banning the most unconstitutional parts of Senate Bill 423, Montana’s current, and heavily contested, medical marijuana law. If Tim Fox is successful in his appeal to the Montana Supreme Court, the medical marijuana program in Montana will end.
Doctors would only be allowed to write recommendations for 25 critically ill patients a YEAR or face a costly investigation by the Montana Board of Medical Examiners. Medical marijuana providers would only be able to grow marijuana for up to three patients and would have to do it for free, as compensation of any kind would be illegal.
Assuming patients could find a doctor to do the recommendation, the only patients who could have access to medical marijuana would be the patients who could grow it for themselves. Leaving about 9,500 patients without access to their medicine. Those are the patients who cannot grow for themselves because of illness, housing or other circumstances.
If the Supreme Court rules against medical marijuana patients and providers, the program would be effectively shut down within a week.
The result would be loss of access to medical marijuana for the patients who choose to use it over addictive and dangerous prescription narcotics. But there will be a thriving black market of unregulated marijuana flowing through Montana from every corner.
These two men, along with the complacent Montana legislature, seek to take away what almost 12,000 Montanans call medicine and send them into a nightmare of prescription drug use that may very well cost some of them their lives.
In 2015, while the rest of the country moves forward on the issue of medical marijuana, Montana alone is in the shameful position of hurting thousands of its own citizens as it seeks to end access to medical marijuana within the state.
Last Updated on Thursday, 25 June 2015 13:28
The 2015 Legislature is past, but of course each session has lasting effects.
The session succeeded in blocking some of the worst effects that might have been. There were several attempts to undermine Montana’s clean water standards. When the session began in January, workers were vainly trying to clean up the Yellowstone River from a pipeline rupture. This spill contaminated drinking water in Glendive and was costly to the community. While Billings may be upstream from Glendive, it is downstream from Laurel, and we have seen pipeline spills in our neck of the woods like the one in 2011 that spilled 63,000 gallons of oil in the Yellowstone.
Rep. Margie MacDonald has fought tirelessly against attempts to roll back safeguards to our clean drinking water. Not only did Rep. MacDonald vote to protect Montana’s rivers and streams, but she also advocated for a bill that would make pipeline safety information more accessible to the public. She advocated for funding to improve infrastructure for clean, safe drinking water, and was a strong advocate for protecting the public from mining pollution.
Rep. Margie MacDonald should be commended for her work on protecting Montana’s clean water. We are fortunate to have such a strong advocate for clean water in the Legislature.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:14
I want to thank Congressman Ryan Zinke for his leadership in Congress, especially his vast knowledge and understanding of Middle East issues.
With a president who seems to be absent and is unwilling to develop a strategy, we need leaders like Congressman Zinke to dissect the ISIS incursion and deliver a cogent message to those of us here in Montana.
Zinke has done a great job of that because he spent many years in Iraq and the surrounding countries, leading our special forces troops during a time of war. It’s refreshing to know that he has America’s security as his top priority, keeping us safe at home, and ensuring the future of our children, grandchildren and nation.
I’m always troubled as the haters continually bash him as he stands up and takes the flak for all Montanans. But he wanted the job, so I have no doubt he can answer their shrill voices and continue to represent all Montanans.
Michael Jennings Sr.
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:13
While campaigning for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court last year, I made several joint appearances with my opponent, Jim Rice. One of the joint appearances took place in Billings. Just as our founders did, I recognize the power of a jury to determine whether a law is fair and just or whether it is being applied in a just manner, particularly in a criminal trial.
My opponent referred to a jury functioning as our founders intended it to function as a “subversion of democracy.” Apparently he believes there is something sacred about democracy. Our founders actually had a fear of democracy. That is why they launched our nation as a constitutional republic.
Several months ago I had the opportunity to speak with a retired Montana Supreme Court justice about the power and function of the jury. His position on this matter mirrored the one taken by my opponent. When I offered to publicly debate him about this, he promptly declined the offer. Though he apparently is a great proponent of democracy, he does not think that Supreme Court justices should have to stand for election.
I would be willing to debate, in public, any current or retired member of the judiciary of Montana regarding this issue of jury function. My contact information is available on my website, www.f4dave4justice.com/.
For liberty and justice for all,
W. David Herbert
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 June 2015 12:12