The Billings Outpost

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Ducking debate disrespectful

I noticed an unfortunate item in the newspaper last week. One of Montana’s nominees for Congress is refusing to debate his opponent. This is not good.

One of my jobs as Montana’s elections chief is to ensure that voters have maximum access to the ballot and that democracy is convenient to them. Part of this means helping citizens be informed.

For example, my office prints the Voter Information Pamphlet that sets out arguments for and against each ballot initiative, which serves as a printed debate forum with arguments written by both sides.

I certainly don’t have the power to arrange debates, but I must take this opportunity to stress their importance. Campaigns in America have become dominated by money, and candidates speak to us mostly through mass media, TV ads and piles of mail. They sometimes do interviews or press conferences or give speeches, these reach the voters only in brief snippets, sound-bites.

Debates are different. They are rare occasions when a candidate can be directly cross-examined by reporters, moderators and even their opponent, in front of a live TV audience. What is said by the candidate is unfiltered and any voter can tune in to watch or listen. It is an adversarial proceeding, almost like a courtroom, which means that a candidate cannot hide or run.

Often times, a candidate will avoid attending debates for strategic reasons.  I have always detested this as an outrageous disservice to voters. I’ve run for office seven times and have never turned down a debate. The congressional debate in Billings must go forward, and the same goes for the U.S. Senate race, the races for Public Service Commission, judicial races, legislative races, County Commission races, and every other political contest in Montana.

Anyone who refuses to debate an opponent at least once (and for statewide races, at least once in each major city), shows a terrible disrespect for voters and democracy.

Linda McCulloch

Secretary of State

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 12:57

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Vote for Democrats

I have a message for hunters and fishermen as well as others who use and enjoy our public land or are engaged in the business of tourism:

Not only has the Republican Party, including candidates for national office, pledged to get rid of our National Forests and other public land, their voting record stinks. Here are some examples of votes that show actions speak louder than campaign ads.

The Dirty Ditch Bill would have destroyed the opportunity to fish or float many streams in Montana. This bill passed the Montana House with 55 votes from Republicans. It was killed in Senate.

Senate Bill 400 would have added 2,000 nonresident big game licenses to the existing 20,000. It passed the Senate with 29 votes. Of those, 27 were Republicans. It was killed in the House. 

Republicans voted to destroy the Habitat Montana Program but that was vetoed by the governor.

Steve Daines opposes the Forest Jobs and Recreation Act developed by a broad sweep of Montana citizens and businesses. This act would be good for our  business economy and  outdoor recreationists.

Democrats are the ones who are on our side in the Legislature and Congress. Republicans such as Steve Daines and Ryan Zinke are still around wanting your vote.

We must elect more Democrats this November, before these Republicans dispose of our public land and turn our wildlife over to wealthy interests.

Mike Penfold


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:17

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Wild and Scenic Rosebud

The East Rosebud valley is one of the most beautiful places in Montana. I remember being astounded when I rolled into this part of the Beartooth Mountains for the first time as a teenager.

In the past couple of years, controversy erupted in that valley after a Bozeman-based company filed for permits with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to put a hydroelectric dam in both the East Rosebud and in its sister stream, the West Rosebud. Locals on the East Rosebud turned out in surprising numbers to fight a dam in their neighborhood and the project was dropped.

East Rosebud Creek is one of several stretches of rivers in Montana that are eligible for Wild and Scenic protection – a federal designation that preserves special rivers from degradation, including damming.

The idea was actually born in Montana. The Craighead twins – famous for their Yellowstone grizzly studies in the ’70s – came up with the idea when the Army Corps of Engineers was planning on putting a dam in the middle fork of the Flathead River near Glacier Park in the ’50s. The idea was not that development of dams was bad, but that they needed to be balanced with setting aside and protecting the best free-flowing rivers.

In 1976, the Missouri River Breaks and the three forks of the Flathead were officially designated as Wild and Scenic. But Montana has apparently forgotten about this idea since then and has not added a single stream, despite its incredible heritage of rivers. This is a shame.

Fortunately, this spring Sen. [John] Walsh introduced a bill to designate 20 miles of East Rosebud as Wild and Scenic. Whether the bill comes from Walsh, [Sen. Jon] Tester or [Rep. Steve] Daines, the truth is that protecting Montana’s free-flowing rivers is not a partisan issue. It’s no accident that a state that produced “A River Runs Through It” also produced the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act. It’s time to remember that and bring the act home to Montana.

Joel Harris


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:16

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Don’t cut voting rights

Women across the state are preparing to vote in the General Election on Nov. 4. Current law secures their right – and the right for every voter - to register and cast a ballot through the close of polls on Election Day. It’s a fundamental liberty that should be secured and protected as we celebrate 100 years of victories in the women’s suffrage movement, and the freedom for all Americans to participate in elections.

On Nov. 3, 1914, Montana voters granted full voting rights to non-native women. The 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. When American Indian women gained access to the ballot in 1924 under the federal Indian Citizenship Act, no person in Montana was denied the right to vote on the basis of gender.

It’s ironic that on this centennial anniversary of a step toward equal suffrage, your right to vote is under attack. This year, among the candidates and local issues, every ballot will contain two proposals referred to voters by the Montana Legislature. One of these legislative referenda threatens to revert state law back to a time when our families, friends and neighbors were handily denied access to the polls on Election Day.

Appearing on the ballot as Legislative Referendum 126, the proposal sets out to eliminate Election Day voter registration in Montana. Election Day voter registration has successfully secured voting rights for more than 29,000 Montanans since 2006 (that number increases when you include local elections).

It’s a good law that acts as a failsafe for people who need to register, change or update their information in order to vote in a statewide election.  In fact, the majority of voters who use Election Day voter registration are hardworking Montanans who have recently moved across their county or the state and need to update their address in order to cast a ballot. 

There is no reason to change a law that works, especially when that law secures your fundamental right to actively participate in our democracy.

As you consider the choices on your ballot, consider all that has been accomplished to guarantee your right to vote. Let’s work on solutions that increase turnout and enhance the overall integrity of elections in Montana.  No state that has Election Day registration has ever taken that right away from the voters. Let’s make sure Montana isn’t the first state to do so.

Linda McCulloch

Montana Secretary of State


Last Updated on Thursday, 21 August 2014 15:16

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Step backward for voting

One hundred years ago, on Nov. 3, 1914, the men of Montana approved suffrage for Montana’s non-native women. This was not an easy issue and had been debated at the Montana Constitution Convention of 1889 and several subsequent legislative sessions before being passed overwhelmingly by the legislature in 1913 and brought to the voters as a constitutional amendment in the general election of 1914.  

Now, 100 years later, Legislative Referendum 126 seeks to restrict an existing voting right — the right on an eligible individual to register and vote on the day of the election. 

We cannot take steps backward in the very important issue of voter rights for all Montanans.

Janet Ludwig


Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 11:52

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Carbon standards needed

When the Environmental Protection Agency announced the carbon pollution rules for coal-fired power plants last month, they mentioned asthma and how asthmatic children who live near power plants are impacted every day by pollutants.

The EPA’s carbon pollution rules are needed to prevent the worsening effects of climate change. Leading public health organizations, such as the American Medical Association, American Lung Association, and the American Public Health Association, support action to address climate change as one of the most serious threats to human health.

The recently published National Climate Assessment dedicated an entire chapter to identifying the health consequences linked to uncontrolled carbon pollution. We are already experiencing longer wildfire seasons, higher pollen counts and increased ozone levels, all of which make life for people with asthma and allergies unbearable. From increasing the incidence of heart attacks to driving up hospitalization rates, the manner in which carbon pollution compromises air quality has a wide and lethal reach.

Responsible for 40 percent of the nation’s carbon emissions, no other industry produces more carbon pollution than America’s coal-fired power plants.  There are currently no limits on how much carbon pollution these plants can pump into the air we breathe.

To reduce our carbon emissions, the EPA has proposed common sense limits for carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. These limits will not only protect public health, but will ensure that power generation in our country becomes cleaner and more efficient.

In addition to helping address climate change, the EPA’s proposed plan would immediately reduce the burden of air pollution in America by preventing up to 4,000 premature deaths and 100,000 asthma attacks in the first year these standards are in place.

We urge the EPA to finalize its carbon cleanup standard within the next year as we continue to work with our health partners across the country to support setting a standard that best safeguards the public’s health. Anything less shortchanges our children, our health and our future.

Kim Davitt

American Lung Association

Lora Weir

Montana Public Health Association

Last Updated on Thursday, 07 August 2014 11:51

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