On the backside of the June 3, primary election ballot is the most important item on the ballot for citizens of Yellowstone County. The Referenda to Establish Yellowstone County Government Study Commission is an opportunity for those of us who live in Montana’s most populous county to speak up regarding the structure of our county government. If this ballot issue passes, members of the study commission will be elected in the November general election.
Many of us feel that our present structure is outdated, unfair and inadequate for the 21st century and that changes need to be made. Yellowstone County has 150,000 people and an annual budget of $40 million to $50 million yet is ruled by an elected board of only three people. That means that two constitute a quorum – if one person can persuade only one other, the whole county is subject to their decisions.
While state representatives represent about 10,000 people and senators about 20,000, our present county commissioners represent about 50,000 and are elected by all the voters in the county – not just those in the district they represent.
It is plain to many of us who live in the county but not in Billings that we have no one to advocate for our concerns and that much of the money we pay in taxes is not spent on our critical needs but elsewhere in the county. It’s not fair.
Vote “YES” on this issue.
Last Updated on Thursday, 22 May 2014 23:00
It appears Rep. Steve Daines has finally gotten the message that intruding in women’s private medical decisions is not only bad policy, it’s bad politics. Months after announcing his candidacy for U.S. Senate, Daines made the misleading claim that he does not support outlawing birth control.
But Montana voters won’t be fooled.
The truth is that Daines supports so-called “personhood” measures which, if enacted, could interfere with a woman’s personal medical decisions relating to birth control, access to fertility treatment, management of a miscarriage and access to safe and legal abortion.
“Personhood” is government gone too far, and the defeat of similar state constitutional amendments all across the country — from Colorado and Ohio to Mississippi and Oklahoma — sends a clear message: Health care decisions should be left to a woman, her family, her doctor and her faith — not politicians like Steve Daines.
That’s also why, through conversations with voters, we were able to keep personhood off the Montana ballot in 2008, 2010 and again in 2012.
Montana cannot move forward while politicians like Steve Daines try to take half the population backwards — and Montana women won’t stand for Daines’ attempt to deny his anti-women’s health agenda.
We need leaders who will defend a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her reproductive health without government intrusion, and who will protect women’s access to basic health care — including birth control. That’s why Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana is proud to support Sen. John Walsh in his re-election campaign for U.S. Senate.
Planned Parenthood of Montana
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:32
Is it possible that dirty tricks are afoot again? Mike Wheat and Lawrence Van Dyke are both running for a seat on the Montana Supreme Court. Recently, however, a lawsuit was filed by several past supporters of Mike Wheat accusing Van Dyke of not practicing law in Montana for the requisite five years even though Van Dyke, our current solicitor general, has been a dues–paying member of the Montana Bar since 2005.
On Friday, April 25, Helena District Court Judge Mike Menahan ruled that Van Dyke, a fifth-generation Montanan and graduate of Montana State University and Harvard Law School, can’t be on the November ballot. Mr. Van Dyke is appealing the ruling to the Montana Supreme Court.
However, Chief Justice Mike McGrath has contributed $200 to Wheat’s campaign and since he can hardly be considered neutral in rendering a decision he should recuse himself. If Van Dyke loses the court battle then Wheat will run unopposed this November. Hmmm.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:31
The Red Lodge area has been described as the Gateway to Yellowstone National Park, nestled in the beautiful Beartooth Mountains. Come experience hiking, fishing and exploring among Montana’s highest mountain peaks. See the astonishing wildlife. This area offers extraordinary beauty and Western hospitality. Not only is this one of Montana’s shining stars as far as tourism goes, but here, farmers and ranchers can produce healthy crops and livestock by utilizing our pristine water system and rich soil.
But how long will this last? Will another generation of Montanans and travelers be able to enjoy our treasure?
Thanks to the Board of Oil and Gas, this area could soon be changed forever. They have already given Energy Corp. of America the license to start drilling and fracking. This company proudly claims, “This will be the next Bakken.” Is this what you want for Montana?
It is not too late to stop this massive destruction. But talking to the Board of Oil and Gas will do no good. They’ve shown they have their minds made up to drill. Our only hope is to work with our legislators to reform the Board: its makeup, lack of transparency, lack of enforcement of existing rules and oversight of active wells, and the barriers to public participation.
This is not just an environmental issue. This is about our land, water, recreational opportunities, tourism economy, and the strength of our rural communities. It’s time for us to stand up and demand change.
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:31
The extremist wing of the Republican Party is using Roger Koopman’s Taxpayers’ Advisory Bulletin report in meetings fallaciously labeled the “truth tour.” These fanatics have twisted the truth to say that “Responsible Republicans,” like me, voted with the Democrats against the Republican majority some ludicrous percentage of the time.
In 2005, when I served with Roger Koopman, he had a little tree on his chamber desk he named the “liberty tree.” He would use his extremist views to “cherry-pick” bills on the House floor, address them with very inflammatory rhetoric, and ceremoniously clip a leaf off “liberty.” At the end of the session, in a righteous rage, he bellowed one final rant about lost liberty, clipped off one the tree’s last branches, and tossed it in the trash to die.
About a year later, Koopman and a couple of his extreme cronies started the Taxpayers’ Advisory Bulletin (TAB). Applying the same methodology, he again cherry-picked a very small subset of bills to serve as the foundation of a “voter poll” that portrayed most Republican legislators as liberal. Over the years Koopman’s fraudulent TAB Report has been spit-shined to better mislead voters into supporting ever more extreme candidates.
The verifiable truth is that when voting data is not cherry-picked and the basis for analysis becomes the 494 bills that reached the floor of both Houses in the 2013 Legislative Session. Responsible Republicans voted with the Republican Caucus majority approximately 90 percent of the time. Conversely, the leadership of the extreme movement only voted with the Republican Caucus majority about 75 percent of the time.
Further, responsible Republicans scored very well on statewide business polls produced by reputable organizations like the Montana Chamber of Commerce, the real Taxpayers Association, the Montana Contractors and others. Koopman and other extremists obnoxiously justify their attacks against those they label “Undocumented Democrats” by arrogantly self-proclaiming that they alone are the gold standard of conservatism.
As president of the Senate in 2011, I facilitated a Republican caucus retreat where we defined a plan that had caucus support. We then followed this plan to achieve the first real reduction in the state budget in over 20 years. In 2013 there was no plan from leadership and chaos ensued. The TAB report is simply another example of the finger pointing designed to distract voters away from the extremists’ unprecedented failure to define solutions and lead.
Extremists will rely on tactics like the hijacking of the Teton County Shrimp Peel and the TAB Report to shift the spotlight away from their legal troubles and their failed leadership. Do not accept their excuses and beware the TAB report. It is cherry-picked garbage. Question the validity of other cherry-picked polls and anonymous negative messaging.
Sen. Jim Peterson
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:30
I am 76 years young, retired, and try to keep up on the politics and events of the day by watching the cable news on TV along with ABC, CBS and NBC networks. I read Newsweek magazine and The Billings Gazette Opinion page, the Outpost and other pertinent articles.
As I read and watch these different news networks, I am reminded of my grade school classroom days when we were learning government and civics. If I remember correctly, our government is the only democracy in the world that was conceived on the idea that if we were to be successful, we needed a true capitalistic financial system. The capitalistic system was based on competition.
What happened to this concept? Where is the competition in the oil and gas industry? As soon as one station changes their price, it automatically changes to same price at every other station. With the latest Supreme Court decision, the rich have finally arrived at the “Golden Rule”: Those with the gold will rule. As I watch the debate on TV, does anyone really believe that a $35, $50, or even $100 will receive the same amount of consideration as the donor who gave $1 million or more?
I heard one congressman make a statement the other day that the reason he didn’t support extending unemployment insurance is because there should be some means testing. I hear no means testing being discussed in Social Security or Medicare.
I am sure there are some billionaires that do not need Social Security or Medicare. Also, I didn’t hear any talk about means testing when they passed the Farm Bill. I read an article several years ago that 70 percent of the grazing leases on public lands, Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, are held by 20 percent of the largest corporations in the United States.
I have a suggestion to solve the majority of our financial woes in the U.S. Congress. They need to pass two bills. The first one would eliminate the Citizens United ruling handed down from the Supreme Court. The second bill – it could be done on the same day – would be a bill that would state that any person or lobbyist could meet with any congress person at any time, but they have to leave their checkbook in the car.
This idea is supported by the recent decision in Arizona regarding the state bill that would allow businesses to not serve gays and lesbians. There was a big uproar concerning religion, but it appeared the decision the governor made to veto the bill was only after the Chamber of Commerce, local businesses and finally the news that the Super Bowl may not come to Arizona next year if the bill was signed into law. All this is based on dollars.
One other thing Congress should do is amend the Pledge of Allegiance to “one nation, under God, and the Dollar, with Justice and Liberty for all.” As soon as we take the money out of politics, this country will be on the right track. Too many decisions made by Congress are based on campaign donations.
Also, what about a “trickle up economy”? When the unemployment rate gets to around 4 percent to 5 percent, with corporations and other businesses providing a somewhat living wage with benefits, THEN they get a tax break. It just seems the corporations and businesses should feel obligated to support the employees that worked for them and allowed them to make the profits they now enjoy.
One other comment, for those that are in agreement that federal lands should be in private or state ownership. If those lands ever come up for sale, the way Congress works, by the time the adjacent landowner learns they are on the market, they will probably already be committed to a campaign donor. You will not even have the opportunity to bid.
And also, do you think the new owner will let you graze those lands at the current rate of $1.34 per AUM? This is even if you get to graze them at all. Think about it.
Bernard W. Lea
Last Updated on Thursday, 15 May 2014 09:29