The Billings Outpost

We can trust Tooley

I am sure we are tired and frustrated with all the political attack ads in the media and look forward to voting and putting election day behind us.

That’s why this is not an attack letter. I am writing in support of Chuck Tooley, who is running for Public Service commissioner. Chuck is a man of professionalism, objectivity, intelligence and integrity. As Billings’ longest serving mayor, Chuck was an example of level-headed leadership under challenging conditions.

As mayor, he was directly involved in regulating the Public Utilities Division. He understands energy issues. One of his sterling qualities is being able to evaluate all the facts from all sides in a professional, calm and fair manner.

Chuck Tooley doesn’t hold the record of Billings’ longest serving mayor by accident. Voters believed in him because they trusted and respected him and his expertise. It is a breath of fresh air to know that, as Montana residents and consumers, we can truly trust Chuck Tooley to protect and represent us.

The Public Service Commission is a five-member board that regulates private utilities such as electric, telephone, gas, sewer and water companies. The PSC has been in the headlines recently due to dissension amongst its commissioners. Chuck Tooley is the right choice for professional, calm, fair leadership of the PSC.

I have known Chuck Tooley for over 28 years. Let’s not miss our opportunity to elect Chuck Tooley on Nov. 6, 2012.

Nancy Swanson

Billings

Last Updated on Saturday, 20 October 2012 22:54

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Supporting Gillan

I am supporting Kim Gillan for Congress. Kim has been a friend of my family for many years. She is truly concerned for the well-being of the middle class, including small business owners and wage earners.

Kim stood up against gender discrimination when she opposed using gender to set insurance rates and retirement plan benefits. National studies show that women pay higher rates when gender is used to determine premiums.

In her 16 years as a Montana legislator, Kim Gillan has approached leadership with trusted statesmanship and a willingness to listen and work with lawmakers on both side of the aisle.

Examples of this are the innovative graduated driver’s license bill that passed with broad-based support and the recent anti-bullying bill. While serving on the taxation committee, Kim demonstrated her ability to get things done with a clear understanding of the economics that make a healthy economy.

We need someone in Washington who understands the needs of hard-working Montanans and will work for us. Kim Gillan is the working family’s choice for U.S. Congress.

Ed Logan

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 22:51

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Bullock for governor

Why support Steve Bullock for governor? There are a number of reasons that make Steve Bullock a clear choice for Montana’s next governor.

Steve is raising his daughters in the same Montana community he grew up in. He knows the importance of looking out for our kids. That’s why he’s put more cops on the street and online to keep our kids safe. That’s why he’s worked as attorney general to support after school programs and help prevent prescription drug abuse. Steve will be a champion for quality public education finding ways to improve our schools through equitable funding formulas without dismantling the current system.

His opponent Rick Hill has said that he’ll take our tax dollars from public education and give them to private, for-profit schools, and supports closing schools in rural communities. In Congress, he voted to cut $137 million from Montana schools. He sat on the board of directors of a major insurance company when they cut health care coverage for hundreds of kids in Montana while approving a CEO compensation package of over $1.4 million.

We need a governor that will put the education and health of Montana’s children first. Vote for Steve Bullock and John Walsh.

Connie Keogh

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 22:50

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Vote for Democrats

The Sept. 27 issue of the Outpost was fascinating! The front-page story by Sharie Pyke, about the Democratic candidate for governor, Steve Bullock was well done. Steve expressed a willingness to work with both parties and noted specific collaborative bills that passed. It showed his genuine spirit of cooperation.

In contrast, on the letters page, there were letters from Shirley McDermott, Jim Reno, Roy Brown, and Brad Johnson that illustrated perfectly the Republican anti-environmental protection, anti-regulation, pro-corporate attitudes of the New Republican Party! They won’t cooperate with anybody. Just like Congress.

In Billings, we must elect Wanda Grinde and other Democrats to the Montana Senate. I hope the good people of the Heights in Billings will all vote for her because Wanda understands the dangers of unregulated corporate campaign contributions to political campaigns.

The last Montana Legislature that met in Helena in January 2011, was dominated by right wing extremists who were advised by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, a nationwide organization of international corporations who work with conservative legislators all over the country to introduce new laws in state legislatures.

These are bad laws designed to reduce corporate regulation, suppress voting, privatize schools, gut environmental protections and further reduce gun restrictions. Nationwide more than 200 of these laws have passed, including the “Stand your ground” law, as well as several voting restriction laws.

We need to be very careful to elect Montana legislators who will stand up to that extremist corporate agenda. This November election is not a good time to split your vote. Vote for all Democrats this time!

Joan Hurdle

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 22:48

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SB 423: bad idea

There seems to be much confusion over Senate Bill 423. Senate Bill 423 is Montana’s Marijuana Act, put into place by the 2011 Legislature. SB423 is a bill that repealed and replaced voter Initiative 148, which was approved by 62% of Montana Voters in 2004.

SB 423 is not medical marijuana regulation, as supporters of this bill would like you to believe. SB 423 makes no mention of medical marijuana; the program is now called the Montana Marijuana Program. Participants in this program are no longer called patients, but “registered card holders.”

SB 423 has no state oversight, meaning that production and distribution of marijuana for medical purposes is not regulated or overseen by any state department, agency or regulatory committee. The Department of Health and Human Services simply issues cards and sets administrative rules and fees. It does not oversee any regulatory aspect of the program. In fact, SB 423 even bans labs and testing facilities, allowing no testing or any type of quality control.

After the governor vetoed a full repeal bill, SB 423 was thrown together in the last few weeks of the legislative session. The goal, to come as close to eliminating the program as the Legislature could get. SB 423 punishes and penalizes those who try to participate.

SB 423 limits providers, formerly called caregivers, to two patients and does not allow them to be compensated in any way. They must grow and give away their product for free. SB423 actually creates a widely distributed system of production (lots of small growers) and eliminates all professional organizations that could actually be subject to strict regulations. Basically this is a “hippy system” of unregulated masses growing their own, as opposed to any kind of controlled regulatory system.

SB 423 allows for warrantless searches of any place marijuana is grown, including private residences. This is a clear violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and Article II, Section 11, of the Montana Constitution. It also bans all forms of advertising, a clear violation of the freedom of speech.

It mandates all participants in the program be disclosed to law enforcement. Cardholders who are pulled over by law enforcement can be forced to submit a blood sample, simply because they participate in the program.

SB423 interferes with the Doctor / Patient relationship by forcing doctors to limit their recommendations for medical marijuana to 25 patients per year, or face a costly investigation by the medical board of examiners.

SB 423 will leave well over 5,400 current cardholders without a provider. If these cardholders cannot grow their own medicine, (and many people cannot grow for themselves for numerous reasons), they will no longer be able to participate in the program and forced to give up their card.

Supporters of SB423 claim this law is more in line with the voter’s original intent in 2004. The voters definitely intended for participants to be able to legally obtain medical marijuana. SB 423 doesn’t even allow participants to do that.

Overturning SB 423 in the November election isn’t about going backward. Voting against SB 423 sends a clear message to our Legislature that Montanans want to move forward toward reasonable, workable regulation that can benefit the people the voters intended to help in 2004.

Elizabeth Pincolini

Billings

Last Updated on Friday, 12 October 2012 10:55

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Romney wrong on energy

When Romney ridicules Obama’s commitment to slow climate change, he overlooks how excessive fossil fuel use causes sea level rise. Guess Romney doesn’t care if water swamps those off-shore islands where he stashes his cash.

That callous attitude is not the only flaw in Romney’s “business” model. It leaves U.S. business stuck with unneeded energy costs while other countries rapidly embrace clean technologies that don’t have fuel and pollution control expenses as a component of electricity price.

The European Union already has 94 gigawatts of wind-generated capacity; China has 63 GW — ahead of the U.S. (50 GW). Chinese wind-turbine capacity will rise to 200 GW by 2020 — enough to power 55 percent of U.S. primary homes.

By 2020, China will get 15 percent of its electrons from non-fossil fuels; Denmark (already producing 32 percent of its electricity with wind turbines) will increase that to 50 percent.

Eighty-three nations use wind power for commercial purposes. The cheaper electricity there makes it even tougher for U.S. businesses already struggling to compete with cheap foreign labor.

Meanwhile, Romney and some Republicans propose to hobble us further by eliminating the bipartisan production tax credit (PTC) for U.S. wind projects. Several major companies want congress to extend the PTC. They rely on a Navigant Consulting study. It estimates that extending the PTC to 2016 will result in 95,000 wind-supported jobs. However, killing the PTC will result in the loss of more than 37,000 American jobs in 2013. If he knew how to create jobs as he claims, Romney would not be waging war on wind projects.

The PTC on wind energy goes away when it is not needed. That happens after a turbine operates for 10 years and installation costs are covered. The credit has ranged from 1.5 to 2.2 cents a kilowatt hour (kWh). However, those tax breaks actually repay themselves by driving energy costs down.

For example, power from Montana’s Judith Gap wind farm has been 0.5 to 2.1 cents/kWh cheaper than electricity from coal. So, a large amount of the PTC incentive has been recovered in increased savings for rate (tax) payers. By 2015 the credit will cease for that project. Then, the savings from wind power will more than “repay” what has been “fronted” from the PTC. Also, the overall power price is lower because less natural gas is used to produce electricity when the wind blows. It’s one thing driving down the cost of gas used for home heating and power generation.

The PTC also levels an uneven playing field caused by non-tax subsidies fossil fuels now enjoy. To make coal power generation almost as clean as wind generation, we’d have to scrub more pollutants and sequester carbon dioxide from conventional power plants. That will add 2.5 to 5 cents/kWh to electric bills. Romney ignores that cost.

Finally, Romney’s belief that the private sector is the best or only place to develop U.S. jobs is passé. Subsidies by foreign governments change that. They stack the deck in favor of their monopolies. Thus, U.S. industry must compete in a less-than-free market. That’s the message from Solyndra’s bankruptcy — not the misleading disparagements of its loan guarantee that Republican campaign ads portray. Here’s what those ads leave out.

When our government guaranteed $535 million in Solyndra bonds, even Wall Street thought thin-cell solar panel manufacturing was a good bet. Then the Chinese government pumped $30-plus billion into Chinese companies manufacturing silicon solar cells. It drove the price of silicon cells down. That eliminated the price advantage Solyndra’s thin-cell technology had when the U.S. guaranteed its loan. Thus Chinese subsidies ruined Solyndra.

Those subsidies also threatened other U.S. manufacturing until Obama slapped a tariff on Chinese solar panels. It’s part of prudent policy that has increased the U.S.-made portion of wind turbines installed here from 25 percent in 2005 to 60-plus percent today; policy that “knows how” to create jobs with subsidies that repay themselves; policy that leaves us better off now than we were in 2005.

Russ Doty

Billings

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:56

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