The Billings Outpost

Bushman, Tooley square off in PSC campaign

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kirk Bushman and Chuck Tooley issued the following statements in their race for the Public Service Commission. Mr. Bushman is a Republican; Mr. Tooley is a Democrat.

Kirk Bushman

I would like to be your Public Service Commissioner because there needs to be conservative voice on the PSC. I will be professional and respectful, make responsible decisions for my kids and yours; and will use my experience for the benefit of the Montana ratepayers.

I have accumulated an abundance of valuable experience in the last 20-plus years that would serve me well on the Public Service Commission. I have been employed as a pool cleaner, driveway sweeper, cement worker, greens keeper, stock boy, bus boy, dishwasher, drafter, truck driver, log home builder, pipefitter helper, laborer, announcer, field engineer and project manager.

My professional career began when I graduated in 1988 from Montana State University Bozeman with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering technology. I was hired as a field engineer in the corrugated container industry, yes, cardboard boxes. As a field engineer, I was fortunate to travel to many of the states, European countries and others such as Canada, Australia, Columbia, Thailand and more.

Working with people from different countries, speaking different languages, added to the many challenges that already existed. I was involved in managing all phases of a project from construction and installation to training plant personnel as well as performing to the terms of sales contracts. This required overcoming cultural differences, language barriers, as well as dealing with each group’s business interest. Communication and professionalism were key values needed to be successful.

With my heart still in Montana, I chose to move back home to Billings. For the past 13 years I have worked with the engineering consulting firm, WorleyParsons (previously Unifield) Engineering, in the industrial engineering sector.

I have worked on projects with refineries, power plants, mining companies, silicon production facilities and more. Many were to meet government regulations, some were to increase production and efficiency, and some were to recycle outdated facilities that had been shut down.

In 2007, unwilling to leave the future to career politicians, I decided to run for the U.S. Senate in the Republican Primary. I promoted personal responsibility and smaller government. I was also chairman of the Yellowstone County Republicans for the last three years.

I was born and raised in Montana. I currently reside in Billings with my wife, Jill, and our three young children. Our children need responsible development of our natural resources to ensure their security in their education, utilities and jobs for the future.

Chuck Tooley

The Montana Public Service Commission is responsible for regulating monopoly utilities in Montana — natural gas, electric, telephone, and private water and sewer companies. Commissioners regulate according to Montana law and make decisions that protect Montanans while allowing a fair rate of return for the utilities.

During 15 years in municipal leadership, I developed skills that will serve me well representing District 2 on the PSC. As mayor of Billings, I conducted hundreds of meetings and public hearings. I listened to all sides; I learned about operations, revenues and expenditures; and I developed ways of working with others that emphasized problem-solving.

My business career has taught me about fiscal responsibility, accomplishing goals and delivering services. I have been employed by a PSC-regulated utility and have also functioned as a utility regulator.

My experience includes:

• Six years with Mountain Bell using PSC-approved tariffs and gaining hands-on experience with deregulation, functional divestiture, and unbundling of services.

• Fifteen years as a policymaker and regulator of Billings Public Utilities, serving 30,000-plus customers.

• Board member of Montana Electric and Gas Alliance, organized at the time of the Montana Power Co. bankruptcy. As leaders in business and government, the board worked together to analyze and bid on MPC’s transmission /distribution facilities to bring them into public ownership.

• Founder/president of Tooley Communications, providing services in marketing, communications and public policy since 1984.

• Four years as director of Montana State University Billings’ Urban Institute, dealing with issues including community sustainability and water supply.

Public Service Commissioners must analyze complex information and make wise judgments for the public good. In my career I have worked with concepts from supercritical wet oxidation to tax-increment financing.

As a professional communicator, I can receive information on complicated subjects, understand it, organize it logically and then present it clearly. Whether in PSC chambers or talking with citizens, I will listen closely, speak clearly, and provide information that is usable and understandable.

Equally important is the need for all elected officials to maintain high professional standards. We need to deliberate with integrity and honesty; keep a strong bias toward facts and not personal agendas; always treat others with respect; and strive to build quality of life and protect equality of opportunity for all Montanans.

I have tried to hold to these standards during my 15 years in office in Montana. I would be honored to continue in that spirit as your Public Service commissioner.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:58

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PSC conduct an issue

ELECTION 2012

By KETTI WILHELM - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Besides utility bills and green energy, the candidates for the southeastern Montana seat on the Public Service Commission are also talking about the way the commissioners should conduct themselves.

Democrat Chuck Tooley, a three-term Billings mayor, faces Republican Kirk Bushman for a spot on the commission that sets rates for Montana’s private electric, gas, water and telephone companies.

The vast district comprises Big Horn, Carbon, Carter, Custer, Fallon, Prairie, Powder River, Rosebud, Treasure and Yellowstone counties.

Whoever wins will replace Brad Molnar, a term-limited Republican whose time on the commission featured a stormy losing battle last year for the PSC’s chairmanship against Republican newcomer Travis Kavulla.

Molar also drew a fine from state ethics officials for illegally soliciting funds from two PSC-regulated companies in 2007. He used the money for an event in Billings, home to about 56 percent of his district’s population.

Tooley, 65, says his disappointment in the commission’s behavior is one reason he chose to run.

“I feel you do the constituency a disservice if you do not conduct the public’s business professionally and respectfully,” he says.

The PSC’s feuds concern Bushman also. He said doesn’t want to stifle debate but expects commissioners to keep it their disagreements professional.

Experience: public vs. private

The two candidates boast different professional backgrounds.

Before resigning to start his PSC campaign, Bushman, a 45-year-old father of three, worked for the Montana Republican Party and ran an unsuccessful campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2008.

The bulk of Bushman’s experience is in the private industrial sector, where he has consulted PSC-regulated companies for the global engineering consulting firm WorleyParsons. That experience would make him a better commissioner, he says.

He considers the function of the PSC to be “basically balancing the companies’ books” by confirming that requests for rate increases accurately represent a utility’s expenses and not allowing them to profit above a set rate.

“You can’t put companies into financial burden,” he says, but he adds that his goal will be to keep rates as low as possible.

Tooley worked six years for the now defunct Mountain Bell Telephone, a PSC-regulated company. He also held a position on the Montana Electric and Gas Alliance, a board that was organized to create publicly owned utilities.

In his years as a Billings mayor and city councilman, Tooley was involved in regulating the city’s utilities, a process he calls analogous to that of the PSC.

“I’ve gone through that for 15 years,” he says. “I understand how it can work and how it can work well.” A major part of that process was deliberating under public scrutiny, he adds.

Regulation and renewables

The candidates differ in their regulatory philosophies and thoughts on renewable energy.

Bushman says energy policy, such as the extent to which regulated utilities should be required to buy cleaner but sometimes more costly, renewable energy, is a matter for the Legislature, not the PSC.

Although he supports the development of renewables such as wind and solar power, Bushman says, “I don’t believe the PSC is a place to promote a renewable agenda.”

Tooley says he would be open to the idea of the PSC taking up more energy policy responsibility, should the Legislature allow it.

While he calls himself a strong supporter of Montana’s renewable energy projects, Tooley also emphasizes the need to keep rates fair and prevent price gouging.

He says he understands the need for utilities to make profits, which allow them to hire qualified employees, provide better service and invest in the future.

“But you don’t want to allow them to make too much profit,” he adds.

The supporters

Bushman is confident in his campaign, even in Yellowstone County, which he considers the most liberal county in the district.

In the June primaries, Bushman won the Republican nomination with 63.3 percent of 22,222 votes cast, while Tooley won the Democratic nomination with 56.4 percent of only 16,923 votes.

Despite his district’s Republican leanings, Tooley is unfazed by the primary numbers. He says voters in the area know him well from his time as a Billings mayor and city councilman.

“I think a lot of people will vote for me even if they’re not in my party,” Tooley says.

Tooley’s prominent campaign contributors include PSC member Gail Gutsche of Missoula; former PSC member John Toole of Helena; Kim Gillan, the Democratic nominee for Congress; and Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger.

Bushman’s prominent contributors include PSC Chairman Travis Kavulla of Great Falls and Montana Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann of Billings.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 24 October 2012 11:42

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Ballot measure targets illegal immigrants

By PATRICK RECORD - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

Nobody really believes Montana is overrun by illegal immigrants.

Recent census figures estimate the state may be home to fewer than 11,000 noncitizens - and that includes legal residents with visas or green cards. One national Hispanic group estimates the state’s number of undocumented immigrants at about 5,000.

Although that’s less than 1 percent of the population, it’s still a problem for Rep. David Howard and supporters of a ballot issue aimed at denying illegal immigrants access to state services.

“If you’re an illegal person you can only live two ways: take a job from a Montanan or you have to live on the benefits that we provide,” says Howard, a Park City Republican. “I wanted to create an easy, logical process where our state agencies would go through and be able to create a deterrent for illegal immigrants getting Montana and federal tax money.”

No services ahead

LR-121 asks Montana voters to deny illegal immigrants a long list of services and opportunities. They could not apply for state jobs, or enroll in a state university, or apply for financial aid. They could not apply for state licenses, unemployment benefits, or rehabilitation services if they’re hurt on the job. They would not be eligible for state grants or services available to crime victims or people with disabilities.

Critics fear that, if passed, the measure will expose minorities to racial profiling and force the state to implement an expensive system of citizenship checks that could snare legal citizens along with illegal ones.

Howard’s idea originated in the state Legislature last session as one of seven bills aimed at combating what he sees as a nationwide immigration problem.

He says the measure won’t be difficult or costly to enforce. The names of residents who can’t produce a driver’s license as proof of citizenship would be run through a federal database - the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements - to determine their immigration status.

Montana’s chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union strongly opposes the measure, saying it would have unintended consequences. They say the database checks could result in citizens being denied services they’re entitled to and that they could delay applications for crucial services for hours or even months.

“The bill is error-filled,” says Niki Zupanic, an ACLU attorney. “It’s likely that (some) U.S. citizens will not show up in the databases.”

Targeting minorities

Kim Abbott, program director for the Montana Human Rights Network, says it’s up to the federal government to pass comprehensive immigration reform, not each state. She worries that enforcement of the measure will single out minorities.

“In order to avoid racial profiling and assumptions, the state needs to check everyone through SAVE,” Abbott says.

Howard says his measure would require checks on anyone who applies for services without the proper documents. Each state agency would decide which document or documents are valid for their services.

“Legal aliens can get benefits; nobody looks at your race,” Howard says.

It’s hard to say how many Montanans might not have driver’s licenses or other government identification documents.

A study by the Brennan Center for Justice in November 2006 found that 11 percent of all U.S. citizens lack government-issued IDs. Critics say many of those are poor or elderly or homeless - people often in need of services.

The cost for implementing the ballot measure is up for debate.

“It’s interesting, but if you look at the cost of the bill it was almost nothing there,” Howard says. “Agencies couldn’t even dream up a cost.”

State officials who estimated the measure’s potential costs came up with a figure of $85,915 for the first year and less afterward. But they said costs could easily change depending on the costs of searches, software, hardware and the hiring and training of personnel.

Howard insists that enforcing the measure won’t be difficult or costly. The effort, he adds, is worth it to prevent Montana from ending up like other states with immigration problems.

“It’s proactive, so we don’t wake up in ten years and say we should have done something,” Howard says. “I don’t deal in the ideal, I deal in reality.”

Howard is confident the measure will pass. A recent Lee newspapers poll of found that 57 percent of registered voters surveyed favored his ballot measure; 14 percent were undecided.

Last Updated on Thursday, 18 October 2012 23:02

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Poacher sought

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks game wardens want to hear from anyone who has information about a trophy mule deer buck that was illegally killed with a crossbow in Lockwood over the weekend.

Montana’s wildlife tip line, 1-800-TIP-MONT, is offering a reward of as much as $1,000 for information leading to a conviction in the case.

FWP Sgt. Randy Arnold said the unique four-point mule deer buck was found dead Monday in a field between Old Hardin Highway and Interstate 90 just north of the Lockwood Fire Station. It was killed over the weekend with one arrow – or bolt – fired from a crossbow. The deer was left to waste.

A crossbow is not a legal weapon for game animals during the archery season. And Montana law makes wanton waste of game meat a crime. In addition, the landowner where the poached deer was found said he did not give anyone permission to hunt on his property.

Anyone with information about the crimes should call 1-800-TIP-MONT (800-847-6668), the FWP 24-hour reporting telephone hotline.

The 1-800-TIP-MONT program is a toll-free number where people can report violations of fish, wildlife or park regulations. Callers may remain anonymous. It is similar to the well-known Crimestoppers program and offers rewards for information resulting in conviction of persons who abuse Montana’s natural, historic or cultural resources.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 11:04

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NILE celebrates 45th Stock Show and Rodeo

The 45th NILE Stock Show and Rodeo is the region’s largest livestock event, showcasing multiple cattle breed show and sales, horse sales and futurities, and rodeo with the Ranch Rodeo Finals and ProRodeo.

This year the NILE will take place at MetraPark in Billings on Wednesday, Oct. 17 through Saturday, Oct. 20. While this year offers many of the same events and activities that people have enjoyed there are also many new and exciting elements as well to celebrate the 45-year history.

It was the fall of 1968 when the founders of the Northern International Livestock Exposition held the first Stock Show. That year it was at the Public Auction Yards in Billings. However, it was not an event that was just pushed together in the few months prior.

In fact, the concept of a region or national livestock show come out of a committee leading agriculture businessmen and area ranchers over a year earlier in 1967. Now in 2012, the NILE will celebrate 45 years of upholding the mission of what the original founder believed was important to promote our region’s livestock industry.

Throughout the years of the NILE, there have been as many good times as there have been turbulent times. Fortunately, the commitment and desire by NILE directors, members, staff, and sponsors have tipped the scales of existence in a positive direction. Which is why this year the NILE is excited about this year’s event and some of the new things that are available for people to enjoy.

“It going to be a great show,” says Justin Mills, NILE general manager. “We expect around 35,000 visitors to attend the NILE over the four days. With some of the things we’ve added will really create an event that has something for people of all ages.”

The foundational element of the NILE each year is the Stock Show. This year the NILE Stock Show will host over 20 livestock shows and sales in the short four-day window.

“People are busy these days and it is hard to commit to being away from home very long. We want to make it so that no matter what day you come to the NILE, there is a lot going on,” says Mills. Eleven cattle breed shows will be encompassed in this year’s schedule: Shorthorn, Hereford, Red Angus, Galloway, Angus, Texas Longhorn, Gelbvieh, Balancer, Miniature Hereford, Lowline Angus, and an All Other Breeds Show. In addition, there will be a Jr. Fed Show held on Wednesday, Oct 17, that will include a Swine Show, Steer Show, and a Lamb Show.

Meanwhile, the Merit Heifer Show, which will be held on Friday at 9 a.m., is arguably the most attended show all week. It is the culminating event for 25 young aspiring livestock producers that were awarded a free heifer one year earlier from donor ranches.

A Jackpot Show as well as a Showmanship Contest is held in conjunction with the show and then one individual is selected as the Top Herdsman based upon their monthly reports, interview, and showmanship skills.

One show that was not in existence in the very first NILE but has become extremely popular is the NILE Club Calf Show and Sale. This show features both steers and heifer calves that are shown and sold to 4-H or FFA members for their project through the next year.

This year along with the Junior Fed Sale of Champions, that will be at 5 p.m. in the Pine Coulee Bull Sale Arena in the Expo Center, there are four other cattle sales. The Club Calf Sale will be at 10:00 a.m. Thursday with all sale animals eligible for futurities that award over $4,000 each year.

Next will be two sales on Friday. The NILE Prestigious Red Angus Sale will be at 1 p.m. while the NILE Gelbvieh Sale will be at 5 p.m.

Then the week will conclude with the NILE Angus Female Sale at noon. The following sales will be webcasted by CattleInMotion.com that will also offer live bidding: Junior Fed, Club Calf, Gelbvieh, & Angus.

Finally, the week of cattle events will conclude with an exciting and new addition of the NILE Supreme Row Show presented by Little Horn State Bank. The Supreme Row Show will feature all of the Grand Champion Bulls and Females of each show in one show for each respective gender. The show will take place on Saturday at 4 p.m. in the Ford EcoBoost Arena. However, the final selection of who will be crowned the 2012 Supreme Bull and Female will not take place until Saturday night during the NILE ProRodeo. Each winner will receive a $1,000 and a Bronze Boot Trophy.

Horse events have always been a major component of the NILE. This year is no different as the NILE Gold Buckle Horse Sales and Futurities will be held over three days on Thursday through Saturday. In the last few years, the NILE Gold Buckle Horse Sales have seen incredible growth. The struggles that have beset the horse industry through over the last several years have eluded the NILE horse sales.

“We work hard to make sure our sales offer quality consignments,” says Ward Fenton, NILE Horse Sale Chairman. “Our process is not perfect, but we take it very serious. In the horse business, your reputation does more than anything else.”

It is a reputation that has spread profusely over the past couple of years and has established the NILE Gold Buckle Horse Sale as the premier sale in the region. Futurities have also been a major component that has spurred the growth of the sales.

“The market for young horses just has not been there,” says Fenton. “However, with the futurities tied to our sales, we have been able to provide an extremely strong market for good young horses from reputable breeders that you can’t find anywhere in the country.” This year the Weanling Yearling Sale presented by Copper Spring Ranch will be on Friday at 1 p.m. Then on Saturday, the Performance Horse Sale presented by First Interstate Bank will be at 1 p.m. Both sales will take place in the Rimrock Auto Arena.

The Gold Buckle Horse Sale Futurities presented by Pfizer will take place over the three days and include the Yearling Futurity, Snaffle Bit Futurity and 3-Year Old Futurity.

, and a new futurity called the Midnight Corona Barrel Racing Futurity. Over $13,000 will be paid out through all the futurities with over $3,500 just in the barrel racing futurity. Finally, the NILE Raffle Filly has been a long-standing tradition of the NILE. With the proceeds going towards NILE Youth Scholarships, this year’s filly was donated by Gary and Ginger Decock of D&S Cattle of Hysham, MT. She is fancy sorrel filly with Doc Bar on the top side of her pedigree. She has a great disposition and will have had over thirty days riding on her for the lucky winner and/or buyer. She will be on display throughout the week and tickets are $5/each or six for $25.

If you had attended the first NILE Stock Show, you would have not seen a rodeo. However, in just a few years, a NILE Rodeo was added to the list of events. At that time is was just an amateur rodeo held in the Auditorium and Exhibition Hall of what was then called the Midland Empire Fairgrounds, later named MetraPark. However, that building burned down in 1969 and it was not until 1975 that the NILE returned with a rodeo in the newly built Metra Arena, this time it was sanctioned with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association (PRCA). Over the years, the NILE ProRodeo has been one of the most outstanding rodeos in the region. This year the NILE continues with its PRCA rodeos however, the addition of the NILE Ranch Rodeo in 2007 added a new style of rodeo that has been extremely popular and entertaining. The NILE Ranch Rodeo Finals will be held on Wednesday, October 17 at 7:00 pm. Twelve ranch teams from across the region that have all won their qualifying local ranch rodeos will be participating in this year’s event. A new addition this year is the NILE’s sanctioning under the Working Ranch Cowboy’s Association (WRCA). This allows the winning team from the NILE Ranch Rodeo New a spot in the WRCA World Finals in Amarillo, should that team meet their ranch and membership qualifications.

The NILE ProRodeo has always been one of this region’s most revered PRCA rodeos. Prior to 2008, the NILE was one of the last major rodeos of the season for contestants to qualify for the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. However, now the NILE sets as one of the first rodeos of the year for PRCA and WPRA contests. This has created a challenge to get the NFR bound contestants to the NILE and the rodeo attendees to the NILE to see the NFR caliber contestants. In 2010, the NILE hired Brookman Rodeo as the primary contractor but stipulated that two additional stock contractors must provide the other two-thirds of the rough stock. “We just felt that if we wanted to get high caliber contests to the NILE, we needed to make sure that they had an opportunity to win on any horse or bull in the pen that night,” says NILE General Manager Justin Mills. Additionally, the NILE began looking at ways that they could provide a high quality event that was second-to-none in terms of fast paced and highly entertaining, yet reverent to the tradition of the sport. “This year I believe we have put several elements together to make this one of the best rodeo’s we’ve ever had.” Wayne Brooks, who has been PRCA Announcer of the Year, will handle things from the announcers stand while JJ Harrison from Wala Wala, WA will provide the entertainment from inside the arena and barrel. “Both Wayne and JJ are excellent,” says Mills, “I don’t think there’s a better combination out there right now. JJ is no doubt the best in the business right now and it is worth the ticket just to listen and watch his antics.”

The NILE ProRodeo will start Thursday, October 18 at 7:00 with the theme being the Cat/Griz Rodeo Shoot-Out. “This was something was started last year,” says Justin Mills, “and everyone really enjoyed it.” Spring boarding off the instate rivalry between the Montana State Bobcats and University of Montana Grizzlies the night will contain a competition using drafted rodeo contestants to gain points for each school. At the end of the night the winning school gets 60% of the money offered by the NILE from ticket sales will the losing school get 40%. Money paid to each school is used for scholarships to their respective rodeo teams.

Are you Tough Enough To Wear Pink? That is the theme for Friday Night’s NILE ProRodeo presented by St. Vincent Healthcare. If you are, come Friday night for the rodeo where $1 of every paid ticket is given to the St. Vincent Healthcare’s Eva Project that works to help with awareness and early detection of breast cancer.

On Saturday, the NILE will be teaming up with the Big Sky Honor Flights for Wrangler Patriot Night. “Honoring our veterans is not something you do because it feels good, we do it because we owe them that and they deserve it,” says Mills. In addition, the Saturday night performance will provide a “side competition” between the bulls and the bull riders with the proceeds offered by business sponsors going towards the Montana Special Olympics.

A new element will be included in this year’s ProRodeo openings that will provide something never seen at a rodeo in the Rimrock Auto Arena, or even a rodeo Montana. A laser light show will dazzle and amaze those in attendance each night of the ProRodeos that will be Thursday, October 18 through Saturday, October 20 starting each night at 7:00 pm. “It’s something a lot of people have never seen and it just simply amazing to experience a laser light show,” says Rob Erickson, NILE Rodeo Committee Chairman. Brookman/Highland Rodeo out of Sidney, MT will be the primary contractor while Burch Rodeo (Rozett,WY), Corey & Lange Rodeo (Moses Lake, WA), and C-5 Rodeo (Lac La Biche, BC, Canada) will be bringing bucking stock. Timed event slack will be Thursday, October 18, at 7:00 am while WPRA Barrel Racing slack will be following the Friday Performance.

Tickets for all rodeo performances can be purchased at the MetraPark box office or any ticket outlet location, online at metrapark.com, or on the phone at 800.366.8538.

A trade show was also something you would have not seen at the first NILE Stock Show. However, do to the nature of many NILE events bringing people together into one spot; it was only natural that a trade would evolve. This year the Western Expo, which runs from Wednesday, October 17 through Saturday, October 20, includes not only a trade show but many other events as well. The NILE trade shows have always featured exhibitors with exquisite western art or jewelry, saddle, tack, and western ware as well as livestock equipment, feed and supplement, and cattle genetic based companies. “This year we are sold out,” says Justin Mills “that hasn’t always been the case, but this year we have had a lot of interest with vendors coming in to the NILE.” Several years ago, the NILE began adding other events in association with the NILE trade shows. Each day free entertainment including western music, poetry, bluegrass music, and Dutch Oven Cooking will be featured. A talented line-up of clinicians will give a variety of demonstrations on Friday and Saturday of The NILE in the Ford Super Duty Arena of the Montana Pavilion. Two sessions will be presented by each clinician daily. Demonstrations start at 10 a.m. and run until 6 p.m. on October 19 and 20. Ed and David Fryer along with Montana Beef Quality Assurance program show tips and tricks for making a day of working cattle just a little easier through their demonstrations on Low Stress Cattle Handling. A father-son team out of White Sulphur Springs, the Fryer’s have a passion for teaching others about cattle handling and show how it can make your ranch life easier too! Stock dogs have been a cowboys right-hand-man for years. Tim Feddes of Manhattan, Montana has been using stock dogs on his family’s Hereford ranch for years. Sharing how stock dogs can make a difference in life on the ranch for working livestock, Tim will show his dogs work a group of sheep live. Horse enthusiasts and trainers alike have been amazed by horse trainers like Chris Cox, Pat Parelli, Clinton Anderson and Dennis Reis. These same trainers have inspired Jacque Richey to teach others Natural Horsemanship and equine choreography, where they perform demonstrations to music without aids. Jacque currently offers lessons at Standing Rock Ranch in Billings, Montana and will be performing at NILE with some of her students. Finally, the Northern Range Ranch Roping Finals will take place on Saturday, October 20 in the Buckaroo Businesses Arena, however, come a day early and catch a qualifying ranch roping event for those working to make it to the finals the next day.

New this year will a unique area just for kids of all ages called the Young Guns Zone sponsored by Two-W Livestock Equipment and Taco Johns. “We wanted to provide some activities that would not only bring families to the NILE but offer them a fun experience,” says Mills. The big component that will be part of the Young Guns Zone will be three sessions of Mutton Bustin’ held each day. There is an entry fee for kids to participate of $10 and winners from each round during the day will be able to compete in the evening rodeo in Rimrock Auto Arena. “In the past we could only do ten Mutton Busters each night, which meant there were a lot of kids that didn’t get a chance to ride. This year we will be able to offer every kid that wants to, a chance to ride a sheep.” Mutton Bustin’ will taking place each afternoon at: 12:00, 2:00, and 4:00 for kids that are four-six years old and under forty-five pounds.

Other activities that will be in the Young Guns Zone will be the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation Shooting Gallery and Dummy Goat Roping with special jackpot competitions at: 11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm. Finally, each day will conclude with the Little Wrangler Stick Horse Rodeo at 5:00 pm where kids can compete in their favorite rodeo events with Miss Rodeo Montana Mariah Rys-Sikora as the host.

Since the inception of the NILE, an agricultural education component has become a major part of the NILE Stock Show & Rodeo. Each year nearly 2,000-area fourth graders make their way onto the Metra grounds to learn about agriculture and how it affects their daily lives. “This program is why we do what we do,” says Mills. It is a partnership between the NILE, Yellowstone County Extension, Yellowstone County Conservation District, and several other entities. The program provides teachers with curriculum material that meets state standards and pays for transportation for schools to participate in the program.

To conclude the week of activities the NILE turned to their history and roots of the livestock industry in the region to provide a finale event. New this year will be a full-fledged Cattle Drive and Parade. The NILE Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters Cattle Drive and Parade will take place on Saturday, October 20 at 10:00 am and will travel through downtown Billings. “We are working with Chas Weldon, curator of the Yellowstone Museum to help in recreating a Cattle Drive similar to what would have been seen traveling through the valley over 100 years ago,” says NILE General Manager Justin Mills. This year the Cattle Drive will contain 50 head of steers with a Trail Boss (Turk Stovall), out riders, a chuck wagon and a bunk wagon. The Cattle Drive will lead the parade and then continue past the normal parade route all the way from downtown Billings out to MetraPark. Following the parade will be a community Chuck Wagon Barbeque in the courtyard of MetraPark from 11:45 am – 1:30 pm. Those interested in being a part of the NILE Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters Cattle Drive & Parade can find an entry form and details at the NILE website (www.thenile.org) or by calling the NILE Office at 406.256.2495.

The NILE is a non-profit organization established in 1967 that is dedicated to the promotion of livestock, agriculture education, and respect of the western tradition. For more information on the NILE Stock Show and ProRodeo contact the NILE office at 406-256-2495 or visit www.thenile.org.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:59

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Measure examines healthcare law

By KEELE SMITH - Community News Service - UM School of Journalism

If backers of LR-122 succeed on Nov. 6, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the federal health care reform act may not be the last word on the matter in Montana.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, derided by opponents as Obamacare, represented one of the most significant overhauls in the nation’s health care system in 50 years.

Under the new federal law, individuals must buy health insurance or pay a tax penalty when filing their federal tax returns.

It is this so-called “individual mandate” that riled many Republicans in the state Legislature and prompted them to put LR-122 on the ballot.  Sen. Art Wittich, the Bozeman Republican who sponsored the legislation, said he believed “it was the state’s obligation to put this issue before the voters and allow them to have a say in it.”

In March 2010, President Obama signed the ACA into law, saying it would help control health care costs, expand insurance coverage and improve the health care delivery system.

The ACA requires insurance companies to pay at least 80 percent of premiums for medical care, cover people regardless of pre-existing conditions, and allow young adults to be covered by their parents’ insurance until the age of 26.

The measure’s origins

Although the high court upheld the ability of the federal government to penalize those not purchasing insurance by requiring them to pay an additional tax, it also ruled that states could opt out of another element of the law: expanding Medicaid availability to anyone 133 percent above the federal poverty line. That provision aimed to cover another 17 million Americans.

Montana lawmakers will have to decide whether to expand the state’s Medicaid program, but LR-122 targets the individual mandate part of the law.

Beginning in 2014, people without coverage would pay $95 or 1 percent of taxable income, whichever is greater.  That tax grows to $695 or 2.5 percent of taxable income in 2016.

After that, the penalty would increase annually by the cost-of-living adjustment.

LR-122 will give Montana voters a chance to support or oppose the idea.

The ballot measure came after the Republican-controlled Legislature passed a similar bill that was vetoed by Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Because the Legislature lacked the votes to overturn the veto, they voted to put the same proposal on the ballot with LR-122.

LR-122 would prohibit the state and federal governments from requiring the purchase of health insurance or imposing a penalty, tax, fee or fine on those who don’t buy it. This position would put the state in conflict with the Supreme Court decision from June.

Feds hold the cards

If it passes, “someone would go to court and challenge it right away,” predicted Jim Lopach, a longtime professor of political science at the University of Montana.

Lopach said even if the referendum becomes the law of Montana, it wouldn’t end the individual mandate.

“It’s like a game of cards,” he said. “Federal law trumps state law.  State law can’t trump federal law.”

According to Lopach, federal law was set when the Supreme Court upheld Congress’ power to enact most provisions of the Affordable Care Act.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the individual mandate in the ACA is constitutional under the taxation powers given to Congress by the U.S. Constitution.

Despite that ruling, Wittich said it’s important to put LR-122 before the voters because they should have a say as the state begins implementing the health care law.

“We drafted this 18 months ago so that the people of Montana had a right to provide their voice as to whether or not the mandate was legal,” he said.

Political gamesmanship?

Opponents of the ballot measure said it has nothing to do with law and everything to do with politics.

“It’s intended to get people riled up about the health care act when they don’t need to be riled up about it,” said Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula. “They should actually recognize that it’s done good things for Montana, and the individual mandate is an important part of it.”

Barrett was quick to list the new law’s benefits: Montanans with pre-existing conditions can get insurance, more young people can remain on their parent’s insurance, and patients are guaranteed that their insurance will cover at least 80 percent of their premiums.

Even though LR-122 focuses on the individual mandate, Wittich said the way the public votes on the measure may affect the debate over how Montana responds to the law.

“I think there’s an important role for the states as to how Obamacare will be implemented and if it will be implemented,” Wittich said.

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 October 2012 10:49

Hits: 1599

$20,000 to Honor Flight

A donation of more than $20,000 from independent Budweiser distributors across Montana puts the next Big Sky Honor Flight closer to reality.

Wholesalers met with representatives of Big Sky Honor Flight on Thursday, Oct. 4, to present the nonprofit group with a check for $20,575.87. The donation represents a substantial share of the purchase of each case of Budweiser sold in Montana in May, June, July and August. It also represents a statewide commitment by the wholesalers to sending World War II veterans to Washington, D.C. to see their memorial.

“We just felt that this was something we needed to do and wanted to do,” said Bruce Jensen, beer sales manager for Intermountain Distributing.

Big Sky Honor Flight’s mission is to recognize World War II veterans for their sacrifices and achievements by flying them to Washington, D.C., — at no cost to them — to see their memorial. Top priority is given to terminally ill veterans. About 190 veterans have already made trips to Washington as part of the Honor Flight program. The contributions made through Budweiser purchases and through other donations will help keep the flights going until all Montana World War II veterans who apply can complete one last mission.

The Budweiser donation moves the program a big step closer to a third flight in the spring, committee members said. Two tours of Big Sky Honor Flight veterans have already been to Washington, D.C. and back. Another 256 World War II veterans are on the waiting list, so as many as three more flights might be needed.

Memories from the flights are priceless and each veteran has felt honored to be a part of it, said Bill Kennedy, vice president of Big Sky Honor Flight.

“The tears that came as soon as we arrived back in Billings said it all,” Kennedy said. “When they saw the 500-plus people cheering them on and they said, ‘this is for us?’ We’re 60 to 70 years late on giving them the homecoming they deserve, but we’re making good on it.”

The trips include stops at important memorials and landmarks in the Washington area including Arlington National Cemetery. The highlight of the trip will be a stop at the National World War II Memorial, which was opened in 2004 and serves as a tribute to the 16 million Americans who served during the war.

The overall fundraising continues as Big Sky Honor Flight aims to get another two or three flights scheduled from Montana over the next two years. About $152,000 is needed to get each flight off the ground.

Through the Honor Flight Network, veterans are flown to see their monument on a “first-come, first-serve basis” with preference given to terminally ill veterans.

To find out more about Big Sky Honor Flight, how to donate and how veterans can apply, go to www.bigskyhonorflight.org, or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. . All donations are tax-deductible.

Last Updated on Saturday, 25 May 2013 22:31

Hits: 892

Insurance rates examined

By DEBORAH COURSON SMITH - Big Sky Connection

MISSOULA – Getting a second opinion is standard procedure when facing health problems, and a local consumer advocate wants the same standard in place for health insurance rate hikes. 

Steph Larsen, an assistant director for the Center for Rural Affairs in Missoula, says oversight can save Montanans money. She says an insurance company that operates in both Montana and South Dakota wanted to raise rates by 18 percent last year. The hike wasn’t questioned in Montana, but in South Dakota, it was found not to be reasonable.

“It was knocked back to eight percent because South Dakota has the authority to question whether the rate hike of 18 percent was justified.”

Larsen claims reviewing rates helps keep insurers honest, and it’s up to the state legislature to set a rate review law. Insurance companies have resisted reviews, saying that consumers can switch companies if they don’t like rate hikes. Larsen adds that most states review rate increases: only three do not.

Larsen says a competitive marketplace would work in Montana to control insurance rates if there were a host of competitors, but that’s not the case in Big Sky Country.

“Health insurance really isn’t a free market system right now in Montana, because two insurers control over 80 percent of the market.”

Larsen says the state should seriously look at ways to keep health costs down, because those are factored into rate hikes. She also wants the state to consider expanding Medicaid, so more families will receive regular care rather than pass on expenses by using emergency rooms for routine care and delaying treatments.

Last Updated on Thursday, 04 October 2012 22:16

Hits: 1221

Red flag warning set

 

Below is a National Weather Service Red Flag warning which will be in effect from 6 am to midnight on Tuesday 10/2/2012.  The weather conditions will create explosive fire growth potential. Aggressive initial attack and mutual aid will be crucial as resources will likely be stretched thin. If there are any questions concerning this, please contact me. Please urge everyone to use EXTREME caution during this critical period! Thank you.

GALLATIN NATIONAL FOREST-WHEATLAND COUNTY/SWEET GRASS COUNTY- STILLWATER COUNTY-BEARTOOTH RANGER DISTRICT CUSTER NATIONAL FOREST- GOLDEN VALLEY COUNTY/MUSSELSHELL COUNTY-YELLOWSTONE COUNTY- CROW INDIAN RESERVATION/BIG HORN CANYON REC AREA- NORTHERN ROSEBUD/NORTHERN TREASURE COUNTIES- NORTHERN CHEYENNE INDIAN RESERVATION/ASHLAND RANGER DISTRICT CUSTER NATL FOREST-CUSTER COUNTY- SIOUX RANGER DISTRICT CUSTER NATIONAL FOREST-SHERIDAN COUNTY- BIG HORN NATIONAL FOREST-

939 AM MDT MON OCT 1 2012

..RED FLAG WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM TUESDAY TO MIDNIGHT MDT TUESDAY NIGHT FOR LOW HUMIDITIES...UNSEASONABLY WARM TEMPERATURES...STRONG GUSTY WINDS...AND WIND SHIFT WITH A COLD FRONT FOR ALL OF SOUTH CENTRAL MONTANA...ALL OF SOUTHEAST MONTANA...PARTS OF NORTHWEST SOUTH DAKOTA...AND PARTS OF NORTH CENTRAL WYOMING...

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BILLINGS HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 6 AM TUESDAY TO MIDNIGHT MDT TUESDAY NIGHT.

* IMPACTS...STRONG WIND GUSTS COMBINED WITH LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY

  LEVELS AND A STRONG COLD FRONT WILL CREATE DANGEROUS FIRE

  WEATHER CONDITIONS TUESDAY INTO TUESDAY NIGHT.

* COLD FRONT...A STRONG COLD FRONT IS EXPECTED TO MOVE THROUGH THE

  AREA LATE TUESDAY AFTERNOON WITH A STRONG WIND SHIFT TO THE

  NORTH.

* WIND...WEST WINDS 15 TO 25 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 35 MPH ARE EXPECTED

  DURING THE DAY TUESDAY...SHIFTING TO THE NORTH WITH GUSTS AROUND

  40 MPH AS A COLD FRONT MOVES THROUGH THE REGION.

* HUMIDITY...AS LOW AS 12 PERCENT.

* TEMPERATURES...75 TO 85.

PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS...

A RED FLAG WARNING MEANS THAT CRITICAL FIRE WEATHER CONDITIONS ARE EITHER OCCURRING NOW...OR WILL SHORTLY. A COMBINATION OF STRONG WINDS...LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...AND WARM TEMPERATURES WILL CREATE EXPLOSIVE FIRE GROWTH POTENTIAL.

Duane Winslow

Emergency and General Services Director

Yellowstone County

Last Updated on Monday, 01 October 2012 23:57

Hits: 1637

President Mace says he’ll retire at Rocky

Rocky Mountain College

Rocky Mountain College President Michael R. Mace announced his retirement, effective June 30, at the Board of Trustees meeting on Friday, Sept. 21.

“We thanked Mike for his dedicated service and with best wishes to him in his retirement,” said Carl Hansen, chairman of the Rocky Mountain College Board of Trustees. “We hired him for one year and we were fortunate to keep him for five more years. He leaves a solid record of growth with stability.”

Mace, who was named interim president on Oct. 12, 2005, when Thomas R. Oates resigned, was deemed “the right man at the right time,” by William Ballard, a member of the RMC Board.

Mace said he intends to enjoy “spending time with family, traveling, fishing, and relaxing” when he finishes his career at RMC.

“I’ve enjoyed the work I did at Rocky more than any job I’ve done in my life. I’ve been fortunate to work with great people doing meaningful work,” he said. “I feel we’ve accomplished what we set out to do: grow the endowment, the enrollment and maintain a balanced budget.”

Hansen said the college will conduct a national search for a replacement.

“We have Mike for another nine months and he will help with a smooth transition and finding a replacement,” Hansen said.

During his tenure, Mace was praised for leadership in the community, for fostering good relations with the college’s constituents, and for overseeing sustained growth in the college’s finances. The endowment and trusts increased from $17 million to nearly $30 million during his tenure; enrollment increased from 650 to almost 1,000 students. RMC’s annual scholarship fundraisers – Black Tie Blue Jeans – flourished during his presidency, with increases in total funds every year. The college continued to be named one of the best

colleges in the West by U.S. News & World Report, as well as one of the top five best value colleges in the West. Forbes named RMC the top college in Montana in 2010.

The Masters of Physician Assistant Studies program was also successfully reaccredited for five years, with its graduates testing in the top 10 percent nationally under Mace’s leadership. The 2012 class was in the top 9 percent in national testing with one third achieving perfect scores.

For the past two years and four of the last five years, 100 percent of RMC’s students have passed the PANCE on the first testing, averaging 92 percent.

“We are grateful for how Mike helped turn this college around. His successor certainly will step into a very much better atmosphere than he found when he took over,” said Barb Skelton, a current trustee and immediate past chair.

Mace has a bachelor’s degree in business from Montana State University-Bozeman and has a certificate from the Carlson Graduate School of Management at the University of Minnesota. The program teaches senior executives of Fortune 1000 firms a master’s of business administration curriculum over 14-months.

Married to Karen, a retired elementary school teacher, he has two children: Anne and Joseph.

Last Updated on Saturday, 29 September 2012 20:11

Hits: 3662

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