Occupation: Small-business owner, policy adviser/public relations.
Family: Daughter, Jennifer Rose Beston. Granddaughters, Jenuine RyLynn Windy Boy and Jazmine Rose Windy Boy.
Education: High school diploma, degree in telecommunications.
Past employment: Oil-field exploration (all phases), contracted as a drug and alcohol prevention speaker at national conventions and schools across the country. Perennial champion dancer.
Political experience: 12 years, as a tribal leader/vice chairman for the Chippewa Cree Tribe. Six years in Montana House of Representatives. Four years in Montana Senate.
Address: P.O. Box 269; Box Elder, MT 59521.
Phone number: 406-945-1805.
The energy boom in Eastern Montana has benefited the entire state with jobs and revenue from oil taxes, but the rapid growth is also overwhelming communities like Sidney, where the local government expects to fall $47.7 million short of paying for growth-related costs like increased public safety, sewer, water and road improvements, to name a few. The region's schools are also overwhelmed, and the drumbeat for skilled workers is constant.
What should the 2013 Legislature do, if anything, to help the region and its communities deal with impacts/effects of the energy boom?
I feel it's important to support local governments with local control to some extent. They ought to have the ability to keep some of the oil and gas taxes/revenue locally and keep the extra resources needed to build their own infrastructure needs accordingly. After all, since this oil boom will be here for time to come, the state needs to show as much support locally as we can.
The 2013 Legislature will consider a plan to award more state funding to Montana school districts that meet "well-defined performance goals and objectives," while cutting state funding as a way of penalizing underperforming school districts. The performance goals would be defined by the 2013 Legislature, as well, but are sure to address Montana's 25 percent dropout rate and the 30 percent of in-state college students who need remedial math courses.
Should the state play a role in regulating public school performance? If so, what performance goals would you set?
The 2011 Legislature set a precedent by rejecting a federal law, the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act. If we reject one, we should reject them all, like the No Child Left Behind Act. It's not doing what the original intent is, leaving no child behind. On the contrary, it's leaving a lot of children behind. It's good that the schools that are achieving high test scores are receiving the awards they deserve. But it's disingenuous to continue penalizing the ones who aren't. That's where the focus should be, by taking a look at what the high-performance schools are doing.
Name an issue important to your district and explain what you will do to address it.
* Jobs. The Legislature needs to pursue a more jobs-friendly environment to help the economy from north-central Montana to northeastern Montana. During the session, you hear a lot of rhetoric about whose idea is the best for Montana.
* Keystone Pipeline XL. The Keystone Pipeline goes through the middle of Senate District 16. I praised President Obama for rejecting the pipeline, and I agree with him the reasons he stated along with a few others. I may eventually support it, once a few of the concerns are addressed.
* Eminent domain. I'm a strong supporter of private property rights.
Several tax cuts will likely be considered by the 2013 Legislature, including eliminating the business equipment property tax (a $91.9 million revenue reduction) and the corporate income tax (an $87.9 million revenue reduction). Explain your reasons for supporting or opposing these cuts, or suggest another cut or increase. Whichever you choose, explain the government action needed to pay for your decision.
The overall revenue projections made by the governor's office and the budget office has been more accurate and closer to their projections, as opposed to what the majority party of the Legislature projected. If and when the business equipment tax and the corporate tax elimination comes up, I will review it and consider all aspects of any proposed legislation. In the meantime, it would be unfair for me to make assumptions of a bill without any proposed language. If there's hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue again this next year, why cut more than we have to?
The Commissioner of Political Practices Office, the state's watchdog for campaigns, lobbyists and political action committees, is being criticized by lawmakers for the way its administrator is selected by the governor, whom the appointee then regulates. But there are other issues, namely that complaints filed during an election year often aren't resolved until after the victor's political term has expired. Penalties issued by the commissioner rarely, if ever, curtail campaign shenanigans.
What changes as a lawmaker would you support to make Political Practices more effective?
This is another classic example of disgruntlement. It shouldn't be the Legislature's role to micromanage another branch of government. Whenever a certain party controls the executive branch and the Legislature is controlled by the other, politics always rears its head in some manner. If the disgruntled legislators are successful in their bid for their legislative seats, they should redirect their efforts in proposing bills that make the commissioner of Political Practices and his/her staff more accountable, to what their job duties are, and then get out of the micromanagement practice once and for all.