The Billings Gazette publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are today's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
American Legion maintains Montana fatality markers
The markers stand beside the road in the location of a fatality, they are not a memorial marker. They are placed, maintained by members of the American Legion. The purpose of the marker is to remind motorists that driving can be dangerous, people need to be aware of their surroundings make sure they are driving cautiously and maintaining safe speeds.
According to mtlegion.org, the program was started in 1952, (with an agreement with the Department of Transportation) and is intended as a highway safety program.
They are a sobering reminder of a fatal accident, a place where a human being lost their life.
In the last few years the American Legion department highway fatality marker chairman has been cracking down on items being placed on and around the fatality markers. Each post in Montana is responsible for putting up markers and maintaining them in their area. The website goes on to say, ''When a highway is reconstructed and corrects what may have been a problem" all markers are removed. Therefore, people will notice those markers are gone.
On the back of the marker should be a sticker that says "Property of the American Legion." Please do not decorate, write on, or place names on the face of the marker or post.
When entering Montana, there are blue signs that the Department of Transportation has put up, saying the white markers represent highway fatalities, maintained by the American Legion of Montana.
The Department of Transportation made the rules, and the American Legion follows them. This means that each American Legion Post is responsible for their area. The American Legion is the only agency responsible for the markers.
American Legion fatality marker chairman
Post 42, Townsend
C-PACE financing would help Montana businesses
Commercial property owners stand to win big if Commercial Property Assessment Clean Energy is enabled with the passage of SB245. C-PACE would provide business owners and ag producers access to 100 percent up-front financing to make energy efficiency and renewable energy improvements to their properties. Old, inefficient buildings have high utility bills. This program would provide the ability to upgrade — think energy efficient windows and water efficient fixtures; think new heating and cooling systems, lighting improvements and more.
C-PACE is a financing tool. The cost of these upgrades is repaid as a small assessment on the property’s annual tax bill over a term of 20 years. The annual energy savings for C-PACE projects are designed to exceed the annual assessment payment, so property owners save money from the start. C-PACE programs do not use public money.
C-PACE is an investment in the property, not a loan to the property owners. The assessment stays with the property even if the owner might sell and move on.
Thirty-six states make C-PACE available. It requires state legislation to enable C-PACE and once passed, it gives counties the ability to develop C-PACE districts. Projects are funded by private capital providers, like banks and investors, and facilitated by a state administrator.
C-PACE creates local jobs for HVAC, lighting, insulation and electrical contractors. This program supports small business owners and ag producers, increases property values, and leads to economic development for our Montana communities, big and small.
Let your senator know you support SB245.
Not all lawyers are like Michael Cohen
In response to the Michael Cohen testimony for the congressional committee: Not all lawyers are liars; some are repentant. My beloved late brother-in-law worked for a large law firm in Missoula, representing corporate America. He did not feel good about what he did then. Many years later, he had the opportunity to start his own law firm where he represented the little guy, for which he was very proud. He had a wicked sense of humor, but was a very honorable guy. People change, so please do not put all attorneys into one category.
Colleen Youngblood Meismer
Green New Deal is common sense
Climate change is affecting Montanans now more than ever. We are seeing worse and longer fire seasons and our representatives have done nothing.
A Green New Deal will keep Americans safe from climate change and create millions of good-paying, green jobs. It is common-sense policy that is overwhelmingly popular. Montana has so much room for improvement in renewable energy.
While coal jobs dwindle each year, part of a Green New Deal would be to replace those jobs that are less safe and declining anyway, with good paying jobs. We, as Montanans could set the bar for other states in wind and solar energy.
If our representatives do not sign on to Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Sen. Markey's resolution, they will be replaced.
Support One Big Sky plan for Billings' future
I am writing because I have genuine concern about the City Council's recent wavering of support for One Big Sky District. The council has a duty to verify that such a plan is properly vetted. The council has an equally important duty to encourage Billings to be a better place to live, work and prosper. One Big Sky is not just about a conference center. Rather it is about building a more unified and dynamic city from MSUB through the hospital district and into downtown. One Big Sky is about driving a stronger economic engine to raise the tax base, raise incomes and expand employment opportunities. Montana Station is not a conference center, but rather a multi-event gathering place in the heart of our city. One Big Sky does not compete with the Stillwater Building, but rather, improves its potential to be a place businesses might want to locate because downtown as a whole would have improved potential.
It's not an insult to hear that Billings does not have any good alternatives, it's a fact. There is no one else lined up to help lead Billings to a stronger future. Big Sky EDA, the Chamber, DBA, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent, St. Johns, YMCA and numerous others have testified that One Big Sky District is something they strongly support.
Please think about the future. Please give One Big Sky District continued support.
State support makes college affordable for Montanans
Restoring investments in public higher education is the best way to ensure the long-term prosperity and vibrancy of our state. Right now, our representatives are considering proposals for a funded tuition freeze and restoring $5 million of state financial aid that’s been cut in the past four years alone.
Last week, a legislative committee voted to reduce the restoration of state financial aid from $5 to $2 million. With the private match that proposal would include, that could mean $6 million less for the students at MSUB who are struggling most to afford an education.
State financial aid has been absolutely critical for me in achieving my academic success, and this narrative is true for so many of my fellow students. We work hard every day to excel in our classes, work part-time jobs, and participate in extra-curriculars to propel our campuses forward.
This committee supported a funded tuition freeze that could finally bring state funding for public colleges and universities back to 1992 levels, after inflation. I deeply appreciate legislators’ support for returning that investment, and I hope our representatives will continue their support during the long Legislative Session ahead.
These investments will decide whether many Montanans can afford to enroll in and complete college at places like MSUB, and whether we can afford to stay in state afterwards. Please help us make that answer a “yes.”
Daines overstates his Senate record
We have all heard the story of the little boy telling his parents at the dinner table how well he is doing in school. Every week at the dinner table he would give his parents the same report. At the end of the month, the teacher sent home a note, asking the parents to come in for a conference to talk about their son’s below-average progress.
Senator Steve Daines on his website last week announced his above-average score on his Senate bills introduced, passed and signed by the president. The website govtrack.us shows Daines has introduced 54 all type bills during the 115th Congress, 48 Senate Bills, eight Senate Resolutions (simple resolutions are used to express nonbinding positions of the Senate), two Senate Concurring Bills and two Senate Joint Resolutions. The Senate ordered seven bill reports and three bills were signed by the president.
The 115th Congress passed 433 laws in total. Nearly a third of the laws passed by the 115th Congress were ceremonial in nature. Sen. Daines had a .063 percent bills signed into law. The average bills passed was 3 percent. Like the little boy, Daines has below-average progress contrary to his Jan. 23 website news release.
Dyrck Van Hyning
Say good-bye to One Big Sky consultant
The old definition of a consultant is any person with a briefcase over a hundred miles away from home. Well hello, Bob Dunn! We citizens of Billings are grateful to you for pointing out the wellness/medical corridor. Until you arrived on the scene, we had no idea that both hospitals and myriad other medical clinics and offices already exist there. And is it just a coincidence that the MSUB campus already exists within the area you propose for education? As one of my old work partners would say: “You have a keen eye for the obvious.”
In order to be financially feasible, Dunn assumes that individuals, businesses and retail will all readily pay the increased rents necessary. This is defined as the “market gap.” Heavy on the “gap.” And, what about parking? The proposal touts two underground parking garages with a total of around 500 spaces. Additional parking to be added as needed. Easier said than done, Dunn. City code requires five parking spaces for every 40 square feet of seating; thus, the 5,000 spaces at the Metra. For the proposed Montana Pavilion in the heart of downtown over 3,000 spaces would be required, not to mention the residential, office and retail requirements.
In summary, if you have lived in Montana for any length of time as I have, you know what manure smells like, and I challenge you to find any section of this proposal that does not stink like a feedlot.
In Tuesday’s Gazette, Mayor Bill Cole is quoted as saying, “Bob Dunn (CEO of Landmark) made it clear, they’re going to go big or go home on this.” Bye bye, Bob.
Don't shift NWE risks to Montana ratepayers
Saving the town of Colstrip from ruin as the coal industry declines is a conversation worth having. Not all the ideas being proposed are good, however.
A prime example is Senate Bill 278 (sponsored by Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings). Richmond’s plan is to allow NorthWestern Energy to buy Colstrip plants 3 and 4 for $1, and shift responsibility for all cleanup costs — now estimated at $700 million, maybe more — onto the backs of NorthWestern’s customers.
Really? Orchestrate a deal like this for NorthWestern Energy and then lay all the costs onto ratepayers?
To top it off, SB278 would exempt this cost-shifting from any oversight by the Public Service Commission. Ratepayers would have no recourse against anything that NorthWestern — a monopoly utility company — decides to charge them for all the liabilities associated with the aging coal plants.
This is exactly why the PSC exists, to protect consumers from unfair practices by monopolies. And yet this is the very protection that SB278 seeks to overturn.
It’s no different than a giant tax increase, only you’ll be paying it on your NorthWestern Energy bill.
Contact your legislators and tell them to vote against SB278.
Whose interests does SB278 promote?
Who is pushing SB 278 along with the local Sen. Tom Richmond? I'd like to know who the proponents of this bill are. What could possibly be the incentive? This is obviously going to cost NorthWestern Energy customers more for many years. Our Legislature should be looking out for the people of Montana, not the lobbyists and the special interest groups. Can The Gazette shine some more light on these special interest groups to let the public and more importantly the voters make an informed decision on who should represent us?
Biilings council should stay with Landmark
I find myself a bit confused by the decisions of the City Council members at the Feb. 11 meeting regarding One Big Sky District. You see, I thought ours was a city that kept its word, especially considering our desire to be a viable place to build business, grow relationships and families. Let me ask you this: What business will trust us now? To borrow a phrase, why won’t Billings dance with the one that brought them?
It seems to me that we committed ourselves. All the successful votes, the council meetings, the studies, years of work, negotiation, redesign and now, in the home stretch, we’re fighting in the trenches of the state Legislature and suddenly, Billings sorta/kinda doesn’t want to work with the developer at the forefront of it all. Landmark, who has committed time and money, and is asking to commit more of their time and money to the project, no longer has our commitment. To paraphrase council member Brent Cromley, “Landmark isn’t our only way forward.” Not only is Cromley not going to dance with his date, he’s not willing to see them home afterwards. That’s a class act.
The thing about dances, though, if Billings decides that they want to move forward with somebody else, there’s always another person willing to step up and be the right one. Almost all the hard work is done, so what’s to stop Bozeman or Missoula from stepping out with Landmark instead? We know how that ends.
Richmond's bill allows NWE to exploit customers
Senator Tom Richmond's Senate Bill 278 to rescue the coal-fired power plants at Colstrip would turn on its head 100 years of law dealing with "natural monopolies" (pipelines, gas supplies, telephones and electric generation) as well as their use of delegated sovereign powers. Natural monopolies were allowed to use eminent domain to facilitate their monopoly establishment, and in return they agreed to allow regulation of rate of return and quality of service to protect their customers from overweening power in the hands of private parties or corporations.
Richmond's bill removes such restraint from the owners of the Colstrip Plant (NorthWestern Energy) bypassing the Public Service Commission' traditional role to protect the ratepayers, and leaving the ratepayers open to complete exploitation financially as well as for terms of service. NorthWestern's customers will have no protection from the exercising of imbalanced power.
Stick with Rep. Read on climate science
Phillip Parker is certainly correct in calling for improved science education in our public schools, and his letter is a perfect example why. In throwing invectives at Joe Read for his attempt to inject real science into our public discourse, Parker demonstrates his own ignorance of real climate science. Projecting one's own inadequacies to someone we disagree with makes it more satisfying to demean him, but makes civil discussion difficult.
CO2, as Joe Read implies, has little to do with global temperature, being present in infinitesimal quantities, and correlating very poorly with temperature trends. It is one of the least abundant greenhouse gases, the most important being water vapor — which Parker failed to mention. It is true that greenhouse gases absorb long-wave radiation from the earth, which heats them, but the laws of thermodynamics prevent the re-radiation of this to the earth. The greenhouse gases can never be warmer than the surface of the earth and therefore can't warm it. There is no such thing as radiative greenhouse warming.
The earth is not going to self-destruct from global warming. A more likely scenario is that we commit economic suicide by means of destructive and hugely expensive policy mistakes. But statements like, "historical CO2 levels correlate well with levels of fossil fuel consumption," are confusing and meaningless. Let's stick with real science, and not leave Joe Read a "voice crying in the wilderness."
David E. Klein, MD
Raise standards for dog food
Dog food — just something to put out for non-humans. Who cares what is in it? It is just dog food.
My 15-year-old Jack Russell has been poisoned twice by manufactured food. I Google’d “recalled dog food,” and they have all been recalled at one time or another. This second time, he was poisoned by a canned prescription food made by Hill’s Science Diet, also made in the U.S.A. The food has high levels of vitamin D, which can make dogs very sick. The food was voluntarily recalled.
The FDA doesn’t have enough inspectors to take care of inspecting human food, so, we cannot expect any help there. My thoughts: Dog and cat food manufacturers all need to be responsible for inspections by independent inspectors, to protect our pets.
Most of these companies have been in business for a very long time and make billions in profits — hire independent inspectors. No shortcuts, no excuses. Spend a small percent of those profits making sure that what we feed our family pet members is safe.
Not everyone can afford to buy locally made food, or they may lack the ability to make their own food. I always thought prescription food would be safe for my boy. My error. Hill’s says they will require their supplier to implement additional quality control testing — they should have been doing that all along. They also say that the dogs should recover after discontinuation of feeding the recalled food. My dog has since recovered.
We, as pet parents, need to insist that the food made for our pets will always be safe for them. It should be as safe as anything that we would feed our human children.
Legislators take aim at wolves
There are a slew of bills in the Montana Legislature with the same goal: killing as many wolves as possible. The actors behind these bills are blunt about their intent, including the Missoula-based Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation. This conservation-turned-trophy hunting organization now wants “… baiting, same-day airborne hunting, night hunting, hunting with dogs, no blaze orange, longer seasons” and more trapping of wolves. Poison is not yet listed but it’s the next card they will play.
The often-touted sportsmen’s ethics including “fair chase” are forgotten when it comes to killing wolves and other predators. RMEF donated $25,000 to Idaho-based Foundation 4 Wildlife Management, to pay “sportsmen” $1,000 per wolf trapped or shot in Idaho.
Now Montana wolves are in the crosshairs. HB279 would pay the expenses of trappers per wolf killed in a trap. HB551 would allow night-hunting of wolves. HB552 would eliminate setbacks of traps set for wolves along certain roads. These bills are currently sailing through the House and may become law unless the public speaks up. Hunters and trappers already kill around 300 wolves every year. Please speak up for Montana’s wolves by urging your House representative to vote no on these bills.
Oppose HJ28; bison belong here
The Montana Legislature is considering HJ28 to block the Bureau of Land Management from approving the American Prairie Reserve's proposal to switch some BLM allotments from "cattle" to "bison" grazing. This should be voted down.
The American Prairie Reserve's proposal for safely placing bison on BLM allotments is environmentally and economically sound, is based on proven methods, is following precedent already established, and is good for Montana.
The American Prairie Reserve is cooperating with federal, state and tribal land owners, even ranchers, to conserve an entire northern prairie ecology, including bison. I have visited the reserve, explored, camped, watched wildlife, even volunteered one day planting native shrubs along a creek. The reserve is a wonderful resource open to the public.
Yes, livestock have grazed on public lands since the settlement of the West, but bison have grazed here since long before that. And problems with livestock grazing have been long-known. In 1878, John Wesley Powell wrote a Report on the Lands of the Arid Region of the United States. Therein, he said, "Cattle, horses, and sheep have ranged through all of the valleys and upon all the mountains. Over large areas they have destroyed the native grasses, and they have everywhere reduced them. Where once the water from rain was entangled in a mesh of vegetation and restrained from gathering into rills, there is now only an open growth of bushes that offer no obstruction. Where once the snows of autumn were spread on a nonconducting mat of hay, … they now fall upon naked earth and are melted at once by its warmth."
I am not opposed to cattle; in fact, I love beef, and I drink milk. But I think Montana is big enough for wildlife too, including bison.
Please stop HJ28.
Fragrances often do much harm
America is in love with fragrances and insists on forcing them on everyone. These invasive products can be found in a plethora of public facilities in the form of candles, plug-ins, air fresheners, perfumes and fabric softeners. This toxic stew of dust and chemicals is how we are being greeted in many public stores and offices.
The intent is to mask odors and create a pleasing indoor space. Oops, what about the hazardous air pollutants involved in the use? Even the so-called green or organic products emit hazardous pollutants. The ingredients in all fragrances are largely unknown and undisclosed, owing to regulatory protection, “trade secrets.”
Less than 10 percent of all VOCs (volatile organic compounds) are typically disclosed on labels. Commonly emitted VOCs related to scent in candles and other fragrance-infected products, include formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, alcohol and esters.
Plug-in air fresheners contain phthalates which are a known cause of birth defects and learning problems. They also disrupt sex hormones. These products have also been associated with other adverse effects such as migraine headaches, asthma attacks, allergy symptoms, infant illness, and breathing difficulties. What other long-term health issues might be impacted by these chemicals? There are continuing studies being done on the effects of these chemicals. Until the consumer realizes the consequences of these products and makes more health conscience decisions in their purchases this situation will continue. Businesses using these chemicals, please unplug.
Who benefits from Signal Peak?
Rep. Barry Usher has submitted HB 403 to extend Signal Peak's coal proceeds tax abatement for another 10 years. The majority of Signal Peak's employees reside in, and spend their paychecks in, Yellowstone County. Most of the supplies and services for the mine are sourced out of Yellowstone County. In fact, the overwhelming majority of the financial benefits provided by the mine accrue to either Yellowstone County or the state, while Musselshell County suffers the vast majority of both the environmental damage and financial loss as a result of the coal proceeds tax abatement imposed by the state Legislature eight years ago against the express desires of the commissioners of Musselshell County.
If Usher and the House Taxation committee are convinced there is an important public benefit to continuing to subsidize Signal Peak indefinitely maybe they should consider compensating Musselshell for all or part of the financial loss out of the state general fund.
Montana law must define 'fossil'
Everyone knows what a fossil is — the remains, traces or imprints of a previously living animal or plant preserved on or in the earth’s crust (Paleontological Resources Preservation Act — Federal Public Law 111-011, 2009).
The Montana State Legislature knows, too — establishing the Montana State Fossil in 1985, the dinosaur Maiasaura peeblesorum, suggested by a Livingston middle school classroom.
But Montana law is unclear, contradictory and without a definition of fossils. And into that void stepped the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court to decide that Montana’s fossils are minerals.
Fossil remains (shells, bones, teeth, etc.) are composed of minerals deposited by organic processes during the organism’s life — like our own bones and teeth. After death and burial, these minerals may get altered to other minerals, but the original organic form remains. That is, it still looks like a shell or bone or other life form. This preserved (fossilized) organic shape is what defines a fossil — it is how fossils are recognized and classified. The mineral content of a fossil is irrelevant to its being a fossil.
In contrast, minerals formed without an organic association are inorganic minerals deposited by inorganic processes, and their shape does not reflect a pre-existing life form.
House Bill 229 seeks to remedy the inadequacy of the Montana Annotated Code by providing a definition of fossils. Montana’s law should reflect the science, recognize the long-standing practice of separating fossils from minerals and provide protection for Montana’s paleontological resources.
Problems with elk shoulder season in Montana
A bill before the Montana Legislature would allow more cow elk tags per hunter for the so-called “shoulder seasons” and also allow party hunting. Hunters opposed the bill, but guess who came in for it — the Montana Outfitters and Guides Association and the Montana Stockgrowers Association and Farm Bureau.
Shoulder seasons – when hunters can pursue pregnant cows as late as Feb. 15 in deep snow — are only needed because of a lack of access during the rifle season in October and November. That’s when we should be hunting elk under ethical standards. Later seasons should only be for game damage and used sparingly.
The outfitters have tied up 6.5 million acres of private land so they can sell trophy bull elk hunts. That doesn’t include the public land that is cut off from the public by these exclusive leases. But once the trophy hunt is over and they can’t sell elk, these landowners go to Montana FWP and blame them for all those pesky cow elk munching on their grass.
Montana hunters better wake up and see what’s going on here. These outfitters want seasons tailor made to their operations, and they’ll go to the Legislature to make them permanent. That means five weeks when you can pay, and half day hunts over a haystack to kill cow elk for the rest of us.
War on drugs will continue to fail
Many say we must do something about the opiate crisis. House Bill 86 is not a solution but is an extension of the U.S. government’s failed war on drugs. The 1920s prohibition against alcohol did not curb the public’s desire for alcohol but did cause a rise in organized crime. Alcohol won the war.
Government war against marijuana raged from the 1930s, and, like alcohol, marijuana won. The war on drugs focused on cocaine in the 1970s, methamphetamines in the 1980s. While these substances have not been legalized, cocaine remains in use. Meth use continues to rise. Organized crime is flourishing by peddling these illegal substances.
The failed government war on drugs extended to opiates focuses the strategy on physicians and their pain patients, most of whom are innocent of any intent of wrongdoing and should not be criminalized. This current phase of the war on drugs will fail because as with alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and meth, government cannot stop people from seeking their substances of choice, no matter how many laws and regulations are passed. This type of strategy must be rejected as it will fail the stated purpose and hurt innocent people in the process.
Missing Non Sequitur
I agree with Gazette Editor Darrell Ehrlick’s reason, for axing “Non Sequitur,” although on bad news days, it was the only amusing item in The Gazette. But I'll miss it terribly, especially the bears.
This whole situation underscores the despicable toxicity of our national swamp.
Instead of statesmen and women in Washington, we have, with notable exceptions, money-hugging opportunists who have no concept or interest in anyone or anything beyond their like-minded circle of lemmings and their feckless self-centered disdain for the Constitution.
Now, to help us protect our nation until an intelligent, well-spoken, educated principled leader rises up among us, please give us a humor corner in The Gazette. There's tons of research on the healing power of laughter: physical, mental, emotional healing. We need it now!
As comedian Michael Prichard said, "Laughter is like changing a diaper: It doesn't get rid of the problem, it just makes things more bearable for a while."
Don't burden NWE customers with Colstrip costs
Vote no on Senate Bill 278. The SB278 under consideration by the Montana Legislature, if passed, will allow Northwestern Energy tbuy additional shares of the Colstrip Power Plant from other shareholders, then pass on additional plant costs to ratepayers without any oversight by the Montana Public Service Commission to protect electric service customers. SB278 eliminates the ability of the PSC to prevent NWE from overcharging its 300,000 residential, small-business, commercial and industrial customers. SB278 would force the PSC to approve any existing or increased costs required by NWE for:
- owning and operating its existing share of the Colstrip Plant even if those costs are imprudent
- transmission costs regardless of the price tag
- any interest in the plant including remediation costs — even though NWE is allowed to purchase additional shares for a mere $1, they would be able to pass on escalating costs of the aging power plant to its customers.
Considering the fact that the Colstrip plant is outdated and valued at $340 million, which is a huge liability, this bill would force us (the consumers) to pay for the negative value of the plant which the Montana Department of Environmental Quality recently estimated at up to $700 million. As a NWE customer, I don’t want to pay for this, do you?
Michael J. Taylor
Thanks for voting no on One Big Sky District
Thank you, city council members voting no on the One Big Sky issue at the Feb. 11 meeting.
Why the rush, and why did the owner of the existing convention center on Midland Road suddenly cancel plans to reconstruct a larger center at this proven site?
What will the financial effect be on Billings' property owners when SD2 loses funds for students attending the new Lockwood High School?
Billings is already a major regional medical center, offering patients three outstanding health care systems. Providers are now fulfilling community desire for safe, conveniently located medical sites providing surface parking without having to navigate downtown.
What relevance were the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania junkets? The drawing power of those areas is about 25 and 50 million people within 500 miles respectively compared to our maybe 1 million potential! We now have adequate convention facilities.
Complete our beltway; adopt reasonable, supportive zoning policies; and allow the market to operate. We have done too much in the name of economic development that did not need doing, costing county taxpayers much, profiting few. I worked with a student group at MSUB some years ago and we did a market research project offering great potential. We called it, "Sun City North." This project would attract individuals/consumers capable of paying taxes and providing their own health insurance. I would gladly share this idea at no cost and with no hidden agenda or conflicts of interest with anyone that can make the same promise.
David J. Krueger
SB278 gives blank check to utility
Being a small-business owner, I am appalled by Sen. Tom Richmond's SB278. It is unbelievable that our legislature is close to giving NorthWestern Energy a blank check that Montana businesses and other ratepayers would have to sign, no matter what!
SB278 takes the "regulated" out of "regulated monopoly" by allowing NorthWestern to pass on all of its costs associated with owning and operating the Colstrip power plant to its customers no matter how imprudent those costs are. If NorthWestern wants to build a new transmission system, we get the bill, no questions asked. If they want to invest billions in carbon sequestration, same deal, we pay for it no matter how much it increases our bills. By bypassing our Public Service Commission, ratepayers will have no say whatsoever. This bill gets rid of all regulations!
Possibly more outrageous, if NWE buys more of the plant from other out-of-state owners, they get to pass off all the costs of clean up that would have been borne by out-of-state customers and shareholders who have been using the power for 30 years right back to us, Montana ratepayers. Not only does this impact businesses like mine, but think of the impact to people with fixed incomes, who may only get by on a Social Security check. How can anyone think this is a good idea?
Is GOP against Montana hunters?
As a lifelong Republican, and as a supporter of limited government, fiscal responsibility, and family values, I stand in awe at the lack of GOP understanding and view of Fish, Wildlife and Parks' public trust responsibilities. In the current session, the Republican-controlled Legislature is at it again. Forget the extensive public involvement that FWP utilized during the development of the Elk Plan that solicited input from every landowner with at least 640 acres of occupied elk habitat (1,290 landowners), 1,816 resident elk hunters, 208 nonresident elk hunters, conducted numerous public across the state (54 public meetings).
Compare that process with the numerous bills sponsored completely by Republicans that provides very limited opportunity for public comment. Since the 2011 session, there have been several hundred Republican-sponsored bills that threaten the public trust, many which usurp the authority of the Fish & Wildlife Commission, and some which have proposed to sell public land, prevent or restrict Montana hunters and anglers from purchasing interests in lands, and others which favor outfitters and other private interests over hunters and anglers of Montana.
A case in point is HB-497, a bill to permanently enshrine the shoulder season and sponsored by outfitter Wylie Galt, who at the 11th hour, just days before the transmittal deadline, proposes to wrestle elk management authority away from FWP with the mandatory requirement for elk shoulder seasons. This bill is very self-serving and I believe, a conflict of interest.
Forget the performance based requirement that was approved 3 years ago that held all parties to have skin in the game. This is just one more step toward the goal of removing authority away from FWP and giving it to the legislature, and ultimately toward the goal of privatization of our treasured public trust resources. We all need to ask what may happen with a change in the Governor office in 2020. As a Republican, I submit that the party needs to wake up or risk the loss of support from those of us that support many of the platforms that the GOP represents.
The GOP must begin the job of understanding the balance between private property rights and the public trust! We all agree with the protection of private property rights, but we cannot continue to diminish our public trust. Montanans value our public wildlife and we believe that FWP is the correct authority to manage our precious wildlife resources!
House Bill 192 would protect Montanans' privacy
It’s frustrating to hear statistics like 1 in 50 people will be victims of revenge porn within the general public and now suffer mental health implications. Of these people, many are also often ashamed or scared to come forward.
Victims of revenge porn often lose their jobs or find themselves unable to get a job as a result of this non-consensual sharing of someone’s photos. House Bill 192 would be a tool to help stop the amount of people negatively affected by revenge porn and help protect Montanans.
It is imperative that we find a solution and support this bill as this law would protect victims and ensure justice would be served.
HB284 takes away aid for dying Montanans
House Bill 284 is a bill about human dignity, body autonomy and agency of one’s own health care at the end of life. Allowing someone with a terminal illness to choose a peaceful, planned death over a painful, lingering death, is the ultimate form of respect we can show for human life.
While many of us may not personally want the option to take medication to peacefully end an agonizing dying process if we had a terminal illness, I believe it is not for me to judge someone else. Until I walk a mile in another person’s shoes, it is not for me to stand in the way and deny this option to another person. After watching my own father pass away too young, I know personally how many difficult, gut-wrenching decisions must be made around the inevitable death of a loved one and all of them should be done without public input.
As a proud multi-generation Montanan, I share two particular values with my neighbors: Made in Montana is best. Don’t tell me what to do with my life. HB 284 goes directly against those values by inappropriately telling Montanans it doesn’t trust them to make decisions about their own lives.
Montana should ban euthanasia
Preserve individual freedom; vote “yes” on House Bill 284.
I represent Montanans Against Assisted Suicide, which is a single-issue group that narrowly focuses on the language of euthanasia bills while we leave our beliefs or un-beliefs at the door.
Understand that 60 percent of Montanans favor the concept until they read the language, which dishonors the individual and empowers predatory corporations and others.
Then 95 percent of the 60 percent say, “I’m not for that!” They are not for allowing heirs and facility staff to initiate and finalize the killing before the family knows. And all involved receive instant immunity from investigations.
And as one of the Baxter justices commented, “the Legislature needs to speak to this issue.”
And yes, Montana is a laboratory of the Union, and we have done our due diligence these past 10 years on this issue. Montana is nimble enough and has the standing to lead the nation upholding the rights of the individual by banning euthanasia. Vote “yes” on HB284.
president, Montanans Against Assisted Suicide
Montana delegation should back Carbon Dividend Act
Let’s take Montana tech to next level. In the 2018 Montana High Tech Business Alliance survey, quality of life was the dominant benefit listed for having a business in Montana. High tech businesses also showed concern for preserving our environment and called for access to renewable energy.
With the Energy Innovation and Carbon Dividend Act, U.S. HR 763, carbon fees are applied to fossil fuels at the source (well, mine, port), not to any emissions. Fees collected are given back to all Americans. To protect U.S. business, imported goods will pay a border carbon fee, and goods exported will receive a refund. With a national policy instead of a state policy, Montana businesses will not be disadvantaged against out-of-state competitors. This policy will spur energy innovation which will benefit Montana high tech and protect our quality of life.
What makes a good climate change solution? It has to be effective. It has to use incentives instead of regulations. It has to be fair and grow the economy. And, it has to be good for the planet. The Energy Innovation Act does all this. It does not grow government and government does not pick energy winners and losers.
Encourage Senator Daines, Senator Tester, Representative Gianforte, and others who do not like tax increases to review this bill. With the Energy Innovation Act they can still vote the right way and support Montana high tech at the same time. See energyinnovationact.org.
Payday loan rule was necessary
Despite its name “Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” this agency seems interested in protecting industry rather than fulfilling its mission. CFPB recently announced its proposal to gut protections that helped stave payday loan sharks off hard-working Americans. CFPB is supposed to protect people from risky, predatory, and harmful financial products and services; by creating rules and keeping bad actors accountable for breaking those rules. And they have been.
Sen. Jon Tester and CFPB held Wells Fargo accountable for their recent credit card scandal.
The Bureau created the payday rule based on five years of research, data collection, field hearings and public comments, to regulate industry and protect people nationally from debt-trap loans. Within it, an “ability-to-repay” standard — requiring lenders to check that borrowers can repay a loan while still paying basic living expenses like food and housing. Now, without any additional research, CFPB is repealing the rule. Nothing has changed except CFPB leadership, which showcases how powerful banking lobbyists are.
Payday industry proposes that it’s an unreasonable rule to follow, even though banks and credit unions already check borrowers’ ability to pay before they underwrite loans. Sounds like industry is just fighting to keep stealing money from those struggling to make ends meet.
John Ross Bleacher
Thoughts on Trump
I have found most of the Voice of the Reader letters to be very interesting. In the Feb. 11, edition, I read an opinion that caused me to respond. The writer states how Trump has restored honor to the presidency and has described him as a man of integrity, dignity and the spirit of the American people. I then came to the conclusion that these original thoughts were the work of the devil.
I then read Jerry Calvert’s letter stating facts as they really are. In the Feb. 18 letter by Bob Sandler, he also stated facts as they truly are. Trump has now spoken up and not given his true feelings concerning abortion. He has gotten the vote of a lot of good Christians by pretending that he is so much against abortion. Months ago, Denise Boggs wrote that she could not understand how any person of faith could uphold Trump.
Trump is gung-ho about a wall being built which would keep a lot of immigrants out. These immigrants are mainly seeking freedom from oppression and possible death in their homeland. America was built to welcome immigrants.
Robert “Bud” Flanagan