Thousands of Montanans have already cast their ballots for the Nov. 6 election, and many more have decided who and what to support. For those citizens still pondering their choices, The Gazette editorial board respectfully offers our recent endorsements as food for thought.
- Support Legislative Referendum 128, which will continue the six-mill levy that has helped fund the Montana University System for the past 70 years, defraying the expense of a college education for Montana residents. The levy presently provides about 10 percent of the university’s operating revenue. It the levy isn’t renewed, tuition costs will go up for Montana resident students. The six-mill levy has strong bipartisan support.
- Reject Legislative Referendum 129, which would inconvenience voters who choose to return their mail ballots directly to their county elections office while also adding to counties’ costs of running elections. LR-129 is a solution in search of a problem that doesn’t exist.
- Support Initiative 185, which will increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products while putting the state’s first taxes on e-cigarettes. Revenue from the higher tobacco and vape taxes will be used primarily for health care and also for the general fund, which is the major state source of money for the state’s share of Medicaid. I-185 would allow the Medicaid program covering about 96,000 Montanans to continue beyond June 30, 2019.
- Reject Initiative 186, which would prohibit new mines in Montana unless it could be proven that their operations wouldn’t create a need for perpetual water treatment. After speaking with opponents and proponents, the editorial board concluded that I-186 could bar new mining permits, even from companies that have been responsible and are well regulated today. The board recommends that voters turn down this unneeded initiative.
- Re-elect Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana farmer and former state senator who has tirelessly traveled our state, listened to Montanans and worked hard to implement collaborative solutions on public lands issues. Tester has championed health care for average Montanans and advocated for rural veterans’ needs.
- Elect Kathleen Williams to the U.S. House. Williams is a bright, thoughtful detail-oriented leader with 35 years’ experience in natural resource issues in the private and public sectors. She was tenacious in getting consumer protection and small business legislation through the Montana Legislature during three House terms. She is the candidate who will help restore civility and collegiality to a broken Congress.
- Keep Rex Renk in the Montana Supreme Court Clerk’s Office where Renk has been a deputy clerk for 23 years. Renk is the only candidate who understands the job well. He has been the point person on adopting the e-filing system that has made the office more efficient and transparent to the public.
- Support Don Jones for Yellowstone County commissioner. A former Billings city councilman finishing his third state House term, Jones stepped up for Yellowstone County to get seed money for the new psychiatric residency at Billings Clinic and to boost career and technical education statewide. His varied business experience, including operating small businesses in Billings and Laurel, will be helpful on the commission.
- Pick Scott Turner for Yellowstone County auditor. Turner, the county’s finance director for 28 years, retired four years ago and last year was appointed to fill a vacancy in the auditor’s office. Turner is tremendously overqualified for this job, citizens are fortunate to have his experience working for us again in county government.
- Support Collette Davies for Department 7 District Court judge. Davies has several years of experience serving as an appointed Billings Municipal Court judge, so she has already handled a large, fast-paced judicial workload. As an attorney in private practice for 20 years, she understands the problems that delays cause clients when the court system is overloaded as it is now — and she has good ideas for increasing efficiency.
- Support Juli Pierce for Department 8 District Court judge. Pierce has worked for the people of Yellowstone County for her entire career, first as a social worker serving neglect and abused children, then for 13 years in the Yellowstone County Attorney’s Office, where prosecuted serious crimes in the state’s busiest judicial district, and ultimately supervised other attorneys as chief deputy. Pierce now is in private civil and criminal law practice, but much of her time is devoted to representing the best interests of children in the foster care system as a guardian ad litem.
As always, The Gazette’s top recommendation is to exercise your right to vote for the candidates and issues of your choice. There are 16 days left for voting; make sure yours is counted on Nov. 6.