As young parents of a 1-year-old and with another baby on the way, we are in full support of voluntary, universal preschool for all Montana families as put forth by Gov. Steve Bullock’s “Early Edge” legislation. We encourage the legislature to work across party lines to do what is right for Montana and our economic and educational future.
Policies in 42 other states have proved fiscally smart, offering a $7-$9 return for every $1 invested in public preschool. Numerous studies show children who attend preschool are more likely to read at grade level, finish high school, stay out of the criminal justice system, attend college and lead productive and self-sufficient lives.
Best of all, Early Edge respects Montana’s values and culture in that it would not be mandatory. Early Edge would not increase taxes but instead use existing money to support local school districts that choose to opt-in and offer high quality, accredited pre-kindergarten. Parents in such districts could then decide whether or not public preschool was right for their children.
To learn more about why pre-K is right for Montana, visit earlyedgeaction.org or join us in Helena on Friday, Jan. 23, at 11 a.m. for a Frozen-themed “Let Them Learn” rally and the chance to testify at the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education.
Katie Carlson and Tyler Gernant
Expanding Medicaid in Ravalli County and all of Montana is something that Democrats and Republicans can agree on. Montana legislators should pass it and have Governor Bullock sign it as quickly as possible.
Forget that it’s part of Obamacare. It’s the right thing to do for some 70,000 Montanans, and it’ll be a boon to our economy—on a state and county level.
Every day Montana’s taxpayers are paying for expansion under federal law—except that Montana’s nearly $2 million/day is going out-of-state to places like California and West Virginia.
What difference would it make to Ravalli County? It would likely create 540 well-paying jobs and add over $22 million in labor income. It’d provide life-saving health insurance to over 2,800 Ravalli residents—mostly low wage-earning parents and single adults. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the expansion for the first three years, then 90 percent thereafter.
By insuring almost 3,000 additional county citizens we’d experience lower health care costs and a more thriving local economy. Covered folks would see a doctor or nurse sooner, miss less work because of illness, and avoid getting as financially strapped with expensive health care bills.
Most expansion critics say eligibility is too lenient and folks would just get lazy, quit their minimum wage jobs and live like kings. You be the judge: Would making the maximum eligibility income of about $16,000 a year—that’s 138 percent of poverty level—allow someone to fleece the system and live like royalty?
Our local legislators need to hear from everyone. Medicaid expansion will grow our economy and make Montanans healthier and more productive citizens.
Conservative states like North Dakota, Arkansas, Kentucky and Arizona have expanded Medicaid and are reaping the economic and health benefits. So why not Montana? We’re already paying for it!
Van P. Keele
The slaughter of French cartoonists by far-right religious nuts was heinous. The cowardly reaction of media who won’t publish/air the latest Charlie Hebdo cover for fear of offending terrorists is insulting to everything we stand for. Charlie Hebdo cartoons are online, though. Look at them with this caveat: Insecure, humorless zealots may take offense.
Pope Frank recently noted that freedom of speech should be limited when it insults religious beliefs. Ipso facto, religious terrorists should be sheltered as if they were child molesters in the Holy See.
Churches and states have sanctioned religious terrorism from time immemorial. The Inquisition, the Crusades, “honor killings” of women. Saudi Arabia flogs bloggers for insulting Islam, U.S. lawmakers restrict reproductive rights until women resort to coat hangers, the Vatican harbors pedophiles planet-wide. But let’s not talk about that, it might provoke somebody.
Zealots have abused and murdered women and children from Saint Ignatius, where Catholics molested deaf boys, to Casper, Wyo., where extremist Evangelicals crucified Matthew Shepard for being gay, to Pakistan, where Muslims shot 15-year-old Malala in the head for seeking education for girls.
Far-right religious nuts bomb women’s clinics, murder doctors in cold blood and assault women for freely exercising their rights. American women cannot safely receive legal reproductive health care in privacy because holy hospitals adhere to “beliefs” while ignoring law and freedom. We repudiate Sharia law, but ignore this blasphemy of liberty.
Massacring cartoonists who illustrated religious injustice is what it finally took for the world to notice. Now, don’t let anybody change the subject. Je Suis Charlie, Raif, Matthew, Malala, 9/11 victims and all the men, women and children who have suffered or died from religious terrorism since the dawn of dogma.
Providing health insurance to the estimated 70,000 hardworking Montanans earning less than $16,000 a year will promote prosperity and save lives. In the majority of states, Republicans and Democrats put aside partisan politics and expanded Medicaid to their low-income neighbors. It’s time Montana lawmakers do the same.
Everyone benefits from reducing the number of uninsured Montanans. Expanding coverage will not only boost our economy by creating a healthier and more productive population, it will reduce the overall cost of health care. Everyone who pays an insurance premium is helping offset the unpaid medical costs of those without health insurance. It’s a hidden tax on businesses and the privately insured, and lawmakers can curtail the expense by ensuring our federal tax dollars are being responsibly spent on progress at home.
Since Jan. 1, 2014, Montana has forfeited more than $516 million taxpayer dollars by not expanding Medicaid. It’s our money, and right now, it’s being used to pay for expansion in other states. Lawmakers have had four years to find a Montana solution to meaningful expansion. We’re calling for action.
Expanding Medicaid promotes self-management of a healthy lifestyle by ensuring individuals have access to timely and preventive care like cancer screenings, health risk assessments and behavioral counseling. This helps prevent minor health problems from becoming major—and very costly—health problems that could result in medical bankruptcies and extended absences from work. It is a vital component of creating a stronger Montana, where every citizen has access to high quality and affordable health care.
Montana’s health care providers are committed to improving the health of the communities they serve. Using available funds to provide health insurance to our lowest earners will help accomplish that goal. We hope the 2015 Montana Legislature knows a good deal when it sees it.
The “Varmint Derby,” which was quickly renamed the “Great Montana Coyote and Wolf Hunt,” is coming to Sanders County this month. Originally this event was going to be hosted at the Lakeside Resort in Trout Creek, with support of the Sportsmen of Sanders County (whoever they are).
The hunt is now being sponsored by Idaho for Wildlife with a sign-up location not yet specified. Maybe a more suitable name would be “Idaho for Needlessly Killing Wildlife.” This out-of-state organization is offering cash prizes for the murder of predator species they blame for game herd numbers being down. They offer no evidence for their assertions. This group just encourages killing animals they think are a threat. This type of event gives a bad name to sportsmen and sportsmanship.
Will this event be allowed on public lands? Do they have all the proper permits? Will it be limited to sanctioned private lands? These are important questions. Using traps and snares on land belonging to everyone, puts us all at risk. It may be a legal hunt, but it is a moral abuse of wildlife and their habitat.
Trout Creek has worked hard to be recognized as a destination town. The Huckleberry Festival, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, the Hot Summer Night’s Car Show and many other family friendly events take place there. This type of polarizing event does not match the image Trout Creek has tried to cultivate.
As a lifelong Montanan and a single dad of two school-age girls, I am writing to voice my wholehearted support for voluntary, universal pre-kindergarten for all Montana kids.
It makes no sense to me that Montana is one of eight states without public early childhood education for all children. It’s hard enough to earn a living in Montana without this disadvantage. Our kids need every opportunity they can get to succeed in our state, and pre-K has been shown to improve graduation rates, reduce trouble with the law and substance abuse rates, and increase the odds kids grow up to have a good career and contribute to society.
Pre-K is crucial because by the time a child turns 5, 90 percent of his or her brain has developed. Most Montana families don’t have the luxury of a stay-at-home parent, and high quality day care can be cost-prohibitive. I would have loved to have had the pre-K option for my kids and urge lawmakers in Helena to pass this important piece of legislation to benefit working families like mine.Visit earlyedgeaction.org to join me in urging our lawmakers to pass Early Edge and to learn more about this essential initiative.
Montana is one of just eight states without universal pre-K, and studies show every dollar invested in early education saves $7 to $9 in the future because children with early education are less likely to abuse drugs, go to prison or become teen parents. Much of my professional and personal life is spent helping economically empower women, including those wanting to start their own business. Given the high cost of quality childcare, even in two-income households, providing free education for all 4-year-olds would have a positive economic impact for Montana families.
As a mother of 3-year-old twin boys, my partner and I are now researching and visiting preschools in the Missoula area. Just for part-time school (which consists of three mornings), the total price is around $400 to $560. With the support of my family, we are able to afford this but we are lucky. I think it’s very difficult for many families in Montana to afford preschool. I see education as a human right and every child deserves to have access to quality education regardless of their family’s socioeconomic status. Montana is not an easy place to make a living, and I commend the governor working to lighten the financial load on young families while making sure all children have an equal chance to develop and succeed in life.
Amita Patel Greer
It hasn’t always been this bad and in Montana we can do better. After a study of American society in the early 19th century, Alexis de Tocqueville concluded, “[t]he people reign over the American political world as God rules over the universe.” As the legislative session begins this January, I’m convinced that if voters are actively engaged with the legislature, the people in Montana can reign over the lawmaking process in a similar manner. Thirty minutes a week by every citizen could get us a long way toward this goal. For those who want to engage but don’t know how, here are three simple steps you can take in 2015 to make sure your voice is heard. First, contact your legislator with your top concern. If you’re not sure who represents you in the legislature, use the “find my legislator” tool on leg.mt.gov to retrieve your legislator’s name and contact information. Your message need not be complicated. For example, your priority might be strengthening our public schools, increasing access to hunting and fishing, or cutting property taxes by closing corporate tax loopholes. If you’re like most voters, you may be under the impression that a call, letter or email doesn’t make a difference. But such communications make a huge difference. Receiving even a handful of messages on a single topic is sure to influence any Montana legislator’s thoughts on the issue.
Second, once the session begins, pay close attention to what the legislature is doing on that issue. There are a variety of tools to help you accomplish this task. Leg.mt.gov provides a complete database on bills and their status in the legislative process. During the session, the Legislative Information Desk is reachable at 406-444-4800 and will answer questions about the legislative process to any Montanan. Many groups like the Montana Conservation Voters and the National Rifle Association have staff who follow the legislative process closely and can help answer questions about issue they follow. Third, speak up during the session. Find out when a legislative committee is holding a hearing on the issue you care about and show up to testify. Bring your friends who agree. If you can’t make it in person then send a letter. The impassioned testimony of a regular citizen sure carries a lot more weight than boilerplate reports from professional lobbyists.
This may seem like a lot of work to cram into an already busy schedule. It is certainly true that being a citizen in a democracy takes time and effort. But remember that many have given life or limb to defend our constitutional democracy from enemies abroad. Having seen what life is like for those who have lived under nondemocratic regimes in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can emphatically say that our democracy, however flawed, is worth fighting for. In honor of all those who never came home, please pencil in 30 minutes each week during the legislative session to do what you can to make democracy in Montana live up to the finest American tradition.
Rep. Andrew Person
House District 96
In a move that can only be seen as sticking a thumb in the eye of Democrats, GOP leaders in the House Rules Committee stripped the titles of all house Democrats serving as vice chairs of their committees. No valid reason was given for this action aside from a stated desire to “emulate the traditions in the U.S. Congress.” I have never, ever had a constituent request that our Montana Legislature be more like the U.S. Congress, but there you have it.
GOP leadership also jammed through a rule allowing committee chairs to bar electronic devices from committee hearings at their whim. This means that anyone attending hearings (including legislators) would not be allowed to use their cellphones, laptops, iPads or other electronic devices during a hearing. Although the point was raised that many people use the Internet for researching facts and figures during a hearing, which is of great benefit to our constituencies, our objections were disregarded. In a move that can best be described as clever, but undemocratic, GOP leadership amended our rules in such a way that a great deal of power will now be concentrated in the hands of the Speaker of the House. Bear with my explanation here, as I think this strategy was crafted by lawyers, for lawyers.
Under current rules, a speaker can redirect practically any bill that comes out of a committee to the Appropriations Committee. Some speakers have tried to use this as a weapon, referring bills they did not like to this committee for quiet disposal, but as a check to this power, the legislature could override the speaker with a simple majority vote. The GOP leadership faction is trying to change the override requirement to a super majority (60 votes). This will allow the speaker to kill bills he doesn’t like regardless of majority opinion. That’s undemocratic in that it negates a basic principle of our legislature—that the majority of members decide an issue.
The rules of the legislature are supposed to provide for rule by the majority while protecting the rights of the minority party. These rules being proposed by do neither. To add insult to injury, the GOP leadership has taken the extraord-inary step of excluding the people of Montana from the House floor. This is completely unacceptable. Montana currently has a rule in place that excludes lobbying on the House floor for two hours prior to a voting session to two hours after. It’s a good rule. What GOP leadership seeks to impose is a 24 hour ban on all citizens from the House chamber. When legislators like myself objected, pointing out that the House belongs to the people of Montana, we were told that the need for representatives to have a “refuge” outweighed the need for citizens to have access to us. This is disturbing.
Taken as a whole, the actions of a few GOP leaders show a willingness to disregard custom and principles in their bid to consolidate power in their own hands. Perhaps they will see the error in their ways and rescind these new rules of 2015, but this will only happen if the citizens of Montana raise their voices against these undemocratic rules. It’s your legislature and your voice. Let it be heard.
Rep. Tom Woods
As a board member of the University of Montana Foundation, I’m thrilled by the positive impact this sale will have on our community. I was born and raised in Billings and know firsthand that Billings Clinic is an outstanding community partner that will benefit Missoula for years to come.
The $10 million gift to the UM Foundation will fund three health care related projects: the CMC Legacy Health Professions Complex, program initiatives (such as continuing education) for health professionals and CMC Promise Scholarships to benefit students pursuing healthcare-related fields. Additionally, Billings Clinic RegionalCare has pledged a $500,000 gift to help fund the health care programs and health care infrastructure at the new Missoula College to be constructed on East Broadway, pending approval of the sale by Attorney General Tim Fox.
These gifts to UM will support essential infrastructure for attracting new students to study medicine and health and train health professionals in a contemporary environment and provide excellent care to low-income people and those with disabilities.
The remainder of the roughly $64 million will benefit western Montana through investment in a new Community Hospital Legacy Foundation that focuses on improving quality patient care and satisfaction, improving the health of Western Montana’s population and reducing the per capita cost of health care. The new CMC foundation will continue in the spirit of the previous hospital foundation, respecting the wishes of thousands of local and regional donors who have given generously over the years. Best of all, it will be governed by nine members who live in Missoula surrounding communities. Local control by volunteers guarantees the foundation will operate in a manner true to the history of CMC for generations to come.
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