Brad Johnson – Endorsed By Brad Johnson!

By Montana Street Fighter, on June 9, 2015 | 1 Comment

In what is apparently the first update to his campaign website since before the 2014 election, Brad Johnson is trying to fuel the small amount of speculation that he’s considering a gubernatorial run. The same day that this article ran, Johnson shared it on his website.

Brad Johnson Gov Article Website

Brad Johnson – Endorsed by Brad Johnson!

Johnson isn’t a stranger to pushing his own name as a candidate for higher office. In 2014, there were persistent rumors that he would run for the U.S. House, almost certainly started by Johnson himself.

But, if he were to challenge Governor Bullock in 2016, what does Johnson bring to the table? Not much, really. Aside from being disliked by many in his own party for previously supporting same-day voter registration, and being disliked by many outside his party for subsequently flip-flopping on the issue, Johnson is probably best known for his very public DUI that came during his 2010 Public Service Commission campaign.

He’s also got a solid record of losing elections; losing a U.S. Senate primary in 2002, losing his office as Secretary of State in 2008, losing a PSC primary in 2010, and losing another Secretary of State race in 2012. So, if Johnson were to get into the race, we’re thinking Bullock will be able to handle the challenge pretty easily.

Daines Called Out On Public Lands Votes

By Montana Street Fighter, on May 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

Steve-Daines

This one caught our eye yesterday – a Kalispell middle school student and Boy Scout penned an excellent opinion letter in the Daily Interlake, calling out Sen. Steve Daines over his anti-public lands votes, even after pledging to protect them while running for the senate last year.

The letter points out several votes just in recent months that go against Daines’ campaign rhetoric on public lands, and doesn’t pull any punches in taking Daines to task for his inconsistency:

“You have recently voted for several bills and amendments which contradict what you said that you stood for… The people of Montana value their public lands and your actions do not represent the values of our state”

Despite this type of response by Montanans, and continuous lack of public support for the idea, Daines and many others on the far-right wing of the Republican Party continue to support these ideas of weakening, and even transferring ownership of Montana’s public lands.

Even polling done recently by the oil and gas industry, who would stand to make a lot of money off public land transfer, shows very little support for the idea. This survey, conducted by the oil and gas lobbying group Western Energy Alliance showed that barely more than 1 in 3 Americans support transferring public lands, and you can bet that number would be even lower if they only asked Montanans.

But despite the resounding public consensus that selling off public lands is a very bad idea, like Daines a number of right-wing politicians in Montana and nationally continue to push the issue. This seems to be driven mostly by a number of extremist groups urging Republican lawmakers to support public land transfer. The Missoula Independent did an excellent piece a little while back on why these ideas won’t seem to go away, despite a massive lack of public support.

But, even with extremists and shady outside groups pushing this dangerous agenda, it’s hard to see land transfer proposals actually making it very far. If Daines and others actually got anywhere close to making this a reality, it seems pretty likely that Montanans would vote for just about anyone else to get them out of office. If there’s one thing that Montanans of all ideologies can agree on, it’s that we value our public lands, and we’re not about to let anyone mess with them.

2015 #MTleg Recap

The Good, the Bad, and the Crazy

By Montana Street Fighter, on May 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

mt house chamber

The 2015 Montana legislative session has come to an end, after 90(ish) long days of Democrats striving for compromise, and TEA partiers working their asses off to make sure no work gets done.

This session had plenty of ups and downs, and similar to past years, we saw Democrats and moderate Republicans come together toward the end, frustrated with extreme TEA Party leadership, to actually get things done. Much to the chagrin of Rep. Art Wittich and his right-wing pals, this working majority was able to effectively govern and can now be proud of several major legislative accomplishments.

The item that probably got the biggest news coverage was the passage of a compromise Medicaid expansion bill, which Democrats and moderate Republicans have been trying to pass for several sessions now. This will provide healthcare coverage to tens of thousands of Montanans. It was long overdue, and a huge victory for our state.

While Medicaid expansion may have grabbed the most headlines, the working bipartisan majority was also able to overcome TEA Party opposition to pass a number of other major measures, including the CSKT Water Compact, and new campaign finance and dark money regulations.

Despite the good work that was done, it of course wouldn’t be a Montana legislative session without a few of the more extreme Republicans publicly making fools of themselves, statewide, and even in the national media. Early on, one of the biggest laughs came from a GOP representative commenting that yoga pants should be outlawed, and subsequently having one or two embarrassing stories written.  TEA Party Rep. Randy Pinocci of Sun River provided more than his fair share of embarrassment to Montana, introducing bills to drug test welfare recipients and fight against the supposed UN takeover threat of “Agenda 21″.

It’s easy to make light of the ludicrous antics of extreme legislators, but it’s important to remember that time they are wasting on these things takes away from their actual job of governing a state. Perhaps one of the biggest disappointments of the session was the failure to gain enough votes for the bill that would have provided funding for much needed infrastructure projects across Montana, and in doing so, thousands of new jobs. It fell just a few votes short, reminding us that legislative elections have huge consequences. Just a couple more reasonable people to replace extremists like Wittich and Pinocci, and this bill would have become a reality. After the way these TEA partiers behaved themselves, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be returning in two years, and with their ilk replaced by Democratic majorities, Montanans will be able to look forward to even more getting done.

 

Medicaid Expansion For Montana, Finally

By Montana Street Fighter, on April 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

p329363-Helena-Montana_State_Capitol_building

 

After years of fighting against TEA Party obstructionism, a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans in the legislature, backed by Governor Bullock,  have finally passed a plan to expand Medicaid in Montana. Although the measure was not the original Democratic proposal brought forward this session, the working majority was able to settle on a compromise bill, bucking the Republicans’ extreme party leadership and providing healthcare to tens of thousands of struggling Montanans.

Sen. Ed Buttrey’s bill finally passed the House after a lengthy and dramatic period of parliamentary tricks and rules battles brought on by a minority of TEA Party legislators. This attempt to derail Medicaid expansion was led by none other than Rep. Art Wittich, who attempted to do away with majority rule and the principles of Democracy to enforce his own will over the legislative process. Luckily though, by working together, Democrats and a large portion of the Republican caucus were able overcome this to do the right thing.

We join thousands of Montanans all across the state in thanking the Democratic legislators and Governor Bullock, who have worked tirelessly to see Medicaid expansion pass, as well as the moderate Republicans who had the courage to speak out against their party’s extremist leaders, and stand up for what they know is right.

It’s a good day for Montana when our elected officials can reach across the aisle, come together, and do what needs to be done for our state. Let’s hope that this cooperation and standing up to extremism can continue during the final days of the legislative session, and serve as an example for legislators in years to come.

GOP Reps Turn Their Backs On Montana Workers

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 30, 2015 | 2 Comments

Steve Lavin

Over the weekend the Montana Legislature rejected a motion to blast House Bill 13, the State employee pay plan. The motion failed 44-55 with only four Republicans voting to honor their deal with Montana’s state workers. Apparently, most Republican legislators just can’t be trusted.

Last week we covered Representative Pinnoci’s hypocrisy on the state pay plan. Today we will be highlighting another Representative’s total disregard for the employees who work under him and put their lives in harm’s way. We’re talking about Representative Steve Lavin, who doesn’t even think his secretary deserves a fifty cents raise.

Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell) was one of 55 Republicans to vote against a modest raise for Montana employees and guarantees that their out-of-pocket healthcare costs don’t consume their paychecks. Even though the pay plan is endorsed by people and groups across the political spectrum (from the Chamber of Commerce to organized labor), Lavin decided to spit in the face of his own employees.

Lavin is a District Captain in the Montana Highway Patrol. He oversees roughly 160 troopers. He also has a secretary who probably makes $12/hr. While Lavin gets to play politician in Helena, his troopers and secretary are stuck with stagnant wages and a healthcare plan that’s about to get really, really bad.

Not only is this a despicable thing to do to Montanans who risk their lives everyday, it’s just bad economic policy. Shame on Representative Lavin. Let’s hope he gets an earful when he gets home.

GOP Hypocrisy On State Pay Plan

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 24, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

Pinocci

Rep. Randy Pinocci puts in 16 hour days… on Facebook.

Governor Bullock, Democrats, moderate Republicans, state agencies, and business leaders have gathered together to push for a modest raise for state employees. The raise translates to about fifty cents an hour. As we said, that’s a pretty modest raise that could benefit the State of Montana in very significant ways. A raise could help the state recruit and retain high quality employees while injecting money back into the economy.

During a hearing on HB 13 (the state pay plan, which includes the 50 cents raise) on March 15th, leaders from Montana’s state agencies, universities, and business testified in support of the modest raise. Their message was clear: Montana is bleeding talent and losing out to other state. Furthermore, some of Montana’s state employees live on food stamps – how does that make financial sense? It doesn’t.

During the hearing on the state pay plan, two dozen Montanans spoke in support of the bill. There were no opponents, but that didn’t stop some legislators from ignoring reality and asking asinine questions, like, “how would HB 13 impact the average tax payer?” And therein lies the problem. Some legislators don’t view hardworking state employees as average taxpayers with families to support. They view them as a symptom of big government, which is ironic given that those same legislators depend on state employees to mow the grass around the capitol, feed them at lunch, and write their bills for them. Yes – state employees do all of that.

By failing to keep state employees’ pay in line with increased costs of living, Montana legislators are hurting the state economy and the budget’s bottom-line (i.e. paying for food stamps instead of generating revenue).

The position of some hardline legislators goes from asinine to offensive, especially in the case of Randy Pinocci. If you haven’t had a chance, read Don Pogreba’s great piece about Pinocci here.

Pinocci represents everything wrong with the Montana Legislature’s position towards state employees. During an interview with the Great Falls Tribune, Pinocci whined, “I don’t know any state employee who makes the wages I make, $5 an hour for 16-hour days,” he said. Yes, Pinocci claims that he works 16-hour days. Pogreba has put some pretty big holes in that claim with screenshots shwoing the Representative playing videogames on Facebook while the House is in session. Yikes.

However, let’s pretend Pinocci works 16-hour days, ok? State employees are taking care of almost his every need while he’s “working.” They’re cleaning the bathrooms (he uses), shoveling the sidewalk (he walks on), safeguarding the roads (he drives home on), and so on and so forth. Perhaps it’s time for people like Pinocci to start showing hardworking Montana state employees some respect.

Austin Knuden Is The Speaker That Only Says No

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 20, 2015 | 2 Comments

 

Knudsen2

 

Rep. Austin Knudsen, the Republican speaker of the house, has had a very busy legislative session.

Has he been sponsoring legislation to help Montanans? No, in fact Knudsen has only sponsored two bills this session, one to create tax giveaways to oil and gas companies, and another to take tax dollars away from public schools and give the funding to private religious schools (of course exempting his own school district from losing funding this way).

Has he been busy making healthcare accessible to Montanans? Or protecting public lands? Or improving Montana’s education system? Nope. He’s kept himself busy keeping good ideas and sound policies like these from even getting a vote, let alone passing. He’s created so-called “kill committees” by stacking them with no votes, and making sure that many bills with wide bipartisan support are assigned to them to be voted down and never see the light of day.

Knudsen’s only priority has been scoring political points and killing every Democratic bill he possibly can, no matter how popular the idea, and regardless of a policy’s merit. Instead of trying to reach across the aisle to work with both parties and create compromise, he has done nothing but say “no”. In fact, Knudsen has been so focused on this that earlier this year, he said that under him, the House of Representatives would be the “house of doom for Democratic legislation”.

Austin Doom (1)

Speaker Knudsen is pretty proud of his work to create gridlock and discourage bipartisanship.

It’s one thing to support your party’s own legislative agenda, but making political games your only priority is entirely another. Montanans expect more from their elected representatives, and Knudsen isn’t showing much interest in living up to those expectations any time soon.

Gianforte Behind Dark Money Groups That Oppose Transparency

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 19, 2015 | 0 Comments

 

gianforte

Greg Gianforte is behind dark money groups that oppose transparency in Montana’s elections.

This week, a bipartisan bill to rein in dark money in Montana’s elections had a hearing before the house Business and Labor Committee. Senate Bill 289, sponsored by Senator Duane Ankney, and backed by Governor Bullock and numerous groups on both sides of the aisle, would require more financial disclosure from dark money groups operating in Montana.

Despite wide bipartisan support, Jeff Lazloffy of the Montana Family Foundation testified against the bill. The Montana Family Foundation spends tens of thousands of dollars to influence elections, particularly trying to defeat moderate candidates in GOP primaries.

According to the Bozeman Daily Chronicle, one of the group’s largest donors is Greg Gianforte, Steve Daines’ former business partner, and a far right-wing TEA Partier. Gianforte is a Bozeman billionaire who is well liked by the extreme wing of the Republican Party, and is probably best known for his anti-gay beliefs and the controversy caused when he was invited to speak at Montana Tech’s graduation ceremony last year.

It might not be popular among most Montanans, but you can bet Gianforte’s support for dark money groups in Montanan will win him even more love from the far right.

Nearly All Republican Legislators Get Government Healthcare While Denying Medicaid Expansion

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 16, 2015 | 1 Comment

 

Medicaid Republicans Healthcare

Although Republicans in the Montana Legislature have voted at every opportunity to block Medicaid expansion, it turns out nearly every one of them is receiving government healthcare themselves. According to Legislative Information Services, all but 6 Republicans in the House and 1 in the Senate chose to receive health insurance funded by Montana taxpayers.

In fact, every Republican on the House Health and Human Services committee receives taxpayer-funded healthcare, even though they are the ones that kept Medicaid expansion from even going to a full vote. That’s right, even Art Wittich and his pals are getting their insurance paid for by the state, but apparently they think they work harder and are more deserving of health care than the 70,000 Montanans who would benefit from Medicaid expansion. According to the Billings Gazette, Motnana taxpayers pay $887 dollars per month for each legislator’s insurance, and that’s for their entire term, not just during the session.

In his State of the State address this year, Governor Bullock raised this same point to the members of the legislature in order to make his case for the urgency of Medicaid expansion, saying:

“There are some who want to make Medicaid expansion about partisan politics and political ideology. They want to characterize it as a dispute between a democratic governor and republican legislative leadership. But the truth is, this isn’t about us. We all have health insurance already. Medicaid expansion is about 70,000 Montanans who aren’t offered and can’t afford health care“.

For your reference, here is the complete list of house members receiving state insurance or state stipends to buy private insurance. Names in bold are Republicans on the Health and Human Services committee, all of whom voted to kill Medicaid expansion. Here is the list of senators receiving state insurance.

It is shameful and an outrage that Republicans in the legislature can get their health insurance paid for by the taxpayers they represent, and then turn around and vote to keep Montanans from getting the same level of care.

 

#MTleg Republicans Refuse To Listen To Montanans

By Montana Street Fighter, on March 11, 2015 | 3 Comments

Dozens of Montanans testified for nearly four hours in support of Medicaid expansion. Only a handful of people spoke against it.

Dozens of Montanans testified for nearly four hours in support of Medicaid expansion. Only a handful of people spoke against it.

 

Republicans in the Montana legislature just keep refusing to do the right thing and expand Medicaid.

First on Friday, the house Human Services Committee shot down the proposal on a party-line vote after hours of moving testimony from doctors, hospital administrators, tribal leadership, business owners, and dozens of Montanans in dire need of access to healthcare. Only a small handful of people spoke against expansion.

Then yesterday, a majority of Republican legislators in the Montana house once again voted to block Medicaid expansion. Democratic legislators attempted to give the bill a full vote, which Republicans again shot down. A motion to overturn the committee’s decision and bring the bill to the House floor failed 59-41, on another straight party-line vote.

Despite the more than 70,000 Montanans currently unable to get health insurance, Republican legislators refuse to listen to voters’ wishes, and continue blocking Medicaid expansion. Medicaid expansion has been widely backed by citizens and groups all over the state, and is supported by a solid majority of Montanans. Montana’s major newspapers have come out in support of expansion, including the Billings Gazette, the Great Falls Tribune and The Missoulian.

It’s an obvious solution to a huge problem facing our state. Expanding Medicaid to cover those in the gap, in other words people who neither qualify for Medicaid currently nor are eligible for tax credits to pay for insurance, is the right thing to do and makes sense. It’s the right choice not only as a way to help our neighbors in need, but it makes economic sense as well.

If Republicans in the legislature are unable or unwilling to honor the wishes of their constituents and perform the duty they were elected for, then it’s a good bet that many of them won’t be heading back to Helena in two years.