Posted: January 28, 2013 at 8:30 pm

Setting the Bar Higher

There is much to be concerned about this session. There’s the rightward shift of legislative leadership, the return of piles of frivolous, unconstitutional bills, and the make up of the house and senate.

Rep. Amanda CurtisBut there are also some bright spots.  A smart new generation of Democratic legislators has appeared on the scene, of a caliber rarely seen in years past, who are setting the bar higher for what it means to represent Montanans at the legislature.

Word is already getting out about freshman state Rep. Amanda Curtis, D-Butte, who’s blowing the doors off pretty much everything that’s been done in the past to keep constituents informed and involved. (You can read even about her innovative outreach in the Billings Gazette.)  Once people find out that there are legislators like this, other districts are going to start to demand the same kind of representation–which can only raise the quality of the legislature as a whole.

Rep. Curtis is a Math teacher and is a big supporter of education. She’s young, smart, and dedicated. But the first thing that really sets her apart is her work to go the extra mile to keep in touch with her constituents.

Legislators voted a few years back to have the taxpayers buy them all laptops.  Curtis is using hers to create daily YouTube updates for her constituents.  She’s the first legislator in Montana history to do so.  Every legislator should follow her example.

Amanda CurtisThe videos are more than quick, informal updates about what Rep. Curtis did that day.  Curtis talks about the conversations with folks from her district whom she encounters at the legislature.  She encourages her constituents to contact her about upcoming bills and how their input is making a difference.  She also shares personal tidbits and stories that show she’s a real person and keep the videos fun and interesting.

“It is incredibly important for our constituents to know that I am one of them; a regular Montanan who is passionate and hopeful about the future of our great state,” she says.

Here’s an example:

With all the buzz about  Rep. Curtis, I asked her to share a little about her views and background with Cowgirl readers.  Here’s what she had to say:

With what’s happening right now in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and here in Montana, this may be the final battle against the last bastion of union strength in this country. Why do you believe that it’s so important hold the line on collective bargaining and preserve the rights of working people?

I could talk at length about this, but Dr. Martin Luther King said it best. In 1961, speaking about right-to work (for less) laws he said:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights.  Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone…Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

What’s your experience working with unions?

As a young girl, I would not have had fillings in my teeth or glasses on my nose if it hadn’t been for my dad’s Laborers Insurance. My brother and I lived with my mom. She was a waitress and didn’t have enough money to pay the phone or utility bill, let alone take us to the doctor. When I couldn’t see the board at school or when I had a sore tooth, my dad would get me a green form that let me go to the doctor. I still clearly remember the Laborer’s seal at the top. It made an impression on me.

When I started teaching, I was 20 years old and had $38,000 in student loan debt.  I worked for a private school and earned $17,000 a year. I had to call around to find my own substitute if I was sick. Everyone did extra duties like advise clubs, plan the prom, and help with the school play.  Sometimes we were at work for twelve hours a day. I was the working poor.

I got a job in the Helena public school system and doubled my salary. If I was asked to work on my lunch hour or after school I was paid for my time. We took classes to become better teachers and were trained in school safety through programs coordinated by the district and the union. When I finally got a job at Butte High, I was invited to a meeting and social in honor of the new teachers.  I haven’t missed a union meeting since.

I’ve been able to go to Women’s Leadership Training, the AFL-CIO Next-Up Conference for young leaders, and Representative Assemblies. I write our monthly newsletter and I’m a delegate to our Central Labor Council, which is a “union of unions” that works to protect workers’ rights. When our legislative seat came open in Butte, my friends and neighbors were quick to encourage me to run.

Every time I meet with workers from all trades, I am so inspired by them. These are real people with a real love for their country and real pride in what they do. They’re community organizers who feed needy kids and fight tooth and nail to protect justice and freedom. I am so proud to be a Union Legislator.

 

What are your goals for the session?

My main goal for the session is to focus on people. We are making and changing and nullifying laws that affect living, breathing people and we should focus every second of every day on making their lives better. They need to be able to feed, clothe, educate, and insure their kids. They need jobs and they want to be able to retire in Montana. I’m going to fight every day against the rhetoric and remember the people that are counting on us to do the right thing. I will vote to protect workers’ rights. I will vote for bills that aim to keep Montanans living, going to school, and working in Montana. I will vote against every ALEC bill.

I’m carrying bills to increase safety for emergency workers (HB 165), put the lottery money back where it belongs (in people’s hands to pay for school) (HB 166), help the Public Defender’s Office do a better job (HB 92), make government more transparent, help local governments work better (HB 164).  I will also be carrying the “Hire Montanans First” Act to make sure businesses that get state contracts employ Montana residents. You can follow my bills’ progress at bit.ly/repcurtis.  You can look up any bill at bit.ly/2013laws.  You can contact legislators at bit.ly/tellmt.

Rep. Curtis serves on Business and Labor, Human Services, and Local Government.  You can also catch up with her on her Facebook page and of course her Youtube channel. 

35 comments

  1. MTNativeEyes

    She is absolutely ONE TO WATCH! Smart, engaging, fearless, and able to melt crusty old farmers with a savvy word and a warm smile. What more could you ask for? She sold me. When she wants to run for governor, I’ll be there.

  2. Ben Tully

    Absolutely, hell yes, we need more legislators like this. One effective legislator is worth more than a dozen duds. I also notice that it is the unions that are leading the charge against the ALEC garbage bills. Where are the other groups on this? The democratic party?

  3. Norma Duffy @Ilikewoods

    This is the type of stuff I wanted to do, If elected. Yeah I knew my chances were slim but, this is how you get it done. Transparency does count for something! I am glad it was a woman who brought social media to the forefront, and eager to show any of the legislators what tools to use. to do it!

  4. Mother Jones

    Very inspiring! Thank you for letting your readers know about this remarkable legislator. It’s also hopeful to read that she articulates so well the direct benefits of union membership.

  5. MTNativeEyes

    Most women don’t tend to see service, even service in government, as an excuse to outfit themselves with crowns and honors (I said “most;” that doesn’t mean there aren’t some women who think climbing an ego ladder is what work and life is all about). She is dedicated to making colleagues and talking with people, not her fabulous career and her self, self, self.

  6. johnny ramone

    This is a smart, tough lady. We need more like her to oppose the theocrats and corporate sycophants in our legislature.

  7. Publius II

    She’s truly as you said, courageous, smart and a fine civic warrior. She even sent me a postcard and I’m not in her district!

    • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

      Not only that. She’s ALSO one hot lookin’ mama! Hell, if I were thirty-five years younger, I’d be askin’ her out! Hard to FIND a woman with brains, courage, AND good looks! She’s one hot patootie!

      • Craig Moore

        Larry, if she supports Feinstein type gun control legislation for Montana with universal background checks on all transfers, would you support her?

        • Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

          I…………………DUNNO! But I seriously doubt that she would support draconian gun control, for she has WAY too much on the ball! I mean, if she were retarded, she be a Pubbie! Right?? Am I right or what?

              • Craig Moore

                She didn’t ignore the category as she answered the other two questions on concealed carry and license to possess. Just no answer on the Fenistein type gun control questions. IMHO, elected officials should take stands on the tough issues and not hide their strips.

                • Rob Kailey

                  Could someone just post a picture of Feinstein with green skin, a flattened head and bolts in her neck so that Moore can put a face to his terrors? I’d do it, but I have no Photoshop skills.

                  Craig, more times than either of us can count the Cowgirls have posted about Republicants who refuse to take stands, and hidden their “strips”. You invariably defend them. Your noble stand here rings awfully damned hollow.

                  • Craig Moore

                    You are doing the Kailey dance again with your infantile attempts to define me. Remember your recent tantrum or do you need help?

                    Now as to why her position is very important, Montana has a growing but fragile firearms industry. It doesn’t need stealth politicians and symbolic measures that do nothing except to strangle business and Big Brother measures to pressure private citizens . http://www.dailyinterlake.com/news/local_montana/article_bcb61728-35b6-11e2-bbb5-0019bb2963f4.html

                    Now, Robert, instead of the personal attack nonsense, just where do you presently stand on the Feinstein/Obama scary firearms ban; and requiring universal background check form 4473 compliance for all firearm and ammunition transfers?

                    • Craig Moore

                      FYI, for others, here is form 4473. http://www.atf.gov/forms/download/atf-f-4473-1.pdf It seeks to eliminate the following from purchasing a firearm:
                      *Felons
                      *Fugitives from justice
                      * Anyone who unlawfully uses any illegal drug, including marijuana
                      *The mentally ill (as determined by a court) or someone who has been committed to a mental institution
                      *Illegal aliens
                      *Those dishonorably discharged
                      *Anyone who renounced U.S. citizenship
                      *Those under a restraining order for harassment, stalking or threatening a partner
                      *Those convicted of domestic violence, including misdemeanors

                    • Rob Kailey

                      Hey, you’re the one who keeps thinking Feinstein is a monster, with powers well beyond any that humans actually have. Do I need to quote *you*?

                      You know my definition of gun control: hitting what you’re aiming at, nothing more and nothing less. Cheney blasted a guy in the face with shotgun. Feinstein never has. Now who do you think has a better grasp of the concept?

                      I’ve filled out several 4473s. Haven’t failed a single time. I would be one of those lawful gun-owners you pretend you are defending, all tghe while you try to paint me as some kind of ‘gun-grabber’ or defender of the criminalizing gun ownership. Silly silly Craig. ~sigh~.

                      The fragile Montana firearms industry is so very fragile that *no one* can keep up with demand. Not a one of them. Not ammo manufacturers, or firearm dealers or custom stock makers or gun-smiths. None of them can keep up with demand in this oh-so-fragile market. None. You’ve posited a bullshit appeal to sympathy, and fear that these fragile flowers might die. Boo Hoo to you. Not to them. Their doing GREAT!

                      Where I “stand”, which seems ever so important to you, on the Feinenstein/Obama gun ban is this: Anyone who puts Obama’s name on a gun ban proposal before Congress that the White House has not submitted is an idiot. That would be you, Craig. Diane Feinstein faces no reprisal from the people who elected her because they favor a ban on assault style weapons. That isn’t your interest. Your obvious interest is in scoring political points, a cheap and tawdry effort that I would have thought beneath someone of your intelligence. I can’t say that I’m surprised that I’m wrong about that. The Feinstein bill will likely go precisely ‘nowhere’. It will be debated, people will posture, much sympathy will be spewed and nothing will come of it save jackwads like you trying to make political hay. You might even be successful.

                      Those of us who were actually bothered enough to read Obama’s executive orders of how the negro legions will come take your guns were rather surprised to find out that the majority of those orders, if not all, serve to strengthen and enforce established law, as well as to serve the desires called for by the NRA. Let’s keep guns out of the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. *OOOhhh, scary!* But no, you Craig focus on Feinstein and her will to take guns away. You seriously can’t believe that, can you? Are you really that stupid?

                      You’re not. You’re an opportunist demanding political agreement, a Mooron, as Larry so adequately gauged you. You think my opinion matters so much that even though I’ve agreed with you, I haven’t agreed enough. A prohibition on firearms won’t work. I’ve written that about a hundred times. That doesn’t seem at all what you are concerned about. You are concerned about ‘winning’, that liberals are wrong and you are righteous. Fuck that. People who desire an assault weapons ban don’t do so because they are enthralled with Feinenstein. They do so because their kids are getting killed at schools and theaters and shopping malls. They want something done. Hold up there, concerned folk! You aren’t taking into account Craig Mooron’s sad opinion.

                      Craig, I don’t agree with Feinstein. But at least her arguments make sense. Yours rarely do.

                    • Norma Duffy @Ilikewoods

                      Help Us! Help Us…. Craig’s worried about a few Manufacturers Getting beat up for no reason–by Liberal Socialists!!!! Just another friggin night-mare of the Bobby Jindal “stupid party”!!!

                  • Craig Moore

                    Rod, again you persist in deciding what I think? I suppose your appeal to the Mooron diversion is not transparent?
                    Now when applied to your reaction is skyrockets and blah blah blah sprinkled with cursing. Remember? http://mtcowgirl.com/2013/01/24/breaking-rummel-legislators-take-refusal-to-enforce-law-a-step-further/#comment-96033

                    Actually, I think Feinstein is honest and well intentioned, but wrong on 2nd amendment and violence control measures. Clear enough for you?

                    • Craig Moore

                      Well Rod what do you expect when you act stupidly by mangling my name? As you bleated:

                      You have no f’ing idea what I want, hope for or believe. That doesn’t stop you from a stupid attempt to pigeonhole me, now does it? You are truly a dumbass.

                      Your chickens come home to roost. Told ya.

                    • Norma Duffy @Ilikewoods

                      I never thought Diane Fienstien was anti-gun… considering her friend and fellow dem Harvey Milk got shot to death…. ( sarcasm towards Craig). But I do know she is pro kindergartener just like me!

  8. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

    ANTI-SEMITE SON OF A BITCH! But wait a minute. He’s JEWISH! AND IZRAILI!

    Look, folks, it’s past time to get your heads out of your asses and WAKE THE F*CK UP regarding the nazi/thug/zionists in izrail. Is it racist to point this out? Well, I didn’t do it. THIS Jewish fella did! And he won an Oscar for it! Or maybe will.

    The izraili tail has WAGGED the shit outta this dog (MY country) loooong enough! We’ve sacrificed ENOUGH of our young soldiers for their wars with their neighbors, and we’ve bankrupted OUR country looong enough! Time to tell these nazi aparthied thugs that enuff is enuff!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/29/dror-moreh-gatekeepers-di_n_2573431.html

    Now, if you want to call me a racist, go ahead! But kiss my ass, for THIS guy is saying the exact same thing!

  9. Larry Kralj, Environmental Rangers

    See, the problem is as I see it is that ALL the fatassed Walmart shoppers will never figure it out and simply KEEP voting against their own best interests! They are incapable of imagining that an other entire earthly universe exists out there.
    Percy Cerutty perhaps said it best, when he said that “Americans are hopeless bastards!

    http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125223168

  10. lan

    Law markers? I find that a disgusting title, as if we are always one law short of utopia… each year more and more laws and yet the state and our county slip further down the tube. How about we elect law destroyers? The legislators can still get their names on the bills to feel good, but they don’t add new crap, they subtract.

    • Rob Kailey

      Are you calling for revolution, Ian? Do you hate the Constitution that gave us these “law markers”? Where do we meet? What do you propose? Please, be forthcoming!?