A Citizen’s Guide to Who’s Fighting Medicaid Expansion in the MT Legislature

I had a chance to watch the hearing for the Healthy Montana Plan bill, HB 249,last night and could not help noting both few opponents showed up and the type of opposition they offered.

More than 250 Montanans stood up to support Rep. Noonan’s bill, carried on behalf of Governor Bullock, many who had driven hours and stayed for the entire 6 1/2 hour hearing.   It was one of the most incredible hearings I’ve ever watched.

Among the remarkable occurrences, Rep. Ellie Hill (D-Missoula) gave a letter of thanks to everyone who came to support the bill–something I’ve not heard of anyone doing before, but which delighted a few tipsters.  I’m also told Rep. Jessica Karjala (D-Billings) took her seat wearing a blue Healthy Montana “#70000 Can’t Wait” t-shirt, the same kind which were worn by many supporters, who stood in line to testify for at least 2 hours of the 6 1/2 hour hearing to share their incredible stories and to speak out for Montanans in need.

There are two out-of-state groups who are spending big money to make the Montana legislature think the public is opposed to expansion, when really even the most conservative polls have Montanans supporting it by a 20 point margin. Out-of-state money can buy radio ads and post cards, but it can’t come anywhere close to real grassroots support.  And so, it is not surprising that out-of-state astroturf groups weren’t able to come up with much in the way of actual people to oppose the Healthy Montana Plan in the hearing.

Here’s who Americans for Prosperity and the Florida Foundation for Government Accountability was able to convince to speak against Medicaid expansion in Montana:

GFTPP IRS ProtestPresident of the Helena TEA Party, Ed Argenbright.  Ed regaled the legislature at length with his views on federal school funds and the “strings” they supposedly came with.  He did not elaborate on what the strings were and why he was worried about them.  HB 249, as you probably know, has nothing to do with school funding. Perhaps nobody told him.  Apparently, Argenbright was once superintendent of public instruction 30 years ago, in the 80s.

 

Annie BukacekAnti-abortion crusader Annie Bukacek, of Kalispell.  Bukacek is a fundamentalist and former AFP spokesperson who was probably brought to the hearing because she has been, at least at some point, a licensed physician in the state of Montana, albeit with a religious twist.  Her clinic, which has since closed down, was called “Hosanna Healthcare.”  She was also investigated for federal health care fraud, but she claims it was because she prayed with patients. (So much for the TEA Party GOP’s supposed concerns about fraud and abuse in health care.)

Ms. Bukacek appears to have delivered false testimony before the Montana Legislature during the 2011 session. On January 21, 2011, Bukacek testified before the state Senate Public Health Committee in favor of SB-161, a bill to nullify federal health care laws, and cited “statistics from a 2010 Investor’s  Business Daily article based on a survey  by the United Nations International Health Organization.”

The article and study she cited then do not even exist, actually, nor does the organization she cites.  In fact, this non-existent study is one that right wing activists have been citing across America, in hearings, in articles, on websites. But it’s a big canard, according to the Center for Public Integrity.    There is neither a study nor even a group called the United Nations International Health Organization.

Americans for Prosperity Paid Staffers. For some reason, perhaps because their ranks were few, AFP sent two paid staffers to oppose the same bill.  One was Henry Kriegel, who a couple of years back was caught on tape admitting that AFP is primarily funded by two Kansas billionaires, the Koch brothers, as you can hear here:

Before working for AFP, Kriegel was a self-appointed Tea Party leader in Bozeman, who was once was busted by the IRS for failing to pay a fortune in income taxes (somehow he got a bankruptcy court to let him off the hook on a large portion of it) and with this qualification under his belt went on to lead the Montana chapter of Americans for Prosperity (the group that gets its money from the Kochs).  From that perch, he has spoken out frequently about the need for tax reform.  Yep.

LT. Col. Robert Welzel, of the Flathead (Retired).  This individual  is the leader of a Chuck Baldwin influenced prepper patriot group in the Flathead. Welzel also leads this Facebook group, which is full of racist posts.  He’s also said some pretty terrible things himself.

Welzel says he is “sick and tired of hearing about Trayvon Martin and even more sick and tired of hearing about how white Americans are racist.”  The truth, said Welzel…wait for it…is that “race does make distinctive differences between us and some of those characteristics might actually make some superior over others.”

He says he has “never personally met or personally know any racists who are Caucasian. After living in both New Orleans and in Memphis, I have met and know racist, but I regret to inform you that the only racists I have ever met have been black.”

He says voting is worthless because “2012 proved that the ballot box was totally ineffective…because a Kenyan was elected for a second term.”  He calls for everyone to stop paying taxes because “honestly, the alternative is armed conflict which would be much costlier.”

 Doing so [ceasing to pay taxes] starves the beast and very clearly communicates not only our resolve and our commitment, but immediately quantifies to the federal government our extreme displeasure. Is this extreme, you bet it is. But make no mistake, war would be worse. Just exactly where is your line in the sand? What abuse do you need to suffer before you’re willing to stand for freedom? Some things are worse than death, and Communism is one of them. BETTER DEAD THAN DEM!

Next was Gina Satterfield the lead singer of a local Helena band called Mabel’s Rage, whose testimony included the statement “Every child is controlled by the Obamacare of Education” and discussed her believe that this was some kind of conspiracy to indoctrinate kids to something – it wasn’t clear what.

From the band’s website:

WARNING! If you are to be a potential fan of Mabel’s Rage it is required to arrive at our shows prepared and be well equipped with straightjackets, rope and gaffers tape (no sticky residue) to restrain from out of control hand and foot tapping, dangerous dancing and grinning with infectious laughter. Armed with original songs that keep you moving to their addictive beat and lyrics that provoke free thought and tell amazing stories, this band is a jewel. From the politically charged “America (You’ve Got Change)’ to the neo-spiritually charged, “Mikey Says,” this band’s fresh, new material keeps you interested throughout.

 

But in spite of the fact that there were 20 supporters for every opponent,  Republicans on the committee refused to do the right thing and instead made a motion for an “adverse committee report.”  This “adverse committee report” means the bill is exempt from being eligible to use one of 6 silver bullets democrats had negotiated – an agreement that 6 bills could be debated on the floor after a vote of 50 legislators.  If an adverse committee report is put on the bill by a GOP committee, the silver bullets don’t apply.

If you would like to contact the members of this committee who did this and ask them why, you may do so by clicking here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Sessions/64th/legwebmessage.asp  or by emailing them with the addresses below.

Wittich, Art (R) Rep.Art.Wittich@mt.gov
Wagoner, Kirk (R) kirk@kirkbwagoner.org
Berglee, Seth (R) Rep.Seth.Berglee@mt.gov
Doane, Alan (R) alandoane@midrivers.com
Harris, Bill (R) bharris@midrivers.com
Hess, Stephanie (R) Stephhess28@gmail.com
Mandeville, Forrest (R) Rep.Forrest.Mandeville@mt.gov
Olszewski, Albert (R) Rep.Albert.Olszewski@mt.gov
Redfield, Alan (R) redfieldhd61@gmail.com
Ricci, Vince (R) rep.Vince.Ricci@my.gov

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9 Comments on "A Citizen’s Guide to Who’s Fighting Medicaid Expansion in the MT Legislature"

  1. Excellent assessments, sad but true and worse, Wittich refused to allow ANY debate, amendments which could have been done on another day, NOT the same evening, when legislators mentally exhausted and numb. It’s BAD policy and BAD decision-making, but since MINDS were already made up and the show ‘rigged’ by Chair Wittich, what less could we expect?

    As far as the ‘crazy colonel’, he FAILED to state he was retired, which is always proper protocol for officers, and for him to make claims he’s never know a white racist as preposterous, absurd and as Gov. Schweitzer would say, ‘BAT CRAP CRAZY’. The ‘colonel’ is getting nice federal benefits isn’t he, while others suffer and die – YES they do ‘colonel’ – and all he can do is inspire HATE.

    I hope there’s a ‘battle royal’ about Wittich’s POOR performance and tyrannical manipulation to avoid
    debate, discussion and amendments. He’s so SMUG with his ‘quiet’ voice while his INNER voice is screaming ‘hell no obama’…hell no obama…hell no obama, etc.

    Finally, today even Rep. Rob Cook bravely challenged Wittich on the floor about Wittich’s posturing about truly caring for Montana’s most unfortunate kids who NEED the services of state child and family services staff to protect them, investigate rampant abuse but never gets funded be the teabaggers, who
    care more for a Fetus, then tell the born infant GET a job, you’re on your own!

  2. Rep. Redfield (R-Livingston) has become the latest moderate to succumb to the strain of Tea Party pressure.

  3. Fred “Eric” k Moore from Miles City said he was opposed to Medicaid expansion because he “didn’t want to pay an able-bodied man not to work.” Which made NO sense what so ever but he is expected to toe the party line and he did.

    I wish they would just admit they are opposed to Medicaid because of “that man in the White House” and stop with the stupid excuses. We know it is political posturing with no concern for the average citizen. They know it is political posturing with no concern for the average citizen.

    So why not just say “We hate HIM so we are voting against the best interests of rural Montanans.”

  4. Grandma Jeannie | March 10, 2015 9:47 AM at 9:47 AM |

    85 percent of those eligible for Medicaid expansion do work!!! Also some are retired- some are stay home parents- some are full time students.

  5. Can anyone direct me to the polls Cowgirl mentions, the polls that place a 20 point favorable lead?

  6. Drunks for Denny | March 10, 2015 2:20 PM at 2:20 PM |

    I hate to say it, as I am for Medicaid expansion, but Art Wittich did make a salient point why the bill got shot down. The voters of the State of Montana elected a Republican majority to the Montana Legislature, knowing that the official platform of the Republican Party is to stop this expansion.

    Your beef is not with the people listed above, but with the brain dead morons who vote in this state. And don’t cry “Dark Money made them do it!” It’s time to face the fact that the average Montana voter is dumber than a box of rocks.

    • Unfortunately this issue isn’t limited to MT

    • D for D, you point out the one truly Democratic thing about Wittich, and I agree with you. He’s right. But I don’t think Montana voters are dumb; I think them committed. On the other side you have a wealth of good humanist folk doing everything in their power to convince people that Medicaid expansion failure was Bullock’s fault and that anyone who votes Democratic should be ashamed, ASHAMED I TELL YOU! ‘Save a tree and let the working poor find health solutions in our vast protected wilderness through holistic consumption of foraged roots and berries in our great wildlands you have no money to enjoy yet still protected by you not voting’ I imagine is their message.

      Electing representation has much less to do with money or intelligence, and more to do with commitment. The people of Montana are not committed, that’s all.

  7. I can’t believe no one has commented that the crazy conspiracy commenter was the lead singer of the band Mabel’s Rage!
    The self described “cougar hairdresser” is the conspiracy testifier

    Here is a picture

    http://www.montanabands.com/mabels-rage/

    “What do you get when you mix a hockey player, surfer, seasoned flightman and cougar hairdresser? Mabel’s Rage: a diverse fusion of blues and rock that will shake your foundation. Mabel (Gina Satterfield), the hairdresser, on vocals and the newest to the performing scene can hold her own in front of the well seasoned Bud Clarke (guitar), John Ross (bass) and Chris Brady (drums).

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