Wittich Corruption Case
The Helena IR reported yesterday that the commissioner of political practices has uncovered documents that show TEA Party state legislator Art Wittich “participated in quid pro quo corruption by receiving secret and improper contributions from corporate groups ‘and in return he pledged primary fealty to that corporate group of special interests rather than to the people of his district.'”
The documents make Wittich’s removal from office a near surety.
TEA Party Senate Leader Wants to Gut Rights of American Workers
Embattled TEA Party state senate leader Debby Barrett is calling for a federal law change that would decimate the rights of American workers. (Our state legislators have not figured out that they don’t make federal laws.) The proposal would redefine what counts as a majority related to union votes – a different standard would apply when the decision benefits the worker as opposed to the employer. It would also allow employers to delay union elections votes and again, for years. The bill also allows employers to set up sham “votes” and stick unions with the bill to drain the unions finances.
You can read a good explanation of this nonsense here.
A Puzzling Editorial in the Gazette
This week the Billings Gazette surprised the state when it came out against a major economic development opportunity for the Billings community. Apparently, in spite of Montana’s doctor shortage, the Gazette has decided to oppose a proposal for a private entity to partner with a local university to build a medical school in the Billings area, presumably because Montana’s existing doctors are organizing against new doctors. There are actually two private entities courting Billings and Missoula with medical school economic development projects.
For a moment, let’s put aside the need for more doctors, and the idea that new competition could help drive down the cost of medical care and wait times–and let’s acknowledge that not every doctor in Montana is buying a new boat or adding a second deck this year.
What struck me about the Gazette opinion is this line:
we’re concerned that a for-profit medical school will compete for precious resources against the highly successful WWAMI program which trains Montana and Wyoming doctors, and sends them back to communities here.
The WWAMI program subsidizes out-of-state tuition for Montanans who go to the University of Washington school of medicine, allowing them to pay in-state tuition rates and picking up the tab for the rest so the student doesn’t have to pay out-of-state tuition. According to legislative staff, the taxpayers pick up the tab for this at about a million dollars a year. Twenty Montana students are accepted each year, and 80 are in the program in any given year. However, there is no requirement that the doctors who get the taxpayer subsidized tuition do their residencies in Montana. Given that several national studies say that as many as 80 percent of doctors settle in the communities where they do their residencies, it could be questioned whether a program without a requirement that students complete a residency in Montana should be called successful without qualifications.