Category Archives: Legislative Races

NEW STUDY: Montanans’ Access to Health Care Among Nation’s Worst

A new study has found that Montanans’ access to health care is among the worst in the U.S.

The July 2014 report by the Commonwealth Fund found that only three states had worse access to health care than Montanans–Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska, as you can see in this chart.

The information shows that what the TEA party extremists did by refusing to accept the federal funds to cover the working poor was an especially poor decision in Montana, where the lack of access to health care is particularly bad.   You can read the whole study here.

Chart Health Care Access

 

Remember, the Medicaid expansion covers the working poor, people who earn “too much” to qualify for Medicaid now but don’t make enough to qualify for a price break through healthcare.gov.

The earnings ceiling for the coverage gap in Montana is $11,490 a year for a single person. If you make more than this, you could get a price break through the marketplace.

Earning $11,000 a year works out to a monthly income of $916.

  • Average rent for a (cheap, dilapidated) one-bedroom apartment in South Billings/Lockwood: $480/month. $436 left over…
  • Grocery bills: $125/month (Ramen noodles, 20 lb bag of potatoes). $311 left over…
  • Car insurance: $66/month. $245 left over…
  • Gas: $72/month (assuming 300 miles/month, or 10 miles/day to get to your job). $173 left over…
  • Clothing/Sundry items (shampoo, light bulbs, stamps): $25/month. $148 left over…
  • Entertainment: $15/month (1DVD rental on Sat night only). $133/month left over…
  • Utilities: $30/month (or a cheap cell phone). $103/month left over…
  • Savings/Debt: $50/month (making a future, or correcting the past–being responsible) $53/month left over…

That leaves about $53 to buy health insurance if nothing else goes wrong in your life–your car never breaks down, you never go to the dentist, etc.

The cheapest Bronze-level unsubsidized health insurance plan for a 40-year old in Yellowstone is $205/month – or four times more than what this person has left over for health insurance. Even on a bare bones budget without cable, an iPhone or a sports car–Montanans in the coverage gap can’t afford insurance thanks to the Montana legislature.

Remember, this single individual isn’t eligible for subsidies on the Affordable Care Act marketplace because those are only for people who make more than $11,490 per year.  So this person must pay the unsubsidized price.

Montana’s legislators need a reality check. They’ve made it so there is no path for a working poor person in Montana to do the responsible thing by getting health coverage.  This person has only one option:  pray they don’t get sick.

If your legislator doesn’t get it, she or he needs to be replaced.

Twelve MT Lawmakers Call for Rounding Up and Arresting Federal Officials

by Cowgirl

Twelve Montana lawmakers are backing a bill to arrest any federal officials who try to implement the Affordable Care Act in Montana. The state legislators voiced their support for such a scheme in a survey from Ron Paul’s “Campaign for Liberty” TEA Party, on which they indicated they will either vote for or sponsor such a bill.

And what a group of legislators they are. Gordon Vance, Nancy Ballance, Cary Smith, David Howard, Kerry White, Sarah Lazloffy, Nicholas Schwaderer, Daniel Zolnikov,  Jerry O’Neil, Art Wittich and Mike Miller are all on record backing legislation to declare the Affordable Care Act illegal and to allow police to arrest federal officials who take steps to implement it in Montana.

These TEA partiers also say they support a nonsensical and unconstitutional dogma called “nullification” that holds that states can ignore the federal health care law–and other federal laws–if they choose. Two sitting lawmakers, Rep. Jerry O’Neil (RTEA-Columbia Falls) and Rep. David Howard (RTEA-Park City), both known imbeciles, were foolish enough to admit they would actually sponsor such legislation.

David Howard

Rep. David Howard has called for a new, modern-day Civil War and dedicated his entire Facebook page to racist, bigoted, bizarre and anti-gay posts. Republicans elected him Chair of the House Human Services Committee of the Montana Legislature.  He is running this year for a four-year term in the Montana state senate.

As Time Magazine reported in 2011 after TEA Party poster boy and perennial candidate Derek Skees began pushing the concept of nullification in the 2011 Bat Crap Crazy Montana legislature,

[N]ullification also has a controversial history. It was invoked by South Carolina lawmakers seething over tariff laws in the antebellum South, and again during the civil-rights era, when states opposed to the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision of 1954 used the idea of interposition, nullification’s kissing cousin, as a mechanism to resist integration.

Out of over 200 candidates and legislators running for office this year, 34 loons answered the Campaign for Liberty questionnaire, as you can see here. Besides the twelve sitting legislators who back the arrest and nullification bill, an additional 18 candidates for the Montana state house committed to support it. Meanwhile six candidates went on record saying they will sponsor the legislation. Only four legislative candidates refused to answer or admitted they oppose the manhunts for federal health care officials.

Rep. Kerry White (RTEA-Bozeman) says he had hoped to join Cliven Bundy in his armed stand-of public employees in Nevada.

Rep. Kerry White (RTEA-Bozeman) says he had hoped to join Cliven Bundy in his armed stand-off against public employees in Nevada.

Every single one of these legislators and candidates should now be asked for specific explanations of why they support arresting anyone for implementing federal laws.

After all, the list of those up for arrest would be rather large.  All of the state’s navigators and certified application counselors are actually federal officials who have been given grants paid with federal dollars to sign people up for the Affordable Care Act. The biggest chunk of these officials are community health center, tribal clinic, and hospital employees. Additionally there are hundreds of insurance agents who were were certified to offer Affordable Care Act policies through the exchange using official federal funds and resources, and there are hundreds more state public employees whose work to implement the federal health care law is paid for with federal funds and required under federal statute.

Jerry O'Neil

Rep. Jerry O’Neil, RTEA- Columbia Falls says public beatings will save taxpayer money.

As of this posting, the legislators have not said whether the penalty for these hospital and health care workers would be jail time and fines or “humane whippings,” as Rep. Jerry O’Neil as previously proposed.

 

Funding the Fringe

Texas Fracking Brothers Fight to Force Their Religion into Montana Laws by Backing Right-Wing Legislative Candidates

by Cowgirl

Two Texas fracking billionaires who own land in Montana are again funneling hundreds of millions into right-wing causes and candidates after it was revealed that the Texans were the top donors to Montana legislative candidates last election cycle.  The brothers backed TEA Party and religious extremists with frightening beliefs.

The brothers own land in Montana, and their father is a right-wing pastor whose influence over state and federal laws they hope to spread- including the belief that rape victims should endure forced pregnancies. (Note: This extreme view is shared by none other than Steve Daines, who is on the record in favor of forcing women to bear children from rapists.   Remember last election cycle after Rick Santorum that told CNN that rape victims should suck it up and accept “the gift” that  “God has given to you”, Daines brought Santorum out to a fundraising event he had in Montana–with Santorum as the guest of honor.)

Anyway, back to the Wilks brothers scary views.  As Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at People For the American Way Foundation, writes of their dad who is a wingnut pastor at their church:

In his sermons, he decries “socialism” and argues that the Bible was grounded in the free market….He has suggested that the melting of the icecaps might be punishment for sin, and that President Barack Obama’s re-election may be a harbinger of the “end times.”

Besides being the largest donors to Montana legislative candidates, the Wilks brothers also gave $4 million to the parent organization of the Montana Family Foundation, a group which in turn worked to influence legislative races–including attack mailers in GOP primaries across the state. 

The MT Family Foundation is also crusading to dummy down education standards and keep discrimination against LGBT Montanans legal.  As the School Administrators of Montana have pointed out, the Montana Family Foundation claims that higher standards for reading and math are connected to the workings of “the United Nations, UNESCO, the ‘New World Order,’ Marxism, Globalism, Islam, etc.” and that the new, better standards are the culmination “of an envisioned future of  ‘dominant elites’ who have been working behind the scenes for over 100 years to ensure its adoption.”  The Family Foundation and its anti-illuminati cohorts also believe that celebrating bigotry by importing stale, greasy fast food from hundreds of miles away is a good idea.  Like the Wilks brothers, Greg Gianforte is also a major bankroller of the Montana Family Foundation.

But apparently Montana’s wingnut candidates are perfectly happy to do the bidding of out-of-state billionaires. In fact, a report by FollowtheMoney.org’s Amanda Harrow found that “70 percent of Republican legislators and 42 percent of the legislative body as a whole received contributions from the Wilkses during the 2012 election”–as did Attorney General Tim Fox.

Fact Checking GOP Hypocrisy on Federal Funds

The Montana legislature has proven itself to be more concerned with TEA Party orthodoxy than with our well-being, health, and economy. One of the most glaring examples of this is how they rejected free medcaid money for the Medicaid expansion–in a state where 16 percent of the population is still uninsured–in a state with the lowest percentage of employer-sponsored health care in the U.S.

When Montana TEA partiers and legislators try to explain why they refused money to pay for 100% of the health care benefits for 70,000 working poor Montanans for three years and never less than 90% of this cost, they try to make it sound like we’re taking on a “long-term liability” because they claim the feds will refuse to pay what they’ve committed to. Even thought this share is mandated by federal law–and even though this has never happened with Medicaid which has been operating in Montana since 1965. They say that accepting Montana’s share of this federal money makes us “lemmings about to jump off the cliff” and demand “belt tightening” to end the “tyranny” of federal funding.

Yet there is a mind-numbing level of hypocrisy on this front. It seems that some federal dollars are tyrannical lemming bait and others are not. Montanans welcome billions in federal funds that build highways, bring c130s and f15s to Great Falls, fight fires, clean up asbestos in Libby, and of course hand out  farm subsidies for Montana legislators. But when it comes to providing affordable health coverage to our working poor neighbors, some lawmakers want to draw the line. Why? Because they believe that federal funding for health coverage is somehow different than funding for concrete slabs, cleanup crews, or wildfire fighting camps. Of course, there isn’t any difference between these federal funds and the supposed dependencies they create—except in what the money pays for, and who it helps.

When Montana obstructionists refuse to accept these federal funds, they are saying that Montanan’s federal tax dollars won’t be put to work to help Montanans but will be instead sent to other states. The money won’t be circulating in Montana’s economy at all. This is beyond hypocritical: it’s just stupid. If a state rejects federal funding, that money is reallocated to other states. That’s how it works – those funds don’t magically go pay down federal debts. In when the Republican controlled house had a bill to change how federal appropriations work, the refused to even move it out of committee, so you know this is true, and its not going to be any different.

Next time you here someone trying to make the anti-federal money argument to hurt working poor families, feel free to set them straight.

 

 

The Montana GOP Hypocrite of the Week Award Goes to

…Rep. Greg Hertz R-Polson.  Hertz used public meetings to spread misinformation and TEA Party conspiracy theories, while crowing on his Facbook page that information is only valid if it is “straight from the horse’s mouth.’

For posting on his Facebook page the motto “Unless you hear it from the horses’ [sic] mouth, don’t listen to a Jackass.” then ignoring his own advice and spreading misinformation at a public meeting, Hertz is this week’s hypocritical hero.

Hertz made some embarrassing unsourced claims at a Polson public meeting recently.  As the Valley Journal reported:

Citing the EPA trying to say farm dust was a hazard and irrigation ditches are navigable water ways, Hertz said cities need to stand up and push back on EPA since it’s very difficult to meet their standards.

In fact both of Hertz’s assertions have been debunked years ago.  Hertz is practicing a rhetorical sleight of hand which avoids explicitly stating the agency actually has any intention of doing what Hertz implies. In fact, the EPA has no effort nor any effort even planned to regulate farm dust.   That’s a conspiracy theory Herman Cain used in a presidential debate in 2011, after which the conspiracy theory was immediately debunked.  

Nor is there any attempt to declare ditches navigable waterways. Hertz and other conspiracy theorists make this claim based on the TEA Party myth that the Clean Water Act only applies to navigable waterways.  It doesn’t, and therefore declaring ditches such does not make them subject to regulation and therefore has no point whatsoever.

Come to think of it, if we’re to take Hertz’s advice, I guess there isn’t much point in listening to him.

Greg Hertz Motto

 

Backpedaling Underscores Land Transfer Problems

That didn’t take long.

Republican Party leaders are already trying to distance themselves from a costly land transfer boondoggle which was supported unanimously at the recent GOP platform convention. This after word is starting to get around about how the land transfer would increase our taxes by hundreds of millions, and inflict a major blow to Montana’s tourism economy especially in communities surrounding Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks like Kalispell, Bozeman, West Yellowstone and others.

Montana Republican Party Vice Chair Jennifer Fielder tried to tell a legislative panel Thursday that a report out-of-state land grab advocates are pushing “does not recommend transferring federal lands to state ownership or management” and that “None of the recommended legislation would transfer [land] either.”

Of course, the facts have already shown otherwise. Just last month Republicans unanimously supported including the land transfer in their party platform – without an exception even for national parks.  And then there’s the fact that not just two of  boondoggle’s biggest cheerleaders, Vice-Chair Jennifer Fielder herself (fast forward to about 45 min in) and Rep. Kerry White (TEA-Gallatin County) have been caught on video supporting the lands transfer.  And video evidence now exists of nearly every Flathead area conservative candidate supporting the transfer: Oops.

Fielder’s swift and very public backpedaling underscores the political difficulties facing this idea.

A recent University of Montana poll found that 2/3 of Montanans oppose the idea, which has already become a defining issue in Wyoming’s top 2014 races (and not in a way that helps TEA Party republicans.)  Utah’s own legislative legal council said the idea is likely unconstitutional (Utah passed a bill to do this which is already facing legal problems.)  The idea faces heavy political opposition a well. As Rep. Bill McChesney (D-Eastern Montana) pointed out during the legislative panel, “This state not for sale.”

This is the second time Republican leadership has had to try to distance themselves from the ideas surrounding this land transfer. At an event promoting the land transfer earlier this year the Missoula Independent reported that a speaker from Defend Rural America called the environmental movement “domestic terrorists.”

 

GUEST POST: Fourth of July Freedoms, or Not…

[This is a guest post by Mary Ann Dunwell, the Democratic candidate for Montana's House District 84. Mary Ann says she welcomes your questions and comments at:
(406) 461-5358,
dunwellforhd84@gmail.com or
 www.dunwellforhd84.com]

Mary Ann Dunwell

Mary Ann Dunwell

Have fun and be safe this 4th of July holiday! While many of us celebrate our freedoms by kicking back, waving flags and popping a cold one, let’s not forget our neighbors who still struggle against social, economic and environmental injustices. Continue reading