Montana’s Politicians… An Impotent Lot


We tell the feds to get lost when it comes to healthcare, wolves, and guns, but those we elected beg for help from the federal government to enforce marijuana laws? Please.

Today we learned that Montana medical marijuana advocate Tom Daubert was able to negotiate a plea deal with federal prosecutors. Daubert is the founder of Patients and Families United, a medical marijuana advocacy group. He was influential in the drafting of I-148, the initiative that Montana voters approved overwhelmingly to legalize medical marijuana in 2004.  Daubert was also a one of a handful of partners in Montana Cannabis, one of several caregivers who were raided in March of 2011.  Others involved in Montana Cannabis have not been quite so fortunate as they were recently indicted on multiple federal counts of conspiracy, cultivation, and gun charges.  According to news reports,  Daubert has agreed to plead guilty to a charge of “conspiracy to maintain a drug-involved premises”. Unlike the charges Daubert’s former partners are facing, his doesn’t carry a mandatory minimum sentence.  Recent federal cases have indicated that this is an increasingly common charge by the feds- especially when cases against the accused are relatively weak and built primarily on circumstantial evidence.

Montana’s indicted cannabis caregivers have accepted plea deals featuring significant charge and sentence reductions (most sentences range from 6 – 18 months in federal prison) although they were also subject to massive asset forfeitures and additional fines.  So far though, it appears nearly everyone has been negotiating with the feds, but what happens to those who refuse the plea deals?

Lindsey's legal practice is built upon helping clients adhere to state law. He now faces mandatory minimum sentences of 690 years as a result.

Take, for instance; Chris Lindsey.  He is a soft-spoken, educated, non-violent intellectual. He is a husband and a father to a young son.  Lindsey, a Missoula attorney, served as in-house legal counsel for Montana Cannabis (yes, Tom Daubert’s company) for less than a year.  He left the company a full fourteen months before the March 2011 raids that preceded these federal indictments.  He was indicted last week on a long list of federal conspiracy, drug, and gun charges.  The guns weren’t his. He wasn’t a drug dealer and as far as conspiracy goes, well, I suppose I’m breaking some of those federal statutes simply by writing this post.  Chris has built his legal practice around helping Montana’s medical marijuana patients adhere to state law.  He has not been accused of breaking any of Montana’s statutes and yet he is unable legally to use his clear compliance with state law in his federal defense.  He says he can’t accept a plea deal on something he believes in. So what does that mean for Chris?  Brace yourself.

Mandatory minimums on his charges amass sentences of 690 years in federal prison.  Maximum sentences are 25 consecutive life terms plus an additional 85 years.  What purpose do we serve by incarcerating a productive professional with no history of criminal activity- someone who has never been accused of any sort of violence?  This is a travesty of epic proportions.  Keep in mind that there is no parole in federal prison and that convicts must serve 85% of their sentences.  Doesn’t this make you wonder why those who make a deal (thus maintaining frightening and artificially high federal conviction rates ) are criminals who upon acceptance of a plea deal, are instantly benign enough to warrant sentences averaging one year yet those who value their principles enough to defend them in a court of law are scary enough for consecutive life sentences?

Our state government allows this injustice, without so much as a complaint. While politicians from other states protest the federal crackdown medical marijuana, those from Montana are silent. Montana politicians typically claim to exhibit a sort of libertarian-streak that is native to our people- people who just want to be left alone.  In reality however, our politicians are pussies.  Nearly every one of them.  They are too worried about being reelected to actually take a stand to protect the very people who elected them.  From our Congressional delegation to our local sheriffs, Montana politicians LOVE federal intervention on marijuana cases.  In fact, instead of actually working with our existing state law, state law enforcement often refused to prosecute those in defiance of the law in order to set up a repeal of I-148 in our last legislative session.  Rumor has it, to ensure a repeal, our elected officials even worked with federal agents to schedule a key legislative vote simultaneously with dramatic federal raids taking place in the state capital, as well as cities across the state.  On one Republican state representative’s Facebook page, he declared immediately after the raids  “Praise the Lord and Praise the Feds”.  I guess these faux Libertarian-minded Montanans believe they can deal with everything on the state level- healthcare, wolves, guns- everything but the “scourge of Montana” (yes, another state legislator called it that), marijuana.

Our governor, Brian Schweitzer, did absolutely nothing to protect Montanans from federal intervention.  Rep. Denny Rehberg and Sen. Jon Tester are fighting for Tester’s US Senate seat.  Conveniently, neither of them have stood up to federal medical marijuana intervention.  Max Baucus recently announced his intent to run for reelection in 2014- has he taken a stand?  Nope.  Our attorney general, Steve Bullock, who has continuously opposed legislation as well as legal maneuvers designed to protect patients, now wants to be our governor.  Nearly all of the prohibitionists in our state legislature are running for either reelection or election to yet another state office.  If our state governments refuse to protect us from the tyrannical federal government by use of the “supremacy clause” and a disgustingly broad interpretation of the commerce clause via Raich v Gonzales, what is the point of having state governments at all?
As we head farther into campaign season, let me remind you all that politicians are the biggest criminals alive.  We reward them with our votes and pay them healthy salaries with our taxes. We subsidize the failed war on drugs by allowing our government to perpetuate violent crime on our borders in the name of security. I am BEGGING you all, please do NOT disappoint me.  Get your asses out June 5 in primary elections and don’t you DARE neglect to vote in the general election November 6.   I do not feel safer with Chris Lindsey behind bars- or Tom Daubert, for that matter, do you?

Montana’s politicians are vacillating, submissive cowards and it is high time for some outrage from Montana’s citizens, this is embarrassing. 

An Alternate Path to Defeat: Democrat Files for Montana GOP Governor


The Montana GOP is going to need a bigger tent to fit all of the candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor.  Yesterday, former state transportation director Jim Lynch announced his candidacy in the already very crowded field. Lynch, who lost a Senate race as a Democrat in 1994 and has been a member of Democrat Governor Brian Schweitzer‘s  cabinet since 2005 insists he is actually a Republican.  In today’s Billings Gazette, he says

 “I’m probably like most Montanans,” he said. “Most of my views are Republican. I’m a Republican. I’ve never voted for a Democrat for president in my life.”

Although he claims he is running to “pave the way for economic development”, it appears he simply needs a job after Governor Schweitzer asked him to resign under very questionable circumstances.  The governor claimed the DOT’s  hiring of Lynch’s daughter potentially violated nepotism laws but rumors have circulated for some time that Lynch was also under investigation for misappropriating hundreds of thousands of tax dollars to buy an airplane, violating Montana’s constitution.  Shortly before Lynch resigned, a district judge also ruled that the DOT had violated the Montana Environmental Protection Act in approval of the mega-loads plan with an insufficient environmental assessment. Considering the hiring of his daughter took place four years ago, it does appear there may be more to the story.

Sorry Lynch, I don’t think you are like “most Montanans”.  In fact, you may have even more baggage than Rick Hill. Ironically, Lynch was rumored earlier this year to be pondering a Democratic run at Governor, but apparently further fracturing the Republican Party was a preferable path to defeat. Fourteen have filed for candidacy thus far:

Republicans:

–State Sen. Jeff Essmann, Billings. Essmann crafted the unpopular SB 423, which essentially forces medical marijuana patients to seek black market medicine.

–Bob Fanning, Pray. Fanning is an anti-wolf activist.

–Ex-U.S. Rep. Rick Hill, Helena. Ahead in fundraising, behind in morals.

–Neil Livingstone, Helena. Livingstone’s campaign is essentially broke, but he has the means to buy himself name recognition.

–Jim Lynch, Kalispell.

–Ex-Sen. Ken Miller, Laurel.  Ken Miller was sent by God to run for Governor….. again.  His campaign is rather peculiar.

–County Commissioner Jim O’Hara, Fort Benton.

–Ex-Sen.Minority Leader Corey Stapleton, Billings.

–Drew Turiano, Helena, self-published sci-fi author

Democrats: Attorney General Steve Bullock, Helena, and State Sen. Larry Jent, Bozeman.

Independent: Robert Coate, Bozeman.

Libertarian: Ron Vandervender, Cascade.

No party disclosed yet: Ronald Lassle, Helena.

Is Lynch a Republican or a Democrat?  With his “grandiose sense of self-importance”, he perhaps suffers  from a cluster B personality disorder, like Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Anti-Social Personality Disorder. Many afflicted have a shifting morality, they are always ready to shift values when necessary.

 

Leading by Example


It can certainly be argued that attacks against Governor Schweitzer are warranted.  His action, or more appropriately his inaction; is despicable and self-serving. His political future is on his mind, rather than the Montana cannabis population who has deservedly never been considered a  serious voting contingency.  It remains to be seen if we can mobilize our voters enough to be taken seriously. Politicians, with very few exceptions; make decisions that protect themselves first- this shouldn’t shock any of us.  A legislator (one of the few that I like) said recently that Schweitzer is easy to work with if you keep his priorities in mind.

1. Brian Schweitzer    2.  Screwing over the Republican Party   3. The Democrats  4. Montana

For a quarter of a century, cannabis proponents in our nation  have struggled to overcome stereotypes unfairly associated with cannabis.  Montana’s recent regression via the legislature is reminiscent of 1937 or so, progress-wise.  However, we most effectively seek legitimacy and positive recognition by setting good examples, following proper channels, and acting in a civil manner.  I empathize with those who are gravely disappointed.  Some of us will soon be devastated by the actions of  the legislature, physically and financially and as a result, emotions are running high. Some in our group have chosen to ignore all reason in favor of acting like many liberals upon their emotions.  By no means am I trying to tamper our first amendment protections nor am I suggesting we silently allow our rights to be revoked by tyrants, but some of us would be better serving our movement by shutting the hell up.

I’m not a big fan of Governor Schweitzer, although we could certainly have a worse governor.  I won’t defend him but I will grant him a level-albeit very minimal- of respect simply because he is the Governor of our state.  Placing profanity or otherwise crude or offensive language on his Facebook wall, calling him names, or otherwise unsavory behavior doesn’t make much sense.  First of all, he most likely doesn’t care about what you think- if he ever noticed at all.  Second of all, thousands of people read his wall, thus witnessing your activity.  You may believe you are representing only your own opinion, but stereotypes aren’t logical so anyone speaking out is easily lumped in with the industry and movement.  This is why I’m peeved.

I don’t like being associated with Jason Christ and most of you don’t either.  Unfortunately, however; many Montanans associate Jason Christ with us.  He most likely didn’t initially intend to damage the industry so extensively, but it happened. As angry as we are at our elected hacks chastising us and providing “marijuana is like arsenic” analogies, the initial blame shouldn’t fall on them- Our legislators obviously had an agenda- one based on false ideas- but if self-appointed representatives of our industry weren’t publicly boasting about their profits while participating in shady activities, the old stereotypes would have been just that, old stereotypes.  There are unscrupulous people in every industry.  Those in ours simply provided a vehicle for our legislature’s obsession.

We can all agree that there is no shortage of passion associated with either side of the cannabis issue.  Although the opponents currently hold the legislative power, WE HOLD THE TRUTH.  We are bullied by the opposition because they have no other tools.  Knowing this, can we not contrast them simply by being courteous?  I am not directing this lecture at anyone in particular, but I’ve worryingly watched our unity and decorum deteriorate in past weeks.  Egos are out of control.  So is anger.  Fear.  Perhaps each of us should take a deep breath and actually think about our words before verbalizing, typing or posting them.  Ask yourself a few questions, here are a few ideas:

  • Will these words hurt others? 
  • Will these words be taken out of context or used to hurt me or my industry and movement?  
  • Are you setting a good example?
  • Am I legitimizing the prohibitionist’s arguments? 
  • Are my words part of a solution or the problem?
  • What are my true motives? 
  • Would Jason Christ post something like this?
We all need to vent occasionally but perhaps the irrational SUPER PASSIONATE venting should be contained to our own walls- or better yet, private messages as opposed to the walls of our elected officials.
Positive reinforcement is required for any truly effective scolding and this instance is no exception.  You can now officially stop gnashing your teeth, the following words are more friendly.
 We should be proud of our accomplishments, we have been blessed with effective leaders who make sacrifices for us all on a daily basis. We have made great strides and  have a clear plan as well as the initial means to achieve our goals and we all deserve a pat on the back.  Our support crosses partisan boundaries.  In the last few months, we’ve likely learned more about Montana law and the legislative process  than we ever desired.  We are registered to vote! We are taking an active role in our future! My personal goal is to show up at the polls in unprecedented numbers in 2012, armed not only with a desire to affect cannabis legislation, but ALL legislation.   These events will shape our future- this isn’t just about marijuana.  This is about liberty. We have a long battle ahead of us and I encourage readers to support the Montana Cannabis Industry Association in their efforts to protect our rights.  Please join us Saturday night in Billings for a MTCIA mixer, details available at mtcia.org.   I regret to inform you that the GOP God Squad/MONTaliban won’t likely be joining us as the event conflicts with the Yellowstone Lincoln Reagan dinner where they will be congratulating themselves on a job well done. It was a tough choice, but I will see you all at the mixer.

A Greed Lecture from a Politician/Attorney….. and one from ME.


In today’s Billings Gazette, Senator Jeff Essmann, sponsor of SB 423 “The Black Market Bill” said:

“Montana voters should be concerned about any group that is selling a schedule-one controlled substance that can raise $50,000 in less than a week,” he said, referring to federal law. “I don’t believe Montana voters wanted to have that kind of activity in the state of Montana.  It should be very obvious that this is no longer about the medicine or the therapy. This is about the money for these people.”

“This is about the money for these people”……. I love being lectured by a politician and attorney about greed.  He is concerned that the cannabis industry could raise $50,000 in less than a week.  What exactly would that entail, I wonder.

  • Each of Montana’s approximately 30,000 patients could donate $1.67
  • Each of Montana’s nearly 5000 caregivers could donate $10
  • Each of our GOP legislators could have done their job at the biennial legislative session and we wouldn’t need the services of attorney Jim Goetz.

I find it so interesting that Essmann mentions that marijuana is a controlled schedule I substance.  Considering he is a fan of ignoring the federal government on wolf protection and Obamacare implementation, one wonders why he is so concerned about the Controlled Substances Act. It is the responsibility and duty of the state Legislature and our governor to protect our state and its citizens from federal intrusion. If our elected officials refuse to defend our citizens from the unconstitutional overreach of the federal government, they need to be replaced.  Our most recent legislative session was led by a Republican/Tea people backed majority focused almost solely on invasive, oppressive bigger government and our populist Governor Schweitzer has expressed his intentions to “hold his nose” as he allows SB 423 to become law.  Oh my.

While I am offended at the implication by Essmann that we are greedy, I’m also reminded that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Most of those sending you emails, blogging, holding meetings and conference calls are NOT paid representatives of the industry.  They are donating their time to this cause and deserve our thanks. I am not comfortable asking anyone for money and I am well aware that most people in the industry are only one harvest away from bankruptcy. I also know very well the costs associated with this business, but unless we are prepared to make unemployment and insolvency part of our plans for the VERY near future, we owe it to everyone involved to put some money where our mouths are. Posting Facebook rants may be liberating, but it isn’t what we need to survive.

I’m begging not only patients, caregivers, and Montanans to donate to this cause, but AMERICANS.  There is far more at stake than simply the medical use of cannabis in our great state, our very liberty is under fire. While disguised as a reform/regulatory bill, anyone who has read SB 423 knows it intends to eliminate the use of medical cannabis in Montana which is in opposition to the will of Montana voters who approved I-148 by a landslide in 2004.

Please go to http://www.mtcia.org/ to assist in preserving Montana’s liberty.  Protect us from the tyrannical religious zealots we unfortunately elected to represent us.   Our goal is $50,000 by the end of today and we are currently short $15,000.  The amount is necessary to retain the legal services of attorney Jim Goetz. On behalf of caregivers and patients statewide, Goetz intends to employ legal actions initially delaying the new law’s implementation as well as  eventually striking down the law in its entirety.  He is the right attorney for this endeavor and we need your help.  Please donate whatever you can, whether it is a significant amount or a few dollars.  The entire nation is watching Montana right now, let’s show them our strength!

Montana Governor Brands “Black Market Bill” (SB 423) Unconstitutional


In a surprising move (surprising to me at least), Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer called Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann’s SB 423, “unconstitutional on its face”.  He expressed his intention to issue an amendatory veto on the legally defective legislation as he doesn’t believe it could survive a court battle in its current form   The legislation, which passed Montana’s House and Senate earlier this week has been nicknamed the “black market bill” by opponents who believe eliminating the medical cannabis industry will invite dangerous criminal elements engaged in drug activity to again control the supply of marijuana in Montana.

In an interview with Lee Newspapers State Bureau, Schweitzer was highly critical of the GOP-led 2011 Legislature, expressing his disgust for their “squandering”  of Montana’s 90 day biennial legislative session.  He asked,

“Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” he asked.

A bipartisan interim committee, after months of work, inspired HB 68, sponsored by Diane Sands (D- Missoula).  While nowhere near perfect legislation, it is difficult if not impossible to find patients or growers who would prefer Essmann’s bill to HB 68, which was tabled in committee.  A re-written version of SB 154, a gray bill sponsored by Republican Dave Lewis (and largely preferred by patients and growers) also received little support from the repeal-driven prohibitionist Republicans.  Referring to HB 68,  Governor Schweitzer said ,

“They threw that in the garbage and now they’re going to send me this (SB) 423, which everybody’s who’s read it says, ‘Oh yeah, it’s unconstitutional,’ ” he said.  “The bill as written is not going to survive the courts.”

Montana’s governor, who recently was featured in national news stories for calling Republicans in the state legislature “Bat-crap crazy” and for registering a “VETO” cattle brand with the state (with which he last week ceremoniously killed bills he considered foolish or unconstitutional) isn’t fond of a requirement in Essmann’s bill that requires Montana’s medical cannabis patients to carry their state licensing card with them at all times, regardless of whether or not they are in possession of marijuana.  Patients are also subject to warrantless searches of their homes at any time and names and addresses of those in the program are provided to local law enforcement officials.   Schweitzer believes such provisions to be violations of the 4th amendment, which protects Americans from unlawful searches and seizures as well as the  federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA.

if you’re taking OxyContin or penicillin or for God’s sake, even aspirin, that is your own personal health care records,” he said. But HB423 is “demanding” that the fact that someone is using medical marijuana and “be turned over to law enforcement in every town.

Schweitzer too acknowledged the black market appeal of the legislation,

“There’s another problem with it, and I think it’s a fundamental problem,” Schweitzer said. “Under this bill, I will guar-an-dang-tee-you, that there will be more illegal marijuana (that) makes it to the alley under this proposal than we currently have because now you’re going to have 4,000, 5,000, 6,000 people growing their own. It’s not possible to monitor all of them.”

“I mean does someone with a straight face think you can have 5,000 people growing their own and none of it makes it to high schools or to college dorm rooms?” he said.

A severability clause was included in the bill, which ensures that, in the event of a court ruling striking components of the legislation, other parts of the bill remain viable.  Because of its inclusion, Schweitzer believes that Essmann and other Republicans are well aware that the bill is unconstitutional.

“Why don’t you just pass something that works, that’s constitutional and that can survive the test of time?” he asked.

That sounds far too easy for the TEA people-inspired Montana GOP, however.  This shouldn’t be about politics, it should be about doing the right thing for the segment of the population who Montana’s original medical cannabis law was designed to protect.  In efforts to eradicate all state-sanctioned medical use of cannabis, Montana’s GOP lawmakers for the past 90 days have resorted to tears, lies, and dramatic stories intended to convince the legislative body and public that our state is now considered a “source nation, like Columbia” our youth are prostituting themselves for cannabis, and that caregivers are selling marijuana in middle and high schools across the state.  Oddly enough, there have been no arrests made for any of those particular crimes.

Sponsor of the bill, Jeff Essmann cited recent correspondence with federal officials who “clarified” federal policy  in his bid to save our state from the evils of cannabis.  No word on whether he used such correspondence to ensure Montana is in compliance with federal law regarding wolves or implementation of federal health care reforms however.  We are all aware that the federal government knows best anyway, right?

Reefer makes darkies think they’re as good as white men.”
Federal Bureau of Narcotics Chief Harry J. Anslinger, 1929

Republicans in Montana have been hammered by those on the right this session as well as the typical lefty critics after various testimonies  in reference to  blow-dart murders, appropriate state prison sentences for gay recruitment, and the dangers of punishing DUIs were publicized on numerous news programs. While Republicans across the nation- including several GOP presidential nomination hopefuls- are advocating sweeping  marijuana law reforms, Montana’s Republicans are determined to move backwards as they promote their dangerously myopic “morality” agenda.

Real Montana Scourge: Medical Marijuana or ‘Moral’ Majority


You may recall from last month, Montana’s 2011 Legislature earned failing grades in a Billings Gazette poll in which Montana voters were asked to judge the performance of the legislative body, led by Montana Republicans. In fact, only 24% gave the legislature a positive rating.  Judging from recent events, I’m left to wonder if perhaps they are striving for a new low.

The Republicans, by ignoring constituents and engaging in the sort of behavior conservatives  typically would associate with Nancy Pelosi have alienated even the most loyal supporters this session.   Our legislature is truly out of hand, as evidenced by my frequent anti-hypocrisy posts.  There is something very wrong when I cannot find even one liberal who is more deserving of criticism than those in the leadership of my own party. The Republicans, with a few exceptions; are downright obsessed with meddling in the private affairs of Montanans. Don’t forget about the the national coverage our state has received for frivolous legislation and unbelievable comments made by our GOP legislators…. this situation is unreal.  I am personally embarrassed.

* Below is a clip of Representative Ellie Hill of Missoula boldly defending the medical cannabis industry and patients prior to Representative Dave Howard of Park City, with contempt in his voice, referring to marijuana as a poison and of course, a “scourge”.  Conveniently, Howard also manages to casually blame the Governor Brian Schweitzer for the legislature’s refusal inability to pass thoughtful legislation regulating the medical cannabis industry- because the governor hasn’t “told ANYBODY what he plans to do” with HB 161.

*Representative Ken Peterson of Billings publicly stated that although the Supreme Court of the United States as well as the Montana Supreme Court has ruled a Montana law criminalizing homosexuals to be unconstitutional, he believes there are at least two violations of the law he would consider enforceable. The first of those criminal acts is the “recruitment” of non-gays by gays. I never realized when hanging out with our homosexual friends we were in so much danger. Thanks for letting me know, Rep. Peterson! He also believes that the Supreme Court decisions apply only to homosexual acts behind closed doors, so any public display of homosexuality would be fair game for potential enforcement by the MONTaliban officers.  Read all about Rep. Peterson’s raging homophobia here.

Reverend Harris Himes has been making the rounds- from testifying on behalf of Montana Eagle Forum, his congregation (yes, he is a pastor) and God.  He lectured committee members about repealing the medical use of marijuana and in favor of discrimination of gays, at one point even declaring that homosexuals should be put to death.  Himes finally explains exactly WHY the use and cultivation of marijuana should be prohibited here.  His proximity to God lends credibility and relevance to the pastor’s testimony.

The bigoted legislators and self-righteous individuals mentioned above do not represent the Montana in which I have spent my entire life and if they are considered moral creatures, I’m content being lumped in with the “scourge”.

Dramatic Senate Standoff Provides Beacon of Hope to Drug Dealers Across the Nation


Safe Community, Safe Kids asked Montana "who will stand up for your kids?" I hope they enjoy their answer.

Drug dealers, cartels and gangs of organized criminals are salivating at the employment opportunities being created in Montana by Republicans in the legislature.  Other criminal drug enterprises are excited at the prospects of adding marijuana back into their line-ups of available illegal substances.  The prohibition party apparently believes  advancing their moral agenda under the guise of making our community and kids safer is worth actually risking our state’s safety and our kid’s futures by advancing legislation which unintentionally but effectively stimulates illegal drug activity in Montana.  Since Montana allowed the medical use of cannabis, the state has enjoyed continually improving crime rates.  Will Montana’s crime rates skyrocket after elected leaders legislatively subsidize the criminal narcotics element?

A number of factors contributed to a dramatic and surprising outcome of Sen. Jeff Essmann’s socialistic (government-controlled access, supply and demand) SB 423 reading  in the Montana Senate,  which in a shocking move, instantly revived dying HB 161, a full repeal of Montana’s medical marijuana law passed in 2004 by citizen’s initiative.  Republican Senate  leadership apparently misjudged or overlooked Wednesday’s deadline for SB 423 to proceed to the House.  In order to accommodate the looming deadline, a rules suspension was required to allow the bill to be heard and voted upon twice in one day. The Senate GOP majority was on first attempt unable to obtain the required 2/3 majority votes necessary to suspend the rules. After the initial rules suspension vote failed, Sen. Brenden of Scobey retaliated, making a successful blast motion sending Rep Milburn’s repeal legislation, HB 161, which had stalled after a deadlock in the Senate Judiciary Committee, to the Senate floor for full debate.  Disappointed at unfruitful attempts to cash in some bargaining chips in exchange for support, Democrats persevered, undaunted even after Republicans resurrected HB 161, in obvious attempt to intimidate dissenting senators in hopes of threatening gently persuading them. The GOP again failed to produce the necessary votes.

The blame for the likely demise of medical marijuana reform legislation, according to many Republicans rests  squarely on the left- Governor Schweitzer’s office in particular.  Senate majority leader Jeff Essmann, who sponsored the “reform” bill in question was quick to criticize the governor’s office for utilizing the entire 6 days allowed by rules to prepare a fiscal note detailing the financial impact of the legislation.  The bill’s fiscal note was only available Wednesday morning which didn’t allow enough time for separate votes on the legislation, according to Senator Essmann.  Fortunately for the Republicans, the bill still has the ability to proceed to the House- but only if the house too is willing to approve a suspension of the rules, also requiring a 2/3  majority vote.  In the event that the House fails to garner the necessary numbers, the reform bill is considered dead.  The House’s  repeal-friendly political climate suggests a  house-approved rules suspension may be unlikely, although not entirely impossible.

Montana’s left wing, proactively seeking a workable solution made numerous attempts at compromise with Republicans to no avail- an increasingly common occurrence this session. Some Democrats hoped to exchange rules suspension votes for Republican support of unrelated legislation such as the bonding bill but Republicans refused to cooperate. Still 0ther Democrat senators claimed their votes against rules suspension were due to Republicans killing a majority of  the thoughtful amendments to SB 423 sponsored by Democrats.  Without the amendments, the legislation was considered by many, a repeal bill masquerading as reform. The legislation unamended, also  lacked the support of patients and facility owners alike.   Naturally, Republicans have responded to charges of being uncooperative with Democrat legislators by leveling their own at the Democrat legislators.  While I’m inclined to support Republicans in most right-left battles, Republicans in this case appear to be drunk on power and for reasons unknown,  determined to eliminate any chance at their own success in 2012 elections.   Sanity is currently a questionable diagnosis for this party so I’m reluctant to buy their stories.  This time the Democrats seem more credible- even if only by default- as Republicans have displayed such a  compelling propensity for dishonesty this session.

The  high-drama political spectacle orchestrated by Senate Republicans today was a gift to illegal drug dealers and associated organized criminals who now can  optimistic about their realistic chances of soon controlling the market, supply, and prices of marijuana in Montana.  Montana’s medical cannabis industry has driven illegal marijuana dealers out of the state.  Competing with legitimate state-licensed facilities wasn’t attractive to the black market criminals who watched prices plummet after card-holding customers began utilizing licensed caregivers.  Most marijuana currently sells for around half the price it did prior to enacting Montana’s medical cannabis law which was passed in 2004.  Historically, prohibition is beneficial for gangs and organized criminals.  Quality always suffers and prices increase.

Essmann frequently mentions”This isn’t what Montanans voted for”  although I’m certain he doesn’t know either.  I doubt Montanans would in good conscience support legislation  for the “greater good” that would actually cause further degradation of our society, but because repeal would require overturning an initiative passed by Montana citizens anyway, they should have an opportunity,  just in case Essmann doesn’t  actually know what we thought we were voting for.

Considering the widespread use of marijuana, a safe and effective substance, is likely to continue regardless of legislation passed in Montana, one wonders why the GOP would destroy an entire industry, thus ensuring virtually associated money ends up smuggled in backpacks to northern California instead of being spent in Montana. Tough choices, legislators:  Contribute to our own state’s depressed economy or fund drug dealing  California criminals? Thousands of Montanans employed by the medical cannabis industry or thousands of Montanans drawing unemployment benefits draining resources?  Legitimately ill patients obtaining medicine in a safe, clean and professional atmosphere or patients self-medicating with marijuana they acquired in a dark alley via terrifying strangers while risking their freedom to relieve their pain? The choice is clear but unfortunately your legislators aren’t listening.

Where is the TEA party now?


My disillusionment with the local TEA party began last summer when I received the following email from Jennifer Olsen, co-founder and organizer of Montana Shrugged, a Montana tea party group.

To All Concerned Citizens,
Protect your family, act now! 

In 2004 Montana Citizens voted for the Medical Marijuana Act – Initiative 148, out of concern and compassion for those in chronic pain. The ballot stated, “For allowing the limited use of marijuana, under medicalsupervision, by patients with debilitating medical conditions to alleviate the symptoms of their conditions”.

No one could have foreseen the crisis that would ensue.

Here is our current situation:

·  89 licenses have been issued as of Monday the 3rd of May. They are receiving 3-5 new applicants a day.
·  There are no zoning regulations as to where these marijuanabusinesses can be located. That means they can be put next to schools, places of worship, parks and neighborhoods. For some of you your neighbors are growing pot in their house.
·  In 2008 there were 1000 registered patients, today there are over 12,000 and growing.
·  There are currently 2,797 licensed caregivers. A “caregiver” is someone 18 yrs or older and has agreed to under take the responsibility for managing the well being of a person with respect to the medical use of marijuana. Caregivers are not required to have training or schooling of any kind.
·  Cards are issued to minors with parental permission.
·  Our kids are getting mixed signals. We don’t want them believingmarijuana is normal. In the eyes of the Federal Government, marijuanais still a schedule 1 illegal drug. We have the right and obligation to keep it away from our children.
·  Currently,it is legal for patients to vaporize,smoke marijuana,at the facility. Since these facilities can be any where,this raises concerns about them driving afterwards and the risk to the surrounding areas i.e… schools, parks, etc.
·  Billings is now attracting medical marijuana users from other states. They are moving here because of our relaxed laws. In addition there is nothing in place to keep felons from relocating to our state and establishing businesses. Do we really want this to be our calling card?

Montanans thought we were being compassionate, instead we voted in a poorly regulated big growth industry. The regulations around this industry are really loose, and are not well enforced. We have opened the flood gate and we need to work together to close it.  

We need an immediate moratorium put on this industry for at least a year and an emergency zoning ordinance put in place. A moratorium would keep the city from issuing any new licenses and an emergency zoning ordinance would allow a 1000 ft buffer around our schools, places of worship, parks and neighborhoods.

What can you do?  You can make a difference, we need you. Our kids need you.

·  Email or call your council man immediately.  Let him, or her, know where you stand. Ask them to vote for a moratorium and emergencyzoning that is as strict as possible.

·  Attend the City Council meeting on Monday the 10th and let your voice be heard.  If we pack that meeting it will send a loud and clear message to the council where we stand. The meeting starts at 6:30, but please come early, seating will be limited.
·  Forward this email to everyone you know.  Give them a chance to state their opinion. 

You can find your council man’s email at the following link:

http://ci.billings.mt.us/index.aspx?NID=159

If you don’t know what ward you are in or who your council member is check this site: 

http://ci.billings.mt.us/DocumentView.aspx?DID=5523

If you would like to get more involved please, don’t hesitate to email me. 

If you are unable to attend the meeting to voice your concerns for this issue please consider sending an email to the Mayor and all members of city council.

Richard McFadden McfaddenR@ci.billings.mt.us
Denis Pitman Pitmand@ci.billings.mt.us
Dick Clark twodc@bresnan.net

Ed Ulledalen edulledalen@yahoo.com
Jani McCall janimccall@msn.com
Jim Ronquillo jimronquillo@aol.com
Mark Astleastlem@ci.billings.mt.us
Vince Ruegamer vr@bresnan.net
Peggie Denney Gaghen GaghenP@ci.billings.mt.us
Angela Cimino CimminoA@ci.billings.mt.us
Mayor Tom Hanel HanelT@ci.billings.mt.us 

Thank you everyone for your support and continued stance for FREEDOM and LIBERTY.

Jennifer Olsen
Founder -Montana Shrugged, Tea Party Patriots

PLEASE NOTE THAT OUR RALLY SCHEDULED FOR NEXT WEDNESDAY, MAY 12TH HAS BEEN CANCELLED.  WE WILL GATHER AT 24TH AND KING SATURDAY MAY 15TH TO RALLY WITH THOSE WHO HAVE BEEN UNABLE TO RALLY WITH US DURING THE WEEK.
I was instantly irritated and responded with the following:
 

While you are probably well aware of my stance on this issue, I must counter your arguments.  I will admit that there IS indeed some abuse of the medical marijuana law- primarily this is because the law needs to be amended.  The law itself is far too vague- allowing people to interpret components of it as they please.  I agree with that and as a legitimate caregiver, I would prefer that the laws be more clear in order to protect us all.  Unless dispensaries ONLY sell their products to their own patients, they are operating illegally- which hurts those who are legitimate- and most of us are.  I must take issue with some of the other points though- I understand your reasoning but as someone who advocates for smaller government, it seems directly opposed to such.

·  89 licenses have been issued as of Monday the 3rd of May. They are receiving 3-5 new applicants a day.
·  There are no zoning regulations as to where these marijuana businesses can be located. That means they can be put next to schools, places of worship, parks and neighborhoods. For some of you your neighbors are growing pot in their house. Why is that our business what our neighbors are growing in their homes?  What about liberty and personal freedom?  62% of our state voted to approve this measure.  This should be considered MEDICINE.  The people I’ve encountered in this business are experts in their fields- they know their products- they can tell you exactly which strains will help every type of pain.  Do we trust the FDA and big Pharma to do a better job?  You realize they are very involved in NWO.   Since when do we prefer big government? The more regulations we have, the more government jobs, waste and expense.  I would not be entirely opposed to some sort of tax- California receives $100 million/yr on only the SALES tax of medical marijuana.
·  In 2008 there were 1000 registered patients, today there are over 12,000 and growing.  And rightfully so- although there are exceptions, these people have legitimate medical reasons for this.
·  There are currently 2,797 licensed caregivers. A “caregiver” is someone 18 yrs or older and has agreed to under take the responsibility for managing the well being of a person with respect to the medical use of marijuana. Caregivers are not required to have training or schooling of any kind. The caregivers may not be required to have training, but seriously, if they want to make any money, they have to learn much about marijuana or they will not be caregivers for long- the fact that it is available legally has reduced the street price by about half.  The illegal drug dealers are having a hard time selling their marijuana at the prices they need…. they are actually moving out of Montana- I know this for a fact.
·  Cards are issued to minors with parental permission. Kids are only allowed cards if a physician approves them for it.  Kids get prescriptions for pharmaceutical meth (adderall) like it is candy.  I have not heard of one child with a card.
·  Our kids are getting mixed signals. We don’t want them believing marijuana is normal. In the eyes of the Federal Government, marijuana is still a schedule 1 illegal drug. We have the right and obligation to keep it away from our children. The reason this is happening now is that Obama said he will defect to the states regarding medical marijuana laws.  Do you really think it should be classified as a schedule I when cocaine is a II?  While it is not possible with existing data to determine conclusively that state medical marijuana laws caused the documented declines in adolescent marijuana use, the overwhelming downward trend strongly suggests that the effect of state medical marijuana laws on teen marijuana use has been either neutral or positive.
·  Currently,it is legal for patients to vaporize,smoke marijuana,at the facility. Since these facilities can be any where,this raises concerns about them driving afterwards and the risk to the surrounding areas i.e… schools, parks, etc. Have any of us witnessed any of these people using and driving at the facility?  Just curious.  There isn’t any way to quantify (like a breath test) whether someone is impaired.
·  Billings is now attracting medical marijuana users from other states. They are moving here because of our relaxed laws. In addition there is nothing in place to keep felons from relocating to our state and establishing businesses. Do we really want this to be our calling card Of the 14 states with medical marijuana laws, ours ties for most strict.  Compare to Oregon for example:  We can possess 6 plants and 1 oz usable.  In Oregon, they can have 24 ounces usable and 24 plants.  I highly doubt any medical users are moving here because they like our laws better than the ones in their own state.  Think for a moment how much money is going into the economy- and putting illegalmarijuana dealers out of business.  A set-up with lights, ballasts, nutrients, etc STARTS at $1000 for 6 plants.    Not only that, but drug felons are NOT allowed to be caregivers, thus preventing them from setting up businesses.

When I saw Montana Shrugged’s latest video, which accuses the governor’s family of “selling marijuana” in an attempt to promote a full repeal of the law (ironically, the video makes a great case for reform instead), I began to ponder the role of the tea party in Montana politics.  I originally subscribed to the ideals that the tea party was founded upon- and actually, I still do.  There are, however; many  inconsistencies in their principles.  For instance, in general they abhor the federal government.  They constantly call for reducing its size and scope- I too would prefer that our government be far smaller than it is today.  The tea party criticizes federal intervention on any level…. unless, of course they are talking about medical cannabis.  Tea party Republican James Knox posted the following on his Facebook.
So now we have an elected representative in our state legislature PRAISING federal intervention.  This issue should not be party line.  It isn’t a republican, democrat, or tea party problem- this is something ALL Montanans and ALL Americans should condemn.  Here is an excerpt from the DOJ detailing the many federal, state, and local agencies assisting with the investigation and ensuing raids.
[T]he Drug Enforcement Administration, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Environmental Protection Agency-Criminal Investigation Division, U.S. Customs and Border Protection-Border Patrol, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. These federal agencies were assisted by the Montana Division of Criminal Investigations, and local High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area task forces, the Northwest Drug Task Force, the Kalispell Police Department, the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office, the Missoula Police Department, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, the Missoula High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Great Falls Police Department, the Cascade County Sheriff’s Office, the Central Montana Drug Task Force, the Billings Police Department, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office, the Eastern Montana High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) Task Force, the Dillon Police Department, the Beaverhead County Sheriff’s Office, the Park County Sheriff’s Office, the Bozeman Police Department, the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office, the Missouri River Drug Task Force, the Helena Police Department, the Lewis & Clark Sheriff’s Office, and the Eastern Montana Drug Task Force – Miles City” (U.S. Department of Justice, Michael W. Cotter, United States Attorney, District of Montana,News Advisory, March 15, 2011).
Are we supposed to believe that the Environmental Protection Agency had nothing better to do than work with other redundant and unnecessary agencies to raid cannabis facilities? If these charges indeed have merit, the blame should rest upon the state for failure to prosecute caregivers who were illegally diverting product.  Also, considering the prohibitionist crowd’s biggest argument, that cannabis is a “gateway drug”, it is strange that there weren’t other more dangerous drugs discovered at any of the facilities.
The TEA party appears to only be concerned about the constitutional components that fit their agenda.  In my opinion, the TEA party movement is over.  Gone are the days of a leaderless group  influencing elected officials to spend less and reduce the size of our government.  Today we see a group of loud hypocrites eager to exploit the Constitution when they see fit.

Fairness…. your choice



2011 Legislative Session

The Oil/Gas Revenue Debate:
A Discussion of the Larger Issues Involved….

I received the following letter from the Montana Rural Education Association.  It was written by Gordon Hahn, Saco School District Superintendent and was sent to the 2011 Legislature.  Interesting take on the governor’s proposed budget which is structurally unbalanced, relying on one-time money transfers as well as robbing surpluses from fiscally responsible eastern Montana schools.

As a reference, I am the superintendent at Saco School District in Saco .  We subsidize our school budget significantly with oil and gas money and thought I would give a different perspective to mull over as it relates to the oil and gas revenue controversy.  My words reflect a view from the inside of this controversy.

Saco doesn’t take any GTB and we don’t run any mills for the school, including permissive ones. We do, however, pay the mandatory 95 state wide education mills.  We subsidize our GFB by about 60% with oil and gas revenues.  We also fund many of our other funds with oil and gas money so as to not burden our local and/or state taxpayers.  We don’t compete for other grants (except the Federal ones) or special OTO money so as to not take any funds from a district that might need it.

An argument I consistently hear is that “it isn’t fair” that our tax payers aren’t assessed any mills for the school when other districts are.  The position reminds me of the 6 year old that complains he didn’t get as big a toy at Christmas as his 12 year old brother did.  Parents, myself included, often tell their children that “life isn’t fair” because, frankly, it isn’t.  There are always two sides to every situation and this oil and gas one is no exception.

Is it “fair” that Saco ’s taxpayers don’t have any mills for our school?  Is it “fair” that Billings has a swim team and we don’t?  Is it “fair” that Helena can offer four years of French when I can’t even offer any foreign language?  Is it “fair” that Bozeman is surrounded by mountains when Saco isn’t?  Is it “fair” that I have to drive 6 hours for a meeting in Helena when Townsend only has to drive 30 minutes?  Is it “fair” that we have to go 2 ½ hours to shop at Wal-Mart when Billings has two of them?  The truth is this:   You can’t “equalize” everything across the state, including school funding, because no matter what you do, something “isn’t fair” to someone else.  Is it “fair” to tax us additional mills when we won’t even use it?  Is it “fair” to force us into needing tax mills so other districts can reduce theirs?  Is it “fair” for us to subsidize AP physics class in Missoula or Helena ’s tennis team by taking our money away when we don’t have the same “extra” programs?  Is it “fair” that the property values here are significantly lower than Kalispell’s?

We, here in the northeast, put up with the drilling, the trucks, the cost of living, and the impact of getting oil and gas revenues.  The “western” portions of the state won’t allow exploration of oil and gas because “heaven forbid” they cut down a tree to do it.  I’ve seen reports that there are more oil and gas reserves in the west than the east.  Why not push a bill that spreads oil and gas money to schools in counties where they allow oil and gas exploration?  That seems fair to me.  Perhaps then, the western portion of the state will begin to tap into the financial benefits of their own oil and gas reserves.

Allow me a simple anecdote:  I bought property north of Saco when I took my job here.  My land borders one of the irrigation canals that passes through the Saco flats.  We are assessed (about) $750 per year for irrigation rights even though I don’t irrigate any of my land and never will.  Is that “fair”?  I don’t use it, but I’m taxed on it anyway.

What’s the point?  The point is this:  “It is what it is”.  If I don’t like the irrigation tax, I can move to an area that doesn’t border the canal.  Saco has no school mills for its taxpayers.  If someone wishes they had “no mills”, they can move here.  It is what it is.  If I want a school with a swim team, I’ll move to an area that has one….I’m not going to complain because my current school doesn’t have a swim team.  If I want to live where there are mountains, I’ll move there.   Finally, if we intend to equalize things, I’d like the mosquito problem here to be eliminated so we have the same mosquito count as Billings J.  Wouldn’t that be “fair”? It is what it is.

It just doesn’t seem appropriate to take what is earned here and spread it around to those counties that won’t allow any drilling.  Are the people of Saco fortunate to have the oil and gas money?  Sure we are.  Are the people of Helena fortunate to have a school with four years of French and a speech and drama team?  Sure they are.  Is it right to make the people of Saco subsidize the cost of running the schools in Helena when we don’t have the same amenities?  No.  Saco doesn’t have near the peripheral opportunities large schools offer but these same schools want to take our money from us to support their programs.   Perhaps if the legislature could guarantee that Saco High School can have everything that Missoula high schools have, maybe then sharing oil and gas revenues would be “equitable”.

I know there aren’t any easy solutions to the state’s funding of schools.  We are in this hole because of the mismanagement of the funding two years ago and now, it appears, the State wants to take money from schools that have management their resources well.  I suggest that instead of taking from us to “equalize” us with other schools, why not look at ways to give more to schools so as to equalize them with us?  How?  Allowing state-wide drilling.  That’s how.

Until all taxes are “equalized” throughout the state, it isn’t right to take from a selected few and give to all.  If this is done, then ALL tax revenues (property, utilities, natural resources, etc.) need to be shared equally.

I’m tired of hearing the “fair card” played and that we need to “equalize” out school funding in this debate.  You can’t make everything “fair”.  We’ve been telling our children this for years.

Gordon P. Hahn, superintendent

Saco Schools.

Just applyin’ your own CODE, pardner


Not so sure the Republican Cowboys want this code after all, pardner.

Jim Peterson, yes, the President of Montana’s 2011 Senate has proposed SB 216… to adopt the cowboy code of ethics as Montana’s code.  Just what does this mean for us?  Well….. not really anything.  Governor Schweitzer has already threatened it with a veto as Montanans really don’t require the legislature’s assistance to enact a code to live by.  Let’s just pretend this does indeed become the “law” of the land though…. we better investigate.

What is the Cowboy Code of Ethics?  According to James P. Owen, author of   Cowboy Code of Ethics, the code of the west was unwritten, but every cowboy knew what it was.  He broke the code into ten principles.  My commentary is in red.

1   Live each day with courage.

Recent examples of courageous behavior in the 2011 legislative session include the six Republicans who broke with the prohibitionist party and voted against Speaker Milburn’s bill to repeal medical marijuana.

2   Take pride in your work

I’ve seen lots of pride in this session but not much work.  Let me rephrase that, not much work at fulfilling campaign promises to create jobs.

3   Always finish what you start

This one is definitely debatable this session.  I’m not sure I want them to finish anything they started.

4   Do what has to be done

Key word here is “HAS”.HAS to be done.  In my opinion, that would include balancing the budget and  finding some way to stimulate the economy.  HAS refers to an immediate NEED.  Do we NEED a frivolous bill to symbolically request that Congress leave the UN?  Do we NEED the Code of the West?  Do we NEED to require couples seeking a divorce 10 hours of costly marriage counseling?  Do we NEED a Montana militia?

5   Be tough, but fair

Fairness generally means conformity of standards….. eeeeek!   Equality.   I’m not even going to get into the repercussions of this becoming our big tough state code.  A recent example (although not even close to where this will eventually be headed) is the committee hearing on Milburn’s medical cannabis repeal bill.  While all 28 repeal proponents were able to tell their sob stories about how marijuana has ruined their tiny little lives, most of the 86 opponents were only allowed to state their names, how to spell them, and their position on the bill… which should have been obvious considering they were considered the OPPOSITION.

6   When you make a promise, keep it.

Damn it! We are going to have to keep going back to those campaign promises, aren’t we?  I guess Montana’s new Cowboy Code isn’t so bad after all.  We can just say, ooops, you broke the code, why on earth are you running for reelection?

7   Ride for the brand.

I think we all can agree we need to define the brand we are a ridin fer.  Is that thar brand the party or the mighty state of Montucky?

8   Talk less and say more.

I’d imagine this is the rule they wish I would have adhered to most often this session.  Voters will say a lot with a stroke of a pen in 2012.  Not a word needs to be uttered.

9   Remember that some things aren’t for sale.

That’s right.  Some things aren’t for sale.  Our souls, for one.  You save yours, I will save mine.

10   Know where to draw the line.

Give up now.  Ask yourself, does this bill create any jobs?  Does this bill in any way, shape or form repair our economy?  Does this bill fix any IMMEDIATE need?  Does this bill fulfill campaign promises to my constituents?

And that concludes my rant.

Bloviations by Governor Brian


Shovel-ready indeed. It is getting deep! Sen. Hamlett is right about one thing, BS is certainly a tool.

During Schweitzer‘s SOTS speech, liberal  media/bloggers/lobbyists hacks were tweeting the praises of our Governor to the point that I was tempted to ride out the rest of the event in a pair of thigh-high boots… it was really getting deep, but such tweets were unnecessary as nobody does a better job of praising Governor Schweitzer than the ego-centric proud governor himself. Governor Schweitzer,with his frenzied appearance, bloated body, shiny (slime or grease perhaps) happy face, and trusty bolo tie  looked like a statesman heart attack waiting to happen as he delivered his final lecture SOTS address to the Republican-controlled legislature last night.

Governor BS delivers Montana some more BS

 

Arrogant blowhard Never one to brag, Governor Schweitzer gave credit where credit was due- to himself.  Placing the focus on jobs- after poking fun at Republicans of course- Schweitzer touted mining and natural resources, agriculture, and our bright future.  Instead of being forthright in admitting  that his budget relies on raiding various pots of one-time money to squeak by the next two years, he chastised Republicans for always utilizing low revenue projections, telling them that if they chose to cut funding for public education, they would be doing it as a reflection of their values, not because of fiscal need, citing Montana’s “money in the bank”.   I find it ironic that he is punishing the fiscally responsible schools in eastern Montana by stealing taking their surpluses to fund education in western Montana.  If our economic forecast is so bright, why is this necessary?

Perhaps our next governor will need neither, Bob.

Now there is an idea....

I would like to remind Governor Schweitzer of his own words used early in his address: “Be careful of half-truths, you may just get the wrong half.”  Indeed, I feel very a little dirty after listening to his hour-long  brag-fest address.

Senator Shockley and the Breeding of Lawlessness


Do as I say, not as I do.

Sigh….yet another hypocritical politician. Hey, nobody’s perfect, but when your focus as an elected official is legislating the morality of others, you should probably possess some pretty impeccable ethics yourself. Senator Jim Shockley (R, Victor), chair of the Judiciary, State Administration, and Ethics committees was cited last week for open container after an off-duty police officer noticed him drinking a beer while driving.  Shockley’s committee is hearing a number of bills regarding impairment as many consider Montana’s lax DUI laws to be responsible for high fatality rates on our highways. Senator Shockley is seeking a repeal of the medical marijuana law claiming “it breeds lawlessness.”  He is also sponsoring a bill to allow game wardens to issue minor in possession tickets as well as  one authorizing warrants to obtainblood or breath tests in DUI cases.

Senator Jim Peterson, President of the Senate, in reaction to Shockley’s citation, released the following statement:

We are obviously very disappointed to hear the report that a member of our body was found to be in possession of an open container while driving last Friday evening. We are in full support of strong laws against drinking and driving that apply to every Montanan. We are committed to pursuing meaningful DUI reform and working to change the culture of drinking and driving in Montana.”

I wonder if Shockley has been smoking some medical marijuana…. considering the lawlessness of his actions.  It seems that every day in our local newspapers, we read articles about Montanans being arrested for their eighth, tenth, or even their fourteenth citation for driving under the influence of alcohol.   Perhaps the legislators should focus on keeping habitual drunk drivers off of our streets instead of obsessing over repealing the medical marijuana law simply because it doesn’t fit into their idea of morality.

I realize that everyone makes mistakes, but we should hold our elected officials to higher standards.  Shockley’s excuse for drinking and driving was that it was a lapse in judgement.  Returning home from the legislative session in Helena, he stopped in Drummond to clear his windshield and purchased a Clamato according to Shockley.  He admitted to drinking one beer prior to leaving Helena as well.  Although the senator’s BAC was .03 (below the legal threshold of .08), this hardly seems like a “lapse in judgement” considering he had to purchase the beer and Clamato.  One would think that there would have been at least one moment where he recalled supporting a law banning the activity in which he would be momentarily participating.   I realize this charge isn’t the end of the world, Shockley was clearly not legally intoxicated this time, but how often does he drink alcohol alone as he commutes to and from Helena?  Could he truly not curtail his habit  while serving in our brief biennial session? Way to provide Governor Schweitzer (who recently called the Montana legislature the “biggest boozers”) more ammunition.

I really do prefer criticizing liberals so I pray the GOP stops giving me reason to chastise them.  Sadly, hypocrisy reigns supreme in politics.  That said, this is Senator Shockley’s first alcohol-related offense.  He paid his fine, accepted responsibility, and will no doubt be punished in his bid for attorney general.  Hopefully in the future, he will remove the log from his own eye before condemning and imposing regulations on others.

City Lies: Montana left giving Pinocchio some stiff competition


City Lies: Montana's Democrats Lie to Constituents

Today the Billings Gazette features a beautiful contrast between the members of the media who prefer to ignore facts and those who respect Montanans enough to print the truth.  Ed Kemmick, TEA party/liberty hater, penned the article “City Lights: Learning From the News”.  In it, he inadvertently yet efficiently demonstrates to Montanans why exactly we don’t, in fact, learn anything from the news.   In Chuck Johnson’s “Horse Sense: Contrary to rhetoric, lawmakers did not raise salaries” Johnson wrote a far more factually accurate account of the Republican “hypocrisy” Democrats, including Kemmick; have alleged.

Fortunately for “journalists” like Kemmick, most Montanans haven’t developed the critical thinking skills required to discern media bias, so I appreciate the Gazette throwing us a bone with this display of Kemmick’s obvious (and typical) partiality.  The title,  “Learning from the News” is actually hilarious.  To those of you who aren’t familiar with the events in the Montana legislature this week, allow me to recap.

  • HB1, also known as the “feed bill” passed on a strict partisan vote.  All 68 Republicans approved it while all 32 Democrats voted in opposition.  This $8.8 million bill pays for the entire legislature- staff, equipment, salaries of the legislators, etc.  It is equal to only .24% of Governor Schweitzer‘s proposed budget.
  • HB1 is $370,000 less than in 2009.
  • Legislators are paid $82.64/working day of Montana’s 90 day biennial session. Their per diem allowance increased by $1.62/day, to $105.31/day (such increase by law is adjusted based on the lowest of three factors).  In reality, due to calendar differences, this legislature will actually be paid slightly LESS than the one in 2009.
  • New legislators are allowed $1000 for the purchase of a laptop- some argued that they should be forced to use their own.  Either way, the allowance is a full third LESS than in 2009.
  • Fees for health insurance of all state employees has risen from $626/month in 2009 and $679/month in 2010 to $733/month this year.  Legislators, as state employees, are eligible for either health insurance or a subsidy, they cannot be blamed for rising health insurance premiums.
  • Democrats have accused the Republicans of “voting themselves a pay raise”, something that is actually impossible according to Section 5, Article 5 of the Montana Constitution (yes, that same Constitution many Democrats believe is among the best in the nation) preventing lawmakers from legislating their pay, whether it be an increase or otherwise.
  • Condemning the GOP as hypocritical for their opposition to national health care reform mandates, the left presented acceptance of  health benefits as equal to taking a government subsidy, when in fact, this generous benefit is available to all state employees.  Shall we consider each Montana government employee a ward of the state? Furthermore, I have a feeling that if Americans were all offered the opportunity to purchase the same health insurance as our state employees instead of being FORCED to buy a product from which US lawmakers exempted themselves, public sentiment would be drastically different.

Regardless, this difference in ideology is not an excuse for blatant dishonesty by our Democrat public officials. For those who aren’t aware of what constitutes a lie, according to Webster’s big red book of definitions, a lie is:

a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive, something intended or serving to convey a false impression, an inaccurate or false statement, a falsehood.
Let us examine the words of our state’s liberal elite:

Kendall Van Dyk, Senator from Billings,
said tea party-backed Republicans who have trashed government spending need to live by their own rhetoric. He pointed out lawmakers get to keep the laptops even if they lose their next election.  ”Before they do any legislative action up here they sign up for a free computer and free health care all on the taxpayer dime,” he said. “Given the economic times where you are talking about a Republican majority that is looking at cutting $360 million, maybe they should back away from the government trough before they start making cuts to education.”
“On one hand they come to town and they want to cut the size of government — does that mean all of government except themselves?” Governor Schweitzer said. “I think if you are running for public office you probably have a personal laptop and that should be good enough.”  Governor Schweitzer has also recently accused the Montana legislature of being the “biggest boozers”.

From these statements, one could reasonably assume that both Senator Van Dyk and Governor Schweitzer use their own computers for work,  refuse a salary including the per diem allowance and forgo all health benefits.  We can also assume that other than Schweitzer’s Sunday mass communion vino, he probably isn’t much of a drinker.  Surely their liberal mouthpiece, Montana Cowgirl is not being paid with any Montana taxpayer dollars either, right?  After all,  that would make them all HYPOCRITES and you know what they say about those in glass houses.



Hypocrisy or Hyberbole?


Montana’s GOP legislators, most of whom campaigned on a platform of fiscal responsibility and cutting government waste are now being labeled as hypocrites by Governor Schweitzer and many of the legislature’s Democrats.  After proposing early budget cuts, nearly every move made by  GOP lawmakers thus far has been criticized by the left.

  • Approval of $1000 stipend (down from the previous $1500 allowance approved in 2007) for purchase of a laptop to be used by members of the legislature- Governor Schweitzer thinks they should use their own computers while the legislature argues that other state employees aren’t asked to supply their own equipment.
  • Inclusion of provisions to increase health benefits for legislators in HB #1, the “feed bill” which pays for the biennial legislative session.  Democrats say that it equates to “voting themselves a pay raise” while Republicans state that voting for increased compensation for themselves is constitutionally impossible.
  • Intentions of repealing/nullifying exceedingly unpopular national health care reform mandates- Schweitzer and other Democrats are calling Republicans hypocrites for accepting health insurance from their employer, the state of Montana; while actively trying to thwart the implementation of Obamacare within the state.
  • Schweitzer also recently stated publicly that the legislators are the “biggest boozers”.  His accusation was most likely directed at the left as well as he didn’t distinguish between political parties.

What do you think?

The Petty Perspective From Within King Schweitzer’s Glass House


Brian Schweitzer and Kendall Van Dyk think Republican legislators are hypocrites and boozers.

Governor Schweitzer really loves Montana’s legislature.  In light of the high rate of compensation ($10 or so/hour) the lawmakers  rake in at work, he wants them to provide their own personal laptop computers for legislative use.  After all, they are making the big bucks while working during Montana’s biennial session.   Today Schweitzer blasted Republican leadership for approving laptop purchases for legislators, calling them hypocrites for campaigning on fiscally conservative platforms.  Schweitzer said that he stopped all computer purchases in the executive branch a few months ago to save money. He says he now only purchases computers if absolutely necessary.

There is no word on whether the governor’s staff uses their personal computers at work, but House Majority leader Tom McGillvray doesn’t seem to think so.  Schweitzer’s comparison to the ban on new executive branch computers is flawed because none of those state employees are required to use their own personal computer. And neither should lawmakers, McGillvray said.

The “feed bill”, which pays for operation of the legislature was approved Monday containing a computer stipend capped at $1000 for lawmakers.   Since 2007, legislators have been given a stipend of up to $1,500 to buy a laptop computer for their own use.

Some democrats plan to oppose the bill.   Sen. Kendall Van Dyk of Billings said tea party-backed Republicans who have trashed government spending need to live by their own rhetoric. He pointed out lawmakers get to keep the laptops even if they lose their next election.  “Before they do any legislative action up here they sign up for a free computer and free health care all on the taxpayer dime,” he said. “Given the economic times where you are talking about a Republican majority that is looking at cutting $360 million, maybe they should back away from the government trough before they start making cuts to education.”

“On one hand they come to town and they want to cut the size of government — does that mean all of government except themselves?” Schweitzer said. “I think if you are running for public office you probably have a personal laptop and that should be good enough.”  Last I checked, Brian Schweitzer was indeed an elected official.  I’m guessing he probably doesn’t use his own personal laptop for work but I could be mistaken.  Where does Governor Schweitzer live?  Perhaps he should forgo his accommodations at the Governor’s Mansion in favor of an more economical Airstream?  Surely the state could make some extra money by turning the governor’s house into a Bed and Breakfast… although I doubt Travelocity and Expedia would assist.  And Sen. Van Dyk…. I’m guessing you are working without compensation or health insurance?

Anyone who has known a state legislator (or has cared to research the issue) is probably aware that the service they provide is a substantial sacrifice.  Their compensation is actually rather minimal and they reside away from their families during the session.  Governor Schweitzer has consistently criticized the entire legislature for everything from being “boozers” to being fed by lobbyists.  For a guy who keeps talking about bipartisanship and working together to pass an adequate budget, he sure has an interesting way of displaying his affection.

I’m not sure how things work in the Montana state government, but I’ve never had an employer expect or even allow me to use my personal computer at work,  primarily due to security concerns.  I do believe that the computers purchased with legislative stipends should probably belong to the state and that upon leaving the legislature, they should be returned.

Blowing Smoke: Montana Legislators Campaign Promises vs Actual Legislative Agenda


Today is the opening day of Montana’s 90 day biennial legislative session.   Legislators continue to talk tough about the governor’s structurally unbalanced budget, opting out of national health care reform mandates, eliminating expansion of the size and scope government, job creation and other issues important to Montanans.  As always, however; there seems to be a great divide between what the legislators SAY and what they DO.  One such prime example is the emphasis the legislature is placing on repealing or reforming Initiative 148- Montana’s medical marijuana law passed by 64% of Montanans in 2004.  Currently, there are approximately 27,000 Montana medical marijuana patients as well as 5000 caregivers.  The economic impact, although unintended; is staggering.
Despite:
  • Recent Gallup polls indicating 58% of Americans in western states favor the full legalization of the use of marijuana  (48% of Americans overall)
  • The December Missoula  “marijuana mutiny” trial where prosecutors were unable to seat a jury after one by one, prospective jurors expressed their unwillingness to convict on possession of a small amount of marijuana.  The case received national attention from the Wall Street Journal’s legal blog to the Huffington Post and many Montanans were outraged at the expense of trying a man for possession of two buds of marijuana.
  • Recent quotes by Montana Republican legislators: “I do believe that moral issues are a very important part of politics and our society … and they’re personally important to me, also,” Speaker of the House Mike Milburn said. “But the focus of this session and the focus of Montana right now has to do with the economy and getting people back to work.”  Oddly enough, Mike Milburn has been actively working to repeal the medical marijuana law.
  • Recent quotes from Montana Democrat legislators:  ““We’ve got to concentrate on the things that matter and not be distracted by these proposals from the past,” added incoming House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte. “Unless the proposal can show us that it is going to directly improve the lot of Montanans out of work, or those who are under-employed, we’re going to resist it.”

Montana legislators, primarily Republicans who campaigned on pro-business, pro-jobs, and anti-big government platforms; are proposing a host of bills ranging from fully repealing the law to regulating the industry to death.  Considering that most Republicans have criticized Obamacare, complaining that  the government has no right to step into the relationship between a physician and patient, it seems very odd that Senator Jeff Essmann would draft a bill proposing a 3 physician panel to determine if a patient does indeed have chronic pain.  Apparently he knows more about legitimate medical conditions than a trained physician.  I wonder how Essmann, an attorney, would feel about a doctor proposing laws to oversee his representation of clients.

Democrats too are in on the game.  Gov. Brian Schweitzer said he’s “absolutely convinced” a large number of Montanans with medical marijuana cards don’t have legitimate medical needs and just want to smoke marijuana “quasi-legally.”

“What we need to do is create a system so that we have people who actually have a medical need for marijuana,” he said in an interview with the Billings Gazette. “There will be a bill that will make it to my desk that is going to sort of close the loopholes in this medical marijuana. It needs to be done. I think currently the law is, ‘smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.’ “

As I’ve said before, Republicans in Montana were handed majorities in both houses on a silver platter- not because they were Republicans but because they were NOT Democrats.  The victories were not mandates and the Republicans should not be spending political capital they did not earn.  Balance the budget, create some jobs, allow Montana to opt out of Obamacare….. then the capital will be earned.  Proposing unnecessary social reforms in a time of fiscal crisis will ensure not only a loss of Republican majorities but potentially a loss of the governor seat as well in 2012.   Stop trying to legislate morality.  Nobody has ever died of a marijuana overdose in the history of time.  Focus on what matters to Montana, drugs are at the bottom of the list according to the Montana Chamber of Commerce Power Base survey, voter ID interviews, and overwhelming public sentiment.

The Log In Governor Schweitzer’s Eye


“In politics, it doesn’t matter what the facts are, it matters what the perceptions are. It is the way you frame it.” Brian Schweitzer, Montana Governor

Governor Brian Schweitzer, well-known around Montana for his hard-drinking and overly flirtatious behavior recently used a tax revenue press conference to publicly criticize Montana’s legislators.       Citing Department of Revenue data indicating that wholesale liquor sales increase in Helena during the biennial legislative session, Schweitzer appeared to place that blame solely on the legislators.  “These are the ones who are the biggest boozers” said Schweitzer.

In a session already expected to be contentious, the comments aren’t sitting well with Montana’s lawmakers.  “That is outrageous. We work very hard,” said Dave Lewis, a Helena Republican who has worked in one capacity or another around the Capitol for decades.  Considering the number of lobbyists and legislative staff in Helena for the session, it  is ridiculous to blame the liquor sales spike on only the 150 elected lawmakers.   Legislators  make significant sacrifices to serve  in Montana’s 90 day session living away from their families and being paid only minimally.

Hallmark mechanisms  of alcoholism and other addictions are the use of  projection and a tendency to blame others. Recognizing and owning one’s problems is key to recovery.  Perhaps Governor Schweitzer is hiding his own chemical dependency issues by projecting his faults on to his adversaries.  I have personally witnessed on numerous occasions,  excessive “boozing”  by Brian Schweitzer himself and his behavior is certainly not becoming of the office he holds.  In the past, Schweitzer has criticized legislators for eating “thick steaks and old whiskey” compliments of lobbyists.  No word on who buys the beef and spirits for the governor.

Brian Schweitzer’s Pathological Projections


Whether invented to cover for revenue projection mistakes in his initial budget or due to delusions, Governor Brian Schweitzer has suddenly discovered an additional $120 million to add to his structurally unbalanced budget proposal.

Schweitzer blasted the Legislature and its fiscal staff for routinely under-estimating the revenue required to formulate the state’s budget yet in recent years, revenues were also considerably lower than the governor’s budget director’s projections.  The governor also made it clear that there will be no need to cut state programs (sigh) and implied that any future cuts in education could essentially be blamed on misguided priorities of Republicans in the legislature.

Schweitzer still plans to use one-time money to balance his budget as well as robbing surpluses in fiscally responsible school districts.

According to Montana Policy Institute’s recently released Pork Report, 10 out of the 25 highest paid state employees are psychiatrists.  Although that may seem excessive and wasteful, Schweitzer is a tough case.  We may need to hire a few more mental health professionals.

Did Montana’s GOP Legislators Get the Message? Maybe, Maybe Not


Is Montana's 2011 Legislature Being Led by RINOs?

“This election sent a clear message. America looked socialism in the eye and they said we’re scared.” Mike Milburn, Montana House Speaker.

Indeed.  Why then are Montana Republican legislators being discouraged from associating with  bills seeking to repeal national healthcare reform mandates? Rumors are circulating that Senate President Jim Peterson (R-Buffalo) and Majority Leader Jeff Essman (R-Billings) have asked legislators sponsoring bills calling for  the repeal of Obamacare not to proceed after a legislative analyst suggested the Senate should not be focusing on such legislation this session.

Is it up to legislative analysts to direct our future?  If Attorney General Steve Bullock continues refusal to join other states filing suit against the mandates,  it will have to be addressed legislatively.  Many states are pursuing repeals of the unpopular law which was recently ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge.  About the decision, Montana’s lone representative Denny Rehberg had this to say.

“After months of rate increases and service reductions, Montanans continue to wait for true health care reform that lowers costs and increases access.  The sooner that Obamacare is wiped off the books, the sooner we can get to work finding real solutions that benefit Montanans instead of the powerful interests in Washington, D.C.  Most of the folks I’ve heard from will be happy with the decision in Virginia, and are only upset that an independent-minded state like Montana has sat quietly on the sidelines while other states take the fight to the overzealous federal government.  It’s past time for Montana to get in this game.”

We elected conservatives to REPEAL Obamacare, to STOP the growth of the government’s size and scope, to CREATE jobs and STIMULATE the economy.

We did NOT elect republicans to take the pragmatic approach.  We did NOT elect republicans to negotiate deals with radical environmentalists and other liberals in effort to gain leadership positions.  We did NOT elect Republicans to work with Schweitzer.  When our elected officials appease progressives, Marxist ideals increase exponentially.  We cannot abandon constitutional principles under any circumstances.

Moderation is dangerous in today’s world.  The leftists aren’t moderates- they are socialists.  Negotiating with them is a recipe for death of our republic.   Montanans elected conservatives in November to rail against Marxist ideals, not to dilute our principles.  Many GOP legislators were elected not because they were Republicans but because they were not progressives. Montanans aren’t concerned with social issues this time around, our future is hanging by a thread.  Our government has lost its way as legislators have compromised their values in favor of “bipartisan” efforts.

Advice to elected GOP officials:

  • Fiscal  concerns trump all religious agendas.  Accomplish what we elected you to do and you will earn political capital.  Don’t waste our future in mediation with thieves.  If your principles don’t cost you anything, they weren’t worth very much.
  • Stop preaching that we all need to remember why Republicans were elected unless your actions are consistent with your message.  That means you are a hypocrite for sponsoring bills to repeal medical marijuana when Montanans are concerned with fiscal issues.  If you want any credibility, you must counter that proposed loss of 5000 caregiver jobs with creation of at least that many positions.
  • Don’t act like Baucus and Tester.  Both US Senators ignored their constituents and made decisions that will affect Montana forever.  In the process, they made passionate enemies on both sides of the aisle.  Progressives say they didn’t do enough while we say they overstepped the Constitution to advance an unwelcome agenda.
  • Remember that you were elected not to rule, but to serve.
  • Integrity requires courage.  You took an oath.  It does mean something.  Worry more about being respected than about being popular.

The 2011 Legislative Session will reveal if we wasted time helping liberals get elected as Republicans.  Hopefully instead, our efforts will be rewarded with consistent conservative votes and a structurally balanced budget.  Hopefully the rumors are unfounded but regardless, don’t hesitate to call/write/email your legislators.  Tell them you expect Montana to repeal/nullify/opt out of Obamacare.

Schweitzer’s Pseudo Balanced Budget Scheme


 

Schweitzer tries to sneak by a budget lacking structural balance

 

With barely an  increase in revenue, a sluggish economy and increased costs, how can Montana balance their budget without making cutbacks or increasing taxes?  Governor Schweitzer’s proposed budget manages to do all of the above, but how?  And is it legal?

First of all, his budget will spend more than it takes in, which means it is not structurally balanced.  His budget relies heavily on  various pots of one-time money in order to “balance” but the next Montana governor will not be able to rely on that money and will likely be left with quite a mess.  $95 million dollars of one-time money will be added to the general fund in his proposal.  This money is in large part, from the coal tax fund which is typically used for local government grants.

By essentially stealing money from oil-rich school districts and giving it to the poorer schools, Schweitzer is able to punish the districts for their fiscal conservatism while rewarding those who can’t manage their money  in order to pay for his proposed $38 million increase in education funding.

He also plans to provide state employees one and three percent raises over his two year budget.  Ever the trickster, his budget only needs to pay for 6 months of the 3 percent increase as he proposes it take place in January of 2013.  He is also proposing tax breaks for many businesses and homeowners.  $28 million will come from enhanced crackdowns on those he and the Department of Revenue feel aren’t paying enough taxes.  Sounds lovely.  Get a tax break, receive an audit.

Republicans want to fix the state’s troubled pension funds but Schweitzer failed to address this in his proposed budget.  Although Republicans can rewrite Schweitzer’s entire budget, it ultimately requires his signature so it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.  Montana requires a balanced budget, does one that is structurally unbalanced really fulfill that requirement?

.

Attention Eastern Montana Schools: If You Don’t Spend Your Oil Money, Schweitzer Will


 

Another liberal who punishes fiscal responsibility

Schweitzer has a message for Eastern Montana school districts that don’t spend all of the money they receive from oil and gas tax revenue- he plans to spend it for them.  Instead of recognizing and appreciating their frugality, he plans instead to punish the schools by forcing them to share their oil and gas revenues with the liberal side of the state.

 

Eastern Montana school districts rely heavily on the oil and gas tax revenues.  The few counties that would be impacted by this change are sparsely populated and remote.  The climate is very extreme.  Other than hunting season, tourism is almost non-existent.   When is the last time you heard of someone vacationing in Baker?  The K-12 school there budgeted only $300,000 of the $5.9 million they received in oil and gas revenue, according to Schweitzer.

Montanans in the areas producing most of the oil and gas in the state feel that this proposal is fair only if oil and gas development is open to the entire state.

But Willie Duffield, lobbyist for the Oil, Gas and Coal Counties, called Schweitzer’s plan “a bad idea.”

“The state’s already getting over 50 percent of the oil and gas revenue and distributes it around the state,” Duffield said. “So there’s no need for any more.”

If the state wants to distribute this additional oil and gas money to schools around the state, Duffield said, it needs to authorize drilling for oil and gas in more places.

“There’s oil and gas all under the state,” Duffield said.

We are all aware that the bulk of Montana’s natural resources are produced in these areas and that the schools there benefit from them. To those who want to benefit from Fallon County‘s oil and gas revenue, I suggest they relocate to Fallon County.  Liberals just don’t get it.  Here’s a news flash…. New concept: Cut SPENDING and eliminate wasteful programs instead of finding new ways to steal the required funding.

Montana Governor Isn’t a Fan of Tourism


King Schweitzer Hates Tourism

So what is a glory-hound bully king governor to do when it appears he will eventually lose his ill-conceived battle? He changes the rules, of course.

Through Governor Schweitzer,  Montana is sending quite the message to the more than a dozen online travel booking agencies that he is suing in his quest extract more tax revenue.  That message is: “Hey, promote some other state, we don’t like tourism.”  Perhaps those companies will treat us like they did Columbus, Georgia.  After a court ruled that the online travel companies should indeed be paying more taxes, most major booking agencies simply dropped the city from their listings all together.

In Montana, the difference between the bed tax revenue that is paid and the amount the governor thinks it should be is estimated at a paltry $100,000  annually.  One of the agencies targeted by Schweitzer, Travelocity, had just announced a half-million dollar promotion plan for our state when Schweitzer thanked them with a bright, shiny, new lawsuit.

Many jurisdictions across the nation have filed similar lawsuits across the nation and nearly all rulings have favored the travel booking companies.  A representative of Expedia said the lawsuits are a question of whether the companies should pay taxes on their margins and fees. Cities and states that levy taxes on the Expedia’s commission lower its incentive for doing business there, he said.  Some cities, after failing to win similar lawsuits, have amended their laws and informed hotels that if they cannot force the agencies to pay, they will force the hotels to do so.  It is expected that, in the event the cities prevail, the booking agencies will do whatever it takes to recoup the taxes from the hotels.

Claiming that it is just the usual housekeeping, the Montana Department of  Revenue plans to publish new rules that apparently recast implementation of the hotel bed tax which clarify the the taxes. The new rules specify that the agencies need to pay tax on the retail amount received from customers, not the wholesale  value of the room.

In Montana, the online booking agencies have some help in the ongoing dispute.  The Montana Chamber of Commerce and the Montana Taxpayers Association say the Department of Revenue is wrong to use a rule-making process to go after the online companies.

However things play out, it is obvious that these lawsuits will hurt our state’s entire tourism industry.  The economic impact will remain to be seen but surely it will be larger than $100,000/annually.   And in the event  Travelocity and the other number of agencies are victorious, perhaps Governor Schweitzer will send  his brother Walt, who has been described as “Helena’s 800-pound gorilla and state government’s elephant in the room” to shake them down.

Humble Governor Schweitzer Continues Embarrassin’ the Big Sky State


Yesterday, Montana’s Governor Brian Schweitzer was quick to dismiss any truth in all of the rumors he started that are apparently flying around about his plans after his term is up.  Due to term limits, he is prevented from  making himself our king running for another term and according to him, the rumors have been circulating in democratic circles for WEEKS.  He would like Montanans to know that he has no plans to run for President and that a recent New Hampshire poll about such a bid by Schweitzer had nothing to do with him. Ever the boastful blowhard sheepish cowboy, Schweitzer pointed out that Obama will likely be interested in the job anyway and said “It’s kind of silly, really. I’m just learning how to be governor of Montana.”

Many in Montana would agree with that assertion considering bashful Brian’s recent embarrassing lawsuit against over a dozen online travel booking agencies over a dispute over how bed taxes in the state are assessed.  At the 2010 Montana Economic Development Summit, he very publicly attacked the leaders of Travelocity after they announced formal plans to promote tourism in the state.

To any of you who may think this isn’t worthy of a story, think again.  It has been the Billings Gazette headline for hours.  Don’t worry about Schweitzer though, according to him, he always gets a job.  Whether it will be doing some fencin’ on that land that the public no longer can access,  practicin’ his Arabic,  or vyin’ for higher office, we can expect to have him hanging around for years to come, embarrassin’ the Big Sky State.

Confused By Laws, Governor Schweitzer Sues Online Travel Companies


Schweitzer and his beloved Jag

Today Governor Schweitzer and the state of Montana sued more than a dozen online travel agencies instead of thanking them for bringing tourists to our struggling state.

According to the MT Department of Revenue, Orbitz, Travelocity, Expedia, and others pay bed taxes on the wholesale portion of the room as opposed to the total amount which includes their fees.  The booking agencies claim that Schweitzer’s interpretation of law is incorrect and that the bed taxes should only be accessed on the amount of money taken in by Montana hotels and that the difference between the total amounts and the wholesale prices is so minuscule that it would produce only $100,000 or so for the state.

Earlier this year,  at Max’s 2010 Economic Development Summit, Schweitzer embarrassed the state by publicly confronting Travelocity leaders over the dispute on the very same day that the group laid out plans to formally promote Montana.

Governor Schweitzer, your big “surplus” shouldn’t be saved by raping an industry that already contributes significantly to Montana’s economy.   Sorry buddy, this time you may have to enact some cuts in state government to make up for the nearly half billion projected budget shortfall.  You may have to stop bragging that you run your state like a ranch and start admitting you are biting the hand that feeds us.

When You Cease to Exist, Who Will You Blame?


Democrats aren’t apparently ready to accept any responsibility for the state our nation or Montana.  One liberal blogger- a Schweitzer cheerleader-blamed it on corporate interests.  According to her/him/it, there just wasn’t  any cash available for democrats.

After all, it’s virtually impossible, especially in a year when Republicans are charged up with rage and Democrats are apathetic, to run a legislative campaign when one side has several million dollars and your side has squat.  There was simply no cash available for Democrats; whereas millions in corporate cash, as I detailed in a recent post, were spent by conservative groups. In some races there were as many as a dozen negative mailers dropped against the Democrat, where as the Republican candidate would get maybe one or two, or maybe none.

Many legislative races should have been won by democrats that were not, because the resource disparity was simply too great.  That’s showbiz. You need to go big or go home, and Dems couldn’t go big cuz the money wasn’t there.  A few large corporate interests sent huge money into Montana to influence the election.

Many are blaming Max Baucus- for sending 30 paid staffers to Nevada to campaign for the embattled Reid, for not pushing the public option, for failing America and Montana for 35 years.   Where was Tester?  In the days leading up to the election, he was campaigning in Missouri, Nevada and California….. naturally.  They managed to come together at the end, however; in their GOTV effort Saturday-Monday.

There was one “popular” democrat who seemed to be invisible during this election season- that is, when he wasn’t bragging on every national television show possible about running our state like a ranch and his “massive surplus”.  Yeah, you guessed correctly….. Brian Schweitzer.  Where was he?  Whether he was concerned about polarizing his potential constituents in his future run for US Senate, hiring some more government workers, or patrolling his personal wildlife reserve on Mullan Pass, we don’t know.  One thing is likely though, whatever he was doing was done so to benefit Brian Schweitzer and Brian Schweitzer only.

Surprisingly enough, I haven’t yet heard anyone in Montana blaming George Bush yet….. I’m confident it won’t be long.  Democrats need to look in the mirror.  This election was NOT so much an endorsement of the Republican Party, but a DENOUNCEMENT of liberal values and policies.  Americans- and especially Montanans- don’t want to be governed by the left, nor the right, nor the center.  They want to govern themselves.