Senator Essmann’s Insatiable Appetite for Taxes


“Now, more than ever, Montana needs leaders who understand that more government doesn’t mean more prosperity,” said Sen. Jeff Essmann, R-Billings. “Montana needs leaders who know that higher taxes don’t lead to more jobs … and who understand that environmental obstructionism doesn’t put food on the table for struggling families. …

In 2009, Montana’s economy was struggling.  Unemployment had nearly doubled while the quality of jobs had declined.  Nationally, the mortgage crisis, bank bailouts and healthcare reform all contributed to the erosion of opportunity in the Treasure State.

While Republicans typically oppose tax increases and reject virtually all new taxes, Jeff Essmann regularly defies party principles in attempts to boost the tax burden to fund government growth. Although such legislation is typically carried by Democrats, during the 2009 legislative session Essmann proposed implementing a local option sales tax. Regarding this additional tax, the senator said “Everybody talks about property tax relief, no one does anything about it – this is my attempt to do so.”  Opponents criticized the legislation as increasing taxes on not only tourists, but potentially all Montanans and the bill eventually died.

Maybe Essmann was only trying to prepare Montanans for the impending fiscal shock of their lifetimes. The senator rewrote HB 658, to mitigate the impact of Montana’s property tax reappraisals which are mandated every six years. The previously revenue neutral legislation was sponsored by Rep. Mike Jopek (D) who actually voted against the bill after Essmann and his committee dramatically modified the piece.  The unpopular legislation passed on the  last day of the session, eliminating the possibility of an amendatory veto and it became law without the signature of Governor Schweitzer.  As a result of the bill, property taxes for many Montanans skyrocketed during this difficult financial time and Essmann conveniently placed responsibility for his own legislation on Governor Schweitzer and Revenue Director Dan Bucks. Essmann compassionately suggested that Montanans utilize reverse mortgages to cope financially, effectively placing the burden on their heirs.

Now it appears Essmann, the owner of a water vending business,  is poised to announce his run at the 2012 GOP Gubernatorial nomination. Montanans- especially Republicans- need to seriously consider whether they are comfortable with the possibility, albeit a remote one; of a tax-lover like Essmann governing the state.  The campaign cycle will no doubt be brutal as the race is already very crowded, already featuring a number of other declared candidates – three more from Yellowstone County alone and rumors of others soon to join.

 And just when I thought I’d recovered from enduring hours of Essmann the Senator’s pompous,dry, slow speech patterns….  I cannot imagine the level of arrogance he’ll display in his attempts to convince Montanans to hire him as the state’s CEO.

 Although a formidable opponent in the bragging department, Rick Hill’s campaign has been plagued by sleazy revelations about his personal life that gained national exposure.  Hill’s “Mermaid-Gate” was responsible in part for Politico raising the rating of the 2012 MT Governor’s race, which is now considered the most competitive in the nation.

Corey Stapleton, a former naval officer who served as Montana’s Senate Minority Leader was recently called the “future of the Republican party” by former US Congressman Ron Marlenee.  Perhaps best known for sponsoring Otter Creek coal development legislation and saving taxpayers millions by replacing the Montana Department of Revenue’s failed POINTS computer system, Stapleton has thus far managed to avoid most criticism.

Ken Miller, who ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2004 (who came in third in a four-way primary, ironically placing only ahead of a democrat), believes we should “reject federalism when harmful to state’s rights” and that “we should stand with AZ Governor Jan Brewer”. The TEA party favorite, Miller lacks the support of mainstream Montana Republicans.

Neil Livingstone has the most interesting resume, but is largely unknown to Montanans.  Rumors have circulated that he is only using this race to increase name recognition for a 2014 run, but sources in his camp deny this. Jim O’Hara, a Chouteau County Commissioner, is an advocate of wind farms and other renewable sources of energy. He is passionate about world hunger and resource management and also lacks statewide name recognition. Keith Winkler, another Yellowstone County Republican, is largely unknown even in Billings, where he resides.

 

 

 

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Shared by an Heir & Ensnared by the Share


Montana’s  maximum penalty for distribution of dangerous drugs is life in prison and a $50,000 fine, so some may say that 27 year old Matthew Otto got lucky yesterday when he was sentenced to 20 years in the state penitentiary.  What was his crime?  From the Missoulian:

Otto had 3 grams of medical marijuana when he was arrested in November. Otto had a medical marijuana card, but was found guilty of passing the pipe filled with the drug to two passengers while driving down Reserve Street. An off-duty Missoula County sheriff’s detective saw and reported the incident.

Most likely Otto purchased an eighth ounce of medical cannabis from his caregiver (3.5 grams, approximately $30).  He shared with his pair (of friends) but they were quickly arrested possessing a total of 3 grams. He shared about 2 bucks worth of medical cannabis after all, so  I’m disappointed that 18 years of his sentence was suspended.  I simply cannot feel safe knowing such a dangerous criminal will be out on the streets in two years, sharing his medicine with his pals.

And then there is Ms Dru Cederberg, the heir who shared.   Dru is a Billings businesswoman (and heir to the Brach’s Confections fortune) who was convicted of “attempting to maintain a drug-involved premises.” She was given a couple of fines- totaling $550,000.  Dru will spend 8 months on house arrest (in her $ 2 million home) and if she pays the fine within 30 days, the court will even waive the interest.  I’m not condoning Ms. Cederburg’s drug use by any means, but using cocaine at dinner parties with friends doesn’t strike me as a serious crime.  She didn’t sell it. She didn’t introduce it to children.

If Dru wasn’t wealthy, I  doubt she’d have been been fined so heavily.   Google “attempting to maintain a drug involved premises”… this story is listed in nearly all of the links on the first several pages.  Sort of makes you wonder if anyone else has ever been charged with such a violation.  Perhaps they couldn’t convict her on charges more serious.

It must be cases similar to these that convinced Montana’s legislature that the cannabis industry is so generous- generous enough to provide our services, products, and wisdom at no cost whatsoever to patients.  All costs are absorbed by caregivers.  If only the legislators would be so generous.  Here are some suggestions:  work for free.  better yet, pay the state for the privilege of serving us. donate your $733 state paid health insurance premium to someone who can’t afford health insurance (Sponsor a Constituent).  

The lesson of the day, kids:  Sharing is highly overrated.

Republican Rhetoric v. Reality: A Conservative Case for Legalization


Early this year, I came out of the closet as a conservative cannabis proponent in a letter to the editor in the Billings Gazette. The next four months were a whirlwind of hearings, protests, pleas, and rants… with a mote of hope thrown in there occasionally.  In that time, I heard a recurring theme from prohibitionists across the state.  They repeated dutifully some variation or another that Montana voters were duped into a  pseudo legalization of cannabis when they were under the impression that only terminally ill patients would be using it, and that this wasn’t what Montanans voted for.  They expressed fear that the cannabis industry would begin to buy elections and recruit its own candidates.  The GOP’s anti-cannabis sheep were certain that medical use of marijuana in Montana was only a stepping stone to full-out legalization of the substance.

In 2004, when Montanans voted to approve the use of medical cannabis, I was an active (if you can call it active) member of the local Republican Women’s group.  Prior to the election, the group began peddling fear and ignorance-based rhetoric-primarily directed at I-148- at a level so extreme, I resigned from the group permanently.  I am not a marijuana user personally and although I did support the issue at the time, I wasn’t intimately involved with the initiative and I really can’t admit with any honesty whether or not the medical law was designed to lead to legalization.   For many reasons as an industry,  we have tried to avoid the legalization issue entirely, but I am going to say it now.  Marijuana should be legal and conservatives should OWN this issue for many numerous reasons…. I won’t, however; hold my breath.

Jobs– The 2010 campaign season was dominated by promises to create a more favorable job climate in our state.  Legalizing and regulating marijuana would create many jobs in numerous industries.   Whether or not MTCIA is successful in temporarily halting SB 423 will have little or no affect on the number of cannabis users in Montana.  Montanans have been smoking pot forever and they will continue to do so regardless of the GOP’s mission to purge the scourge.  Republicans should accept this and embrace the movement.

Fiscal Responsibility/Government Waste– Fiscal responsibility means limiting government expenditures for programs that can be convincingly said to generate benefits in excess of their costs. America’s war on drugs is a miserable- and EXPENSIVE- failure.  In 2009, over 700,000 Americans were prosecuted for marijuana crimes, most (87%) for simply possessing small amounts of the substance.  National Review estimates that approximately 100,000 people are currently imprisoned in the US solely for marijuana crimes. Prior to being arrested, a vast majority of these “criminals” were functioning and taxpaying members of society.  After conviction of a drug crime, many are unable to find work.  In many cases, they enroll in public welfare programs or they turn to crime, either avenue further draining society.  We’ve spent over a trillion dollars on fighting the “war” on drugs- with most of that sum funding anti-marijuana efforts, not meth, heroin, or cocaine.  Considering not even ONE person has died directly from marijuana use/overdose/interaction, wouldn’t rational human beings consider that maybe, just maybe; this isn’t working? Every year, prescription drugs kill at least 300 Montanans, but rarely (except for Bullock’s recent PSAs) do we hear anything about the dangers lurking in our own medicine cabinets. The reality is that over 100 million Americans have experimented with marijuana.  Very few of them actually use it habitually, certainly some do, but that is hardly justification for utilizing the government nanny. Intelligence and logic should still apply, even when we find issues distasteful.  It is truly amazing that  otherwise informed people are influenced so heavily by fear.   It makes sense to reduce budgets on programs that are unnecessary and ineffective.

State Sovereignty–  The Tenth Amendment reads

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

  It required a constitutional amendment to prohibit alcohol and it should for other issues as well.   Regardless of party affiliation, Montanans have an independent streak and most don’t appreciate intervention from the federal government.  Ranchers- Republicans and Democrats-were poised to protect their cattle from wolves, even if that required breaking federal law.  A majority of Montanans want to opt out of federal healthcare reform- and that legislation was written by our own Senator Max Baucus. Montanans said NO to Real ID.  We passed the Firearms Freedom Act, which excludes firearms manufactured in Montana from federal regulation.  Montanans don’t want a nanny.

TEA People– Legalizing marijuana is also a perfect issue for the Tea People- it could easily represent each of the core facets of their “movement”- fiscal responsibility,  constitutionally limited government and free markets.  Throw in one of their favorite amendments- let’s go with the 10th- and we SHOULD have the Mad Hatter’s wet dream.  Montana Tea People, however; are not that interested in liberty unless it adheres to their rather strict religious standards.  The Tea people rant about smaller government and more freedom- marijuana would certainly fall under that umbrella, but no… the Tea people screamed “RINO” at the only Republicans with the balls to vote against the majority.  Finally, drug prohibition is hopelessly inconsistent with allegiance to free markets. Free markets should mean that as long as such practices don’t harm others, businesses can operate as they please and consumers can consume what they want.

The hypocrisy of Montana Shrugged

Safety– While not necessarily a conservative principle, safety is something everyone can appreciate and the Safe Community, Safe Kids repeal group certainly exploited the term, so it is fair game.  If marijuana was legal, it would be regulated and thus, more likely to be safe.  It would be purchased from a reputable purveyor instead of an unscrupulous drug dealer.  The product would meet minimum standards of quality and safety providing peace of mind that you aren’t smoking carcinogenic chemical residue, fungus, or spider mite bodies.  Inflated prices were announced immediately after passage of SB 423.  Remove the prohibition element, prices fall.

Liberty and Individual Freedom– While no party has the monopoly on liberty, they all seem to have a different definition or interpretation of the word.  Only I own my body, the government should have no jurisdiction over what I put in it.  What I do after I put substances in it is another story, but hardly requires federal legislation.

Consider for a moment how we now view these people….

Is this REALLY the sort of legacy conservatives want to leave?

Science/Medical– Science easily justifies the medical use of cannabis as well as affirms the substance’s relative safety for non-medical use.  Compounds in marijuana shrink tumors associated with several particularly deadly cancers and there is evidence that marijuana actually prevents some cancers from occurring. I’m well aware  that as a party, we are proud of our resistance to change.  Advocates across the nation watched Montana’s legislative process intently.  The legislature had the opportunity and the means to create thoughtful legislation representing conservative  and pro-business principles.  Instead, religiosity reigned and Republicans abandoned conservative principles in favor or a religious, big government/control freak agenda. Overwhelmingly they chose the regressive approach and alienated plenty of independents and Republicans as a result.

While it appears there is a fair chance that through the referendum process and key legal challenges, the industry will be able to stop the law until the voters have the opportunity to speak again on this issue in 2012, I feel the need to question the sanity of the GOP leadership.  The GOP-led legislature received a 14% approval rating from Montanans.  Instead of creating stellar- hell,even marginal- legislation to regulate Montana’s medical marijuana program, they  chose to essentially repeal. If marijuana is on the 2012 ballot,  Republicans will have only themselves to blame for mobilizing  liberal voters.  Montana’s Republican legislators, in failure; gave the Democrats the greatest gift of all.  But what do I know?  I’m just a dirty conservative hippie… or something.

Conservatives out there, if you can back up your argument, bring it.  I welcome debate  on this issue because I really want to understand.

Friendship with the Scourge of Montana


Thank you Representative Howard for requesting my Facebook friendship.  I am curious why you would seek a connection to something you consider a “scourge” and a “cartel”, however; and would appreciate an explanation.  I am an active local Republican who happens to be extremely disappointed in those I helped elect to represent us in Montana’s 62nd legislature.

Are you seeking an avenue to offer an apology, not only to me; but to the thousands of hard-working Montana taxpayers you insulted by calling derogatory names or did you simply make a mistake in requesting my friendship? Considering the number of letters I wrote begging each of you to consider science instead of the tired, fear-based rhetoric you continued to utilize, I find it hard to believe that you aren’t aware of my stance on the issue- unless, of course; you didn’t read any of my letters.  You also must have missed my letter to the editor printed in the Billings Gazette and Missoulian…. don’t worry though, Representative, I didn’t miss yours.

Perhaps you are reaching out to explain why you eliminated jobs for thousands of Montanans.  Perhaps you’ve realized the error of your ways and would like forgiveness.  Most likely, however; you noticed that we have scores of mutual conservative friends, live in the same area, and are Christian Republicans.  It certainly couldn’t be that we both hold dear the conservative principles of adherence to the constitution, liberty and limited governmental interference in individual lives, could it?

I apologize if I seem a bit snarky, Representative Howard, but sudden, forced unemployment will do that to a girl.  You see, while you were busy dreaming up Valium and Arsenic analogies and recalling stories from nearly half a century ago, I was comforting patients and business owners who were anxious that this “jobs” session, was anything but.  And what could I say?  The writing was on the wall.

I’ve lived in Montana my entire life, Mr. Howard.  Republican or Democrat, we are all Montanans and most of us aren’t appreciative of federal intervention on any level.  I’d be hesitant to entirely discount the previously expendable voting bloc of cannabis patients, users, and business owners.  You see, in 2004; many of them didn’t vote to allow medical use of cannabis. Why?  Because they didn’t vote at all.  In 2012, however; we may have a very different situation.  Across the state, those people are registering to vote in droves.   As a Republican, I cannot understand why our party would desire to mobilize the liberal voter in that way, especially when we otherwise had a great opportunity to capture the governor’s seat.  But what do I know?

I know that the war on drugs funds illegal terrorism.  I know that nobody has ever died from overdosing on cannabis- EVER.  I know our party is failing to attract my generation of voters.  I know that regardless of religious rhetoric, gay people are not going away and allowing their sexuality to remain a felony is bigoted, hateful, and a dreadfully wasted opportunity for Republicans to appear compassionate and cerebral.

Ben Franklin once said that anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither.  What a shame it is that we’ve gutted the US Constitution in terms of civil liberties, privacy, and property rights as well as allowed bureaucrats to dictate health policy that should remain between a physician and patient… all in favor of a myth.

That said, let me know if you are still interested in my friendship. Should you reconsider, I’m understanding of your reluctance to associate with someone in the “wrong crowd” and will harbor no ill will.  I also pray, Mr. Howard; for your sake, that never are you faced with a debilitating condition unresponsive to traditional pharmaceutical treatments.

Nicole French

HD50/SD25

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!

The Trust of Montana’s Innocent


 This is the initial segment in a series investigating the motivations of Montana’s anti-cannabis crusaders. Today’s post  features “Pinocchio” Pat Keim, big Tobacco/private prisons/wheat exporter lobbyist.

It has been said that the trust of the innocent is the liar’s most useful tool.  Montana’s 62nd legislative session hearings were rife with exaggerations, unfounded accusations, omissions, and blatant lies.  No oath is required when testifying before legislative committees in Montana.  Legislators appeared happy sifting through the lies, choosing the very best to repeat in future testimony and closing arguments.  Video and audio archives are available online  in case private citizens are interested in fact-checking testimony and testimony clips are available on you tube as well.    Meet Pat Keim, a Montanan typically lobbying for Big Tobacco companies (like Altria and Philip Morris) who, in testimony on behalf of Columbia Grain of Montana, claims the company is unable to find job applicants who test negative for medical marijuana.  Mr. Keim alleges that 100% of applicants were unable to pass necessary pre-employment drug screenings because of their medical marijuana use.

Montanafesto has received information that Mr. Keim’s testimony is not only misleading, but patently false.  In the last six months, we know of at LEAST 3 people, all from the same Columbia Grain facility in Plentywood, MT; who have passed all necessary drug tests and have been hired by Columbia Grain.   Mike Preemer was hired approximately 6 months ago, Mike Fraiser was hired at the beginning of the year, and Nick Chase was hired shortly before the March 11 testimony Keim provided in the preceding clip.  While Fraiser has since left the company, Preemer  and Chase are current Columbia Grain employees.  In Helena last month, an industry activist confronted Keim about the company hiring Nick Chase. Keim reluctantly acknowledged the hire but justified his testimony, claiming the statistics he used in testimony were completed prior to Chase’s employment.

Keim, whose clients in Montana’s most recent session were Alternatives, Inc (a non-profit corporation providing incarceration and treatment facilities for criminals)  and Columbia Grains International (Montana’s largest international grain exporter) for some reason wasn’t working for his typical Big Tobacco clients this session…. or was he?

Perhaps we should examine Columbia Grain’s great concern for eliminating the option for Montana’s ill to use medical cannabis as treatment for their debilitating symptoms.  From Montana’s Office of Political Practices:

I find it somewhat strange that EVERY bill of concern for Columbia Grains International concerned medical marijuana.  Although in limited capacity, I can appreciate the company’s interest in HB 43, which sought to clarify employers’ rights regarding employees who use medical cannabis, it does seem rather suspicious that none of the bills actually involve grain, exports, or anything agricultural.

Patrick Keim provided testimony that was utilized and repeated frequently by GOP cannabis repeal advocates.  If we can discover THREE employees from only ONE of their numerous facilities across the state who were indeed hired recently, it seems all of Keim’s testimony is suddenly suspect. Out of a total number of employees of the company- a number ranging from 93-100- which varied depending on Keim’s particular testimony, it only requires ONE to blow the credibility of his “100% failure” claims.

If medical cannabis is indeed such a dangerous substance, why do opponents of its use need to exaggerate claims and use fictitious figures to project their points?

When testifying in court on very minor offenses, which likely affect only the person cited for the offense; we must swear before the court to provide honest testimony.  Why do we allow lawmakers to rely on flawed and dishonest testimony to create legislation that affects all of our state’s citizens?  If  safety is our goal, we owe our children and communities policies based on facts- not fictitious, profit-driven, religious, or ignorant agendas.  Montana’s 62nd legislative session was truly a disgrace.

What can we, as private Montana citizens, do to combat this disgrace?  First of all, REGISTER TO VOTE.  If you aren’t certain of your registration status, check here.  

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.

Montana’s GOP God Squad legislating your morality, quantifying your pain, & protecting you from yourself


Take a moment today to thank the house members listed in bold below.  Why you ask? Thank them for ignoring the will of the people and voting to advance the repeal of a law passed by 62% of Montanans.

Thank you, representatives, for being so lazy.  You refused to produce any bills that created jobs but were instead focused on eradicating an entire industry that provides THOUSANDS of jobs for Montanans in addition to producing legislation on a host of other social issues.  I urge Montanans to flood these traitors and the remaining  house members with emails, calls and visits to inform them that you don’t approve of this sort of betrayal of our populace.  You elected them to fix our economy and create jobs…. and what did they do?  Not a damned thing.

Gone are the days that I defend the legislature.  When the liberals are bitching about hypocritical lawmakers seeking to repeal Obamacare while accepting taxpayer-funded health insurance, I will be right on board.  I will never give another penny to the Montana Republican party and I will never spend another moments assisting with anyone running for election.

On the flip side, the democrats in this committee are for the first time in my good graces.  There is a special place in hell for those who lack compassion for people suffering from debilitating illnesses and that has nothing to do with political party affiliation. May God have mercy on your souls.
 

David Howard Chair*
Cary Smith Vice Chair* Hubby of Susan Smith of Safe Community Safe Kids infamy
Michael (Mike) More Member*
Pat Ingraham Member*
Dan Skattum Member*
Liz Bangerter Member*
Steve Fitzpatrick Member*
Dan Kennedy Member*
Joe Read Member*
Max Yates Member*
Timothy Furey Voted NO….
Pat Noonan Voted NO
Chuck Hunter Voted NO
Ellie Boldman Hill Voted NO
Carolyn Pease-Lopez Voted NO

 

Are Montana’s legislators pulling a Max and Jon?


What are the most important issues facing Montanans today?  It seems that either the leadership of our legislature is completely off base or I am.  In November, it seemed loud and clear the messages delivered by voters, but legislators don’t seem to care.   I would like to hear your thoughts.   I have yet to see any bills creating even one non-government job from this legislature so maybe Montana’s most pressing issues are indeed social (like medical marijuana, abortion, and LGBTetc rights- I can’t keep up with the changing acronyms) and my fiscal concerns are totally unfounded.  Please take 10 seconds to choose your most pressing issue.  If your issue isn’t listed in the poll, select other and insert issue.  I would greatly appreciate it.

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.

Psssst…. MT Legislature. Wyoming Has Some Great Ideas


Wyoming legislators are proposing legislation to rail against socialism and encroaching big government.

A handful of legislators are proposing an end to teacher’s tenure.  Ending tenure would ease the process of removing ineffective teachers- great teachers should have nothing to worry about.  What other occupations provide a virtual promise that regardless of your performance, you will still keep your job? I guarantee Montanans would feel far more comfortable voting in favor of increases to education funding if teachers de-unionized and ended tenure.

Legislators from each house are also introducing health care reform bills- one proposal makes it a crime to enforce federal health care statutes in Wyoming while another proposes a constitutional amendment to protect Wyoming citizens from federal healthcare reform mandates.

Why do we care what Wyoming is proposing?  Wyoming ranks #1 in business-friendly taxation   as well as #1 in terms of economic vitality.   Wyoming has an unemployment rate of only 3.3% and a personal tax average at only 4 % . Montana isn’t known for its business-friendly atmosphere and has some of the highest property taxes in the nation although you’d never know that listening to Governor Schweitzer who claims to have single-handedly turned Montana into a bastion of prosperity.