“We do not allow children to make many kinds of unhealthy decisions, such as smoking, drinking, child pornography, sex with adults, and illegal drug use.”
That’s how Senator John Fuller opened his promotion of his bill at the hearing for SB99 on Friday: by equating gender transition with child porn and statutory rape. Got to protect the kids from pronouns and porn!
It went downhill from there.
My friend and I had driven through a snowstorm that day from Belgrade to Helena to join the many doctors, therapists, trans and Two Spirit folks, and parents of trans kids to voice our opposition to the bill. It’s a bill that would make it illegal for us to seek gender affirming care for our kids. A bill that would insert the state between our families and our providers, designate evidence-based practice as “child abuse,.” It would even make it illegal for our kids’ teachers to use their names and pronouns if such things didn’t match their genitals.
We sat and listened to the line-up of proponents. These included many religious right-wing organizations, such as the Montana Family Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, Restore Liberty, Moms for Liberty, and the Family Research Council. There were several out-of-state professional “detransitioners” who travel around and warn about the regrets of transitioning. There were chiropractors, a physical therapist, someone from New York who claimed to have a PhD in psychiatry, and a lot of angry, disgruntled parents and grandparents, some from Montana, some from other states.
They didn’t even pretend that parental rights applied to this topic. They all flat-out stated that parents of trans kids don’t have the same rights as everyone else. That they were singling out gender-affirming care as the One Terrible Thing that medical consensus, science, and best practices get utterly wrong. This is the hill their fanatical parental rights movement dies on. Fuller even stated, as did others, that the state needs to protect kids from “their parents’ influence.” Because surely parents like me are chomping at the bit to force our boys to be girls and force our girls to cut their hair and change their names. (Maybe they should turn the spotlight on their churches before going after us if they’re worried about “parental influence.”) I’ve never seen these rabid parental rights zombies state that the government needs to protect kids against their own parents before, and I grew up in the fundamentalist homeschooling world that invented anti-government parental rights fanaticism.
As expected, proponents started pulling “stats” out of their asses and claiming heart-rending stories of pain, regret, and “body mutilation”. One professional detransitioner claimed he’s gotten more than 10,000 emails from people who want to detransition. Another dude from a Christian organization in Billings stated that the instance of girls transitioning to boys has “increased 5000% percent,”, while people from the Heritage Foundation and the other hate groups made claims that 82% of people who transition regret it. At one point my friend leaned over and incredulously whispered, “They’re just making shit up!”
I should have made a bingo card, because they hit all the same talking points: transitioning is a lucrative business, look at Sweden, kids can’t make their own decisions, they’ll never be able to have sex or make babies (lots of obsession with how kids will have sex), trans people existing is an assault on the traditional family, people can’t make decisions until they’re 25, “I wanted to be a boy, too,when I was a kid,” “My son identified as an airplane,” and “out of state interests are trying to destroy Montana families.” (Even though the majority of proponents were out-of-state activists.)
It was one and a half hours of a daunting onslaught of bigotry, ignorance, lies, propaganda, and outright hatred. One senator at the end even equated suicide with gender transitioning, stating sarcastically that he should seek “suicide-affirming care” for his son who was determined to kill himself. It was an astonishing display of vitriolic word vomit.
When opponents got up to speak, the entire energy of the room shifted. We had twice as many people and 99% were actual Montanans. We had representatives from every hospital and medical association in the state, along with doctors, nurses, therapists, endocrinologists, independent clinics, domestic violence organizations, state representatives, and so many more.
But all my love and respect goes to the trans kids and adults who stood up to tell their stories. The youngest child to speak was 13. They fearlessly told their stories of growing up trans in Montana and begged the heartless committee to not take that away from them. It broke my heart and inspired me. I stood up and asked why they think I should get rights over two of my kids but not the other two. Parents told life-changing stories about their children to senators who didn’t care, who will probably vote this bill through anyway. I actually got a photo of Senator Theresa Manzella scrolling on her phone, and Senator Barry Usher falling asleep while one parent talked about how gender-affirming care saved his child. They are ghouls with a black hole where their hearts should be.
But Montana showed up that day. From professionals to parents to friends to children, Montana showed up to passionately voice their opposition to this cruel bill that would strip life and liberty from the most vulnerable among us. Unlike the proponents who were mostly out-of-state activists loudly claiming out-of-state activists were trying to turn our kids trans, opponents of the bill were everyday Montanans like you and me, standing up for the children of Montana. And it was beautiful. We’ve got each other’s backs, Montana. “We will fight like hell,” as Rep. Zooey Zephyr stated that day. Keep showing up, keep speaking up, and never back down.
“You may legislate with hate, but we will protect each other with love” ~Keegan Medrano, MT ACLU
Earlier this week, Recovery Advocates organized by the Independence Rock Coalition : Center for Ethics, Recovery and Social Justice, who traveled from all over Montana, converged on the Montana Capitol to talk with legislators and network with other advocates across Montana. This was the first year that there has been a concerted effort to organize a Recovery Advocacy Day, and we have a lot of work to do to have an undeniable presence.
I helped organize Recovery Advocacy Day because I am a person in long-term recovery and live my recovery out loud. For too long those who struggled with addiction have kept quiet. I have chosen to not live in the dark, hanging out in basements and staying silent. Addiction does not discriminate and it affects everyone in some way. I have hope that more people will feel comfortable talking about their journey because we showed up.
I was pleased that we had people stop by our table and ask who we were and why we were there. I’m grateful only one person was snarky and said they did not know anyone who dealt with addiction. We passed out dozens of our “I am in Recovery and I Vote” stickers, and I was happy to see them when I walked through the Capitol.
We were acknowledged from the House Floor by Rep. George Nikolakakos (R-Great Falls) and received waves from various members of the House during the introduction.
Penny Ronning made the trip from Billings to lend support to the cause. During the campaign of 2022, I often heard her mention the need for treatment options and more resources for those seeking recovery.
Even though the turnout was small, it was powerful! We will continue to build the Recovery Advocacy Community in Montana and am excited to see how powerful our voice will become.
Recently, there has been a divisive movement spearheaded by Republicans to emphasize parental rights – especially in HB 234: Revise dissemination of obscene material to minors laws.
How about considering parental responsibility?
Parents are responsible for being part of the curriculum development process in schools, and there is a complaint process available if a parent is concerned about a teacher’s implementation of a particular curriculum or book choice by school and public librarians. If a parent does not take the time to be aware and involved through the processes described above, then they have abdicated their rights.
Parents are responsible for knowing what their children are reading and setting the family standards for what is appropriate as children begin to select their own reading material. If parents do not supervise what their children are reading, then they have abdicated their rights.
Parents are responsible for imparting their values regarding “obscenity” to their children. They are responsible for developing open lines of communication with their children so that the children can share any concerns about what they may be learning/reading, including something that might seem obscene.
Because there are wide variations within families as to what is acceptable, particularly regarding “obscenity,” it is the responsibility of schools and libraries to provide curriculum/book selections that span those variations. It is not the school’s responsibility to cater to any one set of possible parental standards. Nor should public libraries. There are general guidelines in place to determine the appropriate age for reading material and curriculum. Public schools and libraries have a duty to follow them.
What is “obscenity”? “To see it is to know it” does not work, as seeing something like “obscenity” “lies in the eye of the beholder.” Educators and librarians are not the arbitrators of what is/is not obscene for our society.
When he’s not working diligently to keep his rental tenants in poverty with his hand out at their doors, he’s working in the House to make sure they can join the growing unhoused community in Great Falls. That’s right, Great Falls’ reigning Dairy King and local landlord, Rep. Steven “Mr. LOLA” Galloway, is heading legislation (HB-282) to speed up the eviction process for renters in Montana.
Specifics noted in the bill include:
Protections for landlords to issue 24 hour notices for property access or to correct rental agreement violations with tenants facing eviction proceedings within 3 days for refusing property access.
Putting extra stress on our already overloaded courts by significantly shortening the filing due dates and hearing scheduling windows. Meaning, where courts and tenants typically had a cushion of anywhere from 10-20 days before, multiple lines of Sections 70-24 and 70-33, MCA have been amended to an allowance of only 5 days instead.
Interestingly, or maybe better put – strategically, in reference to the 24 hour notices, there are no exceptions for tenants who may be working out of town, be hospitalized, on vacation, or otherwise. In sum, tenants who are working hard, severely ill, or enjoying time off away from home can find themselves in the crosshairs of their landlord’s impatience.
Rep Galloway was quoted by Montana Public Radio as saying this legislation is an attempt at “alleviating the stress on the judicial system that has more pressing issues”, but if that’s truly the case, why shorten their working time? With Rep. Galloway himself identifying that our courts have more pressing issues, these amendments read as a greasy attempt at further overwhelming the courts and floating their eviction actions with little to no pushback.
While some supporters of the bill say this proposed legislation will be used for “worst case scenarios”, anyone with any kind of sense can see that this is the first of many blows to deliberately weaken already feeble tenant’s rights, and Rep. Steven Galloway is more than happy to be the champion of those endeavors.
Our regular readers are already familiar with the building Jeremy Trebas bought at 1300 1st Ave. N. The building is currently classified as a church by the Department of Revenue which makes it exempt from most property taxes. As we pointed out in our earlier article, it is owned by a shell company Trebas created which clearly does not qualify as a church for property tax exemptions, despite the fact that Trebas is currently renting the space to a church group. (https://wtf406.com/2023/01/the-curious-case-of-jeremy-trebas-property-taxes/)
Let’s start with the building
There is now more to this story– much more. So, let’s start with the building itself. In 1927 the local congregation of First Church of Christ Scientists announced its intention to build a church at 1300 1st Avenue N. with an auditorium for 450 people for an estimated cost of $40,000! Two and a half years later, the “renaissance” style building was completed and began holding services with a large pipe organ, reading rooms, and Sunday school classrooms. (Looks more like Art Deco style to us, but we’ll go with the Great Falls Tribune.)
Fast forward to almost a century later. The building was sold to Karpeles Manuscript Library Museums.This national organization was founded in 1983 by California real estate magnatesDavid and Marsha Karpeles. David Karpeles’ passion was collecting old manuscripts. With the goal of stimulating interest in learning, especially in children,and to make the collection more accessible, they began acquiring historic buildings and distributing historic documents to those local museums. There are currently 12 such local museums in small to mid-sized cities across the country.
The Karpeles organization was clearly moving forward with plans to open the museum in Great Falls, including hiring local staff and having the museum name added in raised lettering to the stucco finish. But, they abandoned the project and put the building on the market. There were probably numerous reasons for the decision not to proceed with the Great Falls museum. These include the fact that the benefactor, David Karpeles died in January of 2022, the disruption of the pandemic, and potential costs of bringing the historic building ”up to code.” In May of 2022, Jeremy Trebas purchased the building. That’s where this story gets interesting.
But first a bit about building codes
Building codes are about making sure that buildings are safe, accessible and meet community standards and needs. It is common that historic buildings fall behind the various changes in building codes. Owners of these buildings are often not required to update the building, because they have been “grandfathered in.” But, when a building like this changes its purpose, it is common that the new owners are required to bring the building into compliance with the current code.
In this instance, when the Karpeles group purchased the building, it was aware that it would no longer be classified as a religious institution and repairs were going to be required. Specifically, there were some handicapped access issues and importantly the code required an automatic sprinkler system. Automatic sprinkler systems are expensive, because they require a separate line to the water main and monitoring systems to alert occupants if there is a loss of pressure or other malfunction in the water lines.
So, to summarize, the building was put on the market with any prospective buyer understanding the need for costly repairs to meet code requirements, particularly fire safety. The need for costly repairs lowers the value of the building. Enter Senator Jeremy Trebas.
Senate Bill 195 introduced by Jeremy Trebas.
Why would anyone buy a large commercial building with high property taxes because of its size and which needs significant investment to bring it up to code? Well, we already pointed out that the property tax classification of the building has not changed from a church so, thus far, Trebas has not paid much in property tax. Moreover, he rented to a church which could very well be a lame attempt to hang onto subsidized property taxes or, as we have said, it could be that Trebas has simply not gotten around to notifying the Department of Revenue of the change in building use.
But then Trebas introduced Senate Bill 195. This bill exempts his building, and others like it, from the requirement for automatic sprinkler systems. It defines exempt properties as an existing structure that is not over 12,000 total square feet, has an occupancy that is limited to less than 300, and has fewer than three stories above grade. In addition, a community group working on homeless issues in Billings proposed an amendment to help homeless people which has been attached to Trebas’ bill. Despite being opposed by firefighters and fire marshals, the bill has passed out of committee in the Senate.
Bottom line, Trebas is using his seat in the Senate to enrich himself. This whole episode speaks volumes about Trebas’ ethics in government and in business. We wonder if he has thought at all about the previous owners who obviously had to accept a lower price because of needed repairs. Or has he thought of the other parties who were interested in buying the building but didn’t have the title Senator in their hip pocket. Probably not. It seems Jeremy Trebas is only concerned with Jeremy Trebas.