We’re not big fans of Montana Congressman Matt Rosendale. Rosendale is one of the most extreme far-right people in the US Congress. We’re not going to drag you through the long list of wrongheaded things Rosendale has done to embarrass our state on the national stage. It would take too long to read.
Rosendale is engaged in quite a squabble with the Republican overlords who run the state. They don’t like the fact that Rosendale has been talking about running for the US Senate against Jon Tester. Even though Rosendale has not announced his intentions for the Senate seat, the wizards in the Republican war rooms have been consistently undermining him as a candidate. Instead, they have chosen Tim Sheehy, a Minnesota billionaire based out of Bozeman, as their guy, and they want Matt out of the way.
Still, it was surprising to see anti-Rosendale ads streaming on the Roku channel last week. The ads themselves are not remarkable. Typical of political hit pieces. They use darkened film footage (this one of migrants) and pick some obscure vote of Rosendale’s to attack him as “bad on immigration.”
It is remarkable that Rosendale hasn’t even announced his political intentions and these folks are apparently spending a chunk of change to try to keep him out of the race. More remarkable still is that the ads attack him from the right. We thought there wasn’t any room to the right of Rosendale.
The ads are sponsored by Montana Policy Action, a typical means-nothing name for a political hit group. The Principal Officer for the group is a well-known political gunslinger named Jake Eaton from Billings. That’s probably a good clue to who doesn’t want Rosendale running for US Senate (Ahem, The National Republican Senatorial.Committee and its current Chairman, Steve Daines).
(No, this isn’t a photo of Jake Eaton but it gives you the idea)
Eaton founded a consulting group called WDRP Management with his wife, Emily Jones, in 2015. He has also been board chair of the 1776 Foundation which makes money by promoting the bright yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” license plates we see across Montana. His campaign experience includes running Gianforte’s campaign for governor and being “Chief Strategist” for the transition team for Attorney General Austin Knudsen. In 2008 he resigned as Chair of the State Republican Party following a scandal involving challenges to 6,000 voter registrations in Democratic leaning counties. https://flatheadbeacon.com/2008/10/15/gop-executive-director-steps-down/
Eaton attracted attention in 2018 when then Secretary of State, Corey Stapleton, gave Eaton’s company a printing contract for $265,000 for a “rush” printing job. Subsequent reporting revealed that Stapleton hired Eaton’s wife, a Billings Attorney, to represent the Secretary of State’s Office in a lawsuit which cost the state $59,000 (She lost the case). Eaton and his wife had contributed $2,000 to Stapleton’s campaign for Secretary of State in 2016. https://www.mtpr.org/montana-news/2018-10-25/second-stapleton-contract-with-political-ally-revealed
In 2022, Attorney General Austin Knudsen entered a contract with Eaton’s wife for $10,000 per month to supervise and provide “mentorship” and litigation services. Despite being a contractor, she was listed in the agency directory as assistant attorney general. https://montanafreepress.org/2023/02/08/ags-office-looks-for-budget-boost-re-inks-contract-with-outside-counsel/
From the Governor’s Office, to the Attorney General, to the Secretary of State, Eaton is a sleazy campaign operator. Now he is setting his sights on Matt Rosendale. Not sure we care who wins this one, but our money is on Rosendale.
Disclaimer: Although I am the current Chair of the Cascade County Democrats, all opinions expressed in this post are my own, and I am not speaking on behalf of the Cascade County Democrats.
It’s been a couple weeks since the dust has settled from the 4th of July parade in Great Falls. And do I have a story to tell you…
If State Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway (R-Great Falls) and the other organizers of the City of Great Falls’ Fourth of July Parade had had their way, the Democrats would have been silenced. On the Tuesday before the parade, one of the officers of the Cascade County Democrats received this message from lead organizer Lola Sheldon-Galloway:
“Because of the Protesters that joined the entry last year, we are getting bad reviews and comments about the 4th of July Parade. We want to remind you that the parade is not the place for protesting or ‘pushing’ an alternate agenda. Protesting has its time and place and the 4th of July parade is not it. We will not allow protesting from anyone as a part of the parade this year. We would appreciate your help in making sure there won’t be an issue on Tuesday. If you have any questions please reach out.
Great Falls 4th of July parade committee”
That’s one hell of a position from an elected state representative whose campaign slogan is the sickeningly ironic “leave our liberties alone.”
What are they whining about?
With regards to the “protestors” of 2022, the Western Word blog wrote about the Cascade County Democrats participation in that year’s parade here. Emotions were extremely high after the fall of Roe v. Wade, and several pro-choice marchers walked in solidarity with the Democrats. Republicans and anti-choicers didn’t like that. And Lola and crew are apparently still holding a grudge.
What happened in the 2023 Parade?
After receiving Lola’s attempt at censorship, the Cascade County Democrats promptly disregarded it. As previously planned, the Democrats made sure to be in compliance with the parade participation rules on the application form and ensured there was no profanity or disturbing imagery on signs held in the parade. Political organizations, including Republican ones, often have signs of their organization’s platform. We are guaranteed a constitutional right to speech, and it would be quite the legally questionable decision if the City of Great Falls chose to enforce one set of standards upon Democrats while allowing all other entrants full and unabridged participation.
The parade went off without a hitch, with lots of energy from the Democratic participants. A video of the 2023 Democrats’ float and marchers can be seen here.
And that…made Lola big mad.
More Whining from Sheldon-Galloway
On July 5th, Lola complained to the City Commission during public comment that “there is an issue that’s coming up. This has been the second year it’s happened. We had protestors in our parade, and we feel, as a committee, that it’s the wrong place with the wrong message with wording that children should not be seeing on the parade route, and it spoils the day….I had asked in advance…that just not be a part of our parade.” (at the video here around minute 31).
How to talk to our children?
As a parent myself, what messages should children not be seeing?
- My body, my choice?
- Safe Abortions Save Lives?
- Bans off our Bodies?
Parents have the ability to talk to their children in an age-appropriate way. If I thought my children were too young to understand something, I would use my words and BE A PARENT. “It’s a medical procedure, and I’ll tell you more about it when you are older.” Furthermore, how is that more disturbing than the gruesome staged pro-life signs outside of Planned Parenthood that Lola regularly joins and bafflingly pushes an empty baby stroller?
Real Life Version of Wrong Place, Wrong Message
Representative Lola Sheldon-Galloway can stay mad
She and her Republican party have politicized our bodies, our medical procedures, and who we are to score political points. We’ve reported repeatedly on Rep. Sheldon-Galloway’s legislative hate here and here and here. People all over Montana and our country are needlessly suffering and some are dying because of legislators like Lola. How is that for a family friendly life?
All of us can appreciate standing up for our rights on Independence Day.
Those who followed President Biden’s State of the Union were treated to Biden delivering a classic political sucker punch. The Republicans stepped right into it. The topic was Social Security and Medicare, and the sucker punch he delivered was revealing Republican’s long history of trying to reduce, eliminate, and privatize these popular retirement programs. Only the most recent of which is Republican Senator Rick Scott’s proposal to place a five-year “Sunset” provision on these programs along with others.
Despite the boos and hisses from the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene, Biden remained cool and in control of the exchange. Really not too tough since even those who are not paying close attention know the Republican Party has opposed Social Security and Medicare since the beginning. Though they have been largely unsuccessful, they keep plugging away, trying to undermine the most successful anti-poverty programs in American history. And Biden responded, tongue in cheek, that he was glad we had reached “consensus” on supporting Social Security and Medicare.
Republican proclamations that these programs are failing have been with us since the 1930s. Time and time again they have proven to be false. Time and time again the Republicans have gone back to the drawing board seeking new ways to undermine and eliminate Social Security. Time and time again they have sought ways to privatize Medicare– without success.
Make no mistake about it. The Republicans will continue their attack on senior citizens. Daines, Zinke and Rosendale would like nothing better than getting at the money in these programs to sprinkle around among their rich donor friends. Just ask them. But listen carefully because, just like Republicans everywhere, their answer will begin with, “Of course we support Social Security and Medicare but. . . .” Yeah right guys.
We’ve just entered Week 3 of the 2023 Legislative Session, and boy has it been eventful. Republicans have floated a number of bad bills, many of which have already been abandoned due to public backlash. Although attacks on Indigenous sovereignty and medical privacy have grabbed headlines, there are GOOD things happening too.
Let’s take a look at a few bills that will help Montanans.
Senator MaryAnn Dunwell (D- SD42) and Jonathan Karfen (D-HD96) have drafted HB 252 which seeks to increase access to mental health services for Montana youth. Increasing mental health access is literally a matter of life or death. Montana has the 3rd highest suicide rate in the nation. Bills like this one can help protect our kids and keep them alive.
Dunwell has been busy and is already facing significant pushback from shady Republicans.Republicans killed her floor amendment to increase legislative transparency.The proposed amendment would have required legal review notes be attached to each bill. These notes are important because when the Leg passes laws that are unconstitutional or otherwise illegal, Montana taxpayers foot the bill. Last session Rs passed several laws that they knew wouldn’t hold up to judicial scrutiny and ultimately lost in court. Preventing access to these legal notes is an indication that they plan to waste our time and money this time around too.
Kelly Kortum (D- HD65) introduced HB201 to raise the minimum wage, combatting the inflation that has brought many Montanans closer to poverty. Kortum also introduced a bill draft that would protect renters. The bill would require rental application fees be refunded for applicants who aren’t selected for the rental unit. In another shady Republican move, this bill has been sent to the wrong committee- the Judiciary committee- where it is clear that Rs intend to kill it.
Representative S.J. Howell (D-HD95) introduced their bill to increase access to childcare. HD 238 supports the Best Beginnings program, a vital resource for working families in need of daycare.
So let’s round that up. We’ve got Democrats fighting for working Montanans who deserve a living wage, protecting kids through access to mental health services, helping parents access childcare, and assuring our government is following the law.
Now let’s contrast for a moment, shall we?
So far Montana Republicans have:
Gained national attention for their incredibly racist plan to destroy Indigenous Sovereignty. Read more here: https://wtf406.com/2023/01/republicans-attack-indigenous-rights/
And here: https://www.newsweek.com/montana-republican-state-lawmaker-keith-regier-indian-reservation-system-1771708
Branched off in what can best be described as a schism between the regular terrible Republicans and the especially awful extremists.
Read more here: https://wtf406.com/2023/01/breaking-news-great-falls-representative-steven-galloway-joins-the-circus/
Attempted to violate our right to medical privacy and attempted to kill poor women.
Read more here: https://wtf406.com/2023/01/republicans-push-for-extreme-privacy-violations/
And here: https://wtf406.com/2022/12/republicans-attack-abortion-rights-for-poorest-montanans/
Much like with Kortum’s bill, they’ve intentionally sent bills they don’t like to the wrong committees. Ethics, who needs em, right?
Read more here: https://wtf406.com/2023/01/in-my-opinion-republicans-skirt-rules-in-attack-on-unions/
This is only a small slice of the action so far. What is abundantly clear is that Democrats are pursuing issues important to Montanans. Republicans are pursuing an extremist agenda that diminishes our freedoms and wastes our tax dollars. You get what you vote for.
Our state has a rich and deep labor history. Individuals began joining together to collectively advocate for themselves and their workplaces years before Montana even became a state. That’s right, Montana unions and the spirit of collective action has been “Montana” even before Montana was Montana.
Fast forward to present, and Montana and its citizens are still heavily steeped in labor tradition and philosophy, even for our non-unionized neighbors. Montana is the ONLY state in the union with worker protections enshrined in our laws- one of the biggest being Montana’s wrongful termination law. Montana is the only non at-will state in the U S of A, meaning that outside of a designated probationary period, law requires the employer to have just cause for terminating an employee. Montana is truly unique and has always valued the labor and contributions of its sons and daughters through worker protections like just cause laws and the right to unionize and collectively bargain. Even after Federal and State lawmakers over the decades have made it their mission to diminish the strength of unions and therefore effectively stifle the voices of the working citizens of Montana (ya know, the people they work for), the labor movement perseveres.
OUR RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK
The 2021 Legislature saw many an anti-labor bill, but like a true David and Goliath story, Montanans came out in droves to demonstrate our love for our fellow citizens, their labor, and the best vehicle workers have to maintain a proverbial and sometimes literal seat at the table- unions. Now, make no mistake, no one thought the detractors who put millions of dollars into stifling the voices of the average worker were just going to go away. Much like a mosquito, they continue to annoy and look for any opportunistic moment to swoop in and feed on the lifeblood of our state. Oh, and by the way, they dont always play fair.
On Tuesday January 16th, 2023, the house judiciary committee will hear HB 216 (Mercer- R- HD 46). Some of the things in the bill are redundant and have already been secured at the federal level with the Janus decision, and at the state level with last sessions HB 289 (generally revise labor laws relating to employee associations- passed), others are just reintroductions of parts and pieces of bills that failed in the last session. Let’s start with the redundancies and a little back story. Section 2(2) states “A public employee may not be required to become or remain a member of, or financially support, a labor organization as a condition of obtaining or retaining public employment.” Prior to the Janus v AFSME decision issued by the US Supreme Court in 2018, unions were able to collect an agency fee from non members, which was essentially a small fee the union could charge non-members to help cover the costs of the work that they are still required to do whether the individual working in the respective collective bargaining unit chose to be a member or not. These were not dues, and the fee payer was not a member or required to be, the individual was simply paying a fair share fee for the services rendered. The Supreme Court found this to be unconstitutional (it’s not, but that’s for another day) and ordered all public service unions still charging this agency fee to stop. The TL;DR here is that Montana’s public employees were never required to join. Post Janus, they can also get a free ride on the backs of their coworkers. This was further codified last session in HB 289.
Lets now go to Section 2(3) which states “A public employee may cancel the public employee’s membership and cease financial support of a labor organization at any time”. With a superficial glance, this seems like a non-issue to some, but let’s dive into this line from a purely financial and budgetary point of view and remove the union of it all momentarily. We all have a budget to which we adhere to. We know roughly how much income we have coming in per month, and roughly how much goes out to pay for our shelter, food, etc. You rely on the income to pay your bills. If you lost a portion of your income at random intervals throughout the year, that would throw a major wrench in your short term and long term plans, goals, or simply what you need to keep your head above the proverbial water. Now let’s put this back into a union frame. Any person, business, organization, etc cannot effectively function with that amount of budgetary uncertainty. This is why unions have designated drop periods, usually based on the calendar year, but sometimes based on other things like the date you joined, etc. It’s not shady, it’s common sense.
Now on to Section 2(4), as well as several line items in Section 3:
‘A public employer may not collect dues from compensation paid to a public employee on behalf of a labor organization without the annual affirmative consent of the public employee”. I think it’s obvious by now how the process works, but for the sake of information, let’s be very clear. An employee is hired, they are given the choice to become a member, and if for whatever reason they chose to drop, they typically have a window each year in which to do so. This line and basically ALL of section 3 aim to cripple union membership by imposing unnecessary bureaucratic obstacles in the way of the freedom to choose to associate. In the most simplistic terms, this would require an individual to OPT IN every year, rather than ongoing membership with a yearly OPT OUT period. Essentially, each collective bargaining unit in every public employees union would need to recertify and defend their right to exist every year. It also inserts the employer in questionable and potentially federally illegal positions by requiring them by law to insert themselves in the union-membership business and relationship.
HB 216 is scheduled to be heard by the Judiciary Committee on Tuesday January 17th. If there is any confusion on why the Judiciary Committee is hearing a labor bill, let me break that down. First, per page 37 of the House Rules, this bill is undoubtedly in the wrong committee. Page 37 states, in part, the following:
…legislation dealing with an enumerated subject must be referred to a standing committee as follows:
Business and Labor: Alcohol regulation other than taxation… labor unions; … workers’ compensation.
State Administration: Administrative rules; … state employees; state employee benefits; … voting.
So why is it being heard in the wrong committee? Well, because it’s more likely to pass in Judiciary than either of the appropriate committees. Slick, right?
So what can we do to hold our legislators accountable to follow the rules and take the proper channels to do their legislating? Tomorrow, Monday January 16th, 2023 during the 1 PM house floor session, there will be a motion to refer HB 216 to the appropriate committee. Make your voice heard by contacting your legislator and asking them to support the motion to refer BEFORE 1 PM on Monday January 16th.
Submit testimony here: https://leg.mt.gov/public-testimony/
You can read the bill here
Utility Slug – noun- Politicians and lobbyists who routinely advocate for the interests of monopoly utilities and their stockholders over the interests of small customers and consumers. Synonyms: corporate hack, sell out, shill, swindler
Senator Steve Fitzpatrick has a long history of carrying water for NorthWestern Energy in the Legislature. This session he is starting right out of the gate with an effort to muzzle the office that represents consumers in utility rate cases. Details are here: https://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/legislators-attempting-to-muzzle-state-consumer-advocate/article_59f6012a-7a84-11ed-a3b0-cfc3799411b4.html
But first, a little history
What is really happening here has a lot to do with the Colstrip plants in Eastern Montana. These plants were built around 50 years ago by a consortium of utility corporations located in the Northwest. For years, the Montana Power Company operated and took a share of the power from the plants and made sure that the “Colstrip Partners” were getting their share of the output.
The old Montana Power Company went bankrupt after it was “deregulated” by Republicans in the legislature and the Racicot Administration. After a long period of economic upheaval NorthWestern Energy emerged from the ashes of the deregulation and took on a large (expensive) chunk of power from the Colstrip complex as well as assuming responsibility for operating the plants.
Everybody knows coal power is a bad deal—except the Montana legislature
Today coal has become a marginal and very costly source of power. Part of that is associated with the realization that coal is a major source of green house gasses and continuing to burn it is, well. . .suicidal. More importantly, the increasing availability of renewable power that is much more efficient than burning coal as well as advances in “fracking” technology that has increased our supply of natural gas has left coal as the least desirable and most expensive source of energy out there. Today there is no market for coal plants or the power they produce. On top of that, the plants also carry significant liability for environmental clean up.
Most of the Colstrip partners have accepted that getting out of the Colstrip mess was going to be expensive, but that it was better to get out of the deal, accept the losses, and move on. But NorthWestern has been slow to make a similar conclusion. Through the PSC and in the legislature, NorthWestern Energy has been trying one way or another to put the public on the hook both for buying expensive and dirty coal power and for the clean-up that will come. (Odd fact— the town of Colstrip already has to pipe water from 30 miles away because it’s wells have been contaminated by the Colstrip plants.) Most of those efforts have been thwarted by a constitutionally-created agency called the Montana Consumer Counsel, which was created by the Montana Constitution to represent consumers in the legal arena and in the legislature.
Meanwhile, back to Fitpatrick’s schemes
Fast forward to Steve Fitzpatrick and his legislative shenanigans. (Another Odd fact—Fitpatrick’s father, John Fitzpatrick, is a long time lobbyist for NorthWestern Energy and just got elected to the Montana House of Representatives.) In the last session of the legislature, Fitzpatrick introduced a bill which prohibited the Consumer Counsel from taking positions on bills without the permission of the Legislative Consumer Committee. That bill failed . . .thankfully.
Now Steve Fitzpatrick is the chairman of the senate rules committee. And lo and behold, Fitzpatrick is proposing a legislative rule to require the Montana Consumer Counsel to get permission from the Legislative Consumer Committee — which Fitzpatrick has more ability to control — before taking a position on any legislation. If Fitzpatrick and his pals at Northwestern Energy succeed, Montana consumers will be paying for these old, dirty coal plants for decades into the future.