Another week has come and gone already.
Feel free to comment on anything that’s happened.
Another week has come and gone already.
Feel free to comment on anything that’s happened.
I still think the legislature will adjourn on Thursday or Friday, but perhaps even sooner. There’s not much to do anymore.
Well...there are some bills and resolutions still, and I figured I’d better give you and the legislators some info on them.
In fact, 27 items will have hearings today.
Let’s get into a few of them.
The bill is SB 265 and you can read it here. Most legislators aren’t going to read it because it’s 63-pages long.
The TV news stations have stories on it, like KPAX put up yesterday.
I also went ahead and talked to the manager of a medical marijuana dispensary myself to learn more.
This is what I’ve figured out.
The current bill to retool the medical marijuana industry in Montana has very good intentions, but it will create so many problems that Republican legislators will try to get rid of the program again.
Let me give you some reasons why.
First, the bill will reduce the amount of marijuana a patient can get by 60% each month, which will enlarge our black market for marijuana here. Currently a patient can get 30 ounces a month, but that will be lowered to 5 ounces. For comparison, a pack of cigarettes has an ounce of tobacco in it.
The reason this is important is because severe pain patients, severe PTSD patients, and those with advanced forms of cancer will go through more than five ounces a month. When they do, they can’t get marijuana legally and will turn to the black market. This is not what legislators envisioned with the program.
Next, patients will be untethered from their providers. The manager at the dispensary said to me, “If they’re going to do that, why not just go full legalization?” She has a point. When untethering takes place, all the patients that can only go to one dispensary will now have the option of going to any dispensary in the state. Dispensaries will have to ramp-up their advertising to attract patients, and Republicans won’t like this, and will seek to limit or do away with the program.
Then, there’s the issue of telemedicine. Some don’t like the idea of patients getting their renewal card over the phone, but it’s been happening in Montana already for at least two years.
I sure hope the Senate votes this bill down and keeps the medical marijuana program in Montana in place as it is now.
We all know marijuana will be legalized in Montana in 2020 anyways, with full implementation of that going into effect by the summer of 2021.
God, the state desperately needs the tax revenue that’ll produce!
Moving on to porn.
The 3-page porn bill making its way through the legislature lacks vigor, and I feel it’s performance will leave us wanting.
The bill is actually quite turgid, when you read it. It’s full of suggestions, but little in the way of action or follow-through.
In fact, the bill has 2 pages telling us the ‘evils’ of porn, and then it gives us one page of suggestions.
Here are those suggestions:
In other words, this bill does absolutely nothing. Well, it does employ the Streisand Effect to bring more attention to porn than would otherwise have been paid.
Mostly, this bill succeeded in wasting dozens of reams of paper. If it passes, nothing in the state will change.
You’ll hear more about this today at 3 PM when the legislature takes it up.
Constituent Service Accounts
This is a 5-page bill that has its hearing today.
Mostly, it says legislators can have $4,000 for their constituent accounts, maybe less if their district is smaller.
It says what they can spend that money on and what they can’t.
I don’t have enough information on this bill to tell you more. Our corporate media in the state has ignored the bill.
Meat Inspection Laws
This 2-page resolution will be heard today. The study is supposed to finish by 2020 and give its report to the 2021 Legislature.
I feel this resolution was introduced because of the problems that a Missoula butcher experienced last year.
I suspect this resolution will pass, and easily so.
There’s a 7-page bill to study passenger transportation options in Montana.
It’ll also be heard today, with findings coming in 2020 if passed.
I doubt the legislature really cares one iota about passengers in Montana, as most of them are poor and vote Democratic.
The one-page resolution to study whether we should appoint PSC members instead of electing them will be heard today.
I think this is a terrible idea, aside from looking at their salaries, which should be lowered. Most of the PSC members don’t show up to work now.
I doubt that aspect will be studied, however.
I do feel confident that going forward, the PSC will care more about corporations than you and your family, and no amount of legislation will change that.
Making Healthcare Affordable
Tom Winter has a 2-page resolution to study how to make healthcare less expensive.
I think this is a great idea, but since Winter is running for Congress, it’ll probably be voted down.
Also, I think we know the main problem as to why healthcare is so expensive in this country. In fact, God warned us about it:
There’s a 2-page resolution to study bullying in Montana, and I hope it passes.
The resolution seeks to get input from “the Office of Public Instruction, the Board of Public Education, the Department of Public Health and Human Services, school counselors and psychologists, school resource officers, representatives from the youth court system, and appropriate K-12 education stakeholders.”
A Republican introduced this resolution.
I find that interesting, as Republicans are the ones that seek to cut funding for school counselors and psychologists, school resource officers, representatives from the youth court system, and appropriate K-12 education stakeholders.
Most of the rest of the stuff on the agenda for today and the rest of the session is just interim studies, approving governor’s appointments, and perhaps a bit on infrastructure...though I think that’s mostly done.
Thanks for reading.
First of all, I’d encourage you to check out RD. They’ve had some really good articles up this week.
Now, the legislature and a bit more.
Health and Power
I think the legislature will adjourn this week, probably Thursday or Friday. Whether healthcare or Colstrip will pass by then remains to be seen.
The whole thing with Colstrip right now is that Northwestern Energy wants the legislature to allow it to buy more generating capacity at the current Colstrip power generating plants, as well as give it access to a new power line to transmit that energy.
The PSC now will have oversight on this issue, as that language was added into the bill on Friday. This means that if Colstrip is closed down, the costs won’t be passed on to power customers like you and I without PSC oversight first, though I bet the costs will still be passed on anyways.
When it comes to healthcare expansion, we know the program will cost the state $700 million a year.
That might sound like a lot, but the state’s total budget expenditures in 2016 were $6.4 billion, meaning healthcare will only represent 11% of the state’s spending.
For comparison, in 2015 the state spent 26% of its budget on education-related expenses, over 17% on Medicaid expenses, and about 12% on transportation expenses.
Another way to look at it is that just over 2,200 people live in Colstrip and 96,000 people rely on healthcare expansion. Dems would say that those getting healthcare are more important.
Republicans might counter by saying that 718,000 people in Montana rely on Northwestern Energy to get their power, and that saving Colstrip will ensure they keep getting it, and at affordable rates.
Politics, politics, politics.
I think it’s obvious what’s going to happen next week:
U.S. House ‘Candidates’
Tom Winter still hasn’t filed to run for the U.S. House of Representatives, or if he has, the FEC hasn’t completed his paperwork yet.
Kathleen Williams hasn’t filed, either.
Neither has Greg Gianforte, or Matt Rosendale.
The only one I suspect will file will be Williams.
Tom Winter doesn’t have a chance at this race with her in it, and if he does decide to run and stick it out, he’ll be unable to run again for the legislature...or any other office.
So when he inevitably loses in the primary to Williams, he’ll have to sit out for at least two years before he can run for something else (1 year if he goes for city council again).
If Winter does go for congress and loses, he’ll effectively give up his spot in line here in Missoula.
You see, there are so many Democrats here that want to serve in the legislature that the primary races in June are all that matter - Republicans rarely win a general election race here.
When Winter steps out of the rotation, he’ll signal to other up-and-comers that his legislative seat is now open and lots of people will file to run for it. There are no open Missoula senate seats for Winter to jump up to either.
Smart move? Stay where you are.
Gianforte and Rosendale have the same problems that Winter has - the filing.
If Gianforte files for governor, he can’t file for congress again. If he then loses the governor’s race, he’s out and will have to wait another two years before he can run for anything again, maybe even four. That’s a helluva gamble, and it’s a big reason why Gianforte is putting a lot of thought into this decision.
I feel confident he won’t let his intentions be known until Bullock reveals his, which should happen in another week or two.
The safe bet is for Gianforte to stay in Congress, but I’m not sure he wants to spend another four years there before he can run for something else. Also, if Fox wins the governor’s race, Gianforte running for that office in 2024 simply won’t be a viable option. He'll be 58 next year, and 66 in 2028. Running for governor at that age is doable, but is it worth it?
Some think that Gianforte would win in a gubernatorial primary against Fox, but I’m not so sure. If Gianforte does go against him, we’ll see the moderate vs. the whacko wing of the GOP go at it. I think the moderates will win, not because they disagree with the whackos so much as they fear Gianforte’s money.
With Gianforte and his money in a race, no one else really stands a chance at beating him in the primary. Republicans know this, and after four years of seeing it in action across three separate races, they’re beginning to bristle.
It’ll take all of Fox’s political acumen to pull his caucus together to defeat Gianforte and force him from Montana politics once and for all.
It’d be a battle for the ages, and I’m not sure Fox has it in him.
Fox will be 62 next year. If he does lose the gubernatorial primary, his political career in Montana is effectively over.
If Gianforte does step down, Rosendale will go for congress again, but with the added risk that this time he’ll lose his Auditor position if he loses the race. The reason is simple - you can’t file to run for two offices at the same time.
I don’t think Kathleen Williams will do any better against him than she did against Gianforte, so maybe the risk isn’t that great.
I don’t think anything in Montana will really affect the outcome of that race. What happens with the national economy could have a big impact, however. If Dems put up a winning candidate for president in 2020, Williams could get enough turnout support to push her over the top. Currently, those are big unknowns.
My advice is for Winter to stay in the legislature and Gianforte stay in Congress. There are too many unknowns to do anything else.
What is Hanna’s Act Going to Solve?
Indians in Montana often live in wretched conditions, with 34% of the population in poverty.
Sadly, most of the Indians living in poverty choose to live that way. I have a feeling this is why so many go missing...for whatever reasons - the poverty kills them in some way.
Sometimes they don’t die, they just go missing. For concerned family members, this is usually heartbreaking and the wounds last years longer than if the person had been found dead.
No one knows why Indian women go missing at a much higher rate than other women. I suspect many are sold into the U.S. slave trade.
We currently have 403,000 slaves in this country. We don’t know how many are sex slaves, but 5,600 suspected cases were reported in 2016.
When it comes to the young missing Indian girls - like Jermain Charlo, who’s been missing from Missoula for 10 months - I think they’re forced into the sex trade.
Someone kidnapped her late at night when she was walking and sold her into slavery. Could even have been someone she knew, someone she trusted.
That’s why we have Hanna’s Act making its way through the legislature, to try and find these missing women, and prevent others from suffering the same fate.
Still, there are ulterior motives here. Democrats in the legislature really want to get Hanna’s Act passed because they think it’ll help Indians.
Democrats focus on helping Indians because they think if they do so, Indians will vote for them. It’s why Dems only visit the reservations around election time.
Sadly, the only people that can help Indians are Indians themselves.
Personally, I think it’s because the Indian community has so many problems and they just keep living with these problems instead of trying to fix them.
Most of the fixes required would in turn require Indians to change how they live, and most of them simply don’t want to do this.
I’m talking about drugs and alcohol and poverty.
Many times Indians will blame others for these problems, but they should really blame themselves. Sometimes they even use their race, trying to get sympathy.
Pal, I don’t give a shit what your race is - I’m gonna call you out if you can’t get your shit together.
You’re doing this.
It’s because of those three main issues - drugs and alcohol and joblessness - that Indians have so many problems, and that in turn leads to them going missing.
Sometimes it’s just them trying to run away from their problems, like the 14-year-old girl that ran away last night in Polson before being found this morning. No one knows yet what happened to the 15-year-old girl that ran away on Wednesday.
A good place to start would be with the girl’s family...if she has any that are in her life in a positive way.
Maybe they know why she went missing. Perhaps they’re the reason why.
I suspect she’ll go missing long-term like so many others have, 2,700 in the U.S. and Canada.
And trust me - some bill with $205,000 in funding here in Montana isn’t going to get those 2,700 missing Indians back, nor is it going to prevent others from going missing.
The only thing that will prevent other missing Indians is if the Indian community takes a hard look at itself, stops blaming others for their problems, and makes the necessary changes to become productive members in 21st-century society.
Family bonds will strengthen, school performance will improve, employment will go up, and so will quality of life.
But I don’t think this will happen.
What I do think will happen is that Indians will keep blaming everyone else but themselves for their problems. Then they’ll wonder why their problems don’t go away.
Anyone that brings this up has a good chance of being called a racist.
Meanwhile Indians will keep disappearing.
The legislature seems like it’ll pass a bill making it a crime to share embarrassing photos of seniors. I’m fine with this, but I’d like them to also ban using mugshot photos for profit, as our newspapers do each and every month even though not a single one of those individuals was convicted of a crime.
It’s funny - Lee Enterprises will plaster your photo up and embarrass you when you’re innocent, but when our judicial system has run its course and you are finally convicted of the crime that got you that mugshot, Lee Enterprises will neither run the photo or even a story about the case.
For our newspapers in Montana, the stories and the people and the final outcomes aren’t important. Just profits.
And the profits aren’t what they used to be.
Currently Lee has 42 daily newspapers across 50 markets in 20 states, with another 300 specialty publications. A year ago that would have been 301, but Lee closed down the Missoula Independent. Workers found out when their keys would no longer work in the locks.
If we add up all the revenue those 342 publications bring Lee, we find out it’s $536 million, or $1.56 million per paper.
The last twelve months of revenue ending December 2018 was $536.4 million, compared with the earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization revenue (EBITDA) was $128.4 million.
That’s a big difference, $408 million to be exact.
The largest paper in the country, the New York Times, has an EBITDA of $231.5 million off of net revenues of $1.73 billion.
By comparing those two companies in the same industry, we can see quite clearly that the newspaper business is not that profitable.
Oh, you make profits...but the lion’s share of them are eaten up by non-operating costs like interest, taxes and depreciation.
Here in Montana, local advertising makes up 44% of Lee’s profits, while subscriptions account for another 36%. Digital advertising only accounts for 33% of total advertising revenue.
These falling ad revenues are a big reason why Kathy Best, the editor of the Missoulian, just left.
“Newsrooms have been hollowed out by the loss of print advertising revenue, and digital advertising isn’t making up for it,” Best said.
When revenues aren’t matching costs, you have the problems we see now with Lee: costs are cut, which diminishes quality content.
This despite 29 million unique visitors to their various news websites, which represents a 17% increase over the previous year. In fact, digital-only subscribers to Lee Enterprises papers have gone up 60% over the past year but they’re still losing money when compared with the old model of print advertising.
All of this has led to a 5.3% decrease in operating revenue for Lee so far this year. The main culprits were a 4% drop in subscriptions coupled with a 2% drop in advertising revenues.
The powers-that-be are noticing.
“Against this backdrop, Lee Enterprises is under attack from Carlo Cannell and his Wyoming-based Cannell Capital. He is urging shareholders to vote against incumbent board members, including chairman Mary Junck.
His complaints are familiar: Lee dramatically overpaid for the Post-Dispatch, Junck has earned more than $40 million of compensation since 2002 despite the company’s free fall, and the current board of directors has a friends-and-family vibe.”
You’ll find more in this article from February.
I suspect we’ll see more workers leave Lee Enterprises newspapers in Montana over the coming year. The company already cut staff by 9% over the past year.
Update: I saw this image on Twitter this afternoon, and just had to share it:
That image was sent out by Great Falls' Casey Schreiner. It's him speaking at a MDLCC event where he talked "about the importance of electing more Democrats up and down the ballot."
I think that is important, too...but I can tell from the number of people in that room that few others care. Most of the people that are there are fellow Democratic legislators or staff of the MT Democratic Party.
That's sad, as today we saw that we need more Democrats in the legislature if poor people want a chance. Right now we don't know if healthcare will pass again, and that'll have a big impact on our state.
Sadly, Democrats and their message is so boring and so off-putting that few want to hear it. Schreiner's image makes that painfully clear.
I wish Democrats in Montana would make politics exciting.
Until then, they'll have to settle for near-empty rooms.
Anyways, it's another Friday.
What’s happened around the Treasure State and around the country this week?
I’m sure the rich have enriched themselves a bit more at our expense. Lots of issues have probably been swept under the rug. And those running for office in 2020 have most likely raised a bunch of money off false promises that they’ll help you and I.
Yep, business as usual!
Care to comment on any of it? Be my guest.
The word is out that Raph Graybill might be running for AG soon.
Who the hell’s Raph Graybill, you ask?
It’s a good question - I had no idea until I began writing this article. Most in Montana have never heard of him, either.
But his family has some history, and it seems he’s being talked-up as a more establishment pick for AG than the currently declared Dem candidate, Kim Dudik.
Let’s get into the family history, a bit on Raph, and the AG race in general.
As far as I can tell, the Graybill family really got their start in Montana in 1924 when Leo Graybill was born in Great Falls.
He served in the Navy in WWII, then went to Yale and got a BA before attending the school’s law school, where he got a JD in 1950. He’d get the same from UM two years later, and got admitted to the state bar that same year.
At some point he helped start the firm Graybill, Ostrem, Warner & Crotty in Great Falls. His biggest claim to fame, however, was serving as the president of the Montana Constitutional Convention in 1972. You can read his foreward to the Convention here.
Leo’s son was Turner Graybill, who was born in Great Falls in 1953.
He also attended Yale, getting a BA there in 1975 and a JD three years later. After that he was a teaching assistant at Harvard for a year.
Turner Graybill practiced law in Massachusetts, Montana and California.
It was while attending Yale that Turner met his future wife, Jessica Crist. The two were married and soon had two children Rhiannon and Raphael. They decided to move back to Montana, mostly so Turner could focus on politics.
But it wasn’t meant to be. Turner developed a brain tumor and Jessica had to spend most of her time taking care of him and the kids. She was still able to rise in her career, which was serving in the Lutheran Church.
She now serves as the Bishop of the Montana Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church.
I believe it was in 1988 or 1989 that Raph was born.
He grew up in Great Falls but didn’t hit the media’s radar until Obama was running for president.
In 2008, when Raph was just 19-years-old, he became a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. His father had done the same in 1972 at the exact same age.
The Montana Democratic Party chose him as a delegate that year, indicating they either had an eye on him as an influential member of their Party going forward, or that they wanted to recognized all that his dad had done for the state.
Still, he did have to beat out 8 others in his county to get the spot, and then “10 to 15” more at the state convention. Either way, he attended the convention in Denver that year and cast his vote for Obama.
He finished out 2008 by working on several legislative and statewide elections.
A year later he was serving as a volunteer with New York’s auxiliary police while he studied political science at Columbia University. He also worked with the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on health-related legislation.
The next year he was off to England, as he’d been just one of thirty-two Americans that had earned a Rhodes Scholarship in 2010. He got a Master of Philosophy there, and then followed the family tradition of attending Yale, where he got his JD.
He worked as a law clerk with the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit for a year in 2015, then did a year at Susman Godfrey. Then in 2017 he became the chief legal counsel for Governor Bullock.
And that’s all I know.
Well...that’s not true - I know that no one has ever heard of this guy and then all of a sudden I’m hearing his name crop up as a possible 2020 statewide contender this week.
Accident? I don’t think so.
Two days ago the heavily-Democratic Montana Post put up favorable article about Raph Graybill and his efforts to get rid of dark money.
Raph was mentioned six times in the article, often with glowing language like so:
“In 2018, Bullock and Graybill wrote the first-in-the-nation dark money executive order requiring government contractors to disclose secret spending. Then they sued the IRS over its decision to shield dark money donors from disclosure. This is something the Montana Attorney General’s Office should have done but refused to sue the feds and defend Montanans.”
It’s pretty clear to me that the ‘powers-that-be’ in Montana Dem politics want Raph to run for something, and that something is likely AG.
He certainly has the education for it, and he has the Montana family connections, too.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens.
The most recent round of financial reports runs from January 1 to April 1 of this year.
Fox’s report is very large, with pages and pages of donors and then a few pages at then end listing his expenditures.
For longtime readers of this site, the reason I don’t give you the exact page count is because the state doesn’t process their reports the same way the FEC does, with page numbers.
One of the things I notice right away is that Fox probably doesn’t have to worry about a general election opponent.
He’s raised just under $70,000 for the general while he has almost $142,000 for the primary. There are currently no Democrats running for governor.
Just two PACs donated to Fox this cycle - BNSF Railway PAC gave $680 and the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors also gave $680.
Here are some of the individual donors that stood out to me:
Big names in business and state government there. Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize most of them.
For a lot of these people, it’s angling to get a spot in Fox’s cabinet or some other cushy state gig.
That’s probably why people like Geraldine Custer and Russ Fag and Tom Richmond are giving so much.
In fact, most of the donors I listed gave $680.
I’m also ashamed of how many of Fox’s donors are skirting our campaign finance laws.
For instance, the owners of Town Pump - Dan, James, Matt and Kevin Kenneally - had their student children give $680 each to Fox. These would be Emilee and Eric and Meghann.
Hey, maybe they are in college and maybe that was their own money that they earned from their minimum wage jobs and just couldn’t wait to give to a politician more than twice their age...but I doubt it.
In fact, when you add up all the money that people with the last name Kenneally gave to Fox, you find out it’s 26 donations totalling $17,680.
That’s how rich Montanans buy Montana elections. They do it by donating twice (primary and general) and then giving everyone else in their family money to donate, too.
Lots of influence there...a helluva lot more than you and I have.
When it comes to Fox’s spending, most of the big ticket items were purchased with out-of-state firms.
This continues the trend in both the Democratic and Republican Parties of spending most of their donations not with Montana companies, but with companies that will create jobs in other states.
Examples of this include the $3,600 for 1,400 mailers from a Virginia company.
That was Fox’s largest expenditure. Most of the rest of his money was spent on accounting and compliance work with a Helena firm.
Since so many are interested in what Gianforte is going to do, I figured I'd mention that he has $31,000 left in the bank from his 2018 run, as well as $500,000 in debts.
Well, since we’re here today, let’s go ahead and dig into some other reports while we’re at it.
Kim Dudik has raised about $5,100 for her AG race, and she has about $3,900 of that left in the bank.
She’s not expecting a primary opponent, as she’s not allocated any money to the primary, just the general.
About $400 of her donations are personal loans.
Here are some other donors:
Most of those people are legislators or former legislators. Dudik will need a lot more support if she has a shot at this race.
I don’t think she’ll get a lot more support, however, as Democrats in Montana view Dudik as too far to the right on many issues. Her insistence on working with Republicans over the last few years to get issues into the news and to turn legislation into policy doesn’t help. Her past work with Tim Fox on issues like human trafficking doesn’t help.
Montana Democrats aren’t going to cozy-up to this campaign. I have a feeling they’ve already written this race off.
And when you dig into Jon Bennion’s reports for AG, you see why.
The guy’s raised over $50,000 for the primary so far, and he has $47,000 of that left. For the general he has an extra $19,000 more.
I’m not going to get into the donors, but I do notice a lot of big names giving to him. Many legislators that didn’t give to Fox are giving to Bennion. I also see the Galts giving him money.
He hasn’t spent a lot yet, and what he has spent has mostly been in Montana.
I suspect Democrats in Montana will mostly ignore Bennion, though they may come to regret this in later years.
Scott Sales didn’t file a report for his Secretary of State run, which tells me he hasn’t raised any money yet.
Corey Stapleton’s most recent report has him with $52,000 cash in the bank for the gubernatorial primary, and another $7,500 for the general. He raised nearly $22,000 this year so far while spending about $5,500.
Stapleton took $340 from the Charter PAC.
There are a lot of donors, but none of the names really stood out to me. I did notice that many of his donations are coming from Billings, however, 33 in total to be exact...though many are from the same people (primary and general) and their spouses.
For comparison, this cycle he had 16 donors from Helena, 10 from Great Falls, 7 from Bozeman, and 1 from Kalispell,
Gary Perry is also running for governor. The former Montana Senator was term-limited out in 2010.
He has no financial reports on file, telling me he hasn’t raised or spent any money yet.
Finally for governor we have Peter Ziehli. He’s raised $337 for the primary and has $102 of that leftover.
As far as I can tell, he loaned his campaign that money. On his report, Ziehli lists his occupation as a student.
Thanks for visiting Big Sky Words.
Feel free to comment on any recent stories happening across Montana.
I’m in a writing mood today, so I thought I’d venture out into the internet to see some lost stories we might have missed.
I’ll also give you some new insight into stories that are big in the local media today.
Let’s get started.
Uncle Joe’s Happy Hands
It’ll be fun to watch how Democrats reconcile Joe Biden’s touchy-feely approach with their own embrasure of the #MeTooMovement.
We already see Nancy Pelosi saying Joe’s touch-based approach doesn’t disqualify him for a presidential run, but that he should respect people’s personal spaces.
Mostly, Joe Biden is from a different generation.
The touch-based approach is accepted by a lot of the older Baby Boomers. I remember as a kid in Helena Middle School, lots of teachers would come up behind you and put their hands on your shoulders as they asked you a question or whatnot.
Some would comment on this, saying it’s their approach and to mention if you feel uncomfortable.
I just don’t think it’s a huge big deal, and I don’t think it’ll be an issue for Biden.
But we said the same thing when the Al Franken news first broke. I suspect more women will come forward with their own ‘happy-hands’ Biden stories.
If they’re the same as the stories we’re heard now, this will blow over and Biden will have a good shot at winning a lot of primaries.
If the stories have more to them, then Uncle Joe might be done as a public figure.
2020 and the Money
How’s the money game in the 2020 presidential race, so far?
Well, Bernie Sanders has $18.2 million so far, while Kamala Harris has $12 million. Whoever the hell this guy Buttigieg is has $7 million.
Pocahontas only has $300,000. Trump pretty much did her in after she did herself in.
Bernie has more cash on hand than he’s raised, due to his 2016 run. He has $28 million in the bank right now, compared to the $19 million Trump has in the bank (Trump had raised almost $70 million by the end of 2018, but he’s spending it like a drunken sailor...mostly on rallies).
We’ll see how things shape up as spring turns to summer.
And don’t make up your mind yet - we still have 581 days until the 2020 election.
Who Thinks Winter Has a Chance?
Tom Winter is now running for the U.S. House.
Gosh, didn’t he just run for Missoula City Council in 2017? Yes - he came in third in a three-way race, getting 576 votes to the winner’s 1,923.
Then he ran for the legislature in 2018, and he won that one - 2,869 to 2,829.
The big thing with Winter getting into the legislature is that he knocked out Adam Hertz to get there.
Adam is the son of Greg Hertz, who will likely be on a statewide ticket next year...I’m thinking lieutenant governor.
Anyways, Adam Hertz had gotten into the legislature from the Missoula City Council by beating Andrew Person, someone that the Dems thought would be a good candidate for them for years.
Turns out Winter was the one they should have looked at.
It’ll be interesting to see how he does in this congressional race. He’s smart to get in early.
Actually...he just needs to get in. Currently the FEC has nothing on him, which tells me he either hasn’t filed with them yet, or they haven’t processed his paperwork.
It’s pretty easy to do the paperwork. I did it last year and just sent it to them in the mail. The finance reporting work will be harder, and that’s why Winter will likely get a campaign treasurer, probably after the legislative session is over.
His auditor last time was Barbara Berens, who served as the county’s auditor for 16 years.
For his city council run, he raised over $4,000 but lost. When he ran for the legislature the next year, he carried over the $3,800 he had left over, then raised an additional $20,800 and won.
Most of his donations came between June and October, and groups like the Big Sky Democrats, Missoula County Democrats, and the Treasure State PAC all donated.
Most of Missoula’s legislators and those associated with the money the city doles out donated to him. Here are some others:
Those are big names, and that signals to me that he could have a major showing in the primary.
Another way to look at it is...hey, here are a bunch of people that couldn’t win a statewide office if their life depended on it encouraging someone to run for statewide office.
Well, Pam Bucy is the sole exception there.
I guess it really depends on who else jumps in.
Personally, I think he could win the primary if a bigger name doesn’t step up.
But he might be the one the brass wants. It sure seems that way from previous donors. And I doubt he just came up with this idea on his own. Someone in Helena prodded him to run.
Sadly, I think he’ll lose the general and he’ll lose big. I think Matt Rosendale will win this seat with ease. I fully expect Gianforte to announce he’ll run for governor again shortly after Bullock announces he’ll run for president, probably a month from now.
But long-term, Winter losing this race could be a win.
The guy’s only 32-year-old, and now he’ll have a long future in Montana politics. I mean, he can now run for a legislative senate seat in 2022, or even a statewide office in 2024.
Hell, months from now he could realize he doesn’t have a shot at Congress, which will still give him time to switch to a statewide office or PSC position. Or he could go back to his legislative seat, but I don’t think he will.
There will be lots of musical chairs before the March filing deadline, trust me.
He’ll have a lot of name recognition by then, and probably a lot of money in the bank.
Of course, he could stay in the House race, too. He could also turn into a John Lewis, Kim Gillan, Dennis McDonald, or John Driscoll.
They ran in the 2008-2014 U.S. House races, in case you’ve forgotten who they were.
A big reason for this is we never knew who they were in the first place. Politicians are terrible at letting us know who they are anytime other than when they want our money and our votes.
It’s why few have websites of value. Barely any will write out their thoughts each day like I do for you on this site. Most are too scared to do that, thinking the opposition will go after them.
Winter had a site up for his city council run, and like most politician sites, it has few ideas besides the usual stale talking points.
There’s certainly nothing to get excited about.
But I could be wrong - 55% of Americans say that health care concerns top their worry-list, and Winter is poised to make that his main issue.
He does have some initiative, as he has 23 introduced bills in the legislature this year. Chances are good you thought he only had one - the bill to legalize pot.
And he has initiative to run. Dems in Montana need a lot more young men and women with initiative, desperately so.
Currently they don’t have that many, and it’s why we have Dems of yesteryear coming out of the woodwork, thinking they have a shot at some statewides next year (John Morrison, anyone?).
I hope Winter enjoys his big day today. He won’t have many more like it. The media will forget about him, and donors probably won’t take notice for a long time, if they do at all. It’ll be a long, uphill slog after this.
But he’s run before and knows this. He even has a fake Twitter account up, mocking him. Clearly, people knew this man was a threat to them before he even announced today.
I wish him luck.
If the election were today, I’d vote for him. He had me with his common sense stance on pot.
We’ll see how the rest of the state feels. Like I said, it’ll be a long, uphill battle to win that nomination 437 days from now.
Okay for K?
I saw in the news that Don K up in the Flathead is donating $10,000 to a backpack organization.
I sure hope someone recruits him to run for the legislature again, like in 2016.
Back then, he went against Keith Regier in the SD 3 primary, losing by 97 votes.
I’d rather have Don K in the legislature, as I think he’d be more moderate, which is good for Montana’s future.
It’ll be interesting to see how the radicals chew up the moderates when the session is over. I know they already have a hit list, and that means they’ll be trying to primary the moderates.
It’s hard for the moderates to fight back against that. They don’t have a lot of support, and they don’t really want Dem support.
Rock and a hard place territory, there.
The Cruz Rule
Keep your eye on what Texas’ Ted Cruz is doing.
Right now he’s suing the FEC to try and allow candidates like himself to raise more than the $250,000 allowed from donors that can then be used to repay your own election debts.
This is big for Cruz, as the current law allows $250,00 but he had $260,000 in debt from his last run.
Mostly, if this rule change is allowed, rich people can give more money to candidates and you and I will have even less influence in our elections.
For that reason, I’m sure the lawsuit will win and people like you and I will get screwed even more.
Think the corporate media will notice?
Researchers in the UK tested 100 turtles across three different oceans and found that 100% of them had plastic in their stomach.
Lots of people are pissed about this, but they still keep using plastic products.
Still, many are set to protest over the condition of our planet.
The Ecocide Rebellion is set to begin in world capitals across the world on April 15, culminating in Earth Day events the following Monday, April 22.
I doubt many will notice, mostly because the corporate media will pay scant attention to it, if they mention it at all.
On March 27 we got an inverted yield curve.
What this means is that the relationship between interest rates and the duration of a loan is off.
On that day, the interest rate on a 3-month treasury bill was 2.43%, but the rate on a 10-year treasury bond was 2.38%, or 0.05% lower.
Historically, inversions like this have been an early indication that a recession is coming.
In fact, they’ve predicted all nine recessions we’ve had since 1955.
Should you be concerned?
Well, yes and no. I don’t think the markets will crash tomorrow, but chances are good you could save a little more, spend less, and diversify your assets so when the next recession does come, you’ll be ready.
Most Americans don’t have $500 saved up, and they’ll be in a world of hurt when the next one does hit.
Don’t be like them.
The Williams Rally
Kathleen is holding a kickoff rally at the Yellowstone County Courthouse in Billings this Friday afternoon at 4:30.
What is she running for?
Her fundraising email didn’t say. We do know she has $37,000 in cash still from her last run.
It’s officially called the Kathleen for Montana 2020 Kickoff Rally. Daily Kos had the news on Twitter.
Some figure she’s going for governor or that she’s going to try and unseat Daines.
I think she’ll do damn-well in the primary for either contest, but I feel the general will be a hurdle.
Maybe she’ll go for House again, at which point I think Winter will have to back down. Perhaps that’s why he came out with the news today, though he’s had his official site up for a bit, it seems.
Not to be outdone, Al Olszewski has a statewide campaign kickoff just after noon on the Capitol steps tomorrow. Which office? Great question!
Oh, the dominoes are falling! I can’t wait to see what’ll happen next.
The Missoula Chamber of Commerce wants more people to open early childcare businesses.
They know that the current system doesn’t work.
It costs so much that it’s actually cheaper to just have one parent stay home and not work and watch the kids.
Missoula businesses don’t like this, as they feel it makes it harder to find qualified workers.
Despite that, Missoula businesses have no plans to increase their near-poverty-level wages so parents could make childcare a bit more affordable.
And boy, is it unaffordable!
Right now it costs $820 a month to send an infant to a preschool, and $700 a month if the child is 1- to 3-years-old.
That comes out to $9,840 and $8,400 a year, respectively.
Let’s add rent to that.
We know that the average cost to rent a 1-bedroom apartment in Missoula is now $581 a month, while a 3-bedroom will cost you $1,136 a month.
That comes out to $6,972 and $13,632, respectively.
So to live and work in Missoula if you have a young child will cost you anywhere between $16,812 and $22,000 a year.
That’s if you’re just living and working here, not eating.
Yeah, we better not get into the cost of food, transportation, healthcare, and the rare chance that you might be able to go out to a restaurant or see a movie...if you have any money left over.
As you can imagine, it’s awfully hard for most working families to live in Missoula.
In fact, the local Chamber of Commerce figures that Missoula families are coming up $16,000 short each year when it comes to the cost of covering childcare, rent, and other needs.
Sure is a problem, huh?
That’s why today I’d like to talk about our early childhood education problem in Missoula, and across the state and the country.
I don’t have a lot of answers.
I do have a lot of research on what others cities and states are doing, however, and that might give us some insight into our own problem.
The Costs of Preschool
In 2018 the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine released a report on how to finance early childhood education.
They pegged the cost of sending a child to a preschool “that has ample, safe facilities, a developmentally appropriate curriculum and well-paid teachers, at about $13,655 per child per year for full-time, full-year preschool.”
Few families could afford that amount, and few can afford the amounts they’re charged now.
Around the country, the price of daycare is out of control.
We know that families pay, on average, 20% of their income for early childhood care.
In 2016 the average cost to send a kid to preschool in America was $7,053 a year.
For comparison’s sake, the average cost for a 4-year public college runs $9,410.
How Preschool Staff are Paid
Despite the high costs to send a child to preschool, we know that child care workers don’t make any money.
Nationally in 2016 a child care worker’s median hourly wage was $10.16 an hour. We feel parking lot attendants are more important - their median hourly wage that year was $10.45.
And yet we know that having well-paid, qualified teachers at your child’s preschool has amazing benefits for that child’s development.
Here’s how a recent report put it:
“Most of the benefits formal preschool programs provide can be attributed to well-trained, well-educated preschool teachers. Research shows that schools with high-quality teachers produce the best academic and social outcomes for children. The best teachers encourage play, exploration and friendship, while simultaneously introducing pre-academic skills through picture books, science experiments, math games and other activities. Yet, for all that work, most private preschool teachers are making near-poverty wages. The average wage for preschool teachers who are not employed by a public school system is $13.98 an hour or $29,080 a year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.”
That’s for private preschool teachers. If you’re a preschool teacher working in a public school, your average wage is $24.06 an hour, or $50,040 a year.
If private preschools tried to match that payscale, then the cost of early childhood care would jump so much that a family with just one child would need to earn $195,000 a year to pay for it.
Without serious investment in preschools from either government or businesses, it’s doubtful preschool teachers will have a living wage anytime soon.
Benefits of Preschool
Besides preparing kids for school, preschool does a lot to save taxpayers money later.
We know that kids that attend preschool centers “had lower rates of emotional, conduct, relationship and attention problems later in life than kids who were watched by a family member or babysitter. These benefits last longer than any temporary boost the kids get in academics.”
Attending preschool makes it more likely that a young adult won’t end up in jail, which costs a lot more than preschools each year. Prisons cost more. Juvenile detention centers cost the most.
We know that American children aren’t as smart as children in other countries. The reason for this is preschool.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development tells us that of the 35 developed economies in the world, 87% of them have all of their 4-year-olds in preschool.
In America just 66% of 4-year-olds are in preschool.
Currently American kids rank 38th in math and 24th in science. Some of the countries that are beating us are Russia and Vietnam.
Here in Montana, attending preschool has a visible effect on those test scores.
In Alberton, kids began attending the pilot preschool programs that were set up there in 2015 with federal and state money.
Math proficiency in those kids went from 50% to 75%. Reading went from 29% to 67%.
How Other Cities & States Fund Preschool
Government subsidies to families to fund preschool only targets those near the poverty line.
The American middle class has income ranging from $44,000 to $132,000 a year, and those amounts are too high to qualify for any kind of government assistance when it comes to early childhood education.
Most parents choose to use private preschools, not publicly-funded ones.
We know that 1.37 million kids attended public preschools during the 2017-18 school year, compared with the nearly 4 million that attended private preschools.
18 states got developmental grants in 2017, while 7 states didn’t invest a dime in their preschool programs.
Kansas and Nebraska follow this model to fund their whole system.
The Department of Public Health and Human Services issues the child care block grant. In 2018, Congress appropriated $5.2 billion for this.
Montana was able to win a $40 million federal grant to open up 1,000 new preschool slots in 2015, but that grant is now finished. Taking its place is a 1-year, $4.2 million grant, which won’t go as far.
A big problem with preschool funding here in Montana is that it’s tied to general fund appropriations.
This monetary source is wildly inconsistent. Whenever the state has a deficit (or thinks they will) then pre-K funding gets sent to the chopping block first.
On top of this, funding that comes through the budget process is typically divorced from enrollment numbers. This means if enrollment jumps, we’ll see a decrease in per-pupil funding across the system.
New Jersey was able to overcome this very problem with their Abbott Preschool Program, however. In that state, funding is based on the cost of educating the pre-K enrollee, not budget whims.
Maine is another state that overcame this issue, mainly by funding pre-K at 1.1 times more than the per-pupil foundational base rate.
Sometimes states refuse to fund preschool and cities step in. We see this in Denver and San Antonio, which use sales tax revenues as a funding source. Seattle does it through their property tax, while in Philadelphia they fund pre-K with a tax on soda-pop.
Montana can’t go this route, as the legislature has the tax authority, not cities.
In Virginia and Iowa, local governments are required to provide matching funds for every dollar the state/school district spends.
In Oklahoma they only decided to start funding full-day kindergarten when they learned that their half-day programs were already receiving enough funding to be full-day.
Where was that extra money going? To the state’s football teams.
That caused a stir, and legislators of both parties decided to do something. They not only made full-day kindergarten mandatory, they also funded preschool. Now 75% of the 4-year-olds in that state are in full-day pre-K programs.
Back in 1992, Georgia tied a portion of their state lottery revenue to universal preschool, and now over 50% of the state’s 4-year-olds attend preschool. The reason Georgia took this route was so that the program “wouldn’t fall prey to any future state budget cuts.”
In Washington, D.C., a staggering 90% of 4-year-olds and 70% of 3-year-olds attend full-day public preschool (full day here is 6.5 hours).
This is easy, as the programs are free to parents.
D.C. has what’s called "voluntary prekindergarten" funding in their education funding formula, “a model that research suggests is the best, most stable was to fund these programs”
In 2017 the city spent $16,996 in state funding per child, while the rest of the country spends on average just $5,008.
After D.C. instituted this program, the number of mothers in the workforce jumped by 10%.
Congress can fund preschool, as they did it before.
America provided universal preschool for all of the country’s children back in 1940 when Congress passed the Defense Housing and Community Facilities and Services Act.
This bill was passed at the behest of the defense contractors that desperately needed workers. Most of those workers were at war, so they had to settle for women. Sadly for them, many of these women had kids.
So what did the companies do? They had taxpayers bail them out so they wouldn’t have to spend their own profits.
That’s why America had universal preschool from 1940 to 1946. Over 100,000 kids were in the program, and parents only paid the equivalent of $9 to $10 in today’s money.
Back in WWII the country realized we needed women in the workforce. Providing childcare allowed that to happen.
Today we don’t really want women in the workforce as much. If we did, we’d provide them the tools to enter that workforce, like affordable childcare. But we don’t.
The State of Montana could care less about early childhood education, or its costs.
While it’s true the state has spent $46 million to fund pilot preschool programs since 2015, that money is now gone.
Parents will have to pay extra, as it’s unlikely local governments will pay. Well, they can't pay - it's why Helena is about to kick 34 kids out of preschool because of the legislature’s recent actions.
And let’s be honest - if 14 hospitals hadn’t offered up $6 million to help fund that pilot program, it probably never would have come about in the first place.
The $4.2 million federal grant the state has this year and into the next won’t last long, or have much of an impact.
Bullock’s proposed $30 million statewide preschool idea died in the legislature, and I’m sure the $8 million idea to expand the program by 400 students will suffer the same fate.
A big problem is that Bullock wants to raise taxes to fund the program, and Republican legislators don’t want to do this.
But we know it’s not really a tax issue - the GOP did just vote to raise the bed tax to help fund the new Historical Society Building, after all.
Perhaps it’s just that Republicans don’t like the tax ideas Bullock has, or maybe that they’re coming from a Democrat.
Perhaps there are other tax options to get that $30 million to fund the program, not just our usual sin taxes.
And I personally don’t think the Chamber of Commerce’s idea of having people open more centers is realistic.
The state doesn’t make it easy to operate a child care center. Currently they have a 40-page document of licensing requirements that you must meet if you want to open.
Just scrolling through that will likely make most prospective business owners question whether they really want to enter this industry.
The student ratio is 1 teacher for 8 students, but depends on age. Babies take 1 teacher for 4 students, toddlers are 1 teacher for 6 students.
So you need a lot of staff, and you have to pay them wages and then pay payroll taxes on them. It really eats into a childcare business’ profits, making this industry not a real profitable one.
That adds up, especially when so many parents are complaining about the cost of childcare now.
How on earth are we going to pay teachers more if parents won’t pay more? And how are daycare centers going to retain qualified staff if we don’t pay more?
These are serious dilemmas, and there are no easy answers.
Maybe that’s why the Chamber is hoping more in-home daycares open. But are they best for the students?
The problem with the in-home model that the local Chamber of Commerce highlights is that they’re unrealistic.
Small in-home care centers usually have a small number of kids, around 6 or so. This means they only need one main worker, perhaps an assistant.
This can also become problematic when you need a substitute teacher, which can be hard to find.
Still, a big benefit is that in-home care centers have a lot fewer regulations when it comes to their playground size.
Many parents aren’t seeking out in-home care centers, but professional child care centers. There are not as many of these in Missoula, and they have a lot of regulations that make running them cost-prohibitive and not that profitable.
For instance, you need to have a certain teacher-student ratio. This means you need to hire more staff, and pay taxes on them.
Parents don’t want to pay anymore for childcare now, but childcare centers have a huge problem retaining staff because they can’t afford to pay high wages.
They can’t afford to pay high wages because parents don’t want to pay high monthly costs to the center.
It really does become a Catch-22.
I wish I had more answers for you, but I don’t.
I just hope that the information presented will give you some ideas. Eventually we’ll have to solve this problem. And we will.
You know I love to follow the money. You know one of my favorite times of the month is when the two major political parties in Montana release their financial reports.
It’s now that time of the month.
The March monthly report for the Montana Republican Party is just 18 pages long, while the report for the Democrats comes in at 65 pages long. Both reports were filed with the FEC on March 20 and cover the month of February.
Let’s dig in.