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  • Margie MacDonald

Our 2023 Legislative Priorities

Long Term Care - Montana’s nursing homes are in a “perfect storm” of forces that have rapidly eroded the finances of virtually every provider in the state - whether for profit or nonprofit. With 11 LTC facilities closed in the last year, Montana’s Governor responded by suggesting it is time for a new business model. Unfortunately, it’s hard to build a new ship when the one in which you are sailing is rapidly sinking. Lawmakers and the Governor have at their disposal hundreds of millions to bridge the gap for these vital facilities. We will watch this situation closely and keep you informed on how to turn it around. The following Op-Eds offer clear insight into the problems we are facing: “All this and our governor (Greg Gianforte) doesn’t care,” said Karen Shelhamer, another of Grudzinski’s and Grewell’s sisters. “I voted for the fool, but I wouldn’t do it again.” – Emily Schabacker in Nov. 27, 2022 Billings Gazette “Why didn’t they tell my family’ Family impacted a third time due to nursing home closures.” Read the article here HERE Read HERE about one family’s horrible journey. “Our elder care economy is broken. Since January 2022, more than 10% of Montana’s skilled nursing rest homes have closed. And most of the facilities still operating, whether private or public, are teetering on the edge of closure.” Read this guest column from Valley County Commissioner Mary Armstrong and Gallatin County Commissioner Zach Brown here. Senior At-Home Services - While residential facilities that help seniors and families live in dignity teeter on the brink, Montanans are in broad agreement that we would prefer to age in place, if that is feasible. To do so requires public investments and local support services that enable that effort. Governor Greg Gianforte’s budget shows no significant increases in support for local agencies that support our seniors. Affordable Housing - Housing costs in Montana have skyrocketed. Montana’s population has out-stripped its affordable housing supply. If you’re a wealthy émigré who wants to live in “Yellowstone” country, it’s still a bargain. If you are a senior or veteran who has lived here for decades, or a young worker who wants to be able to live near where you hold a job, you are not so fortunate. We will make this concern a high priority in 2023. Defend Montana’s Constitution - Montanan’s are blessed with an extraordinary, visionary document crafted by ordinary citizens and now recognized around the world. Some (but not all) of the important provisions include:

  • The right to a clean and healthful environment.

  • Extraordinary governmental transparency and open meetings.

  • The right to a quality, free public education.

  • Indian education for all.

  • A strong right to privacy that limits governmental interference in private lives of individuals, including their reproductive and health care choices.

  • An independent Consumer Counsel that has the means to stand up to monopoly utilities on behalf of ordinary citizens without interference.

  • The dignity of all, and much more!

Independent Judicial Branch - Our 1972 Constitution, especially the freedoms and the fierce independence of Montanans that it upholds, is under vigorous assault. In the 2021 legislature numerous bills were passed that clearly contravened our state’s Constitution. Those bills are not doing well in the Courts. And so our independent judiciary is also in the cross hairs of the super majority now in charge in Helena. In the upcoming months, Big Sky 55+ will keep you posted on this, so you can weigh in! For a good start on what we are faced with, check out the “Minority Report of the Special Joint Select Committee on Judicial Transparency and Accountability” prepared by retiring Sen. Diane Sands and House Minority Leader Kim Abbott on Dec. 22. Excerpt: “At bottom, it’s clear that the Majority hasn’t seriously considered—or doesn’t care—about the implications of insinuating that the leader of a co-equal branch of government is a liar, then failing utterly to prove it. But this is the summation of a year and a half of work, of spectacle, and of public expense. The case is pitifully weak, and it exposes the pretextual nature of this Committee and its work for what they really are: another front in the Legislature’s attempt to undermine the independence of Montana’s courts.” This very recent article is a shocking recap of the events that occurred in the last session and serves as a reminder the reckless Republican agenda to erode our Independent Judicial branch: “There is no liberty if the power of judges be not separated from the legislative and executive powers.” —Andrew Hamilton Don’t miss Russell Rowland’s beautifully crafted radio show episode where he tells the history of the Montana Constitution and the fumbles encountered along the way to the country’s acclaimed “most progressive constitution in the United States.” Early Win on Constitution! Even before the session, the Senate Rules Committee Chairman and Majority Leader, Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, pushed through on a party-line vote, a scheme to try to repeal the Consumer Counsel’s independence by legislative rule. (Read about it HERE) In the face of strong outcry, Sen. Fitzpatrick announced he would offer an amendment to remove this provision from the proposed Joint Rules once the Session convenes. We shall see. Find your lawmaker: LINK to LEGISLATIVE WEB SITE with LAWMAKERS’ CONTACT INFO Become a member and JOIN Big Sky 55+ See our PLATFORM

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