Stand up for the Montana Constitution!
In this bulletin:
Rally to support MT's Constitution at noon on Feb 1;
Lend your support of SB-15;
HB 197 -- An Attack on Higher Education and our Constitution;
House Judiciary Committee's disrespectful treatment of grieving citizens following hearing on HB 202, a bill to prevent gun violence;
Big Sky 55+'s Long-Term Care op-ed
We Need YOU! to Stand Up for Montana’s Constitution
“We the People” Rally in Capital Rotunda Feb. 1, NOON
Join citizens from across the state in supporting Montana's Constitution.
A stellar lineup of speakers will include former Governor Marc Racicot and Dorothy Bradley, former lawmaker and candidate for Governor from Bozeman.
Host: Northern Plains Resource Council. Co-sponsors: Friends of the Montana Constitution, The League of Women Voters Montana, Big Sky 55+, Montana Human Rights Network, Western Native Voice, Forward Montana, Great Falls Rising, and ACLU Montana
SB 15 Update -- Make Your Voice Heard!
Big Sky 55+ testified in support of SB 15, (Shannon O’Brien D-Missoula)
Means-based property tax relief for seniors and younger Montanans
SB 15 increases an existing tax credit, expands it to renters and to all Montanans earning less than $45,000 on a sliding scale.
SB 15 is an ongoing credit, not just a one-time payment, like some of the proposals to rebate some of Montana’s $2.4 billion budget surplus by way of homeowners’ property taxes.
In testimony supporting the bill, Belgrade resident Elizabeth Marum illustrated how impactful SB 15 will be for older Montanans, whether they own their homes or rent.
“The average social security beneficiary in MT earns about $1,481/mo, or $17,800/yr. My monthly social security income is several hundred dollars/mo higher than the average, but my annual income is still less than $30,000/yr. and my property taxes are 10% of my income. This bill would save me $1500/yr this year and help me and others like me every year after that.
“Property taxes are regressive, and they hurt those of us with lower incomes more-- those of us with fewer means to recover from the random, accidental financial blows that all of us experience at one time or another. If we are to keep cohesive communities, representative of the Montana we know and love, this bill will help"
To read Marum’s full statement click Here
Contact Senate Tax Committee members ASAP to urge a YES vote on SB 15
Montana Higher Ed (and Montana's Constitution) Under Attack
Calling all UM Griz, MSU Cats, MSU-B Yellowjackets, Tech Orediggers, Western Bulldogs, and Northern Lights!!!
HB 197 (Jennifer Carlson R-Belgrade) is a constitutional referendum to strip the independence of the Montana Board of Regents and place it, once again, under the thumb of a highly partisan, political, and mercurial legislature.
We've been here before, and it wasn't pretty!
The legislature’s dismal and capricious management of higher education in Montana was one of the driving forces that brought the 1972 Constitution into being.
The independent governance of higher education was a significant driver in the need for a new constitution
For an illuminating review of this history, see Mary Sheehy Moe’s presentation at the 50th Anniversary of the Montana Constitution in June 2022:
“If you had set out with the intention of creating a completely dysfunctional governance system for higher education, you could not have done a better job than the framers of the 1889 Montana Constitution.” Read her full presentation here.
The details moving forward:
A referendum to refer a Constitutional amendment to the electorate needs 100 votes total from both houses to get on the statewide ballot.
16 Democrats in the Senate and 32 in the House are united in support of the Montana 1972 Constitution.
Just 3 votes from Republicans would stop the amendment.
We will keep you posted when the Hearing is scheduled, and if HB 197 proceeds to the full House, but it is not too soon to reach out to anyone with ties to or who cares about higher ed in Montana.
ACTION: Reach out to your favorite Republican Lawmakers and urge them to vote NO on HB 197.
HB 197 would take us back to a time when higher education in Montana was horribly dysfunctional
Montana's higher education system has been a jewel in the crown in our state. It shouldn't be under a political thumb
The focused educational mission of Montana’s higher education would be undercut by putting it under control of the legislature.
Grieving Family Members Ill-Treated in House Judiciary
The House Judiciary Committee showed callous disregard for three women who tearfully shared personal experiences of gun violence within their families. The women testified in support of HB 202 (Ed Stafman D-Bozeman) which would allow temporary removal of firearms when a member of the family is in danger of suicide or harming others.
Immediately upon close of the bill’s hearing on Jan. 17, before the women had even left the room, Rep. Brandon Ler (R-Savage) made the non-debatable motion to table the bill, which passed on a party-line vote.
Such hasty action is not how bills are normally dealt with in Committees, except under extraordinary deadlines.
Committees usually take at least a day or two, if not a week or two, to consider and weigh the bill’s merits, and craft possible amendments before taking executive action.
Judiciary Committee Chair, Rep. Amy Regier (R-Kalispell) acquiesced in what was a cruel, offensive slap in the face to the grieving families who made the effort to travel to the Capital and share their painful stories.
Besides acting cruelly, the committee ignored these grim facts about suicide in our state:
Suicide is the number ONE cause of preventable death for children ages 10-14 in MT.
Over the past ten years, suicide has been the number TWO cause of preventable death for adolescents ages 15-24 and adults ages 25-44.
Montana has the 3rd highest suicide rate in the nation. [Source]
Long Term Care Op Ed
Big Sky 55+ lobbyist Margie MacDonald shared our concerns on Long Term Care in an opinion article published in newspapers across the state. Here it is in case you missed it!
Montana lost nearly a dozen nursing homes in 2022. The reality is that dozens more assisted living and long-term care facilities are hanging by a thread. They are waiting to see if our Governor and state legislature will take the critical steps necessary to keep essential elder services available across this vast state. Now is the time to make your voice heard on this essential concern. Read More
Learn more about Long-term care issues at our next Virtual Town Hall: