Stop Asian Hate Statement

Note: Monday night, a gunman shot and killed 10 people in Boulder, CO. Our hearts go out to the Boulder community and families of the victims.  

Hyun Jung Grant. Xiaojie Tan. Yong Ae Yue. Daoyou Feng. Soon Chung Park. Sun Cha Kim. 

These are the names of the six Asian women who were shot and killed by a young man last week in Georgia.

When I first heard the news, I was in shock. It would take a few days before the emotions would fully sink in; before the tears would come bursting through my stoicism.

Because when a hate crime happens to your community, you’re reminded of all the reasons why you don’t belong. You’re reminded of the simple fact that no matter how hard you try, that no matter how hard you love a place and a country, you will never belong.

And then you’re forced to reckon with your own identity. There is no hiding, no escape. It’s like you’re baring your soul to a world who does not accept you.

It doesn’t matter that during World War II my grandpa’s brothers enlisted in the army, demonstrating their patriotism for a country that was rounding their community up behind a barbed wire fence.

Because they would never be accepted as Americans.

It doesn’t matter that my parents achieved the “American dream” of buying a house and sending their child to college.

Because the American dream cannot be fulfilled in a country so steeped in racism and White supremacy.

As Montanans, let us not think we are sheltered from this hatred.

I’m often told that in Montana, “racism doesn’t exist here” and that “there is no diversity,” as if the two statements are independent of each other and have no connection.

In 1870, 10% of Montana’s population was Chinese. This history is littered with stories of violence and lynching. We also can’t forget the fact that Montana is home to Fort Missoula, an internment camp during World War II.

This history of discrimination continues today. As a Congressman, Governor Gianforte voted “no” on a resolution to condemn attacks on the Asian community. Seriously.

But hateful and harmful language doesn’t just come from people that hold explicitly racist values — it can come from “progressive” leaders and politicians too. In 2020, a nationwide trend of anti-China attack ads, perpetrated by Democrats and Republicans alike, fueled hateful rhetoric against Chinese communities and Asian Americans. We must hold everyone accountable to racist and harmful displays of white supremacy, especially those within our own movements and spaces.

So where do we go from here?

Today, and everyday, we are committed to creating a more equitable world and state in which everyone is safe and welcome.

We must recognize that it is not new for communities of color to feel unsafe, unwelcome, and fearful. We must also confront the reality of an increase in hateful and racist rhetoric towards Asian Americans during this pandemic as it has real-life consequences.

We must understand how Asian-Americans have been used as a tool to divide communities of color. We can’t let these attacks be the excuse for more policing in communities of color. We must acknowledge that the violence in Georgia is the intersection of race, class, gender, and imperialism.

It’s on all of us to create safer communities by educating ourselves and others, by speaking up and addressing problematic comments, and by creating culturally responsive systems to support those who have experienced harm.

We have a lot of work ahead of us that is overdue. 

In solidarity,

Kiersten Iwai

What the Helena – Week 11

*March 21, 2021*

Events this week:

Tuesday, March 23 — Voting Rights Legislative Happy Hour

Wednesday, March 24 — Climate Justice & Public Lands Legislative Happy Hour

Join us to ask questions on bills and practice crafting testimony!

Let’s talk about decorum

Decorum: a fancy word for appropriate conduct in the legislature. It’s causing quite a stir.

Last week, the House Rules Committee met to discuss what some legislators claimed to be a breach of decorum — a dress code “violation.” At the meeting, Chair Derek Skees of Kalispell proposed they adopt dress code rules from 2015 — rules that scrutinized women’s skirt lengths and necklines and made national news for their sexist, classist, and ultra-conservative nature. Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency made the important point that decorum is not just about how legislators dress, but also about how they treat one another — a comment that Chair Skees, decorum violator extraordinaire, ignored.

The disrespect we’ve been consistently seeing from primarily conservative legislators is not only in violation of decorum, but it’s creating a toxic environment for people who want to participate in the political process. Last week, we watched legislators cheer at the thought of LGBTQ+ people being driven out of Montana — if you ask us, the dress code should be the LEAST of their concerns.

We will continue to hold our elected officials accountable for their unprofessional and disrespectful actions and we won’t let legislators bully us out of the democratic process.

Who gets more rights: the human or the egg?

Rep. Caleb Hinkle of Belgrade is advocating for a fertilized egg to have the same rights as a full-grown-ass Montanan. His bill, HB337, also known as the “personhood amendment,” would grant rights to an egg in the early stages of conception, often before a woman is even aware of the pregnancy. Make no mistake, this is an attempt to ban abortion entirely.

HB337 also has the potential to outlaw popular forms of birth control, including the pill, IUDs, and emergency contraception for victims of rape or incest. Our stomachs are churning.

During SIX previous legislative sessions, similar bills failed with bipartisan opposition. Montanans have not approved these measures in the past, and it’s time for legislators to start listening to the people they chose to serve.

Tell your senator to vote NO on HB337 and follow our friends at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana to stay in the loop!

Senate Bill Two-Hatey

SB280, introduced by Sen. Carl Glimm of Kila, would require transgender people to go to court AND present documentation of gender affirmation surgery in order to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. As we’ve said before and will continue to say until the end of time, trans people who don’t get surgery are still trans.

Refusing accurate identification to trans people puts them at risk of being outed any time they need to show ID, including applying for jobs or enrolling in school. Incorrect gender markers can expose trans people to discrimination, harassment, and violence. This is yet another piece of legislation that would make life harder for trans Montanans.

This bill will be heard in the House Judiciary Committee on Friday. Send the committee a message telling them to leave trans people alone and vote NO on SB280.

This bill “reasonably appears” to be terrible

Montana, like every other state in this country, has a problem with police brutality. In 2019, a report listed Montana as ninth in the nation per capita for fatal officer-involved shootings. The report identified at least 39 deaths at the hands of police officers in the state since 2012.

Montana also incarcerates Black, Indigenous, and people of color at drastically higher rates than white people. Increasingly over the last year, Montanans have turned out en masse to demand changes to the way police operate in our state.

Despite all of this, Sen. Jill Cohenour of East Helena has introduced a very concerning “law and order” bill, SB220. It would broaden the definition of felony assault on a peace officer to include the use of what “reasonably appears to be” a weapon, opening the door to all sorts of interpretation. Under this bill, someone could be charged with a felony for holding a toy gun, wallet, phone, or any other item if an officer thinks it’s a weapon. If passed, this bill would disproportionately affect BIPOC Montanans, as well as those who are unhoused or experiencing a mental health crisis.

Just last fall, an Indigenous man was arrested in Missoula after he threw a wallet and lighter at a police officer. The (white) officer was (obviously) not injured, as both items bounced harmlessly off of his bulletproof vest. Still, the man spent seven months in jail following this encounter, losing his job and his lease. His case was later dismissed. Under the terms of SB220, he could have faced a felony charge for throwing his wallet and lighter.

This bill will be heard on the House floor soon. Let your representative know that increased policing is not what our state needs and to vote NO on SB220.

Regulation rollbacks

Let’s pretend you live near a coal mine whose owners aren’t properly disposing of toxic waste. When it rains, the water washes coal tailings into the local river — your drinking water source.

You and your neighbors are worried so you file a complaint with the state, who confirms your water is polluted and tries to force the coal mining company to fix the problem. In retaliation, the coal company files a lawsuit, claiming the state’s regulation harms their business. The state can’t afford to pay the company, and its hands are tied. Your water supply remains polluted.

This is just one possible scenario under SB260, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls. Sound dystopian? SB260 could end up costing Montana over $600 million. When Oregon passed a similar law, the state faced $20 billion in claims.

The bigger picture? SB260 discourages regulation of all kinds, affecting public health and welfare. We don’t want our taxpayer dollars compensating industries for their irresponsible behavior. That shit’s expensive. Hold big industries accountable and let the House Business and Labor Committee know that SB260 is bad for public welfare and bad for Montana’s budget.

NorthWestern Energy is shady AF

You know what’s not cool? Energy monopolies that launch shameless attacks on regulations meant to keep corporations in check. You guessed it, we are talking about NorthWestern Energy (NWE).

Last week we heard two bills that give NWE even more power. How so? SB201, brought by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls, would prevent Montana’s energy-regulating body, the Public Service Commission, from factoring the benefits of clean energy into their decision making when approving NWE’s energy acquisitions. This would enable NWE’s continued reliance on fossil fuels.

It doesn’t stop there. SB237, sponsored by Sen. Doug Kary of Billings and backed by NWE, would eliminate the Community Renewable Energy Projects program (CREP), which prompts the construction of small renewable projects throughout the state. Shady NWE has a long history of not investing in these projects, even though they’re required to by law. Now NWE is trying to dismantle the program completely rather than pay the fines.

All session long, NWE has been pushing bills that prioritize the company’s interests over Montanans. It’s time for NWE to get out of the people’s house! Contact your representative and tell them to vote NO on these devious anti-renewable energy bills.

Naked and afraid: voting rights edition

You know that recurring nightmare when, on the first day of school, you look down and you’re naked? That’s sorta how we’re feeling about the state of voting rights legislation.

HB176 is a bill to end same-day voter registration, a service which enabled 3,352 Montanans to vote in the 2020 general election alone. Then there’s HB406 — a bill whose very basis was already ruled unconstitutional. This bill would eliminate ballot collection services and keep groups like ours from helping deliver your ballot safely to your county elections office. Both bills are on their last leg before reaching the Governor.

It’s time to wake up from this voting rights nightmare. Tell your senator that they should NOT stand for HB176, and while you’re at it, shoot the Senate State Admin Committee a message telling them to vote NO on HB406.

In the event of an emergency, conduct business as usual

Hypothetically, let’s say all Montanans are aboard a plane enduring a harrowing journey. Before takeoff, the flight attendant had announced, “In the event of an emergency, oxygen masks will NOT drop from the ceiling and life vests ARE NOT beneath your seat. The CEOs were hoping to save some money, so good luck!”

Unfortunately, this is how some legislators are choosing to respond to the economic crisis caused by COVID-19: by eliminating basic safety measures that keep Montanans afloat during hard times.

Rep. Kathy Whitman of Missoula believes landlords should be able to kick people to the curb during emergencies like this one. She sponsored HB430, which would prohibit the Governor from banning evictions during unprecedented times. Emergency orders are vital to the protection of Montanans. When unemployment skyrockets and folks struggle to literally stay alive, collecting rent should be less of a priority than keeping our communities safe. Rep. Whitman, WWCPD? (What would compassionate people do?)

Villain & Hero of the Week

Rep. John Fuller of Whitefish has earned the villain title for the second time this session with his incessant attacks on transgender children in Montana. Worst hits include: HB112, the bill to prevent transgender kids from participating in sports; HB113, the bill to ban gender-affirming healthcare for minors; and HB427, the evil zombie twin of HB113 which also bans certain gender-affirming procedures. In a time of economic upheaval and public health crisis, Fuller has truly gone above and beyond in his priority to attack trans children.

The hearings on Fuller’s bills have all been chock full of inaccurate, hateful rhetoric, including from the sponsor himself. HB112 and HB427 both passed out of committee on party lines this week, despite overwhelming opposition and passionate testimony from Montanans — as of a few days ago, HB112 had racked up nearly 2,000 messages in opposition, compared to a mere few hundred in support.

It’s clear Rep. Fuller is more invested in pushing an ideological agenda than listening to the voices of his constituents. We need you to remind our representatives who they work for. Both HB112 and HB427 will likely be heard on the Senate floor this week, so message your senator ASAP and tell them to vote NO on these discriminatory bills.

Sen. Bryce Bennett of Missoula has been fighting fiercely to ensure that Montana is a state where everyone can thrive.

This session, Sen. Bennett has brought a handful of bills that would increase and protect Montanans’ access to the ballot box, including a bill that would have extended the period of regular voter registration, making it easier for Montanans to cast their votes. He has also been a fierce advocate for the protection of consumer privacy in Montana, an issue that is all too pressing in a rapidly digitizing world.

Bennett made history in 2010 when he was elected as the first openly gay man to serve in the Montana Legislature. In addition to the job he was elected to do, Sen. Bennett has also been a staunch advocate for LGBTQ+ Montanans in an often unfriendly legislative environment.

On Monday, Sen. Bennett was one of several speakers at the Rainbow Rally at the Capitol, where hundreds of LGBTQ+ Montanans and allies gathered in protest and celebration. Bennett spoke to the resiliency of LGBTQ+ people and reaffirmed his refusal to sit idly by as trans and queer people are attacked. He reminded the crowd, “there is too much on the line to sit on the sidelines,” and encouraged people to keep sharing their stories and showing up for their communities.

We appreciate you more than we can say. 


P.S. In case you were wondering what our Governor is up to, he’s busy working on the most pressing issues facing Montanans right now — what people in Colorado are eating for dinner.

What the Helena – Week 10

*March 14, 2021*

Hey there!

We’re feeling rejuvenated and hope you are too. As we launch into the second half of the legislative session, there are plenty of bills still on the chopping block. If you’ve been itching to get involved, now is the time!

Events this week:

Monday, March 15 — Rainbow Rally at the Capitol (masks and social distancing required!)

Tuesday, March 16 — We’re Here, We’re Queer, We’re Really F*cking Tired – a space for LGBTQ+ Montanans to vent, dream, and plan together

Wednesday, March 17 — Town Hall with Rep. Alice Buckley and Rep. Emma Kerr Carpenter

Separation of church & hate

Pop quiz! Which of the following is NOT one of the four rights protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution?

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Right to peaceably assemble
  4. Right to discriminate

If you guessed #4 (which we really hope you did), congrats! You just might know more about the Constitution than Sen. Carl Glimm of Kila and Sen. David Howard of Park City. These two seem to have forgotten that freedom of religion is already fiercely protected by both the United States and Montana Constitutions.

We’ve talked about Sen. Glimm’s SB215 before, but here’s a refresher: this bill could allow any person or entity to use religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate against a person or group of people. Didn’t someone important once say something about loving thy neighbor?

SB172, introduced by Sen. Howard, is known as the “Religion Is Essential Act.” Upon first glance, the bill appears to allow religious services to continue in times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. However, if you pull out your magnifying glass, you’ll see something deeply concerning: a vaguely-written section that could empower religiously-affiliated institutions to break just about any civil or criminal law and use their religion as a defense.

These bills share a very concerning implication: religious freedom as the ultimate right, superseding all other constitutional rights. Contact your representative and urge them to vote NO.

The time is now for the Native American Voting Rights Act

529 years ago, Europeans began systematic colonization and genocide of Indigenous peoples in what are now the Americas. Since then, Indigenous people have fought for their rights while maintaining tribal sovereignty — refusing to surrender their land in exchange for U.S. citizenship, demanding their civil rights once U.S. citizenship was imposed, and bringing their fight to the courts innumerable times. Thanks to these exhaustive efforts, Native American people won the right to vote just fifty six years ago.

The work continues today in the form of HB613the Native American Voting Rights Act, sponsored by Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency. This Act expands access to satellite polling locations and clarifies requirements around the use of tribal IDs as a valid form of voter ID. It’s a step in the right direction to assure Native Americans’ right to vote and has garnered bipartisan support.

Of course, there’s always someone to rain on the parade. The Secretary of State’s office showed up in opposition to this bill on the false premise that it would create unfair advantages for Native American voters and would be costly — even though the cost of the bill came out to a grand total of $0 after the hearing.

We support HB613 and would like to thank Rep. Stewart Peregoy and Western Native Voice for their tireless efforts in bringing this bill.

Lost but not forgotten

Our state has a problem. Montana has the fifth highest incidence of Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in the country. Native Americans make up 6.7% of Montana’s population, but account for 26% of all missing persons cases.

The Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW) movement is an Indigenous-led response to an epidemic taking place across the U.S. and Canada, where Native American women are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than other ethnicities. The crisis, also referred to as Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP), is impossible to untangle from a legacy of settler colonialism that extends into the present.

Compounding the crisis? A jurisdictional maze: depending where a crime is committed or where a missing person is found, an investigation may fall to the state, federal, or tribal government. Between confusion over whose domain a case is within, and a long history of racism in law enforcement, many MMIP cases go uninvestigated.

When a relative goes missing, Indigenous families are forced to pick up the slack and take on the search themselves. When Kaysera Stops Pretty Places went missing in 2019, Big Horn County law enforcement waited nearly two weeks to let the family know her body had been found. Less than a year later, Selena Not Afraid also went missing in Big Horn County. Friends and family coordinated a search effort themselves. Neither case received a thorough investigation.

Last week, a Senate committee heard three bills by Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency that would address MMIP. HB98 would extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force and the accompanying Looping in Native Communities Grant Program, both established in 2019. HB35 would create a missing Indigenous persons review commission, and HB36 would establish a training grant program for community-based search efforts.

If you’d like to learn more, find resources, and/or donate to local Indigenous-led organizations on the frontlines of this fight, we suggest MMIP Montana ReportingSisters UnitedWestern Native Voice, or the Snowbird Fund. If you have lost a loved one to the MMIP crisis, our thoughts go out to you — and we recognize that thoughts and prayers are not enough. Message your senator and encourage them to vote YES on these bills.

If you believe you are a victim of human trafficking or may have information about a potential trafficking situation, please call the Montana Human Trafficking Hotline: (833)-406-STOP (7867)


Our old tax-cut nemeses SB159 and SB182, both sponsored by Sen. Greg Hertz of Polson (former Villain of the Week), were heard in the House last week.

So, the personal income tax rate for Montanans making more than $18,700 is currently 6.9%, and SB159 would drop that rate to 6.5%. But don’t start shelling out money for that new car just yet. For most of us low-to-middle-incomers, this would mean little to no savings — unlike the top-of-the-line moneybags, who’d save thousands. SB182 would cause similar, but ongoing, tax cuts for the richest Montanans. Together, both bills would result in enormous revenue losses for the state (at least $80 million per year), leading to statewide budget cuts for crucial services!

Please tell your representative to think about *literally anyone* besides the wealthy, and vote NO on SB159 and SB182.

That housing cat-and-mouse game

Affordable housing can feel like a pipe dream that we’re always chasing but can’t quite catch. HB402, sponsored by Rep. Steven Galloway of Great Falls, would contribute to a predatory rental environment by giving more power to landlords. Like, did y’all ever watch Tom and Jerry? Galloway — plus other landlords — are actually Toms, and renters are a bunch of little scrambling Jerrys, trying to live on a scrap of cheese in some hole-in-the-damn-wall apartment. No thanks.

Listen, even though it’s tiring, we’ll never stop advocating for housing as a human right. HB259, sponsored by Rep. Sue Vinton of Billings prohibits inclusionary zoning, a practice used by cities and towns which requires developers to include a certain percentage of affordable homes in new residential developments. We have a real chance of stopping this — please reach out to these Senators ASAP and urge them to vote no!

Rep. Galloway is a landlord. Rep. Vinton co-owns a construction company. It’s clear both representatives are out for their own interests, and you can bet that we’ll keep holding them accountable.

Villain & Hero of the Week

We believe that a democracy is strongest when it listens to the voices of all citizens. We also believe that our elected officials should conduct themselves with maturity and treat their constituents with respect. Rep. Jed Hinkle of Belgrade couldn’t even pretend to do any of these things this week.

Rep. Hinkle called for a point of order during the hearing on SB215, claiming it was inappropriate for opponents to say that this bill — which could allow employers, landlords, medical professionals, etc. to discriminate against any person under the guise of religious freedom — would drive LGBTQ+ people and others out of the state. Folks, we call it like it is, and that was gaslighting.

Someone needs to remind Jed that it’s his job (and the entire point of public hearings) to listen to and respect — you guessed it — the public. As an opponent was testifying that SB215 makes LGBTQ+ people want to leave Montana, Hinkle snickered and cheeredWTF?! When trans and queer people tell him that legislation like this (and legislators like him) make us feel unsafe and unwelcome in our own home, the least he could do is listen.

Rep. Hinkle, we’re so glad you have never experienced discrimination. We wouldn’t wish it on anyone. If you really believe that no one should be made to feel as though they aren’t welcome in Montana, then we suggest you take a good, hard look at the way you have conducted yourself. Laughing at and dismissing people who are exercising their right to share their extremely valid concerns about a bill? Not a good look on you, Rep. Hinkle.

If you haven’t heard of the esteemed, illustrious wonder-woman of a legislator that is Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter of Billings, you’re in for a treat. This session, she’s been introducing bills that would give us all a hand up. Her latest, HB631, would increase Montana’s earned income tax credit and put $12 million back in the pockets of working and middle class families and local communities. We like this much better than the other tax bills we’re seeing that benefit only the wealthy. It may be weeks into an exhausting session, but Rep. Kerr-Carpenter remains passionate and resilient.

Not only has she acted as a fervent advocate for her community through bringing forward positive, progressive legislation, but also by showing up every dang time to talk to us young people! #DYK Rep. Kerr-Carpenter also has the cutest and most politically involved cats ever?! 

Send a message to Rep. Kerr-Carpenter to thank her for all the work she is doing for YOU! Rep. Kerr-Carpenter, you are the cat’s meow.

If you want to hear firsthand about her experiences at the capitol and have the opportunity to ask our Hero any questions, tune into the Town Hall this Wednesday to hear from Rep. Kerr-Carpenter AND Rep. Buckley!

That’s all we have for you this week! Now get out and enjoy some of that sweet springtime sunshine.

What the Helena – Week 9 [Guest Edition!]

*March 7, 2021*

It’s transmittal break and damn are we thankful for the chance to take a breath. Our legislative team has been taking some much needed time for R&R and we hope you are too! It’s been a wild few weeks and our legislators will be hitting the ground running again tomorrow.

We’re incredibly honored and excited to feature two guest columnists this week, Rep. Alice Buckley of Bozeman and Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter from Billings. Read their reflections and thoughts below — these legislators are a damn inspiration.

And don’t forget — we’ve postponed our townhall with these two and it’s sure to be an event you don’t wanna miss. Date coming soon! 

Rep. Alice Buckley | HD 63 – Bozeman

Hi, friends! First of all, thank you so much for paying attention, for being present in the middle of a challenging legislative session, and for being hopeful during bad times. The experience of being in the Capitol can feel both isolating and disheartening and getting to sit down and write down some thoughts to all of you is the opposite of that. It is energizing and comforting to be in the company of folks across the state who also give a shit about our community, our state, and our future.

One of the best parts of transmittal break has been getting to take a step back and process the first half of the legislative session. There’s a lot to share but I want to articulate something that fills me up to the brim: I feel immensely proud of our Democratic caucus. Since Day 1 of the legislature, our little band of 33 has made it clear that we’re in Helena to show up for Montanans. We’ve focused on policies that actually make a difference for young folks, kiddos, working families, and job creation. Against the odds, we’ve pushed a lot of these bills through.

We’ve also been standing up and speaking out against the tidal wave of legislation Republicans have brought that are aimed at marginalizing and discriminating against women, trans folks, disabled, low-income, and BIPOC. [Side bar: where are the jobs bills our Republican legislature and Governor promised?] Losing on a lot of these bills 67-33 feels a bit like getting kicked in the teeth every day but we still continue to show up, speak up, and do what we can to protect and expand opportunity for folks across the state. We’ve even had some wins in the middle of it all.

We are all less mentally well, worse for wear, sleep deprived and less patient and kind than we want to be, but we’re doing it. We’re here for you, we’re here for our communities, and we’re here for the state. Hang in there with us!

Finally, I know a lot of you are interested in how to get involved in the session and what the best, most effective ways of engaging with the issues we all care about look like. First of all, keep paying attention! It’s exhausting to stay present, engaged, and focused with the onslaught of bad legislation, particularly when so much of it has sweeping, restricting impacts on us and those we care about. Email, call, or text legislators, and focus on those on the committee hearing specific legislation.

Most importantly, let’s build up our collective resilience to dig into community organizing, participate in public service (and that means teaching! Planting trees! Running for office! Creating art! Loving your humans!), and imagine a more just, equitable and livable future.

Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter | HD 49 – Billings

I have never been so happy for a break. I am currently typing this from my dining room table enjoying listening to my cats lobby me for their dinner.

I brought two bills this session, both of which died swift and unceremonious deaths last week. 🙁 One was a renter’s rights bill and the other was a Robin Hood tax bill. It would have raised taxes for the rich to give more money to the working poor by raising our state’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). I am sad that my bills were killed in committee but I don’t think that this will be the last we will hear of raising the EITC.

Most of my session has been spent figuring out how our state’s budget works. This session I am serving on Appropriations where I help put together the budget for the state. I have spent a lot of my time this session figuring out how to help good things funded and making sure that bad things either die or are less bad.

Before Transmittal, my mornings were spent in meetings with a small group of Senators and House members working on our part of the budget. In the afternoon, we heard bills going through the process that needed money for the policy to work.

So far we’ve found ways to fund compensation for those who are wrongfully convicted (HB 92 – Kelker). I spent most of my session working to get this bad boy out of Approps and on it’s way to the Senate. There’s still work to do on the bill but I am glad it’s on it’s way. We also funded good things such as art museums and cultural centers, special education for K-12 students, and upgrading our state’s emergency communications technology. (a.k.a. making sure 911 works). There are still things I wish we could have killed, such as bills that would disenfranchise voters, a bill legalizing the death penalty and some other bad criminal justice bills that put more people behind bars for longer.

Thank you for all of the work calling and emailing your reps and senators and telling us what you care about. There are some really, really bad things that have died because of the immense amount of public pressure. Keep up the awesome work as we head into the next half of the session. We still have the chance to make sure more very bad ideas do not see the business end of the Governor’s ballpoint pen!

Thanks to these incredible legislators for sharing their reflections with us. And thank you to all of our legislators who are fighting for a more equitable Montana. See you next week!

PS — craving more WTH? We feel you. Check out our special episode of the podcast this week featuring folks from Gallatin County’s Sunrise Movement. 

What the Helena – Week 7



*Feb 21, 2021

Storms are a-brewin’

Our thoughts are with our friends in Texas as record-breaking cold temperatures, frozen natural gas pipelines (part of a deregulated, privatized power grid), and inept leadership have left millions of people without power, food, or clean water. BIPOC, the homeless, seniors, and people with disabilities are being disproportionately affected. Now more than ever, please support mutual aid networks and go give our affiliate MOVE Texas a follow — they’re doing incredible work to check in on their friends and neighbors during this tough time!

Meanwhile in Helena, our very own shitstorm of racist, homophobic, and anti-climate bills continues to brew.

Discrimination by design

Ever feel like you’re trapped on an escalator that’s going the wrong way? And as you’re scrambling up the steps, a bunch of men in suits are dumping slippery, Nickelodeon-style slime everywhere? That’s right friends, we’re on that escalator and up against a whole slate of anti-LGBTQ+ bills designed to make life more difficult for trans and queer people in our state.

  • HB112, sponsored by Rep. John Fuller of Whitefish, would ban transgender youth athletes from participating on sports teams that align with their gender.
  • HB427, also sponsored by Rep. John Fuller, is a revival of HB113. This bill would ban certain gender-affirming treatments from being provided to minors, taking healthcare decisions out of the hands of doctors, patients, and parents, and allowing the government to intervene in medical care.
  • SB215, sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm of Kila, would legalize discrimination by a person, business, or other entity under the guise of religious freedom.
  • SB280, also sponsored by Sen. Carl Glimm, would require transgender people to present documentation of gender confirmation surgery in order to change the gender marker on their birth certificate. To be clear: trans people who do not receive gender-affirming surgery are still trans. Only ⅓ of trans people have surgically transitioned – many won’t because it is expensive, they often face discrimination in medical settings, or they simply don’t want to.

The legislature is trying to send the message that LGBTQ+ people, especially trans people, aren’t welcome in Montana. That is not only f*cked up, it’s absolutely false. To our LGBTQ+ friends and neighbors, we see you, we love you, and we will not stop fighting for you. Follow us on Instagram to stay up to date on all of these bills and what you can do to stop them.

Trans Lifeline: (877) 565-8860
A confidential, 24/7 hotline to talk with a trans peer

TrevorLifeline: (866) 488-7386
For LGBTQ+ folks to talk to a trained counselor, available 24/7

Here comes the sun!

It’s a beautiful, bluebird day in Montana. Solar panels cover hundreds of rooftops in your town and are busy harnessing the power of the sun, making energy more affordable for you & me… all because HB359 was WITHDRAWN.

That’s right! Rep. Larry Brewster of Billings thankfully withdrew HB359, an anti-solar bill that could have destroyed Montana’s solar industry while costing the state hundreds of well-paying jobs. This is great news and means that rooftop solar lives to fight another day! Thanks to all the Montanans who showed up for this bill — you helped make this happen.

These eyes? All the better to see a land grab with, my dear

HB320 has been called a public lands wolf in sheep’s clothing. Sponsored by Rep. Steve Gunderson of Libby, it appears to protect public lands, but actually sets the stage for Montana lawmakers to transfer and sell off those lands to private interests. The result? Less public access and a loss of revenue to our recreation-based economies — consequences that Montanans have already made clear they don’t want.

Check out Montana Wilderness Association’s slick one-click tool to send your representatives a message to keep public lands in public hands. The big bad wolf isn’t fooling us.

This land is WHOSE land?

News flash: people were living in North America before white people came and colonized it. Unfortunately, our legislature is now trying to decide who is welcome on stolen land. HB200, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Holmlund of Miles City, would prevent Montana from establishing sanctuary cities (BTW: Montana doesn’t have a sanctuary city and never has). The bill’s companion, HB223, sponsored by Rep. Bill Mercer of Billings, would require local and state law enforcement to detain immigrants on behalf of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

Civil rights advocacy groups, religious leaders, and Indigenous activists are rightly cautioning that these bills would lead to increased racial profiling in our state. Several cited the experience of Martha Hernandez and Ana Suda, U.S. citizens who were detained by a federal agent in Havre in 2018 for speaking Spanish in a convenience store.

These bills seek to stoke fear and distrust of immigrants in Montana. Governor Gianforte has indicated that he supports these bills, so we need you to act now to stop them. Contact the Senate Judiciary Committee and tell them to vote NO on HB200 and HB223. Racism and xenophobia are not Montana values. 

It’s starting to look a lot like tax season

We’re affectionately referring to HB424 as the “Robin Hood” bill (take from the rich, give to the poor). It would ensure that folks who make over $500,000 per year pay their fair share in taxes, resulting in an enormous increase to the state’s revenue and a boost to the Earned Income Tax Credit — putting $10 million a year in the pockets of low and middle-income Montana families.

We’re tipping our green felt hats to Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter of Billings for bringing this revenue-generating bill to the House. HB424 is being heard on Tuesday, and if you admired the noble fox as a kid (or adult, no judgment), show your support by submitting public comment or sending a note to the House Taxation Committee!

Let’s talk about bison

The issue of bison in Montana is hotter than Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic spring (…okay, that’s in Wyoming). Fun fact: bison once roamed across the continent, from present-day Canada to Mexico. Now, tribal nations and organizations are working to restore bison to Montana lands — and not without controversy. Two bills get at the heart of the Montana bison debate, and may slow or stop bison restoration efforts.

HB302, sponsored by Rep. Joshua Kassmier of Fort Benton, would allow county commissioners to decide whether bison herds can be relocated to a county, removing wildlife management power from the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. This bill could threaten private property rights and undermine tribal sovereignty. HB318, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Holmlund of Miles City, would redefine many of Montana’s wild bison as livestock. This would complicate the introduction of new wild bison herds and potentially impose unconstitutional livestock fees on tribal nations.

HB302 and HB318 are confusing and unnecessary. See Montana Audubon’s action alert for more information on these bills and how to get involved. And donate to the InterTribal Buffalo Council to support tribal bison restoration!

An affordable housing equation

If the Montana housing crisis were a complex math problem, inclusionary zoning (IZ) is just one step in a complicated, multi-part solution — but an important one nonetheless.

Earlier, we wrote about HB259, brought by Rep. Sue Vinton of Billings, which would prohibit IZ in Montana cities and towns and prevent local governments from addressing their own housing crises. When it comes to affordable housing, we know that there is no one-size-fits-all solution, but HB259 would eliminate a key tool in the toolbox. Representatives and residents of WhitefishMissoulaBozeman, and Billings have all voiced opposition and we need you to make your voice heard, too!

Send a note to the Senate Local Government Committee to tell them to vote HB259 down and give inclusionary zoning time to work effectively in Montana.

Villain & Hero of the Week

If you missed our interview several weeks ago, we covered an American icon — unions. We learned that unions exist to improve wages and working conditions for ALL workers. An attack on unions is an attack on equality across the board.

That’s why Rep. Caleb Hinkle’s latest bill, HB251, is such a nightmare. This bill endangers unions’ ability to collect dues and build power, and would deprive thousands of hard working Montanans from organizing for fair wages and safe working conditions. HB251 is also supported by out-of-state corporate interest groups like Americans for Prosperity — a Koch Brothers-backed organization. Boooo.

Unfortunately, Rep. Hinkle of Belgrade didn’t stop there. He also brought forward HB337, a constitutional amendment defining personhood and banning abortion at all stages of pregnancy. By granting a fertilized egg the same rights as an adult, you also could lose access to birth control pills, IUDs, or emergency contraceptives. Uh, yeah. Yet another attempted overreach from the party of small government. And it’s f*cking scary.

Hinkle, why do you feel the need to ambush Montana’s workforce and reproductive healthcare access? Asking for a friend… and many other Montanans.

“Faster than a slalom skier speeding downhill! More powerful than a herd of bison! Able to leap to the top of Granite Peak with a single bound!” It’s Rep. Kelly Kortum of Bozeman!!!

This freshman representative is a democracy defender with a courageous commitment to his constituents. With all the bullsh*t that’s going on in the Capitol, it’s not easy for our legislators to keep their followers in the know. Lucky for us, our hero takes time out of his crime-fighting day to update the public in a badass weekly newsletter. Superman should take notes.

AND Rep. Kortum does not back down from carrying the tough bills and asking the tough questions. Alongside other voting rights bills, he’s carrying HB441, which would lower the age required to be an election judge from 18 to 16. This is a win for democracy as these policies have been shown to increase voter turnout and long-term civic engagement for young folks! This bill is being heard Monday morning — send the House State Administration Committee a note showing your support. Keep fighting, Rep. Kortum! We’re with you.

Thanks for subscribing to the best “backwards periodical” in the state! We’ll see ya next week.

What the Helena – Week 8



*Feb 28, 2021*

Welcome back

There is a major deadline approaching for Montana legislators. The transmittal deadline is the date by which all general bills have to pass from one chamber to the next. If a bill hasn’t passed out of either the House or Senate by this Wednesday it will not pass GO and collect $200 to continue in the legislative process. Thanks for playing.

Because legislators are currently amidst a furious rush to meet this cutoff — committees that typically hear a handful of bills each day have been hearing 20 bills in a single sitting. Tbh, we’ve all been struggling to keep our heads above water!

On Thursday, most legislators will head back to their home districts for some well-deserved R&R. Before transmittal break begins, Forward Montana will be hosting a Town Hall along with two of the raddest legislators we know: Rep. Alice Buckley of Bozeman and Rep. Emma Kerr-Carpenter of Billings. Click here to sign up — you won’t want to miss it!

The bad, the good & the TBD of voting rights

The bad →

Remember the Ballot Interference Act (BIPA)? This was a measure that stopped the legal and safe collection of ballots by groups like ours. Thankfully, it was litigated last year and ruled unconstitutional as it majorly disenfranchised Native American voters. Unfortunately, BIPA 2.0 has been introduced as HB406 this session and this reincarnated version seems to have some traction. Ballot collection is a critical service that young people, voters with different abilities, folks who live in rural Montana, and our Indigenous friends and neighbors rely on to ensure their voices are heard every election. Make sure your Senator knows how much is at stake with HB406.

The good →

If there was ever a bill to get excited over, it’s HB613, the Native American Voting Rights Act (NAVRA). This bill, carried by Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency, addresses many logistical problems and inequities in Native American communities that affect people’s ability to cast a ballot. Please ask the House State Admin Committee to vote YES.

The (almost) good →

HB441, sponsored by former Hero of the Week, Rep. Kelly Kortum of Bozeman, would have lowered the age requirement of election judges from 18 to 16 years old and empowered young people to get involved in our democratic processes early and more often. This bill passed committee but failed second reading on the House floor. We’re looking forward to supporting other bills that empower young people to engage in our democratic process in the future!

The TBD →

We’re STILL waiting for committee votes on HB176 (which would end same-day voter registration) and SB169 (which would enact stricter voter ID requirements). While we wait, please send a daily note to the Senate (HB176) and House (SB169) State Administration Committees reminding them to vote NO on these attempts at voter suppression.

Silencing fossil fuel protests

A tide of legislation meant to tamp down on fossil fuel protests is sweeping across the country, and Montana is one of the states at the forefront. This legislation — a crude response to the #NoDAPL protests of 2016 & 2017 — is based on a template by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). If you haven’t heard of ALEC, it’s a conservative policy engine that enables corporations to write self-serving state policy, and it’s horrifying.

Montana’s iteration of this legislation is HB481, sponsored by Rep. Steve Gunderson of Libby. This bill introduces additional steep penalties for trespassing and/or vandalization of energy infrastructure: if you’re found to cause damage, you could be hit with a felony charge punishable by fines up to $150,000 or 30 years in prison. It’s designed to scare people away from protesting fossil fuel development — targeting a long history of Indigenous resistance to energy infrastructure on their lands.

Our First Amendment rights to peaceful protest are on the lineMessage your representative and let them know this industry-backed policy has no place here.

As if being a teenager wasn’t hard enough…

SB282, sponsored by Sen. Theresa Manzella of Stevensville, would make the entirety of a minor’s medical records available to their parents, including information about mental health, contraception, abuse screenings, and substance use. This would erode the trust between doctors and patients and create huge barriers to suicide prevention in Montana.

We don’t know about you, but there are definitely things our teenage selves awkwardly told our doctors that we didn’t want our parents to hear. SB282 would be especially harmful to LGBTQ+ youth who aren’t out to their parents, young people who need mental healthcare, and minors who’ve been victims of abuse in the home. Young people need to feel safe sharing this information with their doctors in confidence.

SB282 passed out of committee by a slim margin earlier this week. Let your Senator know that this bill would be detrimental to Montana youth and that a relationship between a doctor and patient should be confidential.

Opt-out of this bill

Speaking of teenagers — a few weeks back we gave big shoutouts to the Democracy-Defending high school fellows that testified against SB99, which aimed to make sex education in schools “opt-in only” and ban  abortion providers from providing education or resources in schools.

Luckily, SB99 has been revised to keep sex education “opt-out” instead of “opt-in”, which is how it already is in Montana! While much of the bill has been amended away, sponsor Sen. Cary Smith of Billings refuses to give up and is continuing to push the latter part of this bill just to bully certain abortion providers, *cough cough* Planned Parenthood of Montana.

Comprehensive sex education covers a wide range of important topics, from STD prevention to healthy relationships. Teenagers will still have sex — this is not news — and the most qualified professionals should be educating them!

Just keep swimming

LGBTQ+ rights and voting rights have been taking up a lot of our time, but some fishy housing bills are also making their way down current.

First off, a familiar face: HB259 would make inclusionary zoning illegal, taking away one of Montana’s main tools to address affordable housing. This bill is headed to the Senate Local Government Committee next. You know what this means, friends! Send them a message to vote NO.

HB402, sponsored by Rep. Steven Galloway of Great Falls, is a bottom feeder that gives landlords more power over tenants. As if they don’t have enough already! If you’re a renter like us, this bill would limit your ability to dispute wrongful termination and prevent you from remedying damages on your own. So if you were planning to putty those small tack holes in your wall, hold up! If HB402 passes, you’ll have to hire someone to do that.

Sadly, one of the prettiest fish in the housing sea, SB241, was tabled in committee last week. Sponsored by Sen. JP Pomnichowski of Bozeman, it would have required landlords to refund rental application fees to anyone who didn’t get the apartment. Over the past few weeks, we’ve heard some awful stories from our friends about the outrageous costs of application fees when they pile up. We’re o-fish-ally bummed about this one.

Superfunds are not super fun

Superfund sites are properties contaminated with hazardous waste and are the most toxic lands in the country — and Montana has seventeen of them. #DYK that the city of Butte is one of the largest Superfund sites in the nation?! Yikes! 

We can all agree that Superfund sites are not sexy and cleanup of these sites should be governed by a qualified agency… right? Apparently not. HB419, sponsored by Rep. Steve Gunderson of Libby, would give a small committee veto power on Superfund site cleanup and spending. Not only would this complicate the remediation process but it could also continue to burden Montanans with the effects of environmental pollution — like cancer, birth defects, and economic hardships.

This is Superbad news! Superfund cleanup should be managed by a responsible agency, not a select few politicians. Luckily, this bill was tabled.

Gratitude: Good for you, me, and public lands

Have you been told that saying ‘thank you’ is good for your health? Well, we have just the opportunity for you to get a little boost.

HB320, the public lands wolf in sheep’s clothing that we mentioned last week, sets the stage for the large-scale sale and transfer of public lands. We were hoping it would be gone by now, but it barely squeaked by in the House and is now headed to the Senate. Check to see if your rep voted no, and if they did, take a moment to spread some warm-and-fuzzies.

“Liveable” wages…

HB284, sponsored by Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell of Helena, sought to provide a living wage to Montanans, acknowledging that the current minimum wage ($8.75/hour) is, you guessed it… not livable. Her bill would have brought wages up to $15/hour, but was disappointingly tabled.

The fact that we are still fighting for living wages indicates economic disparities are alive and well. Thanks to Rep. Dunwell for being a determined advocate for higher wages.  

Villain & Hero of the Week

At Forward Montana, we demand that our legislators show an honest commitment to fighting for equitable futures for ALL Montanans. And we are ready to call out racist, sexist, homophobic, classist, discriminatory bullsh*$ when we see it. 

Are you working to gut human rights and dismantle our democratic systems? Are you expressing violent rhetoric around reproductive health care and stigmatizing safe and accessible medical procedures? Congratulations, you’ve gotten on the fast-track to becoming Villain of the Week.

Speaking of fast-tracks —  Rep. Jane Gillette of Bozeman hit the Capitol grounds running in circles and zig-zags, spinning all of our heads into complete confusion and rage. Her personal pet project, HB209, would have granted parental rights to rapistsWhat. the. actual. f*ck. Jane?! Only after opponents called her out for not consulting with survivors or victims’ advocate groups did she pull the bill and offer a sad excuse for an apology.

During the floor hearing for HB113 (an anti-trans bill that would have barred medical professionals from providing gender-affirming treatments), she gave a long and skull-splitting speech in support of the bill, throwing trans youth under the bus along the way.

“Dr. Jane” — as a healthcare professional who ran on the message of increasing healthcare access and services for ALL Montanans, we expected you’d know better. You’ve made it clear that you’re unwilling and unable to show up for your constituents in the way they deserve. During a time when our legislators should be focused on supporting Montanans during a public health crisis and creating jobs, Rep. Gillette would rather advocate for legislation that would allow for disenfranchisement and discrimination of her very constituents.

To say we’re disappointed would be a severe understatement. When the next election comes around, disgruntled Montanans who are tired of having our rights taken away will see you at the ballot box.

Sen. Chris Pope of Bozeman worked in the solar industry before it was cool! Now, this legislative hero is tackling climate change with clean energy policy. Some of the exciting legislation he’s pushing? Electric vehicle initiatives, modernization of the electrical grid, and energy efficiency. We can’t think of anything groovier than that.

And while we’re on the topic of our climate rockstar, let’s talk about Sen. Pope’s bill, SB292. It would establish a utility energy efficiency conservation standard. Lost yet? So are we. But don’t worry, it’s not as confusing as it sounds. Basically, utility companies would be incentivized to conserve energy, meaning consumers like you and me would save money all while cutting down on pollutionHallelujah.

We’re cheering for SB292, which passed committee. Send a virtual high five to our hero of the week, Sen. Chris Pope, for all he is doing for the climate! Legislators like him are brightening the future for the next generation.

Our other heroes? YOU! Thanks for sticking with it through a tough session. Your voices matter!

In the meantime, keep your eyes peeled for a special edition of our podcast all about climate justice and how it applies to young Montanans, featuring organizers from the Gallatin chapter of the Sunrise Movement.

Until next time!

Development Director

Forward Montana (FMT) and Forward Montana Foundation (FMF) are dedicated to engaging and mobilizing young Montanans to help shape their democracy and to improve their lives and the lives of fellow Montanans. We put young people on the front lines of civic engagement statewide, basing our efforts out of our three offices in Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings.

Job Description

Reporting to the Executive Director, the Development Director is responsible for designing, managing, and executing all development efforts at Forward Montana and Forward Montana Foundation. Our fundraising strategy includes grant writing, individual giving, events and campaigns, and sponsorships. We hope to raise $1.4 million to support our work in 2021 and beyond.

This new position will play a critical role in building up our organizations’ operating reserves, strengthening our individual donor base, and managing our grant portfolio. While this position is responsible for making sure everything is on track, you’re not in it alone! We firmly believe that fundraising is a team effort.

If you have a knack for writing grants, a love of storytelling, and a desire to change the world, then this position might be for you!


Development Planning & Oversight (20%)

  • Work with the Executive Director and Development Team to create and execute an annual development plan that aligns with the organization’s mission, vision, and strategic goals.
  • Support and manage the Development Manager to reach established goals and objectives
  • Assist the Boards of Directors in achieving their development goals
  • Monitor and adjust development strategies in order to reach fundraising goals. Suggest and implement new strategies as needed.

Donor Research, Cultivation, & Stewardship (25%)

  • Develop and implement strategies to build a sustained base of annual and monthly individual donors
    Build relationships with donors through all avenues of engagement, including face-to-face meetings (once safe to do so) and direct solicitations
  • Oversee the management of our donor database to maintain orderly and accessible records of communications and relevant materials with donors and institutional funders
  • Support the Executive Director and Program Director’s engagement with major donors including major donor and stakeholder outreach, new funder prospecting, and presentation and meeting preparation

Grant Management & Writing (25%)

  • Continually research and identify new grant opportunities that align with the organization’s direction and goals
    Maintain communications with select institutional funders
  • Collaborate with the Program Team to ensure that grant proposals align with program goals and needs
  • Developing FMT’s overall fundraising narrative. This includes writing, submitting, and managing grant proposals, as well as other supportive materials such as two-pagers and annual reports
  • Coordinate all aspects of grant reporting, including working closely with the Executive Director, Operations Manager, and relevant staff to compile the necessary information
  • Work with the Development Manager to maintain a grants calendar and ensure that all materials are submitted on time

Major Fundraising Campaigns (30%)

  • Oversee the planning and implementation of giving campaigns include appeals, Give Days, house parties, and other events
  • Guide a giving campaign to increase the organization’s operating reserves


Gotta-Have Skills Sets: Must be present for this position. We encourage you to apply if you don’t match these qualifications 100%

  • At least 3-5 years of direct experience in non-profit or political fundraising, including a demonstrated ability to meet fundraising goals through direct asks, events, grants, and / or other strategies
  • Love of building relationships and communicating organizational successes across a variety of platforms
  • Extremely organized with an ability to prioritize urgent tasks and meet deadlines
  • Familiarity with a fundraising database
  • An understanding and desire to implement diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice frameworks in all aspects of work
  • Commitment to a process of feedback, learning and personal growth
  • Comfort working remotely, including an ability to build relationships through travel and technology with remote team members and your manager

Nice to Haves:

  • Management experience or demonstrated experience supporting young leaders
  • Love of proofreading and ability to write compelling stories that communicate a vision and program
  • Experience with 501c4 organizations or political campaigns
  • Experience working collaboratively across departments to achieve common goals
  • Bachelor’s degree

Strong Applicants will be:

  • Enthusiastic
  • Team player
  • Self Motivated
  • Funny (broadly defined)
  • Cool (broadly defined)
  • Focused
  • Flexible

Working Conditions

  • Shared office space with regional field team or remote office space
  • Flexible and at times unusual work hours, including evenings and weekends
  • Once safe, travel within Montana will be required at least once a quarter


  • Compensation: $45,000 – $55,000 Exempt
  • Benefits: FMT offers a competitive benefits package including health insurance, IRA match, professional development funds, and generous paid time off, including paid family and medical leave
  • Location: Based anywhere in Montana; we have physical offices in Missoula, Bozeman, and Billings

Women, people of color, individuals with disabilities, and LGBTQ individuals are strongly encouraged to apply.

To apply, submit a cover letter, resume, and 1-2 page writing sample to Kiersten Iwai, Executive Director, at with the email subject line “Development Director Application.”

While applications will be accepted until the position is filled, we encourage you to apply by March 19. Qualified applicants will first move through an activity round.

What the Helena – Week 6

*February 14th 2021*

It’s getting hot in Helena

It’s Valentine’s Day and things are heating up in Helena. If you thought we were coming in with candy hearts and sweet nothings, think again, loves.

You might be asking: “With SO MANY bad things happening, where do I even begin?”

First things first, we hear you. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s our advice: start small! Pick one bill or issue you care about and stick with it. Next thing you know, you’ll have your legislator’s phone number on speed dial! Oh, and you can always share our podcastBTW, this week’s episode features a conversation on voting rights with Keaton Sunchild, the Political Director at Western Native Voice.

When you’re done, treat yourself to a hot bath, some chocolate covered strawberries, or a romantic moonlit walk. You deserve it.

Don’t go breaking my heart (with voter suppression)

We’d really like to dump these efforts to make it harder for folks to register to vote and cast their ballots. HB176, the bill to end same-day voter registration, will have a hearing tomorrow morning. Send a message to the Senate State Admin Committee ASAP, urging them to vote NO. SB169, which would enact stricter photo ID requirements in order to cast a ballot, is headed to the House. Write your representatives and ask them to vote NO on SB169.

Time to tell these unfaithful bills that we just don’t have the same values… “It’s not me, it’s you.” We’ll all be better off without them.

Tribal sovereignty: not up for debate

Let’s first acknowledge that we are on stolen territory that belongs to Indigenous Nations who have cared for this land for generations. Tribal Nations are sovereign, meaning they have the right to self-governance, and oversee their own land and resources. They have a unique government-to-government relationship with the federal government.

HB241, sponsored by Rep. Joe Read of Ronan, would have allowed non-tribal citizens to hunt on fee lands within the boundaries of an Indian Reservation. The bill didn’t pass committee — but it’s just one example of the harmful overreach into tribal affairs that Native Nations have been fighting for decades.

Rep. Tyson Running Wolf of Browning called the bill the “biggest attack on tribal sovereignty led by the state in 25 years.” Legislation like this continues to erode trust between tribes and state agencies, and HB241 would have encountered immediate legal challenges, costing the state hundreds of thousands to litigate. Needless to say, Rep. Read consulted neither the Tribes nor the American Indian Caucus on the bill.

Last stop for concealed carry: the Governor’s desk

HB102, which would allow concealed carry on college campuses (#YIKES), is headed to the Governor’s desk. After a bill passes both the House and Senate, Governor Gianforte has 10 days to sign, veto, or do nothing. If he signs or does nothing, the bill becomes law. Unfortunately, in HB102’s case, all signs point to a stamp of approval.

HB102’s attempt to override the Board of Regents (who have complete authority over the Montana University System) raises constitutional questions. It will likely take a trip to the courts.

The fight for suicide prevention and anti-gun violence continues. Please consider donating to some of the following organizations leading the way on this important work:

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

A bad bill crushed by the power of love

Consider this our love letter to everyone who took action on a wildly hurtful piece of legislation that was withdrawn just minutes before its hearing last week.

SB195, sponsored by Sen. Tom McGillvray of Billings, aimed to explicitly exclude incarcerated people, including minors, from the protections of the Montana Human Rights Act. This means if an incarcerated person was denied access to a wheelchair-accessible cell, a sign language interpreter, hormonal medication, religious items, or any other accommodations that are vital to their well-being, this bill would prevent them from bringing discrimination lawsuits against the Department of Corrections. Seriously, WTF.

This last-minute plot twist was likely because of the sheer number of conscientious Montanans who reached out to our legislators and stood up for human rights. Thanks, you beautiful tropical fish. We’ve got a crush on y’all.

Speaking of bills we thought we’d broken up with…

Remember HB113, the super-gross bill that aimed to prevent trans and gender-nonconforming minors from receiving gender-affirming healthcare? The bill that garnered overwhelming opposition from Montanans, and that died on the House floor?

Well, folks, it’s time for round two of HB113. Rep. Jennifer Carlson of Manhattan has introduced a bill with the misleading title “provide for youth health protection.” This bill is similar to HB113 in that it would punish medical providers from providing gender affirming healthcare. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — parents, patients, and medical professionals, NOT politicians, should decide what medical care is in the best interest of any particular young person. We’ll be watching this bill extremely closely and would encourage you to follow us our Instagram for updates.

Villain & Hero of the Week

Love is in the air, and so are tax cuts for the wealthy! If you got your sweetheart a “tax the rich” T-shirt for Valentine’s Day, perfect timing. SB159a priority of the Governor and carried by Sen. Greg Hertz of Polson, is a tax cut bill — which might sound cool, but guess what? It only benefits the wealthy. We have our Villain of the Week to thank for that. Womp womp.

Let’s crunch some numbers: The wealthiest 20% of Montanans would be getting a tax cut of at least $1,400. Meanwhile, if you make less than $34,000 a year, you would get $0-$12 in tax cuts. You might be able to buy yourself a box of chocolates off the sale rack!!! Kansas already tested out a similar “experiment” and it went very very poorly.

SB159 would result in a $30 million loss to the state’s revenue annually, taking away from crucial services that many Montanans rely on. We can think of approximately 1,000 better ways to spend this money: affordable tuition, access to mental health services, a free dog for every Montanan… the list goes on. Take it from us, there’s nothing more romantic than reaching out to your senators ASAP to tell them to vote NO on SB159!

After you’ve contacted your legislators, sign this petition to stay engaged with the budget process this session — our legislators need to hear from US that cutting the budget during a pandemic is irresponsible.

Rep. Hertz, we’ve composed this poem just for you:
There once was a Senator called Hertz
Whose ideas were simply the Worst
He’d steal from the poor
To give the rich more
And leave his constituents in the dirt!

This Valentine’s Day, we’re sending roses to Sen. Shane Morigeau of Missoula! Sen. Morigeau sponsored SB146, which would replace Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day as an official state holiday.

At the hearing, Sen. Morigeau described his experience with Columbus Day as a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. “I dread the annual celebration of a man who murdered and exterminated innocent Native people,” he told the committee. Rather than idealize a violent colonizer, Indigenous Peoples’ Day honors the unique stories and cultures of Montana tribes. It’s a first step toward reckoning with the truth of our state’s history. 

Sen. Morigeau’s powerful remarks reflected a years-long effort to establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day. The Senate State Administration Committee hasn’t yet voted on SB146. You still have time to slip them a note in support of Indigenous Peoples’ Day!

We appreciate Sen. Morigeau’s commitment to a future where Indigenous Peoples are uplifted, appreciated, and celebrated.

This one goes out to Sen. Morigeau:
Roses are red
The ocean is blue
America has history
Before 1492

And with that, we’re off! Wishing you a very happy Palentine’s, Galentine’s, and Valentine’s Day. Drop us a line at this email if you have questions (or rom-com recommendations).

What the Helena – Week 5

*February 7, 2021*

Let’s get our priorities straight

We’re in the thick of a pandemic and an economic crisis, yet our Republican-controlled legislature seems more concerned with attacking individuals’ rights (voting rights, reproductive rights, and LGBTQ+ rights, to name a few) than focusing on bills that would help Montanans through these tough times. We’re as angry as Anna on this season of The Bachelor.

But we’re not without hope — the high schoolers, legislators, and fellow organizers and advocates who have come together to fight the good fight are inspiring us every damn day.

Three blatantly bad bills (and a bonus!)

This week in voting rights: three pieces of legislation searching for a nonexistent problem to solve.

HB176, the bill to end same-day voter registration, was resurrected in committee and sent to the House floor after two legislators — Rep. Kathy Whitman of Missoula and Rep. Gregory Frazer of Deer Lodge — flipped their votes at the last minute under pressure from Governor Gianforte’s office. Apparently his vote matters more than their constituents’. HB176 went on to pass on the House floor. Stay tuned — we’ll let you know which Senate committee it’s headed to next and how you can make your voice heard.

SB169 by Sen. Mike Cuffe of Eureka would change voter ID laws, adding a photo ID requirement and extra documentation of a voter’s address. If you’re a renter like us, you know that your name may not be on the utility bill, meaning more hoops to jump through to cast a ballot. Take it from our friends at the ACLU: there are plenty of reasons why voter ID laws are no good. Frankly, this bill stinks of voter suppression. Let the Senate State Admin committee know how you feel about SB169.

HB240 is a sneaky and confusing tax bill that almost flew under the radar this week. It would prohibit parents or guardians from claiming their kid as a dependent if the child is registered to vote at a different address. The bill sponsor, Rep. Brad Tschida of Missoula, believes it will provide property tax relief in college towns. He also seems to believe property owners’ votes matter more than those of young people. We’re NOT having it. Give the House State Admin committee a shoutand ask them to vote NO on HB240.

We know these bills are BAD with a capital “B”, but here’s one to smile about! S/O to Rep. Kelly Kortum of Bozeman for bringing forward HB287 to save us from paying postage on our absentee ballots and wondering, DO I NEED A STAMP ON THIS? Three cheers for HB287!

The fight for Indigenous People’s Day continues

Indigenous Peoples’ Day takes place on the second Monday of October in Bozeman and Missoula. The state currently recognizes the day as Columbus Day, but Indigenous activists want to change that. In the 2019 legislative session, Rep. Shane Morigeau of Missoula sponsored a bill to officially recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in Montana — but it ultimately didn’t pass.

The movement for Indigenous Peoples’ Day is about acknowledging the racist, colonialist implications of Columbus Day, especially when over 7% of Montana’s population is Native American. In Rep. Morigeau’s words, it’s about recognizing “what [Columbus] means to Indigenous people and what he did to Indigenous people. It’s not who we are in Montana.”

That’s where SB94 comes in. Sponsored by Sen. Susan Webber of Browning, SB94 once again works to formally establish Indigenous Peoples’ Day and will have a public hearing on Wednesday. Tell the Senate State Administration Committee to vote “YES” as one step toward honoring the true owners of the unceded land that makes up Montana.

NorthWestern Energy, we’re watching you

Grab a cup of coffee folks, ‘cuz it’s time to talk about NorthWestern Energy. NWE is a utility company that serves South Dakota, Nebraska, and Montana (what happened to North Dakota?! We’re wondering that too) and has a BIG TIME monopoly on the utility market in our state. As the sole electricity provider across Montana, NWE has the power (and **corporate backing**) to invest in expensive dirty energy sources, which will likely hike up the price of YOUR utility bills. That sneaky scoundrel.

Last week, two bills were introduced that both address how NWE acquires energy resources — and they couldn’t be more different.

Remember HB99? This bill would no longer allow NWE to seek permission from the Public Service Commission to pass off the cost of buying fossil fuels onto consumers, closing the pre-approval loophole while protecting customers and the climate. Win-win! Before the hearing, roughly 200 Montanans got in touch with the committee to issue their support. Go, you!

Meanwhile, Rep. Larry Brewster of Billings brought forward HB245, the dreadful polar opposite of HB99. HB245 is an anti-consumer bill that would increase NWE’s ability to overcharge customers and make it more difficult for the Public Service Commission, which regulates NWE, to do its job. If your legislator is on the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Relations Committee – tell them to vote NO on HB245.

Red flags on the housing front

Y’all ever heard of inclusionary zoning (IZ)? IZ ordinances are adopted by cities and towns, requiring that new residential developments include a percentage of homes that are affordable to people with low to moderate incomes. Some local governments have enacted IZ efforts around the state that aim to address Montana’s housing crisis. Seems reasonable, right? Well, Rep. Sue Vinton of Billings disagrees. This week she introduced HB259, a bill that seeks to prohibit inclusionary zoning in Montana cities and towns, and we’re seeing huge red flags.

Rep. Vinton actually stated “I haven’t conducted the research, but inclusionary zoning hasn’t been particularly successful in our state.” We haven’t conducted research either, but we’re pretty sure that’s something you should do before attempting to reverse years of affordable housing efforts across the state! SMH (shake my head, save my housing).

Done with the death penalty

Other things our legislators are talking about instead of the economic crisis: reviving the death penalty. Current Montana law requires an “ultra fast-acting” drug to be used in executions. But in 2015, a judge ruled that the state’s execution drug wasn’t “ultra fast-acting,” effectively pressing pause on the death penalty in Montana.

HB244, carried by Rep. Dennis Lenz of Billings would allow the state of Montana to resume executions, and it would make those executions even more barbaric. 

Let’s get some things straight: first of all, the state should not be killing anyone. Capital punishment, like all of the prison industrial system, is deeply discriminatory, disproportionately affecting people of colorpoor people, and queer people. It is a horrifying, inhumane overreach of governmental power. On top of all that, public opposition to the death penalty is at an all-time high, especially among young folks. Read the room, Rep. Lenz.

On the bright side, Rep. Ed Stafman of Bozeman is sponsoring a bill to abolish the death penalty in Montana once and for all. This bill hasn’t been introduced yet, but stay tuned!

Democracy defenders!

Humor us for a moment. Imagine a soccer game between two teams — “Anti-Democracy” and “Democracy”. Team Anti-Democracy has the ball and is charging towards the goal at the other end of the field (playing dirty, swinging arms n’ shit). Team Democracy is bracing for impact, but is stacked with strong, young, passionate teammates that will do everything they can to defend that goal (even if it means a first-time slide tackle).

Ok, maybe we’re getting carried away. But this is exactly how we feel about three of Forward Montana’s 2020 High School Fellow Graduates (AKA: Democracy Defenders) who gave their first ever(!!!) testimony against SB99 this past week. SB99, introduced by Rep. Cary Smith of Poplar, is an anti-reproductive healthcare bill that seeks to make sexual education for K-12 schools opt-in only and bans abortion providers from providing any type of sex ed in schools.

Speaking with grace, confidence, and experience, their voices rang through the virtual halls and gave us all goosebumps. Thank you Ella, Ellie, and Brynn for paving the way for future generations. We are in such awe of our young people! (But really, some of us were not this cool in high school.)

Villain & Hero of the Week

And now for the section we’ve all been waiting for… Rep. Brad Tschida of Missoula took the flaming cake as our villain this week. Along with carrying that heinous voter suppression bill cleverly disguised as a tax bill (HB240, see above), he made one of our least favorite statements of the session so far when he proclaimed, “None of the issues raised by the opposition are valid.” 

The issues Tschida found to be invalid included the administrative nightmare these changes would create for voters and election officials AND more importantly, the impossible decision students would have to make between the ability to vote in the community in which they reside and potential financial loss for their family. To be clear, this bill would disenfranchise voters young across the state and we think those concerns are valid and should be taken seriously.

Amidst a long debate over HB176 last Thursday, Rep. Tyson Running Wolf of Browning, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, gave a powerful comment about his experience as a first-time voter.

Following years of feeling too intimidated by the process and county election officials, Rep. Running Wolf registered to vote for the first time on Election Day in 2006 — the year after Montana enacted same-day voter registration. Without this service, he said, “I probably wouldn’t be [at the Capitol] today.”

We are so glad Rep. Running Wolf is at the Capitol creating thoughtful legislation that addresses the digital divide by creating a rural broadband loan program. Rep. Running Wolf, your voice is necessary and appreciated.

Interested in learning more about our team? This week’s podcast features an interview with our organizers. Give it a listen! (You can also find it on Spotify or Breaker!)

Finally, thank YOU for caring about the future of our state! We appreciate you, and we’ll see you next week. Get in touch with any & all questions!

What the Helena – Week 4

*January 31, 2021*

A Glimmer of Hope

It’s been a whirlwind of a week and we’re happy to be on the other side of some exciting wins. In this week’s edition of What the Helena, we’ll be covering updates on voting rights, equality, student debt, and energy accountability.

Engaging in the legislative session doesn’t have to be scary! Whether it’s your first time testifying or your thousandth time, this video will help build your confidence and give you tangible tips to succeed in providing testimony at the Montana legislature.

Ding, dong, HB113 is dead!

We are jumping for joy over here! HB113, the bill that would have barred medical professionals from providing gender-affirming treatment to minors, failed on the House floor with a final vote of 49-51. That was a close call folks, but damn, it feels good to leave this one in the dust. Big thanks to all the tireless advocates and those who took time to reach out ‘cuz this win is for you, me, and every trans kid in Montana.

Rather than cut his losses and move on, Rep. John Fuller of Whitefish, the sponsor of HB113, filed a motion to reconsider and vote again on the bill. Thankfully, this failed. Shoutout to all the representatives who held their ground and killed this bill for good!

Regrettably, the news isn’t all positive. HB112, the bill banning trans kids from competing in school sports, passed the House and is now headed for the SenateLearn more about why this bill is bullshit.

You gotta FIGHT… for your RIGHT… to VOOOOOOTE

We asked and you delivered — THANK YOU! With your help, HB176, a bill that would have ended late voter registration the Friday before Election Day, was tabled in committee. We’ll keep an eye out if it makes a ghostly return but for now, we can say goodbye to this sinister voter suppression bill! Our representatives listened to our messages and protected our constitutional right to vote. Hurrah!

#DYK: In the 2020 primary and general elections, the window of regular voter registration was open 20 days LONGER than usual in MT — ensuring more folks than ever before had the ability to register to vote and cast a ballot (check out that record voter turnout). Our voting rights HERO, Rep. Bryce Bennett of Missoula introduced SB107 to make this extension for voter registration permanent. The bill failed in committee but we’re proud of Sen. Bennett for standing up for democracy!

Lightening the load of student debt

Suffering from student debt? You’re not alone. About 57% of Montana undergrads leave school with student loans, and their average loan debt is roughly $33,000 — that’s a lot of dough. Luckily, SB124, brought forward by Sen. Shane Morigeau of Missoula, would allow an employer to contribute to an employee’s student loan payments — tax free (in other words, not considered taxable income)! This would help employees chip away at those hefty monthly payments, help businesses retain employees, and put money back into our local economy – we’re on board!

The Senate Taxation Committee will likely vote on this bill early next week. If you have struggled to pay off your student loan debt, give ‘em a shout and share your story!

This legislation could save you 15% or more on your energy bills

Okay, we’re not sure on the 15% part. But HB99, sponsored by Rep. Denise Hayman of Bozeman, is an opportunity for us to hold big energy companies accountable to both the climate and their customers. Right now, NorthWestern Energy is allowed to seek permission from the Public Service Commission to pass off the cost of buying fossil fuels, like coal, onto consumers — meaning higher rates for us, and continued reliance on fossil fuels for them. HB99 would force NorthWestern Energy to take full responsibility for its investments. This is HUGE! The bill will be heard Wednesday at 3pm in the House Energy, Technology, and Federal Communications Committee. Tell the committee to vote YES on HB99 — we don’t want to continue financing a dying industry!

MMIP Updates

A slate of bills aiming to combat the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons crisis, introduced by Rep. Sharon Stewart Peregoy of Crow Agency and Sen. Jason Small of Busby, are gaining traction and attention in Helena. Sen. Susan Webber of Browning expressed hope that the Legislature will understand the importance of these bills, exclaiming these are “literally life and death.”

The MMIP crisis remains a pressing issue in Montana, and these bills need our support! Continue to follow our friends at the Indigenous Organizer’s Collective to stay involved.

We support reproductive healthcare and education! HBU?

We want to give our friends at Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana a major shoutout for their hard work on reproductive healthcare! In January alone, at least six anti-reproductive healthcare bills were introduced and they’ve been putting up an unwavering fight. With more bills on the horizon, make sure to give them a follow to stay up to date on how you can take action.

Villain of the Week

Rep. Barry Usher of Billings, Chair of the committee that has seen some of the most controversial bills this session, really blew it this week and let his villainous side shine during the hearing for HB200. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Holmlund of Miles City, would prohibit sanctuary cities in Montana and, alongside its companion bill, HB223, ultimately require local and state law enforcement to detain immigrants on behalf of U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE). 

Chair Usher silenced two religious leaders who tried to comment on the racist foundation of this bill. His reasoning: “We’re not going down the rabbit hole of racism.” Meanwhile, he had no problem allowing proponents to spout off racist statements unchecked. We’re not loving this double standard.

Hero of the Week

As a seasoned legislator and former special education teacher, this isn’t Rep. Kathy Kelker’s first rodeo.

During the hearing for HB200 (see above), Rep. Kelker of Billings joined a cadre of committee members defending Montanans’ right to testify, insisting public comment deserves to be heard without interruption. We left the hearing for HB200 ready for some serious TLC — but the day wasn’t over for Rep. Kelker.

Her own bill, HB92, was heard in committee that afternoon and offers financial compensation to those wrongfully convicted in Montana. Currently, if exonerated in our state, you leave the criminal justice system with no financial help, and your only chance to receive compensation is through civil litigation, which takes years and costs states and counties more money.

The bill, supported by several of our partner orgs and the Montana Innocence Projectwill save Montana millions of dollars in court settlements. This is an important step toward giving back the lives exonerees deserve. We appreciate you, Rep. Kelker! Thanks for looking out for all Montanans.

That’s it for this week! Contact us for answers to all your legislative questions (or just to say hi). Later, alligators!