Notes from the Field / Voicing Our Values / What The Helena 2019

What the Helena: Week 11

March 24, 2019

Things are ramping up, friends. It’s make-or-break time in the Montana! State! Legislature! This week we’ve got updates on Medicaid expansion (have you heard of the INSANITY that is the non-severability clause because you’re about to), funding for financial aid and MORE.

Take Action This Month

March 25-26 — Indigenous Movements Interchange

March 27 — Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana Day of Action

March 27 — Forward Montana Legislative Tele-Townhall

Wednesdays — Missoula Medicaid Expansion Phone Bank

The World’s Worst Vocabulary Lesson

I just learned this week that Rep. Ed Buttrey’s Medicaid bill includes a non-severability clause, which means that if a SINGLE PROVISION of the bill is struck down in court (as it very well might be, seeing as Medicaid work requirements are currently being challenged in Arkansas and Kentucky) the ENTIRE BILL IS NULL AND VOID. I’m using a lot of all-caps here because this is a PRETTY BIG DEAL. Montanans could find ourselves between legislative sessions with our Medicaid expansion program suddenly eliminated — and 100,000 people kicked off their insurance.

In related news, since Buttrey’s bill has finally been introduced, researchers at George Washington University have updated their study on how many people would lose insurance because of it — and oh boy, it’s even worse than we thought.

“We conservatively estimate that between 50,000 to 56,000 of the 95,000 current HELP enrollees would lose Medicaid coverage if the bill is adopted,” the report says. That’s right, y’all — as many as 59% of Medicaid recipients losing coverage is a *conservative estimate*.

The Medicaid expansion rally was awesome (did you see our Instagram story?), but we need even more pressure on lawmakers to make sure they do right by Montanans. Would you be able to submit a short letter to the editor to your local paper in favor of the GOOD Medicaid expansion bill, HB 425? If so, please reply to this email and let me know! I’ve got you covered with all the facts, figures and guidelines you need.

Remember the 6-Mill Levy?

The 6-Mill Levy is the higher education funding that Montanans vote on every ten years, and right now some friends in the capitol are working to make that funding permanent! That would mean less money and time invested in the campaign every decade, and more space for students and their allies to focus on bigger and better things. The Bozeman Daily Chronicle editorial board agrees with us — read their argument in favor of a permanent 6-Milly Levy to get the deets.

Also, check out our girl Hannah Pate testifying at the SB 152 hearing. You may remember Hannah from the cute-as-heck instagram story she did about the 6-Mill Levy last fall.

Calling All Students: Help Us Restore Funding for Need-Based Aid!

An amendment to the budget bill that would’ve restored need-based aid funding to the full $5 million failed on the House floor, with all but one Republican representative (Rep. Rod Garcia ¯\_(ツ)_/¯) voting against the interests of low-income students. Remember, this is all money that has been cut from the education budget in the last four years, not new funding we’re trying to imagine into existence (although, while we’re at it, I wouldn’t say no to that).

But, we have another chance at getting an amendment passed to up this funding from $2 million to $5 million — and we seriously need your help. Is one of your legislators on the Senate Finance and Claims committee? If so, you gotta call them → (406)444-4800! Or write them! Or show up at their office wearing only your student loan bills as a paper loincloth!

And if you so happen to be from Ronan, Miles City, Dillon, Buffalo, Eureka, Colstrip or Butte — hit me up. Everyone’s voice is awesome, but we need your voice extra.

This Week in “What the What??”

Another crazy thing that happened: Against the strong recommendations of their staff, the Public Service Commission (Montana’s elected body that regulates utilities) voted to weaken their own regulatory power and support SB 331, a bill that would let NorthWestern Energy put energy consumers (Montanans!) on the hook for paying for a further investment in the Colstrip coal plant. A large group of PSC staff wrote and signed a memo in strong opposition to SB 331.

Commissioner Roger Koopman, R-Bozeman, the only “no” vote, said it’s a terrible precedent that undercuts the PSC’s authority to review utility costs: “If we believe in this bill, then we don’t believe in the PSC,” he said. “The Legislature might as well go to work creating something new to their liking, because this bill is a denial of what we are here to do.”

We need to double down on legislators to kill SB 331, which just passed out of committee and will be heard on the Senate floor. You should contact your senators and tell them we’re not going to let an energy monopoly make decisions that should be left to a publicly elected body. And while you’re at it, call up the commissioners who voted to support SB 331 to ask why we shouldn’t recall them for refusing to do their job. Here’s their contact page.

This Week in Appalling News

We’ve touched on HB 302 a few weeks ago when its sponsor, Rep. Greg DeVries made some seriously horrifying comments on the House floor, calling abortion a “genocide” against Indigenous children. (Again, please donate money to indigenous-led organizations, because oppression & discrimination suck.)

Even without Rep. DeVries’s super racist comment, this bill deserves attention all on its own for being an extreme overreach by government into the bodily autonomy and private lives of Montanans. It would amend the Montana state constitution to define “personhood” as beginning at conception, which means outlawing abortion and Plan B, and seriously affecting birth control options and even IVF.

Planned Parenthood Action has been doing some incredible work against this bill, but I wanted to make sure all WTH readers were aware of how devastating its consequences would be to women’s right to choose in our state. Make sure to turn out for Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana’s lobby day on March 27th, and reach out to the Senate Judiciary Committee to tell them to protect Montanans’ right to privacy and health care.

Although our constitutionally protected right to access safe, legal abortion shouldn’t be up for debate, when it is, it can bring out the most extreme, most outrage-inducing comments. See the image below:

THIS IS NOT OKAY. If your movement includes the threat of violence as a tactic, you’re probably not in a good movement. Please hug an abortion provider in your life, because that shit is cray.

Are You Coming to Our Tele-Townhall?

That’s a moot point, because you don’t even have to go anywhere to listen in and learn all about legislative issues. Four awesome speakers and I will be on the line talking about voting rights, Medicaid expansion, conservation and higher education funding — don’t make us talk to ourselves! It’s Wednesday, March 27th at 7 p.m. Sign up here! And invite your friends on Facebook!

See you on Wednesday.