|Boy oh boy. This is a big week, folks. With only two weeks left in the session, important issues are coming down to the WIRE and politics are becoming more… political? Infuriating. But inevitable.
Last Chance on Medicaid Expansion
So, maybe you’ve heard or maybe not. Medicaid expansion (HB 658) was voted down in the Montana Senate on Thursday afternoon on a tie vote, 25-25.
What’s really disturbing is that a lot of the resistance on the part of some Senate Republicanswas tied to SB 331, which you can learn more about later in this edition of WTH. Sen. Duane Ankney told MTN News that part of the reason for delaying HB 658’s vote was over concern that Bullock would veto SB 331. Other senators also confirmed to MTPR that deals could be struck about both bills.
“There’s always drama,” Ankney said. OH YES. DRAMA LIKE USING PEOPLE’S HEALTH AS A GODDAMN BARGAINING CHIP. JUST YOUR USUAL LEGISLATIVE SILLINESS, NOTHING SERIOUS.
I could yell about this for days, but you guys already know. So, what now?
There’s still ONE LAST SHOT at reviving the bill on Monday during the Senate floor session — to bring it back would take a motion to reconsider, which requires a simple majority.
Here’s what you need to do:
- Call the Capitol Switchboard (406)444-4800 and leave a message for our 5 target senators before 11am on Monday that the health insurance of 96,000 Montanans is NOT A GAME: Sen. Ankney, Sen. Hoven, Sen. Richmond, Sen. Tempel and Sen. Welborn. Already called? Great! Call again.
- Show up in the Senate gallery (at the Capitol) tomorrow at 11am. If they won’t pay attention to our message, we’ll just have to deliver them in person. HUZZUH.
- Share your Montana Medicaid story through social media with the hashtags #NotAGame, #MTPol, and #MTLeg.
Ok, So What’s this SB 331 Business?
We have been taking a little heat on social media from a group of folks I’ve dubbed the Coal Trolls, who clearly want to fight about the future of Colstrip. Just to be clear: Although FMT is against further investment in coal power (we like this planet, people), even if you disagree and want to see Colstrip’s coal plant kept running as long as possible — this is still a bad bill.
NorthWestern Energy is framing this bill as “allowing” them to purchase more shares of Colstrip. But, there’s literally nothing stopping them from buying it now, except that they’d actually be on the hook for potential future expenses from this investment including cleanup costs. Ultimately, they’re trying to circumvent the Public Service Commission — as in, the publicly elected body that’s supposed to regulate these things — and put Montanans on the hook for these costs for the sake of making money for their executives and shareholders. See the actual footage of NWE execs if this bill were to pass to the left.
It’s a debate that’s divided the PSC itself. Eight former commissioners and two current ones sent a letter to the legislature calling SB 331 “a dangerous bill that sets a perilous precedent.” Former commissioner Travis Kavulla has been an outspoken critic of SB 331, especially because NWE has never actually given a concrete reason for why this legislation is necessary to invest in Colstrip.
“They’ve never explained their answer anywhere; to Montana’s legislative committees, to members of the press or public,” Kavulla told MTPR. “And it’s a little disturbing that we are still dealing with a piece of legislation, the need for which is really unclear.”
This sham corporate interest bill would not save Colstrip. The Washington state legislature is closing in on a bill to phase out coal entirely by 2025, which would speed up the already virtually-certain demise of Colstrip. If SB 331 passes, the biggest winner would be NWE executives and shareholders. The losers would be pretty much everyone else. PSC staff laid out an analysis of what this bill would cost NWE ratepayers, and the tab apparently works out to $721 per person.
SB 331 was pretty heavily amended before it passed the House Energy, Telecommunications and Federal Relations Committee on Friday. We’re still working through the implications of these changes, but the Public Service Commission does retain a little more power in the new version. It would be able to decide how much ratepayers are charged for the Colstrip purchase. This is an improvement, but still the fact that we’re legislating about the investments of a private company — a monopoly, nonetheless — and using people’s HEALTH INSURANCE as a bargaining chip is nothing but appalling. Plus, the bill could still change significantly again before the end of the session.
There are real concerns about Colstrip closing, and maybe the legislature should spend more of its time talking about how to actually support the workers and community members of Colstrip and add clean energy jobs to our state. Contact your Senator and tell them you’re not into NWE executives making an even bigger profit off of hardworking Montanans: (406)444-4800.
Supporting Farmers Supports Montana!
HB 431 passed out of committee this week and that means we’re one-step closer to providing a little student debt assistance to young farmers and ranchers in Montana. This bipartisan solution to Montana’s aging farming and ranching communities is a home-run. The cool thing about HB 431 is that it doesn’t just support young farmers and ranchers, it also prioritizes folks who are underrepresented in farming like people of color, indigenous folks, and women.
This bill looks like it’s going to pass the Senate and when it does we can take a moment to celebrate, eat some local food, and drink some beer made with Montana barley.
The moral of this e-newsletter is to call (406)444-4800 and leave messages, messages, messages with your Senators every day, all day, right now.
Not into calling? Send a message electronically using this handy form.
See you next Sunday!