After state employee whistleblowers were bashed by the Left and Press alike, it turns out they actually raised some important questions according to one prominent columnist. That story is below as we highlight some of the happenings at the Montana Legislature this week- including debates over guns and gay marriage. I’ve also got a shot of the Under-30 Republicans serving in the legislature. Plus, the former numbers guy for the legislature has some bad news when it comes to revenues and oil production.
But first, state credit cards tallied $4.6 million spent on just hotels alone in 2014. What else? Here’s a very interesting report from The Bozeman Daily Chronicle- Itemized receipt: A look at where the State of Montana uses its credit cards
In 2014, state agencies paid $1,523,052 for flights and baggage on Delta Air, $149,290.75 to Alaska Air.
A public records request produced an itinerary for a seven-day tour of Turkey paid for by the Turkic American Alliance, the lobbying wing of the Fethullah Gulen’s Hizmet movement.
State employees also spent $15,932 sleeping at Chico Hot Springs south of Livingston. Another hotel payment that stood out was a $4,781 payment to Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort in Orlando, Florida, by the Montana Department of Administration, which is “the backbone of state government,” according to its website.
Who went to Turkey? Secretary of State Linda McCulloch (source)
— News Dir. MTPR (@MTPRND) January 26, 2015
Related…Business Insider: Oil Tycoon Harold Hamm Is Selling $3 Billion In Shale Assets
Harold Hamm is selling shale assets.
On Wednesday, pipeline operator Kinder Morgan announced a deal to acquire $3 billion worth of Bakken shale assets from Harold Hamm’s Hiland Partners.
Hamm has been in the news recently as terms of his public and expensive divorce have surfaced, including a situation earlier this month in which Hamm wrote out a $975 million check to his ex-wife Sue Ann Arnall, who initially rejected the check.
Montana Legislature: Coming up this week
GUN LAWS. The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday will take testimony on HB203, by Rep. Art Wittich, R-Bozeman, to prohibit enforcement of new federal gun laws in Montana. It is at 8 a.m. in Room 137.
SAME-SEX MARRIAGES. The House Judiciary Committee on Friday hears HB282, by Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, to repeal prohibitions in state law regarding same-sex marriage. A federal judge has struck down Montana’s constitutional ban on same sex marriages. Hearing is at 8 a.m. in Room 137.
— Greg Strandberg (@gpstberg) January 26, 2015
House Bill 304 is sponsored by Mitch Tropila, D-Great Falls, and would increase the penalty for gating a public road from $10 a day to $500 a day.
The second bill, House Bill 286, is sponsored by Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls. It would require that individuals wishing to close a public road first contact local officials and legally prove that the road should be closed. A disputed road would have to remain open until it’s proven to be a private road.
Chuck Denowh, director for United Property Owners of Montana, said requiring landowners to legally prove that they have the right to block access to their own road violates the basic right of due process.
Billings Gazette: Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers
In appearances before two legislative committees, they said the computerized verification system still isn’t working well, and gave examples of people either lying to get benefits or getting benefits, like food stamps, when they didn’t need them.
Should people get food stamps based solely on income if they have tens of thousands of dollars in property or other assets? Is a state policy to approve welfare benefits quickly pushing workers to ignore possible fraud? Is abuse of the system just an aberration, as state officials suggested, or is it more widespread because of computer problems and state policy?