Despite the plunging oil prices, ADF keeps hiring in Great Falls, Montana. Firearms sellers are being choked off from payment processors. Zinke goes to bat for rural fire department volunteers threatened by Obamacare. Will Daines re-introduce the Ansel Adams Act? Prepare for amendments on the Keystone pipeline. And, Michelle Obama’s school lunch standards are now even hurting the school store. Those stories and more are in this week’s “Politial Trough” below.
Flathead Beacon: Kalispell Native Among Finalists for Super Bowl Commercial
Two University of Montana alumni worked on one of the 10 finalists for the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl commercial contest.
Alex Pollini, who graduated from UM’s School of Media Arts in 2012, is photography director and a co-producer while Kalispell native and 2011 graduate Sean Clark served as lighting gaffer for “Baby’s First Word.”
VIDEO of the ad:
A Montana woman gave birth to a set of identical triplet boys in early December, a rare occurrence— especially without the aid of fertility drugs, reported the Billings Gazette.
Jase and Jody Kinsey of Miles City, Montana, welcomed their boys—identical spontaneous triplets— on Dec.5. Identical spontaneous triplets occur after one egg is fertilized and divides into two, creating identical twins. If the embryo splits again, identical triplets occur.
Washington Times: Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act
The House voted Monday night to exempt volunteer firefighters and emergency personnel from Obamacare’s insurance mandate on employers, a follow-up to a similar bill for veterans that passed unanimously last week.
In a 401-0 vote, the chamber said volunteer responders should not count toward the tally of workers that determines whether an employer must provide health insurance or pay fines under the Affordable Care Act.
PRESS RELEASE FROM OFFICE OF REP RYAN ZINKE (R-MT)
Ryan Zinke Votes to Preserve Rural Montana
(WASHINGTON) January 12, 2015 – Today, Congressman Ryan Zinke voted to preserve rural Montana fire departments and roll back potentially life-threatening regulations in ObamaCare by voting “yea” for the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act. Under ObamaCare, employers are mandated to provide health care if they have more than 50 employees. This dangerous regulation adds to costs and will likely limit the number of firefighters a department can afford. This Act would exclude volunteer firefighters from being counted in employers’ tally, allowing rural fire departments to accept more volunteers, ensure prompt response times, and save land, homes and lives. The International Association of Fire Chiefs warned that over 780,000 volunteer firefighters may be subject to these rules, which could lead to volunteer fire departments closing or significantly curtailing their emergency response activities.
The following statement is from Congressman Ryan Zinke.
“Rural and volunteer fire departments are critical to the health and safety of Montanans, and protecting these departments from potentially life-threatening ObamaCare regulations, in my opinion, is mandatory for any elected official who represents our state. We have more than 340 volunteer fire departments in Montana, and more than 10,000 volunteer firefighters who drop whatever they are doing to fight wildfires, structure fires and respond to emergencies. I’m proud to vote for the Protecting Volunteer Firefighters and Emergency Responders Act because it fixes the problem by rolling back dangerous regulations in ObamaCare that could cause rural Montana fire departments to close down.”
From a prior post:
The problem begins with how the U.S. Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service view volunteer firefighters. The Labor Department considers them to be actual volunteers while the IRS believes they are technically employees if they work more than 30 hours per week, the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) said on its website.
Prior Post- Will it now be Dems v Firefighters in 2014?
From Monday, Politico.com breaking news on the Keystone pipeline:
The Senate voted today to kick off a debate over legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, voting 63-32 to take up a bill that would short-circuit President Obama’s authority over the $8 billion pipeline.
Ten Democrats and one independent joined every Republican in advancing the Keystone bill, though some pipeline backers in Obama’s party could end up opposing the legislation in a final vote if Republicans attach amendments that pull it to the right during what could be a weeks-long open floor debate.
PROCEDURAL KEYSTONE VOTE DONE, SENATORS PREPARE FOR AMENDMENTS: The Senate’s vote last night to start the debate over the Keystone XL pipeline bill has opened the legislative floodgates for the new GOP Congress, with members on both sides of the aisle set to unleash a torrent of politically sensitive energy amendments on issues such as crude oil exports and climate change. The climate amendment, backed by Sen. Bernie Sanders, is designed to pin down senators’ views about the connection between humans’ greenhouse gas emissions and global warming, while Sen. Ted Cruz is pushing the measure to end the four-decade-old ban on exporting U.S. oil, an effort that’s opposed by a majority of voters. Elana Schor breaks it down: http://politico.pro/1y70PcJ
Flathead Beacon: Will Daines Introduce Ansel Adams Act?
Months after uproar over proposed filming fees in federal wilderness, Texas representative proposes solution
The effort comes just months after the U.S. Forest Service created an uproar when it announced it would enforce an obscure regulation that could require special permits, costing up to $1,500, for anyone filming or shooting photographs in the wilderness that could be considered a commercial activity.
The Forest Service’s plan to enforce photography permits and fees in the wilderness drew ire from Montana’s Congressional delegation last year, including Sen. Steve Daines. Although he did not say he would reintroduce the Ansel Adams Act, in a statement to the Beacon he said protecting photographer’s rights were important to him.
The Daily Signal: Firearms Sellers Say They’re Being Choked Off From Payment Processors
Republican members of Congress have accused the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, among other government agencies, of having undue influence when it comes to banks’ decision not to do business with firearms merchants.
The program, initiated inside the Justice Department, is known as “Operation Choke Point.”
Whether the implications of Operation Choke Point seeped into policy decisions at third-party payment processors is unknown.
Great Falls Tribune: ADF will keep hiring locally despite crude prices
Great Falls plant manager Dan Rooney said the metal fabricating company just north of Great Falls plans to complete the hiring of an additional 130 skilled workers — doubling its workforce — by the end of the year.
“While low crude oil prices might affect the development of oil sands in upper Alberta, our business model is not dependent on providing fabricated parts to them,” he said. “We’re a flexible manufacturing facility and will continue our growth plans in manufacturing for industrial and commercial customers as well as oil and gas projects as they become available.”
As examples, Rooney said the Great Falls plant is working on contracts to provide building materials for a large retail shopping complex in California and a pot ash fertilizer plant in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
The Billings Gazette: Gov. Bullock’s (D-MT) $400M infrastructure plan to be heard Tuesday
Bullock’s budget director, Dan Villa, said the state now pays about $14 million annually to service already-issued bonds.
An analysis by the Legislative Fiscal Division estimated the state would have to pay back $192 million over 20 years to cover the Bullock bonding proposal. That would amount to about $14 million annually in all but the first two and last two years of the repayments if the bonds were issued in two phases in October 2016 and October 17.
Flathead News Group: Bullock and Republicans square off on goals
Senate Majority Leader Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive, said the Republicans’ focus is at odds with Bullock’s.
“It can be summed up with a simple phrase,” he said. “We plan to focus on policy and legislation that will help grow the economy, while the governor focuses on growing the government.”
Rosendale said Republicans plan to introduce bills that support a tax and regulatory climate that allows new businesses to open and makes it easier for businesses to expand.
LastBestNews.com: Beware of taxes that promise to offer tax relief
Missoula Mayor John Engen wants the Legislature to allow cities to let their citizens vote on whether to levy local sales taxes. Currently, only cities with populations below 5,500 that have a special dependency on tourists can do so. Engen apparently wants a sales tax in every Montana city whose governing bodies want one. And you can take this to the bank: Once the option becomes available, every city father and mother in Montana will move heaven and earth to get one.
Another reason offered for a sales tax is that it would provide property tax relief. Yeah, but for how long? And if property taxes are as bad as they say, why don’t we just bag them altogether and go for a great, big sales tax? The state constitution limits the percentage size of a sales tax but we could always make ours the broadest in the land. If a little medicine is good, a lot is better, right?
Be afraid, be very afraid, when a smooth-talking city slicker starts pitching a new tax to lower your taxes.
Remember those WWJD bracelets that were so popular in the ’90s? Well, an expert at the Law Library of Congress — a non-partisan branch of the Library of Congress that has advised Congress and the Supreme Court since 1832 — tackled a slightly different question: What would George III do when faced with a law he didn’t like?
Not even the King of England at the time of the American Revolution had the authority to suspend laws unilaterally, the Law Library expert wrote in a memorandum to the Senate committee tasked with responding to President Obama’s recent executive orders on the enforcement of immigration law.
One hundred years before the American Revolution, another British king had “attempted to suspend a number of laws,” contributing to the onset of the Glorious Revolution in England, a senior foreign-law specialist at the Law Library writes in the memo to the Senate Judiciary Committee. “King George III,” the specialist goes on to remind the committee, “was thus unable to enact or repeal any laws unilaterally without the involvement of Parliament.”
Bonus points: Obama’s going to tout the “success” of the auto bailout at a factory owned by a company that didn’t take a bailout.
And now…for the “Oh for Pete’s Sake” segment. You mean to tell me that they’re even going after THE SCHOOL STORE?
Great Falls Tribune: Students, schools adjust to new food standards
“Pretzels. What’s wrong with pretzels?” The answer was a lot.
David King, sixth-grader at Meadow Lark Elementary, asked the question and found the answer as one of three self-proclaimed “kid nutritional specialists.”
Stemming from the Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act, the guidelines push whole grains, fresh produce, low fat and reduced sodium.
For the first time, the rules extended beyond the lunch ladies’ realm to regulate vending machines, school stores and any other activity selling food during school hours.