With both the legislature and Congress in session, there is a lot of great info to share with you…so let’s throw it all in this week’s Political Trough.
First, former Sen. Max Baucus’ (D-MT) chief of staff is back in the news, as Politico Playbook reports…
LATE NIGHT BEST – “Jon Stewart Mocks Dems ‘Scared’ of Daring to Challenge Hillary” – video : http://bit.ly/1KxgeVJ
OBAMA ALUMNI BACK AXE – Jim Messina (@Messina2012): “Every word of @davidaxelrod mitt e-night call is true. I was standing with axe & POTUS. That’s what happened” … @JayCarney: “Account by @davidaxelrod of POTUS call w/Romney on election night is 100% accurate. I remember it well.” http://politi.co/1Kxw8PS
— The Hill (@thehill) February 6, 2015
From the Left…Flathead Memo: Why did Andrea Marcoccio and MT’s Democrats part company?
A whiff of something unpleasant emanates from this development. Did Marcoccio get crosswise with Sen. Jon Tester, Gov. Steve Bullock, or both? They’re the only Democrats with the muscle to engineer so precipitous a departure. Or was there an event not directly related to politics?
Now, I’ve never been a cheerleader for Marcoccio. In fact, last summer I called for her dismissal. But she’s entitled to due process, the same as everyone else. The board and rank and file of the party have the right to know why she’s leaving. And the board should have been involved in whatever led to her departure.
By the way, if you hadn’t heard- James Carville will headline the MT Dems Mansfield-Metcalf dinner on March 7th. Click here for ticket info.
Here’s some interesting milestones from Friday’s “Capital Journal” from the WSJ:
U.S. petroleum imports accounted for less than 20% of the 2014 trade gap, down from over 40% five years earlier.
About 2.1 million new cars and trucks were built in the U.S. and shipped to other countries last year, the first time auto exports topped 2 million.
From Jim Geraghty’s Morning Jolt e-newsletter for The National Review: There’s ‘Ell’ to Pay When Tom Brokaw Is Furious
Well, this is ominous for Brian Williams:
You know you’re in trouble when Tom Brokaw is out for your blood.
“Brokaw wants Williams’ head on a platter,” an NBC source said. “He is making a lot of noise at NBC that a lesser journalist or producer would have been immediately fired or suspended for a false report.”
The Daily Caller: The EPA Is Ready To Regulate Americans’ Wood Stoves
“The EPA’s shortsighted regulatory overreach is once again hitting hardworking Montanans in their pocketbooks,” said Montana Republican Sen. Steve Daines.
Some 2.4 million American households rely on wood stoves for heat. When the agency proposed the rule last year, critics argued 80 percent of wood stoves in use would not meet tightened standards and consumers would never be able to buy them brand new — raising energy costs for millions of people during the coldest times of the year.
With the State Department’s evaluation of the Keystone XL pipeline in a seemingly never-ending state, spokeswoman Jen Psaki continued to duck questions on the issue during a contentious briefing on Tuesday afternoon.
During a back-and-forth with the AP’s Matt Lee, Psaki refused to acknowledge whether all eight agencies submitted their reports and recommendations for the pipeline, which were due Monday. Psaki’s push back led Lee to question Psaki over the Obama administration’s claim to be the most transparent administration, asking “what happened to this transparency idea?”
The Daily Signal: Obama’s Budget Hikes Taxes by $1.6 Trillion
President Obama has proposed a fiscal year 2016 budget that raises $3.5 trillion in fiscal year 2016 and $45 trillion over 10 years.
In his budget, Obama also proposes that over the next 10 years, tax cuts of $349 billion be accompanied by tax increases of $1.9 trillion, for a net 10-year tax increase of $1.6 trillion.
— MT Republican Party (@MontanaGOP) February 5, 2015
Also from the Left…Ochenski: Bullock’s infrastructure bill blows up
It comes as no surprise to seasoned legislature watchers that Gov. Steve Bullock’s attempt to put nearly $400 million worth of infrastructure spending projects into one bill has been rejected by the Legislature. If he really believes the projects are as worthwhile as he contends, Bullock would do well to acknowledge his unconventional approach has failed and get to work with the Legislature on the seven bills containing his proposals.
That Bullock sought to abandon long-held legislative protocol with his “all-in-one” spending bill is a mystery in itself. Although the governor claimed his approach was intended to unite eastern and western Montana projects, he vowed in his State of the State address last week that “any infrastructure plan that is paid for by all Montanans, but only prioritizes pet projects of certain legislators, will be met with a veto.”
It is disingenuous of Bullock to insist that these projects are vital to the state’s interest – so much so that they require $212 million in bonds – yet threaten to veto the bills containing them unless the legislature funds them through his single infrastructure spending bill. Bullock simply cannot have it both ways – either the projects are indeed important and deserve to be funded through whatever bills the legislature feels are appropriate, or they are not. The governor’s veto threat appears to say they are not important enough to warrant funding through separate bills.
— Austin Knudsen (@RepKnudsen) February 5, 2015
This was probably the most interesting guest opinion column concerning the Montana Legislature all week…
The Billings Gazette: Competitive teachers salaries needed more than new pre-K by Gordon Hahn
Although I appreciate the governor’s support of education, I am opposed to his Early Edge proposal. We have a much greater educational need in our state. I’ve been an educator in Montana for 35 years teaching chemistry and physics. Currently, I am the superintendent in Saco. Finding and keeping teachers has become a critical problem for Montana schools. Last year, I needed a business teacher and there were only four candidates for the 18 schools looking for one. I had two elementary positions open last year and had only two viable applications. In the past, I could see 20 applications for a single position, but now, we are hopeful to even get one. Montana schools are constantly looking for music, math, science, and other teachers often with no applications at all. Schools fear they will lose music or art completely if they can’t replace their current teacher. Science and math teachers are the most difficult to find.
In the past, we lost teachers to Alaska and Nevada due to higher pay. Now, we lose them to Wyoming and North Dakota for the same reason. Wyoming starts teachers at $45,000 per year where teachers in rural Montana are lucky to start at $28,000. The results? I can’t find or keep teachers.
The governor’s proposal will cost $37 million dollars (for the biennium) and this is where I find myself in opposition to it. Although optional, his Early Edge proposal means I need to find a teacher who has an early childhood endorsement (currently not even available from the Office of Public Instruction) to teach part time in Saco. I can’t find teachers to fill the required positions I need already. I’ll have to find a new part-time teacher for a program that can’t even prove itself.
In 2012, Missoula County Public Schools Superintendent Alex Apostle dismissed a massive student protest over a raise he received from the school board, saying, “My contract is an adult issue, not a student issue, quite frankly.”
Of course the best example was Apostle’s very significant raise – $45,000 over a three-year period – which would increase his annual salary from $155,000 to $200,000.
The math curriculum budget was $500,000, while the “school district only had $200,000 to work with for all curriculum needs across the board,” said a report from NBC Montana.
He says he won’t tolerate selling the state’s public lands, but multiple uses from recreation to mining are part of Montana’s heritage.
— Virgil Middendorf (@vmiddendorf) February 6, 2015
In last night speech, Bullock mentioned adding a clause that would address the fears of Medicaid becoming a tax burden, but as Representative Knudsen explains “simply adding a clause that says if money doesn’t come in, well pull the rug from underneath those 70,000 Montanans is not going to work” We’ve heard the federal government make many promises before.
Another from the Left…David Crisp: Constitutional convention a bad idea
This session, at least two resolutions have been introduced: one, by Matthew Monforton, R-Bozeman, calls for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. The other, by Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, would roll back the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.
Nationally, supporters of a convention include John Kasich, governor of Ohio and a possible presidential candidate, and Rob Natelson, the former University of Montana law professor who has made Article 5 a specialty.
But supporters and opponents do not break down neatly along partisan lines.
The Glasgow Courier: Votes Tear Down Keystone XL Again
“It’ll pass guys, relax! It’s been seven years, what’s the hurry,” one commenter stated on a social media post by the radio host of Voices of Montana, Aaron Flint.
Great Falls Tribune: Drop in oil prices will affect Montana many ways
There’s good evidence the U.S. economy can continue to make “stronger, bullish” gains of 3 percent in 2015, he said, but the slowing global economy and uncertain energy impacts raise concerns.
Montana State University agriculture professor George Haynes said agriculture prices and production have been strong for several years, especially near record high calf prices, but declining fuel prices have raised some concern for grain farmers.
With a surplus of oil, there’s expected to be a big drop in ethanol production, a process that now uses about 40 percent of the country’s corn, he said. And if corn isn’t used in making ethanol, it can be sold for livestock feed, cutting into one use for wheat. Still, he said, many producers will benefit from lower fuel and fertilizer costs.
I categorically deny any official misconduct. I do not participate in back-room deals but work in the light of the public eye. My detractors need to file charges with the county attorney so I can defend myself from these baseless accusations.
The water compact is not a government grab. The state of Montana now owns all of our water and will continue ownership under the compact. The Salish and Kootenai water compact protects those holding water rights and their beneficial use of water. The water compact settles the quantification of the tribes’ water rights through negotiation and ensures that all citizens will have water to develop Northwest Montana, now and in the future.
Cheap oil driving up the cost of condoms? From Bloomberg: The $755 Condom Pack Is the Latest Indignity in Venezuela
Venezuelans who already must line up for hours to buy chicken, sugar, medicines and other basic products in short supply now face a new indignity: Condoms are hard to find and nearly impossible to afford.
“The country is so messed up that now we have to wait in line even to have sex,” lamented Jonatan Montilla, a 31-year-old advertising company art director. “This is a new low.”
collapse in oil prices has deepened shortages of consumer products from diapers to deodorant in the OPEC country that imports most of what it consumes, with crude exports accounting for about 95 percent of its foreign currency earnings. As the price the country receives for its oil exports fell 60 percent in the past seven months, the economy is being pushed to the brink with a three-in-four chance of default in the next 12 months if oil prices don’t recover.
No surprise here…Movie Maps: Where Films Are Shot Worldwide; The Most Iconic Movie Filmed in Your State…