Billings Gazette Opinion: Perseverance pays off for teen’s public-safety bill

April 16, 2009

[Note from Representative MacDonald: I was proud to carry Senate Bill 268 on the Floor of the House, where it was passed. Here’s to a big win for Montanans and safer highways.]

At 17, Luke Anderson knows more about how the Legislature operates than most Montanans do. The Billings teen has worked through four consecutive regular sessions to pass a bill that would help spare other people from the type of highway crash that left him with serious injuries. Luke, a home-schooled high school junior and a part-time Montana State University Billings student, finally saw his legislation pass both chambers this session. Read more

The Halfway Point: Legislative Report

February 23, 2009

Dear House District 54 Neighbor,

We have reached the half way point of the 61st legislature, and we have heard a lot of great legislation. I am continually optimistic for Montana and Yellowstone County.

While the entire nation is feeling economically squeezed, Montana is in much better financial shape than many other states and our state budget (HB 2) is still on track. I am happy to report that we are living within our means. House Democrats and Republicans are working together to make sure we end up with some money left over to cushion our budget for the next biennium. While we are still able to protect critical programs, we are not adding significant new spending during these uncertain economic times. We are moving ahead with an effort to keep Montana moving forward. 
Sincerely,
Rep. Margie MacDonald


Stream Access Passes House 97-3

It’s easy to take for granted our wild places here in Montana. However, in recent years multiple lawsuits by a few wealthy private land owners have tried to close us out of some of our most cherished hunting and fishing areas. We know that we have some of the world’s greatest trout streams and it is also our right to have access to those streams.

HB 190 sponsored by Rep. Kendall Van Dyk (D – Billings) will guarantee these rights to everyone. With bi-partisan support HB 190 had the approval of both agricultural and conservation groups. Montana’s wild places are part of what defines us, and I proudly vote for this bill in order to help secure our outdoor heritage for fishing and water recreation for the future.


 Fighting for Children’s Health Insurance

In November, Montana voters went to the polls and overwhelmingly passed I-155, the state Children’s Health Insurance Program. All 56 counties, and 73% of voters in HD 54, voted for passage of I-155 sending a clear message to their state and local government that the health of Montana’s children should be taken seriously. HB 157 sponsored by Rep. Chuck Hunter (D – Helena) implements the funding for I-155. This bill narrowly passed the House with the strong support of every Democrat, however it recently failed to pass the Joint Appropriations Health and Human Service Subcommittee with a 4 – 4 tie vote, with all 4 Republicans voting no. This is unconscionable to me. Montana voters were very clear in their intentions and I will continue to fight for this bill and uphold our end of the deal.


Expanding Medicaid Eligibility

I’m proud to have sponsored House Bill 214, short titled “Revising Medicaid eligibility for pregnant women.” This bill overwhelmingly passed the House the week of Feb. 9, and was transmitted to the Senate. HB 214 will help to insure critical health care for pregnant woman and for infants.

This bill will not burden Montana tax payers in any way. HB 214 simply clarifies and standardizes language describing eligibility requirements only. The language change will not expand eligibility above the budgeted level, consequently, there would be no fiscal impact.

I proudly presented HB 214. Women with access to healthcare are half as likely to terminate a pregnancy. The overwhelming support in the House is another example of the 61st legislature caring for our fellow Montanans.


Increasing Montana’s Energy Independence

Fuel costs are on the rise again, and while they haven’t reached the levels they were at last summer, they no doubt have an impact on our financial health. I have proudly sponsored two bills this session, both of which aim to help Montanan’s offset the cost of imported fuel. HB 415 “Regulate micro-processing of biodiesel” and HB 416 “Exempt certain biodiesel from state tax” promote local sustainable use of Montana’s resources. These bills will promote a more energy independent Montana and reduce the burden of rising fuel costs on smaller farmers and ranchers throughout the state by allowing them to produce their own fuel.


Legislation Status Update

Sponsor, HJ 16: Analyze state implementation of pay related to equal pay for comparable work and develop guidelines to eliminate pay discrimination. Addressing comparable worth for women in the workplace addresses one of the root causes of poverty and confronting issues like this head on will help to lift many families out of poverty in the state. Heard Feb. 17th.

Sponsor, HB 407: Protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse. Heard Feb. 18th.

HB 478 and HB 290: Promote local food production and marketing by raising exemptions for small producers for produce and nursery plants.

More legislative updates at www.mtcapitolreport.org


Protecting our kids from online predators

February 17, 2009

Keeping our Billings community safe is a top priority for me. For years, I’ve worked through community organizations like the PTA and the Montana Association of Churches to improve our quality of life. That’s why when I heard that one in every five children who uses the Internet is sexually solicited online, I decided to see if more could be done to keep our kids safe. Many children use online networking sites like Facebook or MySpace, and these kids are frequently contacted by strangers – girls more often than boys. Tragically, kids are sometimes lured into meeting with the predators who contact them.

I was asked by the State Attorney General’s office to sponsor HB 407, a bill that strengthens our current law relating to internet predators and ensures that dangerous criminals can be held accountable. The first section of HB 407 tightens laws to make it easier to prosecute predators who travel to meet children after enticing them online. The second section of the bill requires officers to report findings of child pornography to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to make it easier for us to track children and prosecute crimes.

HB 407 is a straightforward bill to help prosecute serious crimes against children. Protecting our communities from online predators is critical to the health and safety of our children.

HB 407 was heard in committee last week. I will keep you informed as the bill passes through committee and makes its way in the legislative process. As always, please contact me at anytime by calling 444-4800. I look forward to hearing from you and working with you to strengthen our community.

Sincerely,

Rep. Margie MacDonald (HD 54)

Juneteenth National Freedom Day

February 9, 2009

On Friday, I introduced legislation creating a civic holiday to commemorate African-American emancipation. HB 340 would designate the third Saturday in June as Juneteenth National Freedom Day.

This tribute will allow us to instill a deeper appreciation and understanding of our history in a new generation of Montanans.

Our nation paid an enormous price to fulfill the promise of the Declaration of Independence by bringing the scourge of human slavery to an end in our country.

In Billings, and in many other Montana communities, we have continued to make a concerted, intentional, and bipartisan effort to fight against racism. Yet messages of hate, anger, and terror still spread. As a community, we have learned that it is important to take every opportunity to make unambiguous statements that we are committed to an inclusive and welcoming community.

By passing this legislation, we can say to such hate: Not in our towns, not in our state.

HB 340 would let our state join 27 others who have honored this holiday, allowing us to recognize our history. When Wilmot Collins testified at HB 340’s hearing, I think he put it best:

“This will be a day of education, this will be a day of celebration.”

Support neighbors of all faiths, ethnicities

January 29, 2009

It is alarming to see that the white supremacist and anti-Semitic “Church of the Creator” has a group of active promoters in our community. People need to know that this movement is promoting its incendiary message to school kids. We should take action to censure these messages, not censor the news media that report their presence.

The message of such groups will lead to vandalism, threats and possibly violence. When groups like this try to establish themselves, others must step forward to support their neighbors of all religions and backgrounds.

There are some good opportunities coming up to do so, including national holidays in January and February. I am introducing a bill in the Montana Legislature to add Juneteenth as a holiday in the state of Montana, to be recognized on the third Saturday of June. Twenty-eight states, including Wyoming and Idaho, have adopted this remarkable celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation.

More than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect on Jan. 1, 1863, the 250,000 slaves in Texas were finally freed on June 19, 1865, when a Union ship landed in Galveston. This celebration has lived on as “Juneteenth,” and is celebrated with picnics, as well as inspirational and patriotic activities. This holiday marks the extraordinary capacity of this great nation to weather storms and reform itself under our constitutional governance.

Montana can lift up Juneteenth as one of many signs affirming our welcome to all people of good will, regardless of race, religion or ethnic background.

Back Home in Billings!

We are citizen lawmakers in Montana which means that I am home in Billings, for the most part, except for periodic interim committee meetings in Helena. You can call me at 652-6625 and leave a message. I like to hear how laws that we pass make a difference or impact you. I also like to hear your ideas on how to make our communities stronger and better. I will be attending community meetings and events to keep my ear to the ground for the needs of our neighborhoods and city. Please come up and say "Hello" when you see me around town.

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