Montana News – August 2, 2017

Montana senators respond to health care repeal vote

Montana’s senators took different approaches in their response to the Senate’s vote to block the repeal of Obamacare.

Sen. Steve Daines blasted his colleagues for defeating the repeal bill.

“Montanans have made it clear in election after election, they want Obamacare to be repealed and replaced,” Daines stated. “These families have paid far too much and have faced an increase of 133 percent in their premiums over the past five years. We must help these families and not let them suffer under this broken law anymore.”

Sen. Jon Tester called for an end to partisan bickering and encouraged cooperation and compromise.

“The current system needs to be fixed and that’s only going to happen if Republicans and Democrats sit down and work together on solutions that lower the cost of health care for everyone,” Tester said.  “I have brought some real health care improvement bills to the table, and I’m committed to finding more solutions, but I cannot and will not vote for anything that raises costs, kicks people off their health plans, and closes rural hospitals.”


Daines introduces online privacy bill

U.S. Senator Steve Daines last week introduced bipartisan legislation to modernize our nation’s privacy laws and update warrant requirements for electronic communications to reflect the technological realities of the 21st century.

The current law that governs protections afforded to electronic communications was passed in 1986, a time when Congress could not have anticipated the prevalence of email and digital communication.

The Email Privacy Act updates this law and shows how outdated laws can be improved through bipartisan, commonsense reforms. The bill protects Americans’ email and other data by requiring law enforcement agencies to obtain a search warrant based on probable cause before accessing it.  It replaces the obsolete “180-day rule,” which some government agencies invoke to claim warrantless access to older emails.

“Current laws have simply not kept pace of the innovation in the private sector,” Daines stated. “This bill updates current law and ensures that we are protecting Montanans’ Fourth Amendment Rights.”


Bullock announces FEMA aid for Lodgepole complex of fires

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has accepted Montana’s appeal after initially denying the state’s request for Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) eligibility to help fund efforts to fight fires at the Lodgepole Complex area, which is currently the state’s largest fire.

“As firefighters from across the country battles blazes in all corners of Montana, I’m pleased the federal government has reconsidered our request for help,” said Governor Bullock. “These brave men and women are putting their lives on the line to help ensure the safety of Montanans, their property, and our communities and they deserve every resource available to help them.”


Daines, Gianforte lobby Zinke for aid to Montana agriculture

U.S. Senator Steve Daines and U.S. Representative Greg Gianforte last week requested emergency relief to farmers and ranchers severely impacted by the Lodgepole Complex Wildfire in Eastern Montana.

In a letter to Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, Daines and Gianforte urged Zinke to grant farmers and ranchers the ability to graze livestock on retired grazing allotments within the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR).

“We write to request that the Department of the Interior provide emergency relief to farmers and ranchers severely impacted by the Lodgepole Complex Wildfire in Eastern Montana however possible and urge your consideration of granting permission to graze livestock on retired grazing allotments within the Charles M. Russell Wildlife Refuge (CMR),” Daines and Gianforte wrote. “Hardworking Montanans throughout the Eastern portion of our state have suffered at the hands of a severe drought of historic proportions this season, and this fire, impacting the largest surface area in the country at over a quarter of a million acres, has only created further hardship and devastation to farmers and ranchers in the region.”


Tester requests Trump appoint envoy to North Korea

Following North Korea’s most recent missile launch last week, U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Heidi Heitkamp are calling on President Trump to appoint a special envoy to ensure the United States is using every diplomatic tool possible to ensure the safety and security of the American people.

In a letter to the President, the senators requested that a Special Envoy to the Korean Peninsula be tasked with easing regional tensions and bringing regional powers and allies to the table.

“We write with deep concern about North Korea’s dangerous behavior and acceleration of its nuclear weapon and ballistic missile programs, which threaten our national security,” the senators wrote. “The United States cannot sit idly by as a dangerous dictator threatens our families, our freedoms, and America’s standing in the world.”


Montana AFL-CIO blasts Daines over health care vote

Al Ekblad, Executive Secretary of the Montana AFL-CIO released the following statement after the U.S. Senate voted down Senator Daines’ single payer amendment:

“We’re incredibly disappointed in Senator Daines. Instead of coming home to Montana, he’s in Washington, D.C. playing partisan games in order to score cheap political points, while the health care of 80,000 Montanans and over 20 million Americans remains under threat. It’s time for Senator Daines to start taking his job and this debate seriously. We expect much, much more of our U.S. Senators.”


EPA follows Daines’ recommendations for Superfund Task Force

U.S. Senator Steve Daines last week secured his recommendations in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Task Force Report released by Administrator Scott Pruitt.

“With nearly 20 National Priority List Superfund sites in Montana, it’s a high priority of mine to ensure we are doing all we can to work toward cleaning them up,” Daines stated “I am glad to see Administrator Pruitt take into account my recommendations and I look forward to continue working with the EPA to improve the Superfund program.”

On June 27, Daines sent a letter to Pruitt that included recommendations for improvements to the Superfund program.

The following recommendations from Daines were included in the Superfund Task Force Report:

  • Expediting the pace of cleanup of Superfund sites
  • Using the Superfund Alternative Approach more frequently
  • Facilitating on-the-ground cooperation with impacted parties
  • Prioritizing Superfund program within the EPA’s mission
  • Enforcing standards consistently
  • Using the program funding efficiently