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SB82 would make seat belt violations ‘primary’ offenses

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It is with great sadness I write this, after Monday’s tragedy affecting the Wing family of Polson. Our hearts go out to them at the loss of their daughter Samantha Schaff. With a heavy sense of Providential timing, Senate bill 82 – making seat belts a “primary” offense – was debated Thursday in a two-hour public hearing. Testimony was compelling, from emotional individuals to Col. Tooley, chief of Montana Highway Patrol, reporting chilling statistics. My incoming mail is running four to one in favor of passing this bill. Regardless of the outcome of a vote, the loss of a beautiful young woman is beyond profound.

The governor visited our chambers on Thursday for his annual State of the State speech. I counted eight times he used the word “jobs.” He proudly tallied thousands of new jobs created by expanded mineral extraction. Coal, oil, gas, platinum and palladium are robustly making their way to market from Montana’s treasured reserves. Naturally, the governor shines positive light on the year’s successes. It doesn’t matter who takes credit for levering our economy out of the ditch. We gave standing applause to several individuals attending who put thousands of Montanans to work in career jobs. 

It’s great that 2010’s wheat crop was a whopper. But the Department of Labor and Industry reports that Lake County now has a 10 percent unemployment rate; Flathead is struggling at 12 percent. All Montanans are pleased that cattle prices were good last fall but it doesn’t necessarily put a good cut of beef on our tables here.

My Business, Labor and Economic Affairs committee heard testimony on mandatory training for alcoholic beverage servers – passions are mixed on that issue. We passed a bill to put the “Jake brake” on small business regulation. We moved to retain volunteer boards who advise on state policy rather than shift their duties to paid bureaucrats.

The big legislative issue was the Senate’s party-line vote directing Montana’s attorney general to join the two dozen other states to sue to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (nick-named “ObamaCare.”) Folks agree there are some good elements of the federal legislation, but the majority of the policy is overwhelmingly bureaucratic, and takes control away from you, the patient. My experience is that when you are in need of health care, you’re in a compromised condition and not thinking as you may as a consumer. That’s when you need simple access to the health care of your choice. 

As you know there are some big issues approaching, like what to do about medical marijuana; property and business equipment tax; Workers Comp rates; keeping the public employees’ pension fund solvent to name a few. 

Keep your cards, calls and emails coming. I value your input.

Carmine Mowbray
P.O. Box 200500
Helena, MT 59620 
(406) 444-4795

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