Archive for Business & Labor

Today, House Republicans gave initial approval to amendments the Senate made to a bill that would allow insurance companies to discriminate against customers based on their gender. This means, for example, a person could be charged higher insurance premiums for their home owners insurance simply because they are a woman (or man).

This is similar to bills that have been pushed for decades in Montana. In the early 1980′s, Montana passed a law that reinforced the State Constitution, by stating that gender can not be used as a determining factor in insurance coverage. Every legislative session since then Republicans have attempted to repeal this law.

The version of the law this year, has been amended so that it does not allow health insurance companies to discriminate based on gender. This change came in part because the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress last year, prevents gender discrimination in health insurance.

However, the point remains; discrimination based on gender is wrong. A person should not have to pay more in home owners insurance or life insurance simply because of their gender.

This bill will be up for final approval in the House tomorrow. If the House approves it, it will move to the Governor to either sign or veto.

Categories : Business & Labor

A resolution from Rep. Margie MacDonald, urging Congress to avoid privatization of Social Security, was tabled in the House Business and Labor Committee today.

This resolution was spurred by Republican efforts in the U.S. Congress to privatize the program that provides for retirement benefits for 173,000 Montanans.

Under President George W. Bush Republicans attempted to jam through a plan that would invest Social Security funds into the stock market. If President Bush and Republicans had been successful in their attempts, thousands of Montanans and millions of Americans would have lost all of their retirement money in the stock market collapse at the end of Bush’s term.

You would think that Republicans would have learned that investing our future into the stock market is not a sound policy, however today, they voted to table this resolution in committee. They didn’t even think the measure was worth debating on the House floor.

Categories : Business & Labor

Honoring Firefighters

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While the GOP continues its assault on Montana’s firefighters, Democrats are working to ensure these heroes get the respect and treatment they deserve.

Two bills were heard in committee today that protected the benefits of our firefighters.

The first, from Rep. Mary McNally, guarantees that firefighters continue to receive a portion of their salaries if they are injured in the line of duty. A bill like this seems like common sense; it’ll be interesting to see what the GOP response to the bill is.

The second, from Rep. Ellie Hill, provides for workers compensation for firefighters who are diagnosed with certain diseases related to their service. As we know, firefighters put their lives on the line to protect their communities. However, some often forget that the danger doesn’t end when they extinguish the fire. In the line of their duties, they are subject to extreme conditions and often suffer long-lasting effects from the smoke and heat. This bill would ensure that these heroes are not forgotten when the flames are out. It provides them with workers compensation insurance if they are diagnosed with these diseases.

The GOP should follow the lead of Democrats, and stop trying to make the lives of our firefighting heroes more difficult, and instead make sure that their risks aren’t forgotten.

The Senate Energy and Telecommunications Committee today heard Senator Kendall Van Dyk’s bill that would increase the amount of energy that power companies must produce from renewable sources, such as wind and solar. Currently, these companies must get 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015. If this bill is signed into law, these companies would be required to produce 25 percent of there power from these sources by 2025.

This bill serves two purposes. First, it will help to maintain a clean environment in Montana, this will let Montanans keep the beautiful state they’ve come to enjoy and will help our tourism industry continue to thrive. It will also bring new jobs and businesses to the state.The initial standards for renewal energy in the state was passed in 2005. After its passage, more than 600 jobs were created across the state. These jobs served to boost the economies of Montana’s rural communities.

Sen. Van Dyk’s bill will also lead to lower costs for consumers. Under these standards, energy production companies will be able to purchase less foreign sources of energy. Instead, they’ll be able to rely more on wind and the sun. Which we have plenty of here in Montana.

This is the type of legislation that Montanans want to see from lawmakers. It has a proven track record of success. It creates jobs. It maintains the environmental quality of the state. And it does all of this, without costing the taxpayers money.

After a brief delay, the House Business and Labor Committee today heard Rep. Ellie Hill’s resolution against the Citizens United decision.

This decision from the U.S. Supreme Court gave corporations more power to influence our elections, with little or no oversight. They can now spend money from their corporate treasury to actively support or oppose candidates for elected office. Unlike political contributions or expenditures from people, the corporation doesn’t have to disclose any information about where their money is coming from.

These corporations can now use this power to coerce elected leaders into taking positions that are favorable to them, even if it isn’t in their constituents best interest. As Rep. Hill put it while speaking on her bill, “Corporate spending in elections is akin to bribery.”

This resolution will likely face a committee vote in the next two days. If it is passed, the full House will vote on the bill next week.

Categories : Business & Labor

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