Thursday, January 18, 2018

Local state legislators say “no” to crucial debate

Do you know how your legislators voted on one of today’s pressing issues in Helena?
Take, for example, Medicaid expansion. Whether you are for it or against it, the matter deserves an honest discussion. Your senator, David Howard, voted at least three times against moving Senate Bill 405 to the House for further discussion. SB 405 is the Republican-authored bill that would help qualified, low-earning Montanans afford health insurance coverage.
When the bill came to the House Human Services Committee your representative, Forrest Mandeville, voted to kill the bill in committee – before it could be discussed by the full House. Amidst wrangling on both sides of the aisle, Mr. Mandeville voted to abandon the legislative session – BEFORE meeting the legislature’s primary constitutional obligation: approving a balanced state budget.
How do Mr. Howard and Mr. Mandeville justify their actions? Both signed on for nearly $10,000 of state health insurance coverage annually, paid for by our tax dollars. Both qualify for the benefit through the term, whether they work a particular month or not.
If, as opponents claim, most Montanans stand against Medicaid expansion, what have our legislators to fear from an honest discussion?
Whatever their reasons, the issue is too important NOT to discuss. In the future, I hope to see our legislators support a healthy debate on such critical issues.
P.S. Incidentally, both legislators also each voted to kill SB 289, which attempts to restrict “dark money” from Montana’s political campaigns. Their actions give tacit support for smear campaigns funded by anonymous donors – somewhat akin to the Stillwater County News running a letter to the editor without a name attached.

Linda Halstead-Acharya
Columbus