Montana 2009 ballot news archive

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Abortion ballot measure leader comes under investigation

KALISPELL, Montana: Dr. Ann Bukacek, leader of the Montana ProLife Coalition, came under investigation during early November due to allegations of medical fraud. Bukacek, who is spearheading the campaign effort for the Life Begins at Conception initiative, has come under fire after being accused of unusual billing practices and submitting Medicaid reimbursements for prayer session time with patients.

Bukacek has countered those accusations by stating an upset former employee is the cause of the investigation. This signals the fourth investigation since April 2009 that deals with allegedly corrupt billing methods. Bukacek stated that fraud investigators asked "How much time we spend on it, how we decide how to pray, how we pray with non-Christians." The doctor continued in an interview with a local newspaper: "They said they have to follow up every allegation made. I believe these individuals are people doing their job. I find no fault in them. But think about the federal capacity for harassment. Will I continue to get an average of one government investigation a month?"[1][2]

Montana 2006 recall effort billboard may have violated law


HAMILTON, Montana: A nine-page ruling by Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth stated that Jack Vallance violated state campaign finance laws when he flew his airplane with an electronic billboard message that campaigned for the recall of Hamilton city councilor Bob Scott. The ruling stated that the act should yield a civil penalty. According to state law, billboard signs must contain information on who funded the sign.

The recall election was held in 2006, in which Scott retained his seat, with a slim margin of 152-150. The recall was the result of accusations that Scott implement “playground antics” that hurt the city and residents, including submitting a $152 travel expense reimburesment two years prior to that.[3]

Helena newspaper editorial calls voter turnout 'shameful'

Helena, Montana: In an editorial published by the Helena Independent Record, the publication calls the voter turnout in the city ‘shameful.’ The newspaper stated that the city is dependent on it’s government, yet less than half of the registered voters went to the polls to vote.[4]

The editorial states: “…the only troubling aspect about the commission election rests with the level of voter participation.We live in a city that revolves around government and there was a diverse field of qualified candidates, yet only 44.6 percent of the eligible voters bothered to vote. We can't accurately describe the number as "voter turnout," since the process of voting on the mail ballots didn't even require a change from one's pajamas or a trip to a polling place. All it took was a minute or two and a postage stamp."

Tribal amendments may return in Montana

POPLAR, Montana: The Fort Peck Reservation saw constitutional amendments on their bi-annual tribal election ballot on October 31, 2009. However, all were rejected due to voters voting for all of them as one big change, instead of voting on each of the amendments singly. According to reports, though, voters may get a second chance to decide on these amendments. Results of the election were 926 voting against the amendments and 683 voting for the amendments. Some of the amendments that the reservation saw included:[5]

  • Establish staggered four-year terms for the chairman, vice chairman and sergeant-at-arms offices as well as six of the council seats. The remaining six council seats would be elected from each of the reservation's six districts.
  • Develop and implement a code of ethics for all tribal elected officials.
  • Add tribal judges to the election ballot, rather than allow the Tribal Executive Board to appoint them, as is currently done.
  • Establish a reserve fund for tribal monies that would remain untouched.
  • Establish a tribal bill of rights and waive the tribal sovereignty and immunity held by tribal council members, who currently can't be sued for monetary reasons in tribal court.
  • Change the general council attendance quorum from 500 voters to 100

Montana Attorney General approves language of controversial ballot initiative

HELENA, Montana: Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock approved the ballot language of a controversial ballot initiative during the week of September 4, 2009. However, opponents stated that the proposed ballot measure's language is misleading and also does not take into consideration a woman's right to privacy. The proposed initiated constitutional amendment would amend the Montana Constitution to say that human life begins at fertilization.[6]

An effort in Montana in 2008 to qualify the Montana Right To Life Initiative for the ballot was unsuccessful in collecting sufficient signatures to earn a spot on the ballot.

Montana county's residents accept and reject school tax levies

Gallatin, Montana: Residents in Gellatin County voted on trustees to local school boards, but also approved and disapproved of school tax levies in the same election. While some parts of the county approved of school tax levies, other areas failed to pass the proposed measures.

The taxes passed in LaMotte, Willow Creek and West Yellowstone, however in Ophir and Anderson, they were rejected.

In another part of the county, Monforton residets were split when they voted yes to raising taxes to improve and maintaing buildings, but no to raising taxes in order to operate the schools in the area.[7]

Great Falls voters reject propery tax levies

GREAT FALLS, Montana:Residents in Great Falls voted no on August 4, 2009 to two property tax levies that would have expanded both the police and fire departments.

The levy to expand the fire department was defeated 59 percent to 41 percent and the levy to expand the police department was defeated 60 percent to 40 percent.

If the property taxes were enacted, the city would have hired 16 new firefighters and 17 new police department employees. Despite both departments’ complaints of being understaffed, 10,067 voters opposed the fire levy and 10,227 opposed the police levy.[8]

Montanans file initiative to reform eminent domain laws

HELENA, Montana: A grassroots coalition of property-holders and businesses in Montana, working under the name United Property Owners of Montana, have filed an initiated constitutional amendment initiative designed to ensure proper compensation for landowners regarding eminent domain takings. Eminent domain is the process by which the state may seize a citizen's private property in exchange for due monetary compensation. According to Chuck Denowh, the Montana group's policy director, current law is completely unfair and essentially says, "If your property is reduced by 100 percent, you get paid in full; if it's only reduced 95 percent, you get no compensation whatsoever. We should be treating every taxpayer the same. This amendment will ensure equality."[9]

Toby Dahl, a board director of the group, gave a larger picture of what the initiative would accomplish, saying that it is intended to "make sure we're taking impacts on private property into account before we enact a new regulation." He went on to point out that under the current system, many times a small group is singled out to pay the bill for government regulation which is intended for the good of the greater public, which should be split evenly amongst all citizens.[10] The proposed ballot measure must first clear reviews by state agencies, after which to qualify for the ballot, supporters must obtain roughly 50,000 signatures by mid-June of 2010.

Personhood amendments proposed in Colorado and Montana

DENVER, Colorado and HELENA, Montana: Last week, anti-abortion/pro-life activists in two states, Colorado and Montana held press conferences to launch petition drives to put "personhood amendments" on the ballot in their respective states.[11]

A "personhood amendment" was on the 2008 ballot in Colorado, where it lost decisively. Organizers of the 2010 ballot measure in Colorado say the 2010 effort will be different in several respects that may overcome problems with the 2008 campaign.[12]

A right-to-life initiative did not make the 2008 ballot in Montana because of insufficient signatures.

Both amendments are sponsored by a new national organization, Personhood USA, that formed in the wake of the loss of the 2008 Colorado Personhood Amendment.[13]

Montana group broke campaign laws, official says

HELENA, Montana: Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Dennis Unsworth has issued a lengthy report saying that a Montana political action group "Montanans in Action" violated campaign finance reporting and disclosure laws in 2006. A complaint was filed in July of 2006 alleging that Montanans in Action failed to keep detailed and accurate contribution records, illegally laundered out-of-state contributions, unlawfully used electronic funds to receive contributions and spend money, in addition to numerous other violations.

Montanans in Action promoted three statewide ballot initiatives: one that would make it easier to recall judges (Constitutional Initiative 98), another that would limit growth of state spending (Constitutional Initiative 97) and another that would expand the definition of government takings (Initiative 154).[14]

According to Unsworth's report, most of the $1.17 million spent by Montanans in Action went to professional signature gatherers who helped qualify the measures. Another $600,000 went from the Montana group towards a property-rights measure in California earlier in 2006. Unsworth and Jonathan Motl, a Helena attorney, claim that MIA has refused to provide critical documents on their campaign-related spending and even to be interviewed by a state investigator. Trevis Butcher, treasurer and chief spokesperson of MIA, continually insists that their organization has been nothing but cooperative with the authorities, and insists that their accusations are "spurious," "absurd" and constitute nothing more than a witch hunt.[15]

Abortion initiative filed in Montana

HELENA, Montana. Rick Jore has filed the wording for an initiated constitutional amendment that would amend the Montana Constitution to say that human life begins at fertilization.[16]

Jore's group collected signatures on a similar effort in 2008 but failed to collect enough signatures.

See also