ACTION – HB 234, Second Reading, Monday

Dear MSSA Friends,

MSSA’s HB 234 is shown on the Legislature’s Website as scheduled for Second Reading debate and vote on the floor of the House on Monday, 3/30.

HB 234 is to fund the Shooting Range Development Program with $700,000 for the next two years, AND to prevent FWP from stealing the money the Legislature appropriates for the SRDP and using it for some other purpose.

For the last two funding cycles, the last four years, FWP has taken most of the money the Legislature appropriated for the SRDP and has applied that money to some other purpose.  I believe that the money taken from the 2011 SRDP appropriation went directly into the pockets of FWP employees.  The money FWP hi-graded from the 2013 SRDP appropriation FWP says it just put back in its bank account by refusing to spend the money.

The SRDP has been a hugely successful program, I think.  I got it started in about 1987, using just a bit of hunter license fee money to make matching grants to local clubs to establish or improve ranges.  Since the SRDP started, nearly $20 million has been invested in building ranges in Montana.  I believe that people in every Montana community should have a safe and suitable places to shoot the firearms that are so common in Montana, and that are essential for hunting.  I’ve told FWP, if people aren’t shooting, they won’t be hunting, and if people aren’t hunting, they won’t buy hunting licenses to support FWP financially.

Notwithstanding that, FWP has always seen the SRDP as the ugly stepchild, using "their" money for a purpose not invented or supported by FWP.

As a part of its hostility to the SRDP, FWP plays a double game.  First, it steals most of the money the Legislature appropriates for the SRDP.  Then it spreads the word to applicants that the money is gone, so there’s no use going to the trouble of crafting and submitting an application for a grant.  THEN FWP tells the Legislature that there are not enough applications submitted to justify the level of SRDP funding MSSA requests.

For the past two budget cycles, 2011 and 2013, MSSA has gotten $625,000 appropriated to the SRDP by the Legislature.  In both budget cycles, FWP has diverted about 2/3 of that funding to other uses.  In this session, FWP put in a budget request for only $224,000 for the SRDP, again telling the Legislature there are not enough grant applications to justify more than that (see the double game above).

HB 234 bumps that appropriation up to $700,000, AND sets up the funding in such a way as to make it very difficult for FWP to divert the funding.

Please contact your Representative (not Senator, yet) and ask him or her to please support HB 234 on the floor of the House on Second Reading, Monday.  Also contact any other Representatives you wish (you’ve learned by now who the softies are).

Get messages to legislators via the Message Center, 444-4800, or with the Online Message Form at:
http://leg.mt.gov/css/About-the-Legislature/Lawmaking-Process/contact-legislators.asp#email

Thanks loads for your help!

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

HB 457 postponed

Dear MSSA Friends,

The House has postponed consideration of HB 457 for today.  It will almost certainly come up on Monday when the House convenes at 1:00 PM.

So, we have more time to get messages to House members to support HB 457.

Please get messages to Representatives asking them to support HB 457.  Since HB 457 is a referendum, if we get enough votes to get it on the ballot, it doesn’t go to the governor for his signature.

Thanks for your help.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

IMMEDIATE – HB 457 tomorrow

Dear MSSA Friends,

HB 457 has just been scheduled for Second Reading in the House tomorrow, Saturday, 3/28.  Sorry for the short notice.

This bill is for the constitutional referendum to remove from the Montana Constitution that archaic1884 language saying that the right to keep and bear arms does not include carrying concealed weapons.

Please contact your Representative and any others you can asking them to support HB 457.

I characterize this 1884 language as a culturally-obsolete dress code issue.  It is the only dress code still specified in the Montana Constitution.

Montana culture and law have changed since 1884.  The law no longer requires separate schools for children of African descent.  The law no longer requires permission from her husband for a woman to sell property or go into business.  And, the law no longer specifies what clothing we must or may not wear, thus the defeat of the infamous "speedo and yoga pants" bill this session, except for clothing that might conceal a firearm.

The House will go into session tomorrow morning, so there’s not much time to get messages in to legislators.

Get messages to legislators via the Message Center, 444-4800, or with the Online Message Form at:
http://leg.mt.gov/css/About-the-Legislature/Lawmaking-Process/contact-legislators.asp#email

Also, bad news, but not unexpected.  Governor Bullock has vetoed HB 203 (non-enforcement of new federal gun control) and HB 298 (Permitless Carry).

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

Northwestern Energy prevails in defeat of HB 598

Dear MSSA Friends,

The arguments of Northwestern Energy, an out-of-state-corporation, were repeated today on the floor of the House during Second Reading debate over HB 598, leading to a vote of 44-66 and the defeat of HB 598.

Also involved in opposition to HB 598 is Mom’s Demand Action, an entity fostered by billionaire ex New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, also credited with a major win for gun control recently in the State of Washington and gun control efforts working now in Nevada and Oregon.

Whether Northwestern and Bloomberg are coordinating anti-gun efforts in Montana is unknown, but they are clearly pushing Montana in the same direction with shared opposition to HB 598.

HB 598 sought to set a high judicial barrier to infringement of the right to keep and bear arms by the state, and to allow the people of Montana to vote on that concept.  Therefore, the opposition by Northwestern and Bloomberg is not only contrary to the interests of Montana gun owners, it is also to prevent the people of Montana from even having a vote on this important issue.

Many concerned Montana gun owners are asking what possible interest Northwestern Energy could have in opposing the right to keep and bear arms in Montana, a right the people have reserved to themselves from government interference in the Montana Constitution.

Northwestern’s claim is that HB 598 would affect its private property rights, a claim repeated in debate on the floor of the House today.  However, a plain reading of HB 598 demonstrates that it would apply to a claim "only against the state" (HB 598 says, Page 2, Line 5).  Since HB 598 clearly does not apply to a non-governmental entity, Northwestern’s opposition to HB 598 must have some other, hidden motive.  Northwestern’s congruency with Bloomberg’s history and anti-gun efforts offers a logical explanation for Northwestern’s deviance from its usual corporate mission as a utility company.

Northwestern even admits that a strong majority of its Montana customers are gun owners.  One great mystery then is why a publicly-traded utility company would elect to squander so much good will over public opposition to a bill that actually has no effect on the company or its mission.  Good will is touted to be important to Northwestern.  In fact, Northwestern carries "Goodwill" as an actual asset on its corporate balance sheet valued at $355 million.  It is stunning to think that a publicly-traded company would expose such a valuable "asset" to potentially catastrophic erosion in the highly-charged political arena of gun rights, especially when the company has no real dog in the fight.

It is only speculation that perhaps anti-gun Bloomberg has influenced Northwestern’s institutional investors to encourage Northwestern to take this considerable risk.  That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense, since institutional investors traditionally abhor public controversy and turmoil related to the companies they invest in.  Or, perhaps Northwestern has an officer or officers with personal anti-gun bias who chose to  engage in this risky behavior on behalf of the company, but without regard for the impact on the company image.  Only Northwestern can clarify its ulterior motive.

Meanwhile, all we know for sure is that HB 598 was defeated today, and Northwestern Energy has been the lead opponent to the bill.

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

FLASH – HB 598, Second Reading House, tomorrow (Friday)

Dear MSSA Friends,

HB 598 just got scheduled for House Second Reading for tomorrow (Friday).  The House floor session begins at 1:00 PM.

So, you have until 1 PM tomorrow to get messages to your and any other House members asking them to please support HB 598.

HB 598 would require that if your RKBA is infringed by a governmental entity and you file a corrective lawsuit, the courts must require the infringement to pass the highest level of judicial scrutiny, AND, if you prevail, your court costs and attorney fees are paid.

HB 598 is the bill that Northwestern Energy so inappropriately testified against.  They may still be working against it behind the scenes.

Here are my talking points for HB 598.  Use whatever you like:

1)  Let the people vote.  HB 598 is a referendum, so it would only put the question before the people of Montana for a vote at next year’s general election.  Let the voters decide.  Anyone against HB 598 is against voters’ freedom of choice.

2)  In D.C. v. Heller, the US Supreme Court determined that the RKBA is a fundamental right.  Fundamental rights are already determined as needing the highest level of judicial scrutiny for infringement, so HB 598 is no great departure from the status quo.  It just makes sure the courts have gotten the message (and awards attorney fees and court costs for successful litigants).

3.  Our RKBA is precious and cherished in Montana.  It deserves this policy to be declared in law.

4.  For Republicans, the special importance of the RKBA is in the Republican platform.  Ahem, the Democrats don’t have a platform plank about the RKBA – unfortunately, they tend to be selective about what constitutional rights they like and support.

5.  The only real opposition to HB 598 was from Northwestern Energy and the few other abetters they rounded up.  Should we allow an out-of-state corporation to determine our civil rights in Montana?

GET THE MESSAGES IN!!

Especially to these four critical Representatives:

Roy Hollandsworth
Tom Richmond
Dan Salomon
Jeff Welborn

Get messages to legislators via the Message Center, 444-4800, or with the Online Message Form at:
http://leg.mt.gov/css/About-the-Legislature/Lawmaking-Process/contact-legislators.asp#email

Thanks!!!

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

Update, SB 143 not tomorrow

Dear MSSA Friends,

Where the Legislature’s Website showed SB 143 (Campus Carry) as being scheduled for Second Reading for tomorrow (Wednesday) a few hours ago, the Website no longer shows that.

Apparently, the Powers-That-Be have withdrawn SB 143 from tomorrow’s schedule.

If you are sending messages, carry on.  SB 143 will come up soon.  If you were planning to go to the Capitol to watch the debate, check the Legislature’s Website again tomorrow just to be sure the schedule doesn’t change again.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

Flash – HB 234; SB 143

Dear MSSA Friends,

HB 234, about shooting range funding, has just been approved by the House Appropriations Committee.  The Committee approved amendments I had drafted and rejected hostile amendments.  HB 234 will now go to the House floor for Second Reading.  I’ll let you know when – soon.

SB 143, Campus Carry, will be on the House floor at 1 PM tomorrow, 3/25, for Second Reading.  Please contact your Representative (and any others) and ask him or her to please support SB 143.  Make whatever short argument you wish.  MSSA’s lead argument is that the unelected bureaucrats of the U-system have no power to suspend the Montana Constitution, or the rights we have reserved to ourselves in the Constitution from government intrusion.

Get messages to legislators via the Message Center, 444-4800, or with the Online Message Form at:
http://leg.mt.gov/css/About-the-Legislature/Lawmaking-Process/contact-legislators.asp#email

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

Update – Northwestern, bills, etc.

Dear MSSA Friends,

I’m just back from three days in Helena.

Monday morning, while awaiting the House Judiciary Committee hearing on our suppressor bill (SB 295), I got a call from and did an interview with a Fox News reporter in NYC who wanted to ask about the illogical fight Northwestern Energy picked with Montana gun owners.  The story that resulted from that interview is at:
http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/03/23/montana-utility-lobbies-against-gun-rights-expansion-bill/

Perhaps the most informative line in the story is this one:  "Reached Monday in his Helena office, [NWE lobbyist] Fitzpatrick referred FoxNews.com to a utility spokesman who declined comment on the bill."

Reading between the lines, NWE is now figuring out what a tremendous mistake it made opposing an RKBA bill that doesn’t affect NWE at all.  Before NWE was just circling the wagons over the criticism of its off-mission tinkering.  Now NWE is starting to hitch up the wagons and move them quietly back down the trail, in the dark.  Although NWE’s circle-the-wagons blog post is still up at:
http://www.northwesternenergy.com/news-center/northwestern-blog/nwe-blog-item/nwe-blog/2015/03/14/northwestern-provides-clarity-to-testimony-on-hb-598

I expect it may disappear soon.  NWE has maintained, even after the House Judiciary Committee amended HB 598 to cure even the most paranoid suspicion about effect on non-governmental agencies, "The company and Fitzpatrick said they are still opposed [to HB 598], and would not be intimidated."  LINK

Perhaps NWE’s institutional investors are hearing about this blowup, getting nervous, and calling in.  We’ll see.  Meanwhile, some MSSA folks suggest that all MSSA Friends buy just one share of NWE stock and begin to think about attending the NWE Annual Meeting in April to participate in that Meeting and the election/reelection of candidates for the NWE Board of Directors.  I’ll let you know if we come up with any concrete plan about that.

About HB 598’s possible application to a non-governmental entity (the NWE position), Al Smith, Helena attorney and lobbyist for the Montana Trial Lawyers Association said, "I don’t see any possibility for a private entity to be held liable under this bill, unless the private entity has contracted with a government to perform a governmental function."

At the House Judiciary Committee hearing on SB 295, MSSA’s bill to end the prohibition on suppressors for hunting, opposition came only from the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the lobbyist for Montana game wardens.  FWP’s opposition has become muted. FWP’s only remaining reason for opposition is no longer poaching, dead livestock, or "fair chase," but that suppressors will damage the image of hunting among the non-hunting public.  A member of the Committee asked the FWP opponent if he had any data to support that notion.  He didn’t.  Not very persuasive.  The HJC acted on SB 295 today, approving it.  SB 295 will now go to the House floor for Second Reading.  As soon as it is scheduled, we need to push hard on this.  I’ll let you know.

The hearing on HB 234, to prevent FWP from diverting and misusing the money the Legislature appropriates for the Shooting Range Development Program (SRDP), had its public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee today.  This is a thorny issue.  FWP solicited and received a letter from a US Fish and Wildlife Service employee in Denver ("Denver letter") saying essentially that if the Legislature put this money beyond FWP’s theft, that would be considered a "diversion" of in-state hunter license fee money that would make Montana ineligible to receive about $27 million of federal matching money.  The letter from USFWS said that in order for a state to be eligible for federal funding under the federal Pittman-Robertson Act and Dinagall-Johnson Act (PRDJ), any in-state hunter license monies must be under the "control" and "administration" of the state wildlife agency.

I pointed out that the SRDP is assigned by Montana law to the "control" and "administration" of FWP.  And, I provided a letter from the former administrator of the PRDJ for the USFWS in Washington, D.C., wherein he asserts that the "Denver letter" is just smoke, and is improperly intended to allow FWP to do whatever it wants with any money appropriated by the Legislature, regardless of the wishes of the Legislature.

The House Appropriations Committee is spooked by the threat (even if empty) that the USFWS could deny Montana $27 million in PRDJ federal funding.  In order to quiet these fears among Committee members, I’ve worked with amendments to come to some middle ground, to only allow FWP to divert the SRDP money if there is an "emergency" with FWP, and with the terms of the "emergency" defined.  I’m watching the Committee action now.  It is expected to consider the amendments and act on HB 234 today.  Again, I’ll let you know.

That’s enough for now.  More soon.  Stay tuned.

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

Bill actions coming up – ACTION

Sunday, 3/22, 10:00 AM

Dear MSSA Friends,

We have actions coming up on two of our bills Monday and Tuesday, plus other bills percolating that needs your ongoing attention.

Public hearings:

SB 295, to end the prohibition on suppressors for hunting, will have a public hearing before the House Judiciary Committee Monday morning, 3/23, at 9:00 AM.  Please show up to speak or contact Committee members in support of SB 295.

HB 234, to fund the Shooting Range Development Program and to prevent FWP from stealing the money the Legislature appropriates for this purpose, will have a first public hearing before the House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday at 8:30 AM, 3/24.  Please show up to speak for HB 234 or contact Committee members in support of HB 234.

To Governor:

Of course, HB 203 (non-enforcement of new federal gun control) and HB 298 (Permitless Carry) are headed for the Governor’s office (may arrive tomorrow).  Keep sending messages to the Governor in support of these bills (see my previous emails for talking points and contact methods).

Action soon:

HB 457, MSSA’s constitutional referendum to remove the archaic this-doesn’t-apply-to-concealed-weapons language from the RKBA in the Montana Constitution will soon come to the floor of the House for Second Reading debate and vote.  We need to get this 1884 dress code, "coat control" out of the Montana Constitution.  I’ll try to get an alert out as soon as I see HB 457 scheduled for Second Reading, so you can contact your or all Representatives, but you may see it scheduled as soon as I do if you’re watching the legislative Website.  We’ll only have short notice on this.

HB 598, to require a high level of judicial review and award costs and fees for state and local government violation of the RKBA – same story as HB 457 – coming soon to House Second Reading,; short notice.

SB 122, encourage manufacture of ammo components in Montana, same story as HB 457 and HB 598.

SB 143, Campus Carry, same story as SB 122, HB 457, and HB 598.

Folks, we are in the middle of the third lap of a four-lap race with our bills in the Legislature.  We are doing well, but we can’t let up now.  Not one bit.  Your continued support is ESSENTIAL to keeping these bills moving and making Montana gun laws better.

Thanks so much for your continued support!

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com

More about Northwestern Energy and the RKBA

Dear MSSA Friends,

The ongoing attack by Northwestern Energy on the right to keep and bear arms that Montanans have reserved to themselves in the Montana Constitution is beginning to disclose interesting and questionable new issues about Northwestern.

Northwestern opposed the pro-RKBA House Bill 598 before the Legislature, justifying only 3% of its opinion by claiming HB 598 could affect its property rights or employee contracts (the remaining 97% was just a rant).

Well, words matter.  In the case of Northwesterns opposition to HB 598 and to justify its anti-RKBA stance, it was necessary for it to pretend to read words into the printed language of the bill that simply dont exist.  HB 598 says on Page 1 that it applies only to the state of Montana or any political subdivision or local government, and on Page 2 that it relates to a claim or defense only against the state.

HB 598 simply does not apply to any private-sector entities.  Northwestern pretends that the words or Northwestern Energy are magically in the bill, maybe somewhere between the lines, just because they say so (and dont you just love the Kings new clothes?)  Regardless of Northwesterns fantasy, those words are not in HB 598.

The alternative explanation is that Northwestern is so full of itself that it thinks it IS the State of Montana.  Actually, this explanation may get closer to the nut.

In its reports to investors, Northwest says it carries on its balance sheet an asset of Goodwill that it values at $355 million.  Yes, really.  A chunk of this incredible Goodwill value Northwestern claims on its balance sheet as an asset it attributes to a stable regulatory climate.

Thats an understated way for Northwestern to brag to investors that it has a lock on the Legislature and the Public Service Commission, a manifestation of the Copper Kings legacy in Montana by this foreign corporation that shouldn’t surprise us.  Northwestern Energy wants investors to believe it wields the political muscle to control the Legislature and the PSC, thus its claim of a stable regulatory climate.

If it does have that control, thats a foreign influence over Montana and its people that voters need to fix in the next election cycle.  If Northwestern is just blowing smoke, the Legislature and the PSC need to tell Northwestern in no uncertain terms to mind its own business.

Northwestern Energy of South Dakota has been granted a monopoly of market in Montana by the Legislature.  Government-created monopolies are always a potentially worrisome thing.  If Northwestern insists on throwing around the weight it gets from this captive market by using that Legislature-granted muscle to restrict the civil rights of Montanans, then its high time for the Legislature to either end this predatory monopoly or crank the regulatory screws dramatically down on Northwestern.

The Legislature is supposed to be the peoples voice, not Northwesterns handmaiden.  We all want reliable energy, but we aren’t willing to pay a political price for that of allowing Northwestern Energy of South Dakota to run Montana.  We pay enough for energy already out of our checkbooks.

http://missoulian.com/news/state-and-regional/montana-legislature/marbut-vs-northwestern-house-panel-advances-gun-rights-referendum-that/article_5707b010-f9ca-53b6-b69b-1da923bff2f1.html

Northwestern continues with its "circle the wagons" response and refuses to admit that it was off base and WAY outside it corporate mission area in opposing HB 598.  It still opposes the RKBA and HB 598.  Should we allow an out-of-state corporation that has a legislatively-granted monopoly to work against our constitutional rights?  Northwestern thinks that if they just dig in for a while this will all blow over and people will forget about it.  I don’t think so.

Are Northwestern investors listening to this hornets’ nest of controversy that Northwestern has kicked open in Montana?  Maybe, and maybe Northwestern will hear about their jitters.

Sorry so long, but I can’t resist one more comment.  Northwestern claims that I’ve "threatened" them by suggesting I might attend public hearings on issues of interest to Northwestern before the Legislature and the PSC.  Dang, I didn’t know I was so powerful that a giant corporation would feel "threatened" just because I might attend a public hearing, and might even use my First Amendment right to speak.  Dang.  Flattering.

Feel free to forward this or send more comments to Northwestern officers at:
Pat.Corcoran@northwestern.com
Pam.Bonrud@northwestern.com
Bobbi.Schroeppel@northwestern.com

Best wishes,

Gary Marbut, President
Montana Shooting Sports Association
http://www.mtssa.org
Author, Gun Laws of Montana
http://www.MTPublish.com