The Helena Independent Record publishes letters from readers in the Opinion section. Here are this week's letters.
To submit a letter to the editor, go here.
Helena is fortunate to have Chamber CEO
I just listened to Cathy Burwell on the morning "Coffee Break" on KCAP. Helena businesses and residents are very fortunate to have Cathy as a spokesperson for them. Yes, it is her job. But she brings much more to the table. Her knowledge of events and new ventures is provided in a refreshing, positive manner that makes the listener eager to experience the new of Helena. She makes change more palatable to those of us who have been in or near Helena all of our lives. Her IR column is very informative and an enjoyable read. Her professional handling of Helena's Chamber of Commerce and all things Helena is commendable.
The terminally ill deserve a peaceful death
HB 284 is a bill about human dignity, body autonomy and agency of one's own health care at the end of life. Allowing someone with a terminal illness to choose a peaceful, planned death over a painful, lingering death is the ultimate form of respect we can show for human life.
While many of us may not personally want the option to take medication to peacefully end an agonizing dying process if we had a terminal illness, I believe it is not for me to judge someone else. Until I walk a mile in another person’s shoes, it is not for me to stand in the way and deny this option to another person. After watching my own father pass away too young, I know personally how many difficult, gut-wrenching decisions must be made around the inevitable death of a loved one and all of them should be done without public input.
As a proud multigeneration Montanan, I share two particular values with my neighbors: Made in Montana is best, don’t tell me what to do with my life. HB 284 goes directly against those values by inappropriately telling Montanans it doesn’t trust them to make decisions about their own lives.
Trump doesn't understand that his rants have ramifications
Something disturbing and dangerous happened after the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Hearing. President Trump criticized and humiliated OUR investigative agencies — FBI, CIA and DNI, tweeting, “they’re wrong … they should go back to school.”
This is not only demoralizing to all who work daily to keep our country safe — all of us safe; Mr. Trump doesn’t know what he’s talking about. Do not let the intent of his rant fade away. There is no other leader in the world who would speak those words. Can you imagine the leader of China, North Korea or Russia criticizing their own investigative agencies? Telling them that they are wrong! Unbelievable!
You can bet Putin has his little snarky snake grin on his face. This behavior feeds the Putin-Trump "strange" relationship theories. And, no, this should not be written off as par for that crazy dude in the Oval Office. For all of Mr. Trump's shouting that keeping Americans safe is his most important job, this demonstrates that he has no clue of the effects of his words. He seems not to understand that the words of the president of the United States of America have ramifications all over the world. His outburst is dangerous to our country, and, it is not a stretch to say that his statements border on treasonous.
Proposed Medicaid changes would hurt ag workers
I work seasonally on ranches outside of Helena. My employers are unable to offer insurance, so I enrolled in Medicaid to make sure I have health care. Working with horses, cattle and heavy equipment includes substantial risk – I wanted to make sure I’d be OK if I got into a bad accident. Jobs in ranching are cornerstones of Montana’s way of life. Medicaid enrollees like me should not be subjected to work and online reporting requirements.
Ranching is a solid, honest job, but it can also have volatile hours and varying seasonal durations that make us eligible one month and short the next. These jobs also don’t have sick leave, so when workers get sick or have a family emergency, we risk losing coverage.
On the ranch, access to the internet or computers can be limited, so I definitely can’t submit online reports on what hours I have worked. I want my government to spend tax dollars on something useful – not more paperwork and bureaucracy. Any work requirement added to Medicaid expansion would have the unintended consequence of taking coverage away from people like me who are contributing to Montana's agricultural industry.
Don't penalize auto insurance lapses
Montana law requires auto insurance. With hefty penalties for non-compliance: a person without insurance could face $250-$500 in fines or 10 days in jail. Caught uninsured three or more times? $500 fine and/or prison for up to six months. Penalties are applied evenly, regardless of a person’s address or credit score. The same cannot be said for policy prices.
Working Montana families bear the brunt of an industry allowed to base prices on financial circumstances, zip code, job, education and credit. Consumer Reports stated that new Montana drivers with clean records and poor credit pay nearly $1,700 more annually than one with excellent credit. Almost $1,200 more than excellent credit and a DUI. Premiums should be based on driving record, not credit.
Coverage lapses can increase policy prices. Some companies cannot even underwrite policies if someone’s coverage has ever lapsed. There are many situations that cause insurance lapses. Being priced out of the market, becoming incarcerated, deploying service members, relocating military personnel and veterans, as well as anyone using public transit or biking.
Montana lawmakers must create an auto insurance market that provides equivalent drivers with equivalent rates and doesn’t penalize people for reasonable lapses in coverage.
Thankful for great people at St. Peter's
My family member had a life threatening emergency on Feb. 7, 2019. I would like to share the overwhelming positive experience we had at St. Peter's Health. Due to the nature of the emergency we were very concerned about getting immediate medical assistance. Not to worry. Starting with the ER desk agent the response was super fast.
Special kudos to ER Dr. Tiffany Kniepkamp! She was right on top of what needed to be done and diagnosed my family member's issues immediately. She kept our family informed and calm as she conveyed complete confidence and focus herself.
I wish I knew all the names of all the ER staff that assisted with this emergency, as they were super competent, knowing the urgency but still working great as a team. Thank you so much Dr. Kniepkamp and staff.
In addition, Dr. Paustian is so very appreciated as his work was phenomenal and timely. So often, I hear people say that to get great medical treatment you must go to Missoula, Kalispell or another city in Montana. Our family would disagree. Please be thankful for these great people at St. Peter's.
Washington Post praise is misplaced
Tom Rygg’s recent IR praise for the Washington Post’s truthful reporting is misplaced. Post articles are biased in favor of U.S. military intervention as displayed by a recent Washington Post editorial by R. J. Samuelson who advocates for continued U.S. military build-up. Why was no rebuttal printed?
The Post also appears to be biased in favor of Israeli repression of Palestinian rights. The bias is displayed when the Post fails to mention daily Israeli assaults on Palestinians. Putting a few news sources like the Washington Post, which leave out important stories, in charge of news and opinions to which we all are subjected, does not add up to free press.
Help commercial properties lower energy bills
An innovative energy savings program is up for debate on the hill in Helena. SB 245, Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy, or CPACE, is a commonsense approach to helping property owners to lower their energy bills and carbon footprint.
The CPACE program is designed to provide all commercial properties in Montana with access to 100 percent upfront financing from willing banks and private investors for energy efficiency upgrades. Lenders are repaid, with interest, through an assessment on the property’s annual tax bill, and there’s no public money involved. CPACE upgrades are financed by spreading a project's costs out over a payback period of five to 20 years, and the tax assessment is transferable should the property change hands. Crucially, the payback will never outpace the savings on energy costs, and the property owner will start saving money as soon as the upgrades are complete.
CPACE would be an important step toward mobilizing our state to deal with climate change, and provides tremendous economic opportunity for the construction industry, lending institutions, businesses and property owners.
The bill has bipartisan sponsors and is supported by a diverse group of statewide stakeholders. To learn more, visit mtpace.com and call your representatives to support SB 245.
President of Revitalize Construction & Restoration
Support for Trump's emergency declaration is alarming
Sen. Steve Daines’s and Rep. Greg Gianforte’s support for President Trump’s recent national emergency declaration should alarm Montana Democrats and Republicans alike. First, there is no emergency. According to the Department of Homeland Security, illegal immigration along the Mexican border has steadily declined since the early 2000s. Second, this illegitimate declaration of a fabricated crisis will make it much easier for a future president, of either party, to defy Congress and weaken its constitutional role as a counterweight to the executive branch.
Support bill to protect gender identity or expression, sexual orientation
This is about a courageous person in our lives, our grandson. Just a little over a year ago, our then-granddaughter decided after three years of counseling and much deliberation it was time to come out to us with her decision to be transgender. Fast-forward one year and our grandson is a much happier, mentally healthy individual because of this decision. He is our hero!
We are not going to tell you that it is easy to take the news of an 18-year-old who you once knew as a beautiful young woman making the transition to a handsome young man. Both of us mourned the loss of our granddaughter, but what we got in return was a terrific grandson. He is still the loving, thoughtful and giving individual we have always known.
Now is the time for Montana to come to grips with the concept that all people are created differently, but that does not make them less human. We urge you to have the courage as our grandson did, to write to the House Judiciary Committee before Friday and pass HB 465 revising the human rights act to protect gender identity or expression and sexual orientation.
Concetta & Leonard Eckel