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Montana

Left in the Cold — Utility Shut-Offs and State Responses

Working families struggling to make utility payments are feeling the chill as companies shut off their gas and electricity. Shut-offs are up across dozens of states, particularly Michigan where unemployment is high, with a 22 percent increase in the number of families left without heat or electricity. The state's Heating and Warmth Fund, which helps those in need pay delinquent heating bills, has seen a record 42 percent increase in people applying for heating payment assistance.

Ballot Initiatives 2008

This Dispatch is a roundup of what ballot initiatives will appear on state ballots across the country this November.  Whether it's workers rights, energy policy, education, transit, abortion or health care, ballot initiates give voters a chance to directly vote on an issue.

Should Your Employer Have to Provide a Reason to Fire You?

This November Coloradans will have a chance to vote on a simple proposition:  Should employers have to provide a legitimate reason before they fire an employee? 

Virtually all states already prohibit firings on the basis of race, gender, age or religion and many other criteria; Colorado's Ballot Amendment 55 would merely boil employer responsibility down to a simple requirement that they provide a "just cause" reason for terminating any employee.

Iowa Enacts Election Day Registration - EDR Moving Nationwide

On April 3rd, Iowa Governor Chet Culver signed into law HF 653, which provides Iowans with the opportunity to register and vote on Election Day. Governor Culver stated,

Here in Iowa , we want to make it as easy as possible for Iowans to be involved in the democratic process. This bill achieves this goal. I strongly believe getting more people to vote is good for democracy and good for the future of this state.

Preventing Trade Deals from Undermining State Power

When the Montana State Senate voted overwhelmingly two weeks ago to oppose approval of reauthorization of "Fast Track" Trade Promotion authority for new trade deals, it sent a powerful message that the American people and state governments are tiring of misguided trade deals.

MT: Disclosing Corporate Tax Dodgers

Every wonder which corporations are dodging your state corporate income tax?  Unfortunately, you usually can't find out since corporations have maneuvered to keep their tax returns secret from the public-- including from state legislators who have to write tax policy without knowing which companies are abusing loopholes to evade paying their fair share of taxes.

"Fast Track": Montana Senate Says No To Bad Trade Deals

Early this week, the Montana State Senate took a shot at out-of-control U.S. trade policies when it overwhelmingly passed (44-6) a resolution calling on Congress not to renew the President's "Fast Track" trade promotion authority.  That fast track power gives the President the ability to negotiate trade deals with no amendments allowed by elected officials, leading to a history of bad trade deals that limit opportunity for workers and state legislatures' ability to govern.

Oil and Gas Drilling: Not the Way to Preserve the Roan Plateau

Over a dozen groups have filed protests against a plan by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to open up the top of Colorado's Roan Plateau to leases for drilling, which could be put up for bid as early as November.  Oil and gas drilling already takes place on the plateau, but federal land managers have chosen to open the top of the Roan Plateau for drilling without waiting until resources at the bottom of the plateau are tapped.  Oil in the undeveloped plateau could supply the U.S. with all of 5.8 hours worth of its oil needs.  Gas in the undeveloped Plateau could supply the U.S. demand for a little over a month.  All this in exchange for permanently scarring the unique landscape and rendering it unfit for hunting and recreation.  And, more unsettling, is that the BLM recognizes the ecological and recreational importance of the area.  A recent BLM study found that streams on the Plateau would meet the requirements to be designated as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System by Congress.  The BLM Draft Management Plan recognizes that several areas within the Plateau met the criteria to be designated as Areas of Critical Environmental Concern.

Strengthening Home Rule on Revenue Powers

If states won't raise the revenue needed for local needs, the least they can do is let those cities and towns tax themselves.  At least that's the proposal by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who this week proposed eliminating some of the restrictions that prevent Boston and other towns from raising local revenue through sales taxes, meals taxes or many other fees that comparable cities use.  This proposal joins a slew of other proposals for expanding local revenue options: