Wednesday, August 27, 2014

In honor of Labor Day!


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Growth Through Agriculture

  There's a program that's funded in part by Montana's coal severance tax trust fund called Growth Through Agriculture.


   As part of an update (or an introduction, for some) to the on-the-ground good that the Growth Through Agriculture program does, I toured Three Hearts Farm and the Root Cellar food production facility in Gallatin County, both recipients of GTA grants. GTA grant recipients must match grant dollars one-to-one with their own money. Three Hearts Farm and Root Cellar are local producers, expanding to food prep for local restaurants and sellers like the Food Co-Op. Three Hearts Farm employs four people, and their new business, Root Cellar creates jobs, too!

  We hear terms like "economic development" and "value-added commodities" and this local operation is an excellent example of what those terms mean. Three Hearts Farm is a nine-acre operation growing kale and beets, tomatoes, carrots, onions, and more. The farm received a $7,500 GTA grant a couple years ago to help with the purchase of a walk-in cooler. As farm owner Dean Williamson describes it, the cooler itself helped increase exponentially the ability of the farm to keep fresh vegetables marketable for much longer, helping the farm's business.

  This year, Root Cellar matched a $38,500 grant from GTA to purchase a commercial food washer. Dean puts kale and beets and lettuce and all sorts of vegetables through the washer and he can also do food prep, like chopping lettuce and slicing beets and cucumbers for the Food Co-op salad bar or for local restaurants, which helps him to market to those retail locations, too.

  The food prep is "value-added" agriculture because it's the prepared vegetables instead of the fresh but unwashed and unsliced vegetables. The "economic development" is helping a local producer keep his produce fresh, and then helping several local producers wash, prep, and provide that produce via a new business in Gallatin Valley, a business which employs local people for food going to local businesses!

  The state could do more. A few legislative sessions ago, Growth Through Agriculture had $1.2 million to distribute in grants (each grant then matched one-for-one with dollars from the recipients. That's the deal.) In 2011 in a conservative legislature, the funding was halved. And last session, even more dollars from the coal severance tax trust fund were rerouted as part of a funding solution for state employee pension plans.
  This biennium, there were requests from GTA for $1.7 million, but the program only had about $650,000 to distribute. All grant recipients, I was told, requested more money than they were granted (and they could have matched a greater grant amount, too).
  This program is a success. I'll do all I can as a state senator to help to grow the program to make more funds available for our local economic development and value-added products.

  The local NBC affiliate, KTVM, did a story on the tour: http://www.nbcmontana.com/news/bozeman-businesses-show-how-ag-grants-help/27335490


  BOZEMAN, Mont. -Bozeman-area businesses showed state lawmakers and representatives from the Montana Department of Agriculture how grant money is helping diversify the state agriculture industry.
   Council members learned how a small grant made a big impact on a local farm.
   Dean Williamson owns Three Hearts Farm and grows 150 types of plants including fresh produce.
   His operation is a small nine-acre farm, but he says they got help to grow after receiving a Growth Through Agriculture grant of $7,500, that they used to buy a walk-in cooler.
   "Oh, it was gigantic," said Williamson.
   It's a piece of equipment, he said, that allows him to store twice as much produce, which then goes out to local restaurants and grocery stores.
   "I wouldn't be able to do nearly what I am doing, without the cooler, without being able to hold food for longer than an hour or two. Once lettuce is out of the ground, for instance, it is good for about 45 minutes if it is not refrigerated," said Williamson.
   On Tuesday, Williamson got to tell his story to state lawmakers as they toured agricultural businesses in the Gallatin Valley to learn how grant money from the GTA program is making an impact.
   State Director of Agriculture Ron de Yong says the ag industry is growing, especially when it comes to smaller operations like Three Hearts Farm.
   "This will effect everyone locally," said de Yong.
   De Yong said the GTA grants are geared toward helping these local businesses be successful.
   State Representative JP Pomnichowski told NBC Montana that getting a behind-the-scenes look gave her a good idea of how the grants not only impact the farm, but also the community.
"When you come to the farm and then see the washing operation and see the food packaged and then go to the salad bar at the Food Co-op, it's locally grown, locally produced, and it helps the local businesses," said Pomnichowski.
   The state gave out more than $650,000 in GTA grants over the last fiscal year. Other businesses in the Bozeman area that received the grants include the Root Cellar and the Montana Fish Company.
    Copyright 2014 by KECI, KCFW, KTVM. All rights reserved.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Brown bears and other wildlife

Well, it isn't a typical Thursday afternoon.
  A small brown bear was touring my southeast neighborhood just a couple hours ago!
  She came through my backyard as I was eating lunch on my patio (in the area of Bozeman just south of the university campus and Museum of the Rockies), so I immediately called the local Fish Wildlife, and Parks game warden captain to ask that a game warden be dispatched. The response from FWP was outstanding; the first game warden arrived in 8-10 minutes, just as the bear crossed South Third Avenue and walked through the backyards of homes on Westridge Drive. She investigated a duck pond, the trail to Bobcat Stadium (which I walk every game day; I've done stats for home football games for 28 years!). The bear was cornered by the Western Transportation Institute building, and then took a trail back into some bushes. She worked her way through some hedges and backyards and trash cans, and with the help of another FWP truck and two more FWP personnel, a short while later the little brown bear was treed and safely tranquilized. The Game Warden sergeant called to tell me she’ll be relocated to a safer place (for her, and for the public!) soon.
  I am so impressed with the efforts and professionalism and compassion of the people at Fish, Wildlife and Parks, and I'm so glad that this situation was successfully and quickly resolved.


 
  I've served on the Fish, Wildlife and Parks committee in two of my three terms in the House of Representatives, and I really appreciate the science-based policies of Montana FWP. Conversations at the capitol during a legislative session can get a bit heady, but every once in a while, there's a real-life, on-the-ground experience to remind us why Montana is such a great place to live, and why FWP is a wonderful state agency that helps Montana wildlife and the people who love them.

  And now, the photographic evidence of today's excitement:





Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Securing your personal information

News from the capitol today is that malware (malicious software, or a "hack") was found on the computer servers at the Montana Department of Health and Human Services (DPHHS). 



That's the bad news.



The good news is that it seems that no personal information was taken, and more good news is that the state has systems in place to notify people when there's a possibility of identity theft.



I'm proud to say that those security systems and notification systems are in place from a bill that I passed in 2009!




House Bill 155 was an anti-identity theft bill, a security bill. It requires state agencies to develop policies for the protection of social security numbers and personal information.



The bill extends identity theft mitigation requirements, defines agency director security responsibilities, and defines how notification must be made if there is a security breach.


In Montana law, there is a ‘duty to protect’, and that includes “protecting individual privacy and the privacy of information contained within information technology systems.” (MCA 2-17-505(1))


This bill extends private sector requirements to state government.



To put the requirement of security and notification in perspective, I’ll remind you of a computer security breach at D A Davidson in 2008, when customer information was stolen from a computer database by a hacker. The personal information of tens of thousands of clients was stolen, and the company and its customers worried that the social security numbers and personal information could be used in identity theft.



Now, as bad as it was that a private computer system was accessed and the information stolen, the company realized that there had been a security breach and notified all of its clients so that they could take action to protect themselves if someone did try to use their personal information fraudulently.



House Bill 155 requires state government to develop processes to secure personal information and to notify people if ever that information is compromised or stolen.



The bill includes third parties doing work for a state agency, including colleges, hospitals, universities, boards and commissions, and departments of state agencies.



Just think of how much personal information is held in any of these entities, and it’s easy to realize that it’s imperative to protect that information.



The notification requirement in the event of a security breach says that people must be notified in a timely fashion and that a third party working on behalf of a state entity must notify the state agency and the people affected.



The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously, and was signed into law by Governor Schweitzer. Now, when unfortunate security breaches occur, the State of Montana does everything to secure personal information and to fix the breach, and to prevent it from happening again.



The story from the Associated Press reads,
State to send safety notice
Hackers may have breached health server



By Lisa Baumann
Associated Press

HELENA — Montana officials said Tuesday they are notifying 1.3 million people that their personal information could have been accessed by hackers who broke into a state health department computer server.

The letters are going to people whose information and records were on the server. There’s no evidence so far that any information was stolen, officials said Tuesday.

“There is no information, no indication, that the hackers really accessed any of this information or used it inappropriately,” said Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services. “We are erring on the side of displaying an overabundance of caution.”

The state is offering free credit monitoring and identity-fraud insurance for a year to all 1.3 million people. A tollfree help line has fielded about 170 calls since the incident was announced a few weeks ago. None of those callers have reported identity theft or compromised bank accounts as a result of the hacking, Opper said.

Only about 1 million people live in Montana. The notifications are going to residents, people who no longer live in Montana, and the estates of those who have died.

Malware was discovered on the health agency’s server May 22 after information technology employees noted suspicious activity on it earlier in the month, Montana Chief Information Officer Ron Baldwin said. The server contained names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers and medical records related to health assessments, diagnoses, treatment, prescriptions and insurance.

About 3,100 department employees and contractors are also being notified because the server contained their bank account information. About 50 years of birth and death certificate information was also on the server, officials said.
Security has since been updated, officials said.
“This type of unautho­rized access is not unique to Montana,” Baldwin said. “This is sort of the nature of the world we live in today.”
 There are 17,000 unauthorized attempts to enter the state computer system every hour on average, or about six billion attempts per year. With that volume, it’s difficult to ensure the state’s computer security is a step ahead of the hackers’ technology, Opper said.

The state is constantly vigilant and continually adapting monitoring and protection techniques, Baldwin said.

Officials expect cyber-security insurance coverage purchased last year by the state to cover most of the costs associated with the incident.

 “We’re just really grateful that apparently the citizens haven’t been harmed,” Opper said.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

On the Campaign Trail and Busy as a Bee!

It's just two weeks since the Primary Election, but the days are filled!

My campaign for Montana State Senate is going strong. I'm all around the town.I do my best to attend most every event that I can, talking to people and learning what's happening in our fair city and county.
In the last three weeks, I've attended the Downtown Business Association breakfast and annual awards, Prospera's annual luncheon (the economic development effort in our area), a rally to celebrate the passage of Bozeman's Non-Discrimination Ordinance, the Bozeman Business and Professional Women's luncheon, the Montana Democratic Party platform convention in Butte, a panel discussion on Clean Air standards, an effort to gather signatures on a petition to put Medicaid expansion on the ballot in November, the Bozeman Memorial Day parade and commemorative service in Sunset Hills Cemetery, many one-on-one meetings with constituents and campaigners, candidate interviews, and I even squeezed in a hike up Sypes Canyon with the Mountain Belles!

Our community is great for so many reasons, but the main factor is that everyone is engaged and enthusiastic in so many different ways. I become increasingly convinced that all of the effort that we all invest in our community, our work, volunteer efforts, non-profit organizations, causes, schools and kids, neighbors, well--just everything, all of that effort all together is what makes this community vibrant, our state strong, and (if I might be a bit kitschy) our democracy successful.

Here are some photos from my recent activities. Enjoy, and I hope to see  you soon on the campaign trail!

























Thanks, everyone, for your support!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

New district maps



  After the national census every ten years, legislative districts are redrawn in an effort to allocate an equal number of people in each district. The Montana House of Representatives with 100 members has districts of almost 10,000 Montanans each; each State Senate district is comprised of two House districts, or 20,000 Montanans, since our State Senate has 50 seats.

 With redistricting done and in effect for these upcoming 2014 elections, the district boundaries for Montana legislative districts have changed.
 
  Here are the links to GREAT maps of the new legislative districts.
  To view these maps, download/use Google maps.
  There are links on the Redistricting Commission web page to download Google Earth in order to view the maps: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Committees/Interim/2011-2012/districting/adopted-plan.asp



  In the upper left corner is a slide bar that zooms the map in or out.

  You can also access the maps from the Redistricting Commission web page on the Montana Legislative website, here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Committees/Interim/2011-2012/districting/adopted-plan.asp


  I hope this helps everyone to know their new district, and the candidates running for office!

  As always, VOTE THE LONGEST NAME ON THE BALLOT!
  Vote Pomnichowski for State Senate!

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Vote the longest name on the ballot!

Primary election ballots are out!
Please vote Pomnichowski for State Senate, District 33!
Be hip...Vote the longest name on the ballot!

vote for JP