Saturday, February 28, 2009

Joblessness


There are a lot of things happening all the time, but in the past two days since I've been back in Bozeman on Transmittal
Break from the Legislature, it's all I've heard: no jobs, no work; more and more people, hard-working people, desperate for jobs.

Walking through Barnes & Noble yesterday, in just the few steps it took to pass by the service desk, I heard a young woman ask if B&N was hiring. "We're always accepting applications," said the B&N sales person, "and I have yours. It's in with everyone else's. We keep all of them we get. But we're not hiring right now."

At the movie theatre this afternoon, (went to see Slumdog Millionaire with my loved one--the first movie I've seen in months, and the Oscar winner, at that), the older lady ahead of us in line to buy tickets asked if the theatre was hiring. "No, they're not," said the ticket seller.

And last night, in conversation with my best friend, a practice manager at a medical office in town, said that two years ago, when she was hiring for a front desk position, she'd had five resumes from people and none were good candidates for the position. A month ago, she was hiring for the same position after a staffer had left. She got 180 resumes, most overqualified for the job. She hired an excellent candidate easily, and was telling me that she felt sorry for so many people looking for work, and guilty that she personally couldn't hire more or find placement for them, and fortunate for herself in having a job.

Obama's Jobs Recovery package is proposing much more for our friends, family, and fellows who are unemployed, but I've heard that that means extending unemployment benefits. That's something, but for everyone already past the end of their unemployment benefits, or who've been unemployed for a while, we need jobs. The plan to build infrastructure and to hire people to do so is the promise (read: the potential) to turn our recession around. A one-time 'stimulus' check is the shortest-term solution, and I'm glad that isn't what is being proposed. A one-time check is spent, and there's perhaps a spike in retail sales. But we need continued and steady rebuilding, of jobs and of our infrastructure. That's what I'm looking to as the federal plan for recovery.

I'll do all I can to make sure we, as a society, provide for all of us until we're back on our feet again. Keep working. Keep looking for work. And take the words of my dearly departed grandmother to heart; I did. She said, "No one is above anything." I've worked in any number of jobs. I've worked three jobs at a time. Nothing is beneath me, or any of us, to do. After such a long and prosperous time, I fear that some of us have forgotten that we're not above anything. I worry that the newest generations have a sense of entitlement that's not deserved.

Work hard, and you will be rewarded. And until there's work, work hard at getting work. I'll do my best to create an atmosphere that's conducive to job growth, infrastructure creation, and hiring. And I'll work to make sure that those who want work can have it. I've been blessed with work.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

READ! Support Montana Libraries!

About a month ago, the Montana State Library in Helena hosted a reception for legislators and took our pictures for "Read" posters to go in our local libraries. Here's mine! I love it! And it's accurate: I actually do read the Montana Code Annotated.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Transmittal Week

It's the second day of Transmittal Week, in which the Senate and House of Representatives hear every bill from their respective committees in floor debate. On regular days, we have morning meetings from 8 til noon, then call to order in our chambers at 1 p.m. and usually hear two hours of floor debate; afternoon committee hearings go from 3 til about 7. But this week, we're in floor sessions from morning til night in order to debate all of the bills referred to the assembly from legislative committees. Besides the regular debate on the floor on every referred bill, there are blast motions to bring tabled bills from committee.

It's 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, and we were in session from 1 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. last night. It's hard work, but it's entirely worthwhile, pertinent, and important to all of us in Montana. We hear debate on all sorts of topics. Bills brought to the legislature propose laws for medical providers to dispense prescription medications if a pharmacy is far away, laws for public notice of proposed oil and natural gas leases on state lands sections, laws for subdivision laws for cities and counties, for wildfire emergencies, for work comp coverage of firefighters' diseases and illnesses contracted in the course of their work as emergency responders, for public participation in air quality permits of power plants, all manner of issues. I work hard on our state policy and I'm sensitive to the fact that we're making state law that applies to everyone. I'm truly honored to serve as your state representative.

Some highlights of the past few days:

Denise Juneau, the newly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction, delivered her State of Education address to a joint session of the Montana Legislature last week.

Dad sent me a care package of chocolates (Whitman's
Sampler), which was eagerly consumed by my fellow legislators and myself, some mints, and some candy necklaces (here, worn by Teresa Henry when she was presenting a bill on the floor of the House today). I wore mine for a while, then ate it. I love candy necklaces. I buy them for my nieces all the time.

Jill Cohenour and me after my marathon this morning, presenting four bills on the floor of the House. They all passed
second reading after debate!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Six Bills in One Day

Yesterday, Wednesday, Feb 19, was another marathon of sprints: I presented six bills to three different House committees: State Administration, Transportation, and Natural Resources! Jill Cohenour presented five bills in the Education committee. Michele Reinhart is a prolific bill-bringer, too.

My seatmate one row back is Edie McClafferty, who snapped this picture of Carolyn Pease-Lopez, me, and Sue Malek working at our desks on the House floor yesterday. Very busy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Unconstitutional Statutes on Workers Compensation


This morning in the House Business and Labor committee, I presented a bill to revise state statutes that discriminate between claims of injury and occupational disease for workers compensation.

House Bill 589 will fix a problem with our workers compensation statute in which we unfairly discriminate between workplace injury claims and occupational disease claims.

There are people whose workers compensation claims are being denied even though the Montana Supreme Court has clearly stated a problem with the statute. We need to fix the statutes.

We used to have a Workers Compensation Act in statute, and an Occupational Disease Act in statute.

In a 2003 case before the Montana Supreme Court called Schmill v. Liberty, the Court held that state law treated people with an occupational disease differently from people who suffer workplace injuries. The court said this unequal treatment violated the equal protection clause of the state constitution.

Article II, Section 4 of the Montana Constitution provides that “no person shall be denied equal protection of the laws.” The equal protection clause requires that “all persons be treated alike under like circumstances.”

So after the finding of the Montana Supreme Court, the 2005 Legislature repealed the Occupational Disease Act and folded its provisions into the Workers Compensation Act. But it did not fix the disparity between injuries and occupational diseases. The statute left the unequal treatment of occupational disease claims intact, and even made them worse. The current law says an injury is compensable if it aggravates a pre-existing condition. But an occupational disease is compensable only if events at work are determined to be the "major contributing cause" of the disease. That’s a higher and different threshold, and it’s unequal. That’s in Section 39-71-407, sub (9)(b), so a person with events at his job that aggravated a pre-existing condition, but that doctors could not say were the "major contributing cause" as defined in the statute, aren’t covered. There’s the disparity that the court found. If a single event, an injury, had aggravated a pre-existing condition, a person would have been covered. But for events that occurred over time that aggravated a pre-existing condition, there is no coverage. That clearly goes against what the Supreme Court intended when it found that the Occupational Disease Act violated equal protection.

In a 2007 case (Oksendahl v. Liberty) in Workers Compensation Court, the judge [Judge Shea] ruled against the Liberty Northwest insurance company for proposing a reading of the issue that was similar to the 2005 Legislature’s action. Here’s what he said:
Before the Montana Supreme Court in Schmill struck down 39-72-706, MCA, as unconstitutional, an occupational disease claimant who established that his or her condition was less than 50 percent related to working conditions could nonetheless recover something under the Occupational Disease Act, albeit only a proportional amount. With Schmill [finding] that this statute violated an occupational disease claimants’ right to equal protection, however, [in this case, the] Respondent would now have this Court conclude that the end result is that an occupational disease claimant who establishes that his or her condition is less than 50 percent related to working conditions recovers nothing under the Occupational Disease Act, not even the proportional amount he could have recovered pre-Schmill. In the annals of jurisprudence, this would stand as one of the more paradoxical remedies of a constitutional violation.

This is the court decision equivalent of a smack-down. The judge says that before the decision that prompted the legislature to repeal the Occupational Disease Act, workers could be compensated a proportional amount for their occupational disease claims. But now, they cannot be compensated even that! We need to fix the statutes.

It comes down to this: the “major contributing cause” standard discriminates between similarly situated injury and occupational disease claimants in violation of the occupational disease claimant’s constitutional right to equal protection. The practical effect of this standard has been to reduce benefits available to workers experiencing occupational diseases as opposed to workers who experience injuries. The 2005 Legislature tried to fix the problem, but worsened it. We can clear this up for claimants, the courts, and we can make coverage equal and constitutional again.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cancer Drug Donation Legislation

Today in the House of Representatives Human Services committee, I'll present House Bill 409, a bill to establish a cancer drug donation program.

Here is some of my sponsor statement about the bill:

Currently, there is a drug donation program in state law for unused prescription drugs, limited by our laws on dangerous drugs and controlled substances. Section 37-7-1401 MCA now allows for the donation of unused prescription drugs by patients to pharmacies or other dispensers, but our statutes do not allow for the donation of cancer drugs.

Cancer drugs are among the most expensive pharmaceuticals on the market. They do wondrous things: they target cancer cells to kill cancer, new drugs target the interactions between cancer cells and the host, the patient, and cancer drugs help with nausea from chemotherapy to treat cancer. Cancer drugs also include medications to prompt the development of red blood cells, and to help with a patient’s energy level. But these drugs are expensive, often prohibitively expensive. These therapies are expensive. And a drug is only good if it can be administered. House Bill 409 establishes a cancer drug donation program so that those medications that can be made available from one patient to another are handled responsibly and made available.

The bill sets up the program by which a participating pharmacy can accept, inventory, and dispense donated cancer drugs.

I’ve been working on this legislation for more than a year, after hearing from an oncologist in Bozeman and also from a good friend of mine, a nurse at the cancer center, whose cancer patients either had unused medications that had to be flushed down the toilet, hundreds and thousands of dollars in medications, and patients who needed those medications but could not afford them. There is now a terrible disparity between the ability to have the medication, if you can afford it, and having cancer, but not being able to pay for the drugs you need and not having any way to make drugs available, in a controlled method, by those who would give them away.

This is the awful problem that House Bill 409 proposes to address.

I have a letter of support from Dr. Jack Hensold, an oncologist at the Bozeman Cancer Center, and that letter is signed by seven of his colleagues, fellow physicians and nurses. They’re absolutely supportive of this legislation. They see the need every day. They’re in Bozeman, at the cancer center, treating patients right now. There is someone right now who needs a medication he or she cannot afford, and Dr. Hensold references that in his letter. In that second paragraph, Dr. Hensold says that, “new cancer therapies are, without exception, very expensive, ranging from $3000 to $9000 in monthly costs. Since nearly all the oral chemotherapies are subject to “co-pays”, all patients, independent of their insurance coverage, are placed at significant financial risk when diagnosed with cancer.” In the next sentence, Dr. Hensold says that, “within the first month of treatment, [a patient] will be liable for a $5,000 payment for their drug.”

It’s difficult enough to face a diagnosis of cancer, and one’s own illness and mortality. Consider the agony of patients who want to do all they can to fight but do not have all the means—-financial or pharmaceutical-—to fully fight their diagnosis of cancer.

Imagine the good that a cancer drug donation program will do in making available those very expensive drugs from people who want them not to be wasted, and by people who need but simply cannot afford them.

Now, in the bill, there are some technical points to be made. I’ve heard from some pharmaceutical companies that manufacture effective but dangerous drugs for the treatment of cancer, and so we’ll need to amend the bill to include language about some cancer drugs subject to restricted distribution.

This came about in conversations with Celgene Corporation, which manufactures thalidomide for use in cancer treatment. Now, if you remember from the 1960s and early 70s, thalidomide is a drug with the potential to cause severe birth defects. In light of the tragedy that occurred several decades ago, it was considered unthinkable that thalidomide would ever be marketed in the US. Yet, Celgene has developed thalidomide as an effective treatment in leprosy and in a form of blood cancer called multiple myeloma. The Food and Drug Administration has imposed restricted distribution programs for Thalomid and similar drugs based on the determination that, unless access to these drugs and their uses are tightly controlled, they pose a significant threat to the public health, so only physicians, pharmacies, and patients registered with restricted drug distribution protocols are authorized to write, fill, or receive a prescription for those drugs. But it’s very few, and to accommodate them and to comply with federal law, we’ll amend the bill to address this.

The other consideration is that the bill now is restricted to drugs packaged in a very specific way: that is, single unit dose packaging. Now, it’s easy to understand how the quality of a drug is controlled when you can see that a blister pack has not been opened.

In the bill, we specify that a cancer drug or device may be accepted or dispensed under the cancer drug repository program if the drug or device is in its original, unopened, sealed, and tamper-evident unit dose packaging.

But many pain medications, anti-nausea drugs, medications for red blood cell development, are dispensed in a prescription bottle. They’re handled like any drug that you receive now from a pharmacy. And these drugs are expensive, too. My friend the nurse at the Bozeman cancer center told me that a common anti-nausea drug costs $35 a pill, and the prescription is usually 20 or 30 pills, in one bottle, for one patient. They’re not packaged in blister packs, but they’re handled responsibly by patients and nurses and doctors, and my friend has had to flush $600 worth of pain medication down the drain because there’s no program for donating the drugs.

Now, House Bill 409 currently doesn’t accommodate leftover medication in opened bottles, but it would be great if it could. Some of the most common and most effective cancer drugs are not available in blister packs, or unit dose packaging. Some liquids drawn into syringes aren’t viable in unit dose packaging. So if there could be some consideration to include pills in a single bottle, that would be great.

The bill provides for the Board of Pharmacy and the Department of Public Health and Human Services to establish protocols and rules for the program, and I think that could include waivers from patients willing to accept drugs donated from single prescriptions in bottles.

The bill does now provide immunity for people donating, accepting, distributing, and dispensing cancer drugs in the program if all the rules and protocols have been followed.

We also specify that all identifying information must be removed from the container so that the identity of the donating patient is protected.

Other states have established cancer drug donation programs, recognizing the same need and the same wish to help cancer patients. Ref: http://www.ncsl.org/programs/health/rx-reuse.htm

Basically, this is a program to allow those with a need to receive the drugs that others wish to give them.

It’s for easing the pain of our loved ones, it’s for cancer treatment, and nausea control when people are at their lowest, fighting cancer.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Marathon of Sprints

The 61st Montana Legislature is hopping; every House of Representatives committee is very busy trying to hold hearings for general bills (those for policy changes, not revenue or appropriation bills) before this coming Friday, February 20. We're up against the Transmittal deadline; that's when policy bills that have passed committee and passed the House get sent, or transmitted, to the Senate, and Senate bills are transmitted to the House.

Time is short, and there is much work to do.

Those of us carrying bills to refine or establish state policy are as busy as bees. Last week, I presented eight bills. This coming week, it'll be TEN.

For some perspective, I prepare to present each bill by researching the topic,

calling and emailing and meeting with parties interested in the issue, studying the state statutes, preparing testimony, recruiting witnesses, and anticipating concerns. I'm not an attorney, but I explain this as though each bill is a court case, and the research, testimony, case law, etc. must be studied for the case.

To present eight bills in a week, or ten, or one, that process plays out over and over again (at least, it does for me). I believe it's my responsibility to know the issue, explain why and how state law should address the problem, present the arguments for the bill, inform and educate witnesses, inform and educate House or Senate committee members, be knowledgeable about the issue to answer questions of my fellow legislators in committee and, if the bill passes the committee, on the floor of the House of Representatives.

During my first campaign, a colleague told me to pace myself; that it was a marathon, not a sprint. I've since formed the opinion that the Legislative Session, 90 days every two years, is a marathon OF sprints!

Gravel Pit Redux
On Friday, the House of Representatives committee on Natural Resources took executive action on the gravel bills heard during the week. Executive action is the discussion of committee members about a bill and the vote on the bill to pass it--or not--from the committee.

I had presented two bills Monday, for public notice and public hearing of a proposed gravel pit operation with adjacent neighbors, and for county authority to establish conditional use permits for the livability issues (dust control, weed management plans, truck routes, traffic control, hours of operation, lights at the site, noise) that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), which issues gravel mining permits, does not manage. On Wednesday, I presented three bills: one for annual fees on gravel pit operators to fund the Opencut Mining Division of the DEQ, another to require that 25% of an operation at a time is either undisturbed or reclaimed land and to limit the expansion on any one permit to 50% of the original permit acreage, and a third to require monitoring wells and water samples and surface water runoff control for gravel pits that dig into the groundwater aquifer.
There was a furious effort on the bills from proponents and opponents. The committee chairman and others approached me with amendments, suggestions, and messages from interested parties, for and against. On Friday, after Chairman Milburn told me that there were two bills he and his party could support, I made a motion to create a committee bill to address public notice/hearings and annual fees. The committee discussed all the other gravel bills and voted upon them, 9-9, on party line votes (Democrats voting positively to pass the bills from committee, Republican members voting against.) The bills were tabled in committee. There was committee agreement to support a study resolution, too, to investigate much more thoroughly in the interim all of the issues that the failed bills illustrated, and the efforts across the state underway to solve them. This is the way of negotiation and compromise; some bills fail, some ideas will be fleshed out more thoroughly and (hopefully) pass the House to advance to the Senate, then to the governor's desk, then into statute, and more work is yet to be done in an interim study.

HB 359 (Pomnichowski) Public notice and hearing for opencut applications; failed, rewritten into committee bill with amendments
HB 77 (Nooney) Notification requirement for proposed gravel pit operations; tabled in committee
HB 313 (Pomnichowski) Revise opencut mining laws; county authority to condition use; failed 9-9, tabled in committee
HB 319 (Cohenour) Require proof of other permit applications for opencut mining; tabled in committee
HB 429 (Pomnichowski) Annual fees for opencut mining operations; failed, rewritten into committee bill with amendments
HB 446 (Pomnichowski) Restrictions on surface water runoff re: opencut mining; failed 9-9, tabled in committee
HB 447 (Pomnichowski) Reclamation requirements for opencut mining; failed 9-9, tabled in committee

The most impressive part of the week were the dedicated and tireless efforts of people with firsthand, personal experience with gravel pit operations; neighbors, county task force members, commissioners, scientists, hydrogeologists, reclamation experts--all who stopped their lives to come to Helena to testify on the bills. I'm humbled to try to enact in statute the solutions they've already formed in so many parts of the state: the Gallatin Valley, the Flathead, Ravalli County, Lewis and Clark County, Billings, elsewhere. It's a statewide issue; I'll do all I can to advance it to work much better for everyone.

Many thanks to all of you. Best regards from Helena. New leopard print shoes debuting tomorrow. --JP

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Gravel Week in the House of Representatives Natural Resources committee

Gravel pits and gravel mining have been contentious issues for a while, but in the past few years, the conflicts between these heavy industrial uses and other neighboring uses have come to a head.

This week in the Montana House of Representatives committee is what I've dubbed "Gravel Week". The committee is hearing a variety of bills that propose improvements to gravel permitting, environmental monitoring, state agency response, and county authority to mitigate impacts of pits.

I'm bringing five of the eight bills. It's a busy week.

For some background, here's the opening statement I made to the committee Monday. The remainder of the bills will be heard this afternoon.

You can listen to audio recordings of the committee proceedings here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Audio/audio_broadcast.asp


My opening:

Today and Wednesday, our House Natural Resources committee will consider several bills about gravel pits, also known as opencut mines. With the permission of Chairman Milburn and with the indulgence of the committee, before we begin the hearings on individual bills, I’d like to give some background of the Opencut Mine Permitting Process, recent gravel pit proposals, court decisions, and county land use plans and zoning actions to bring everyone up to speed on how we got here, what the situation is, and the proposals we have before us.

The Opencut Mining Program is in the Department of Environmental Quality, the DEQ, and issues permits for opencut mines that produce gravel, sand, bentonite, clay, peat, soil and other materials, but the vast majority is gravel. 92 percent of opencut mining is gravel pits and their related operations, like gravel crushing, gravel washing, concrete mixing, and asphalt batch plants.

Over the last several legislative sessions, a number of bills have been proposed for the Opencut Mining Program, for local governments, and for gravel operations. Few of those bills passed, and over the years, what was once a manageable process at our state agency has become absolutely overwhelmed.

The process is now broken. It doesn’t have the predictability or timeliness for applicants who want to open or continue gravel pits and conduct business, make bids for projects, do commercial operations, or mitigate their operations. The process doesn’t work for residents, for public participation to address livability issues. The process doesn’t work for county governments, who know the need for certain conditions to be met so that people and gravel pits can exist together, and so that those local governments can manage infrastructure like roads as well as land use planning to help minimize conflict. And the process is broken for our state agency, the Opencut Mining Program, which is underfunded, understaffed, and unable to process a backlog of applications or keep up with new applications, inspections, or expansions. Over the years, gravel pit applications have gotten more complicated, with bigger operations, longer terms of operation, and more consideration for impacts to water and air quality and to growing communities. The Opencut Mining Program is operating with four people, essentially the same number of people in that division for more than 20 years, who are responsible for more than 2000 gravel pits in Montana, as demand for our gravel resources, growth in the state, and the scale and complexity of gravel operations increases.

The most contentious proposals have happened in our western counties, where we’ve seen wonderful growth over the past decade. That’s where conflicts between heavy industrial uses and residential or agricultural uses have brought this problem out. It’s ironic that the thousands of new homes, miles of new streets, new businesses and schools and offices, all use gravel or concrete or asphalt. We could not have grown into bigger communities without the gravel resources to build these things. But as our communities grew and people came to make their homes and livelihoods in Montana and we increased the need for gravel, people live closer to gravel pits, the industry wants to locate close to projects to minimize costs, and we have conflicts. I’m proud that we can provide our gravel resource for ourselves; we just need to do it so that one use doesn’t damage its neighbors’ uses.

The reason that we, the Legislature, must remedy this problem is because no one else has, or can. They’ve tried. Local governments that would condition operations don’t have the authority to do so unless we provide that in statute. The department needs clarity on formalizing its permitting process and environmental review as required in our state constitution. Gravel pit operators need predictability about how and when their applications are complete, what conditions will apply to their operations, and when they can start digging gravel. And the citizens of Montana who will live and work alongside gravel operations have their constitutional right to participate, but the process now doesn’t provide even for public notice or public hearings.

The courts have tried to fix some of this, but judges have overturned their own decisions about granting permits. That happened just this past summer. Two district court judges in Helena issued judgments for the DEQ to issue permits because a 60-day timeframe had passed, even though required environmental review for gravel operations hadn’t been completed. Not long afterward, one of those judges reconsidered and overturned his own decisions. Some cases have gone from county boards to district court to the Montana Supreme Court, only to find in part for the plaintiff, in part for the defendant, and to be returned to the lower court again.

The process is broken for everybody. We need to clarify the process. In appeals to the governor this past summer, a resident from Gallatin Gateway, where three new pits were proposed, said, “it is imperative that our legislature resolve the legal loopholes that force the DEQ to issue permits without analysis or public input.” In a decision by district court judge Dorothy McCarter May 1, 2008, the judge said, “the legislature has not authorized the department to withhold permits pending environmental assessments…Legislative action may be required to extend the time limits currently imposed upon the department to enable it to conduct its environmental analysis...” And at the annual convention of the Montana Association of Counties in Hamilton this past spring, “Department of Environmental [Quality] officials sa[id] that if Montana county governments want a new way for the state to license gravel pits, then they’ll have to ask the legislature.”

Last but not least, our own Legislative Audit Division completed a review of the DEQ’s Opencut Mining Permit Process and made many, many recommendations for improvement, including, “We recommend the department seek legislation clarifying…public notification of opencut mine applications.”

It’s up to us to help this situation. There are a number of remedies, and committee members, I ask that you consider the bills to fix the process for everyone.

This is a statewide problem, no matter which district you represent, because gravel pits anywhere must go through this department and this same application process. The western counties that have experienced amazing growth over the past decade have seen the most conflict, and that’s where a lot of the proposals for a better process have come from. County governments, citizen groups, and gravel pit owners and operators are working out processes. There are at least two task forces working on this issue right now. We can adopt those solutions or authorize them in our state laws.

Gravel pits can be controversial, but we can shape this into a much better process. As we get into the specifics of these bills, please do consider them carefully. If we don’t pass legislation to help this situation, this broken process will continue through the courts, through emergency zoning in counties, through neighbor conflict, through delayed applications for gravel pits, but we can help this.
- - - - - - -

Everyone, this is just the kind of situation I'm proud to try to remedy. I hope I can effect some change for the better. All my best from the Capitol. - - JP

Saturday, February 07, 2009

61st Montana Legislature, Day 29

It's been a busy fifth week in the Montana Legislature. Committee work is getting busier with a deadline of February 20 to hear the remaining general (non-revenue) bills; next week, I'll be presenting EIGHT bills. That's an incredible number, given that each bill requires research, study of Montana and other law (neighboring states, precedent from court decisions, federal law, Attorney General opinions, etc.) I'll be refining my sponsor statements, supporting documents, and testimony all weekend. I've been working on these issues for a long time, but now it's showtime for the bills at the legislature. The schedule for my bills is this:

Monday, Feb 9 (House Natural Resources)
  HB 359 Public notice and hearing for opencut applications
  HB 313 Revise opencut mining laws; county authority to condition use

Tuesday, Feb 10
HB 428 Montana-based businesses may locate in technology TIF districts

Wednesday, Feb 11
  HB 429 Annual fees for opencut mining operations
  HB 446 Restrictions on surface water runoff re: opencut mining
  HB 447 Reclamation requirements for opencut mining

Thursday, Feb 13
HB 410 Revise calculation of cash-in-lieu of parkland dedication per local government requirements

Friday, Feb 13
HB 408 Worker's compensation coverage for firefighters presumptive diseases

Monday, Feb 16
HB 409 Cancer drug donation program

Wednesday, Feb 18
  HB 423 Revise state land law relating to oil and gas leases (cash-in-lieu payments)
  HB 424 Revise state land law to clarify public information
  HB 425 Public notice for oil and gas leases on state land
HB 448 Revise state land law relating to inventory and classification

It's almost 7 p.m. Saturday, February 7. I work every day at my desk in the House chamber. It's just about the most impressive office anyone could have. Know that I'm truly honored to be a state representative, and that I'll work as hard as I can, always, for all of us in Montana. Some highlights from Week 5, Feb 2-7:

The choir from Hawthorne Elementary School in Bozeman came to the capitol Thursday and sang in the House chamber! It was so good to see the kids; I recognized some of those wonderful kids of friends of mine!

Also on Thursday, Majority Leader Margie Campbell realized she and I matched. My navy blue and maroon and gray Argyle sweater matched her socks, and when she recognized that, we took a picture. Nice leg, Margie.

And today, I debuted a new pair of shoes: