Friday June 27th and Saturday June 28th
First Congregational United Church of Christ
Now the US Congress has returned from its recess, and the House of Representatives has fewer than 38 workdays left until the end of the session. Immigration Reform, if it is to pass, must be done by the end of the year otherwise it will get thrown into the middle of the 2014 campaigns for Senate and House seats and, sadly, be sidelined for an indefinite period of time—maybe years. How we got here After months of effort, the Senate passed its bill, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), with a vote of 68 to 32. Both ...
By William Rice, Policy Consultant, Americans for Tax Fairness There’s no disguising the effects of homelessness: Families struggle to stay together, children suffer at school, and people can’t contribute fully to their communities. But it is easy to disguise huge salaries so that they’re not subject to payroll taxes, if you can take advantage of the “S” corporation loophole. By closing that tax loophole, we could open the doors on tens of thousands of new homes for families that need them. Housing Choice Vouchers subsidize the rent of low-income Americans for apartments they find on the open market. They are a key tool in ...
As you may know, the US House STILL has not voted up or down on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that passed the Senate 68-32. This bill fixes our broken immigration system and most importantly creates a clear path to citizenship to help the 11 million undocumented people in the US to come out of the shadows. The time is NOW to move on Immigration Reform, and Montana Organizing Project is urging Rep. Daines to call for an up or down vote on this important legislation. Here is how YOU can get involved! Rally to Keep Families Together- October 5, 11:00 am South ...
The original Glass-Steagall, the Banking Act of 1933, was introduced in response to the economic crash of 1929. Starting in the 1980s, regulators began reinterpreting longstanding legal terms in a way that broke down the core function of the
Act, a wall between investment and depository banking leading to its ultimate repeal in 1999.
After the financial crash of 2008, the federal Treasury and the Federal Reserve stepped in to save large banks considered “Too Big to Fail.” It was believed that, without a bailout, the big banks could bring down the entire economy. The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act will reduce risk in the financial system and dial back the likelihood of future financial crises. It will return basic banking to the basics, counter loopholes for risky activities, and get our country to take on “too big to fail.”
Montana Organizing Project is encouraging Senator Jon Tester to support and co-sponsor the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act. Please sign the petition to show your support.
By Blair Ward- Immigration Organizer, Montana Organizing Project
To learn more about immigration reform and how US policy is affecting our nation, I went to the border of Mexico near Nogales, Arizona for one week. Upon arrival to the border area, you notice the menace of militarization at every glance; whether it be the armed security forces, police or the twenty foot wall that separates Nogales, Arizona from Nogales, Sonora. When entering Mexico from the US we did not even see a single Border Patrol Agent and just walked right through like crossing the street.
The first thing I noticed when crossing the border was the immediate change in socioeconomic status; buildings, stores and the streets were wearing down or dilapidated. Along no other boundary on Earth is there such a stark contrast between income levels than between the US-Mexican border. That night my friend, Lewis, and I hitched a ride in a van along the cobblestone/dirt roads and stayed at HEPAC, Hogar de Esperanza y Paz, (Home of Hope and Peace).
This former child care facility now hosts multiple rooms for delegations studying the border issue and those that have come to help out in the community. Migrants that have recently been deported to Mexico also stay here for free. We met with Rev. Marc Stewart and Rev. Peter Shober of the United Church of Christ and 6 members of their congregations.
Scott Nicholson of BorderLinks and HEPAC was our gracious host and he explained the lay of the land as we toured the city of Nogales, Sonora on the first day. We toured the ‘maquiladoras’ or factories along the border. Factory workers make an average of $13 a day, thanks to a tenacious fight to unionize and collectively bargain. We got to hear the lady who started the first union in Nogales speak about her struggles and it is scary to see the parallels that Mexican laborers face relative to our industrial revolution. Children go to work at the age of 15 in Mexico.
We proceeded to visit Grupo Beta which is a government subsidized help program for migrants that are just deported or are getting ready to cross. Here they are provided with a meal, basic medical help via Red Cross, hot shower and warm clothing when it is available. Lewis gave a gentleman that was crossing the border his warm beanie so he could stay warm when crossing the border that night. We spoke to a Oaxacan family who had walked 6 days in the desert with little food or water. One woman’s feet were covered in bruises and blisters from the cruel conditions, while her 19 year old brother-in-law was covered in bruises and scratches from being beaten by Border Patrol Agents.
Another man spoke of how he has been deported twice and the last time served 6 months in federal prison. He says he was regularly beaten and was only fed a small sandwich and a cup of fruit every day. Despite all of these hardships, he was readying for his third attempt to reach his brother in North Carolina where he was going to work in a restaurant.
Following this, we ate at HEPAC, which doubles as a cafeteria for the local children of the Barrio Colonia. With the goal of child nutrition and education in mind, this group has fed 75-300 local children for the last 35 years. Led by Ester, a loving grandmother, who started to feed the children out of her house in 1978. Eventually, too many children needed food so they built HEPAC by hand with other members of the community. HEPAC’s end goal is to make Nogales, Sonora so great that people will not be compelled to leave for the US. They not only provide nutrition and nutritional education programs, but offer computer classes, high school equivalency training and knitting to women so they can have another source of income while watching their children. That night, we enjoyed dinner at Ester’s house where she shared stories of HEPAC and her family.
The next day we visited the Art and Cultural Center where we met with leaders of the groups Yonke and Tacos de Perro. These groups were started by local, self-taught artists that strive to create a social movement with art using new media. Their art is generally from spray paint or recycled garbage. They have made many art displays that are shown internationally and share the culture of Nogales. Many involve Aztec figures, the border wall itself, or religious figures. The goal is to not only start a social movement but to also educate children about these issues and art and how these impact their daily lives.
Following this we went to local shelter and church for migrants. It was run by a federal Representative and his wife for 32 years. There we met with many migrants who were either leaving to cross the border or had just been deported. They were praying in the church and we then spoke with them, listening to their testimonies. All spoke of abuse, but many of their stories were those of intentional cruelty at their expense.
One man, Domingo, had been deported with his family, fleeing the cartels. His family got picked up by Border Patrol and they were incarcerated in separate facilities with varying sentences. When ICE let him go, they gave him a check for the money he had on him when he was detained, which can only be cashed in the US. (This applies to all of those who have their money taken AND reported by the government officials, many complained of just having all their money taken by Border Agents). Domingo also had a list of family contacts in Mexico which he was never given back, his wife and family has now moved and he has no idea where they are and has no means to find them. At the shelter we spoke again with the family from Oaxaca as they debated between returning home in the South or trying to cross the border again.
The following day, we crossed back into Arizona to view Operation Streamline. Operation Streamline is a Federal Court that charges, processes and imprisons 60-70 migrants daily. When court started that day, there were 62 immigrants sitting quietly with shackle on both hands and feet. The judge called court into order, called up 7 individuals and their attorneys. She then asked if they understood their legal rights, and each would just answer “yes.” She then asked if they understood the crime they were being charged with, to which they answered “yes.” She then asked them to plea. Every one of them pled guilty ‘deculpable’ and was sentenced, save two.
One gentleman spoke a tribal language and had his case dismissed since he did not understand his legal rights and any trial would violate his constitutional right to a fair trial. He was likely just deported without any charges brought forth. Another person asked to change lawyers and was to attend court the following day for his charges. Aside from these two, every one else was imprisoned for a sentence between 30-180 days. CCA, the private prison company that owns the private prisons that Operation Streamline and other similar Federal Courts use to expedite the deportation process, made over $950,000 in the hour and a half it took to send these immigrants to prison. $150 per person, per day. Average sentence was 105 days.
We then returned to Nogales, Sonora where we took in a seminar and forum regarding the Kino Border Initiative, a group focusing on peaceful migration along the border. We heard from leaders on both side of the border and how they are working on making this goal a reality. A priest, a farmer, and members of the various coalition groups had a roundtable discussion in Spanish.
Following this we walked to the Tiribishi Land Fill, where 100’s of people live in shacks. They live off of 2-17$ per day in what they collect in recyclable materials. Two years ago, the city moved the location for their land fill so the amount of recyclables has greatly diminished. We spoke with people who had recently been deported from the US after living here for over 20 years with all their family in the US. They were at the dump to quickly raise enough money to get back. We left with them penicillin, antibiotics, rubber gloves and band aids, but felt like it wasn’t enough.
Montana Organizing Project, along with our partner the Montana Small Business Alliance, believe that Montana has an opportunity to build off the successes of its current financial structure and improve Montana’s local economy. During the 2013 legislative session we worked with Rep. Kelly McCarthy to introduce legislation enhancing the capacity of the Board of Investments to create the Montana Partnership Bank. You can learn more about this idea here!
Our goal is to keep more dollars invested in Montana, improve the flow of capital through community banks to Main Street businesses and family farmers, and create a more resilient local financial sector. While introducing the legislation many good and important questions were raised, leading to the bill (HB 482) to be tabled in committee.
As such we are inviting financial, business and community leaders in Billings to join us for a discussion to discuss challenges facing local banks and small businesses in Montana, and what we can be doing to strengthen our Main Streets.
What: “Invest in Main Street” Community Meeting
When: Tuesday January 28th 2014 5:30- 7:00 pm
Where: First Congregational UCC Church 310 North 27th Street
Refreshments will be provided.
We will provide a background of what Montana Organizing Project is hoping to achieve in terms of responsible banking and then open the conversation up to hear from other about what opportunities and challenges are facing our local economy and local financial institutions.
The event is free to attend, but RSVPs are encouraged. Please RSVP to email@example.com or 406-490-9777.
What can be better than supporting work for social, racial, and economic justice in Billings and Montana? Doing so by enjoying a Montana craft beer with your friends!
MOP is excited to partner with Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company’s “Pints for a Cause.” Every Monday YVBC partners with a community based organization in Billings and donates $1 per pint sold to the organization of the night. Monday December 9th the group benefiting from this great effort is Montana Organizing Project. So bring your family and friends down to the YVBC Garage for a pint (or two or three). No speeches, no program, just good conversation.
Not fan of beer? They also sell delicious homemade Root Beer!
What: Pints for a Cause- Montana Organizing Project
When: Monday December 9th 5:30-8:00 pm
Where: Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company 2123 1st Ave N Billings
For more information contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777
See you there!
Members of Montana Organizing Project, Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance, Indian Peoples Action and faith groups will gather at First United Church of Christ on Sunday, December 8 to host a prayer vigil for Audemio Orozco-Ramirez. Mr. Orozco-Ramirez is an undocumented Mexican Nationalist with no criminal record that was a passenger during a routine traffic stop, was asked to prove documentation, and detained in Jefferson County Jail in Boulder, MT. While in general holding, he was allegedly raped by fellow inmates. While the investigation is ongoing, Mr. Orozco-Ramirez cannot work to support his wife and children, so communities around the state are donating money and urging Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) to keep Audemio in the US with legal status. Prayer vigils in his name will be held across the state.
Mr. Orozco-Ramirez will speak at this event, so please come and support his family and the bravery it took for him to step forward. Music by Our Lady of Guadelupe and First United Church of Christ Choirs.
What: Prayer Vigil for Audemio Orozco-Ramirez and Family
When: Sunday, December 8 at 5:30 PM
Where: First United Church of Christ (310 N. 27th St.)
Who: Local religious leaders, immigrant families, and community members
The Billings Prayer Vigil will be Sunday, Dec. 8 at 5:30 PM at First United Church of Christ located at 310 N. 27th St.
A living wage in Montana ranges from $13.92 per hour for a single individual to $17.70 per hour per adult for a family of four with both parents working, according to economic research released today. Furthermore, there are 8 job-seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for single individuals, and 32 job-seekers for every job opening that pays a living wage for a family of four with two working parents.
These are among the findings of the new report, “America’s Changing Economy: Searching for Work that Pays in the New Low-Wage Job Market,” released today by Montana Organizing Project and the Alliance for a Just Society. The 2013 Job Gap Study calculates living wage levels for five household types in Montana, nine other states and New York City, and then calculates the ratio of job-seekers for every living wage job opening. The 2013 report also calculates a national job gap figure and analyzes trends in the number and share of job openings with median wages below and above $15 an hour, the wage level currently sought by retail and fast-food workers across the country.
“The debate about wages is important for our whole economy, because when 50 million workers don’t make enough to cover the basics, the economy stalls,” said LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “The fast food workers’ call for a $15 an hour wage just starts to get into the ballpark of an actual living wage – that seems like a modest proposal.”
The full report, including national numbers and data for 10 states and New York City, is available here: www.thejobgap.org
Montana Organizing Project also recognizes that workers in Montana were dealt another blow when the legislature failed to expand Medicaid. Expanding Medicaid eligibility would help reduce the cost of living for low-income workers, making their wages stretch further and helping ensure they don’t have to go without health care to afford other necessities.
In order to reverse the trend of low wage jobs Montana Organizing Project supports Expanding Medicaid, either through a legislative special session or through a citizen’s initiative as a way to lower burdensome health care costs for 70,000 working Montanans. Furthermore until the trend in low wages starts to reverse, MOP supports strengthening not cutting vital programs like SNAP, which was recently cut hurting 130,000 Montana families. MOP calls on the Montana Legislature and Congress to address the living wage gap and help families cover basic needs.
Key findings from the report include:
Is the middle class a glimmer of the past enjoyed by families and small businesses in a bygone era? Is it our imagination that workers did better several decades ago? Not according to Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor, and an advocate of shared prosperity to make the economy healthier for rich and poor alike.
That’s why the Montana Organizing Project is bringing Reich’s film to Bozeman. Bring a friend and join us!
Tuesday, December 3rd, 7 pm
Emerson Center’s Crawford Theater
111 S. Grand Ave., Bozeman
Advanced ticket sales at Cactus Records is $5 for seniors and students, and $7 general admission; tickets are available at the door for $6 students/seniors and $8 general admission.
Reich says, for example, that a single top income could buy housing for every homeless person in the US, since most of the gains in the “recovery” have gone to the ultra-wealthy. According to Forbes, the top 10 money makers in the US had a net worth between $72 and $31 Billion.
We all benefit by being informed of the consequence of income inequality. Hope you can join us.
Call Elizabeth at 406-570-1033 for more information.
Depending on whom you ask, Baker Montana is either in the middle of nowhere or in the middle of the everything. Although for the answer to be the latter, you would need to be asking someone from Baker. A community of 1,800, Baker is an small rural community in far eastern Montana; 200 miles away from Billings, Rapid City, South Dakota and Bismarck, North Dakota. And it’s an oil town.
Bordering the booming Bakken oil region, and with some of the oldest oil wells in Montana, Baker is a town very familiar with the boom and busts of oil and gas development. Politically, Baker is unmistakably conservative, due in part to the number of residents employed in oil and gas and its isolation from urban centers. It is a community that has to take care of itself, as it tends to be an afterthought in decisions made at the state capitol in Helena (461 miles away).
With this in mind, it would be easy to assume that the community would elect those that fit into the conservative mold and that coddle the oil and gas industry. That’s the problem with assumptions.
Meet Alderman and Montana Organizing Project Board Member, Brandon Schmidt. At 30 years old, he is one of the youngest Montanans statewide serving on city council, but more importantly he is the rare city council member willing to speak truth to power when it comes to oil development. In 2013 he lobbied the state legislature with the Montana Organizing Project to repeal the out of date oil and gas tax holiday (an 18 month tax break for new oil wells robbing our communities of millions of dollars every year). Repealing the holiday and replacing with a price trigger (similar to what North Dakota does) would bring much needed revenue to communities like Baker in Montana that are struggling to keep up with the impacts of development, from roads and bridges badly in need of repair, to strain on hospitals, schools, and public safety.
Before the legislative session many city and county officials in eastern Montana expressed the need for help and were willing to acknowledge that the oil and gas tax holiday was hurting their communities, but when it came time to advocate for change in public policy, Brandon was the only one brave enough to publicly walk the walk. And it was noticed. In an otherwise empty election, two people filed to replace him as the Alderman. The election was very much going to be about whether Baker wanted someone who advocated for the community, or coddled industry.
The results are a true reflection of the real Baker politic.
In a 3 way race Brandon received 63% of the vote, proving in the most real of terms that voters in Baker want its elected officials to support community over industry, that the voters want to see investment in infrastructure, and want to be represented by public officials willing to stand up the powerful interests.
AGENCIES RUNNING OUT OF OPTIONS AFTER YEARS OF AUSTERITY. For years, agencies used many tricks to deal with severe budget cuts—from deferring maintenance, to using unspent money from earlier years, to cutting staff by attrition. But these options are likely to be exhausted by 2014, when the sequester budget cuts will trim another $24 billion from already tight budgets. “It was kind of like when you go through your drawers and your pants pockets and you collect the dimes — you can’t do that again,” said Representative Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican who helped the Justice Department scrape together its spare change. “The second year will be much more difficult.”" [NY Times, 10/26/13]
Join us today to tell Congress that we cannot afford another Depression.
Native Americans have suffered more than most from the federal government shutdown, seeing services threatened from foster care to food assistance. And these cuts come on top of existing service reductions mandated by the across-the-board budget cuts known as the “sequester.”
Our nation has a moral and legal obligation towards its Native American population that includes maintaining basic public services – like health care and education. It has no obligation to allow corporations to dodge their taxes with accounting tricks. Yet Congress has cut these important services in Indian Country, while letting big corporations avoid taxes with bookkeeping sleights-of-hand.
The budget “sequester” has taken a particularly heavy toll on Native American communities, diminishing housing assistance, substance abuse prevention, education funding and other needed assistance. Currently, 28 percent of Native Americans live in poverty and more than a third lack health insurance (pp. 3 and 5). For many Native Americans, these budget cuts only make a desperate situation worse. 2013 Budget Cut: $503 million.
Corporations can artificially lower their taxes by reporting a loss if the market value of their inventory goes down. Yet they don’t have to report a taxable gain if the market value goes up, under the “lower-of-cost-or-market” (LCM) rule. This “heads I win, tails you lose” loophole (p. 131) is just one of many tricks accountants play to shield corporations from paying their fair share of taxes. It should be eliminated. Annual Tax Break: $485 million(Sec. VIII, Item C).
It’s time Congress got its priorities straight. Let’s fulfill our obligations to Native Americans and demand that corporations fulfill their tax obligations to all of us.
Background: The McCutcheon v. FEC case… and who are “McCutcheon donors”?
On October 8, the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission. The McCutcheon case challenges aggregate contribution limits – limits that cap the total amount any one donor can give to federal candidates, party committees, and hard money PACs in a single election cycle. In 2012, that limit was $117,000.
Who stands to gain if the aggregate limits are struck down? Not Montana small businesses. If the Court strikes down these limits, the big winners will be elite out-of-state “McCutcheon donors.”
Analysis by Public Campaign defines “McCutcheon donors” as elite donors who gave $105,300 or more to federal candidates, party committees, and hard money PACs in 2012, putting them within 10% of the aggregate limit. There were 1,219 McCutcheon donors in the 2012 election cycle.
Out-of-state McCutcheon donors’ influence in Montana’s 2012 election cycle
Out-of-state McCutcheon donors played an outsized role in Montana’s 2012 elections. Here’s a look at their giving, including contributions to candidates for federal office and to the Democratic and Republican state party committees.
Out-of-state McCutcheon donors had major influence in Montana in the 2012 election cycle:
- 520 McCutcheon donors gave money in Montana in the 2012 cycle. Every one of these elite donors was an out-of-state donor.
- These out-of-state McCutcheon donors gave a total of $1,684,175 to federal candidates and the state party committees in Montana in the 2012 cycle.
Lobbyists, lawyers and Wall Street types led out-of-state McCutcheon donors in Montana:
- 79 out-of-state McCutcheon donors in the Lawyers & Lobbyists sector gave $263,701 in Montana.
- 160 out-of-state McCutcheon donors in the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector gave $530,436.
- Within the Finance, Insurance & Real Estate sector, 88 out-of-state McCutcheon donors in the securities and investment industry (ie, Wall Street types) gave $297,894 in Montana.
Curbing improper influence and fighting corruption and its appearance
As this analysis shows, elite out-of-state donors already have outsized influence in Montana’s elections. While Citizens United opened the door for corporate spending in our elections, McCutcheon threatens to open the floodgates for elite out-of-state donors to super-size their already major influence. This is bad news for small businesses.
The Supreme Court should reject the McCutcheon challenge and uphold aggregate contribution limits – these limits are integral to fighting corruption and its appearance in our government, and making sure our elected officials are responsive and accountable to Montana voters, not elite out-of-state donors.
As you may know, the US House STILL has not voted up or down on the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Bill that passed the Senate 68-32. This bill fixes our broken immigration system and most importantly creates a clear path to citizenship to help the 11 million undocumented people in the US to come out of the shadows.
The time is NOW to move on Immigration Reform, and Montana Organizing Project is urging Rep. Daines to call for an up or down vote on this important legislation.
Here is how YOU can get involved!
Rally to Keep Families Together- October 5, 11:00 am South Park Gazebo, Billings
October 5- 6 are national days of action with over 90 events! Come out, have fun and join Montana’s rally to support legislation that protects families! There will be great speakers, live music and free food!
Presentation “Border Journey: Walls and Bridges”- October 6, 4:00 pm First Congregational UCC-Billings (310 North 27th Street)
Join First Congregational UCC in Billings to welcome Scott Nicholson, a missionary with the Global Ministries of UCC. Scott works with the Home of Hope and Peace in Nogales, Mexico. His presentation describes the reality of life in Nogales, the perilous journey that migrants take to enter the US, and the work of the community center. The program will be followed by a light supper and an offering will be take to support Scott’s work.
Rally to Keep Families Together- October 6, 2:00 pm Missoula County Courthouse
Come join us for a great rally for Pathway to Citizenship! The Pathway to Citizenship creates a way for our 11.5 million undocumented people to become citizens and step out of the shadows. We will hear from fantastic Montana leaders and local families affected by this issue and why it is important for Congress to include a Pathway to Citizenship when it votes on immigration reform.
If you would like to help out with organizing the rally, writing a Letter to the Editor, help with the rally or can attend/share a story at a Congressional staff meeting, please contact Blair Ward (406) 599-1818
Please call Congressman Daines and tell him and Congress to vote now on reform that includes a Pathway to Citizenship– (406) 502-1435
By William Rice, Policy Consultant, Americans for Tax Fairness
There’s no disguising the effects of homelessness: Families struggle to stay together, children suffer at school, and people can’t contribute fully to their communities. But it is easy to disguise huge salaries so that they’re not subject to payroll taxes, if you can take advantage of the “S” corporation loophole. By closing that tax loophole, we could open the doors on tens of thousands of new homes for families that need them.
Housing Choice Vouchers subsidize the rent of low-income Americans for apartments they find on the open market. They are a key tool in the nation’s fight to end homelessness. About $3 billion has been chopped this year from the nation’s housing programs by the across-the-board budget cut known as the “sequester.” Tenant Based Rental Assistance—the program that administers the housing vouchers—has been hit hard. Next year up to 140,000 families will be denied vouchers, and thus the chance for a decent home. 2013 Budget Cut: $938 million (p. 31).
Wealthy lawyers, lobbyists, entertainers and other professionals (including former politicians like Newt Gingrich and John Edwards) can weasel out of contributing their fair share of taxes. They mask their salaries as profits from a dummy corporation. By channeling their work earnings through an “S” corporation, they claim it’s “unearned income.” This lets them skip out on their payroll taxes, including the 2.9 percent Medicare tax other working people pay.2013 Tax Loophole Cost: $942 million (p. 7, Item 3).
Let’s ensure more American families have someplace to call home by ending payroll tax dodging by the wealthy. Click here to show your support for stopping corporate tax dodging, and investing in US!
Cross-posted with permission from: http://www.
The original Glass-Steagall Act, the Banking Act of 1933, was introduced in response to the financial crash of 1929. Starting in the 1980s regulators within the Federal Reserve began reinterpreting long standing legal terms in ways that slowly broke down the core function of the bill- the firewall between investment and depository banking.
In 1999, after 12 attempts, Glass-Steagall was repealed. Less than 10 years later, our nation once again was hit by a huge financial crash, again caused mainly by the high risk behavior of our largest financial institutions. Without Glass-Steagall to separate the behavior, the high risk behavior led to the now “Too Big to Fail” banks to be bailed out by the taxpayers.
Summer of 2013 the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act was introduced. It would reinstate the wall between investment and commercial lending; making sure that high risk banking would no longer be insured by the public safety net. This is an important step in ending Too Big to Fail.
Join Montana Organizing Project for a briefing call to learn what this legislation would do, why it is important for the Act to be supported by Montana’s Federal Delegation, and how YOU can get involved.
Glass-Steagall Briefing Call- September 24th 6:00 pm-7:00 pm MST
Please contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org to RSVP for the call. You will receive the call in information and agenda after you RSVP.
The bill to cut $40 billion from SNAP (food stamps) was released yesterday and a vote is expected on Thursday. This drastic cut will take food away from 6 MILLION PEOPLE- including kids, seniors, and Veterans.
In Montana, this cut will impact 129,000 residents, mostly families.
Almost half (46%) of SNAP recipients in Montana are in working families.
Cuts to SNAP would cost 55,000 jobs nationally in the first year alone. In 2012, SNAP benefits pumped about $193 million into Montana’s economy.
We just have a few days to influence this debate about budget priorities. Congress should be focusing on closing corporate loopholes and ending offshore tax dodging instead of taking aim at food stamps for millions of hungry kids and their families.
Join us in Billings to show your support of SNAP!
What: Hunger Games Part II- Rally for SNAP
When: Wednesday September 18th 12:30-1:00 pm
Where: Outside Rep. Daines Office- 222 North 32nd Street Billings, MT
RSVP: Sheena Rice 406-490-9777
Before our Rally, please take two minutes today to call Rep. Daines and urge him to support SNAP. Call 866-456-8824, listen to the recorded message and enter your zip code. You will be connected right to Rep. Daines’ office. Tell them your name and the town you are calling from.
Tell them: As your constituent, I urge you to vote AGAINST the extreme nutrition only Farm Bill which cuts $40 billion from SNAP and denies assistance to 6 million poor people. This bill would be devastating to struggling Americans, making more people hungry. And it goes against many years of bipartisan support. Stop playing political games with hunger in our communities.
Now the US Congress has returned from its recess, and the House of Representatives has fewer than 38 workdays left until the end of the session. Immigration Reform, if it is to pass, must be done by the end of the year otherwise it will get thrown into the middle of the 2014 campaigns for Senate and House seats and, sadly, be sidelined for an indefinite period of time—maybe years.
How we got here
After months of effort, the Senate passed its bill, Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act of 2013 (S.744), with a vote of 68 to 32. Both Senators Tester and Baucus voted for the bill. Then, the bill was passed on to the House of Representatives. The House can take up the Senate bill and vote on it; they can draft their own bill(s) and vote on them, or they can let it die and go nowhere.
What’s next, what we can do
It’s up to us to urge Montana’s sole congressman, Rep. Steve Daines, to make sure he knows Immigration Reform with a pathway to citizenship is vital and MUST be made a priority.
Montana Organizing Project has been and is still requesting a meeting with Congressman Daines, himself, after making multiple presentations to his staff. While we wanted to meet with him over the recess, he would not meet with us until our members held an Interfaith Prayer Vigil in front of an Open House at his Helena headquarters and our members directly asked him about his stance on immigration reform. He would not answer the direct question, “will you support a pathway to citizenship?” We can tell by his non-answer that he does not.
We are asking people to call Rep. Daines main office in MT (Helena) at406-502-1435 to urge Speaker of the House John Boehner to bring the Senate bill to the floor of the House to an up or down vote. If the Senate bill (S744) is brought up for a vote, the bill will pass.
Here’s want we want—
1. Pass comprehensive immigration reform with a pathway to citizenship!
2. Meet with us face-to-face and hear the stories of how our broken immigration system is affecting hardworking Montana families right now.
3. Tell him a piecemeal approach—breaking apart all the parts of the Senate bill and passing each part one by one—will not work because there is guarantee for a pathway to citizenship if it’s not part of a whole package. Citizenship is our goal.
Share your stories
People who are affected by our broken immigration system should write their stories or those of your family, friends, or those you love, and send them to me. Since many of these stories are personal and your identity might make you a target for deportation, please send these stories to: email@example.com. We will remove all of your own contact information and send them on to Rep. Daines making sure that he knows the stories, without revealing your identity.
Montana Organizing Project will be on the road this week, taking part in three different actions around economic justice. Hope you can join us! For more information please contact our economic justice organizer Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
BACK TO SCHOOL TAX REFORM RALLY- Helena, MT
- Wednesday August 21st 12:00 pm noon
- Montana State Capitol
- Join MOP and MEA-MFT to rally for an end to corporate tax dodging and a renewed investment in education. 200 students in Montana will be impacted by cuts to Head Start, yet corporations like Apple stash hundreds of billions in profit in off-shore tax havens.
TAX REFORM COMMUNITY MEETING- Great Falls, MT
- Wednesday August 21st 5:30 pm-6:30 pm
- Great Falls Labor Temple 1112 7th Street South
- Join MOP and Montana Tax Council Member Sheila Rice to learn what is at stake with tax reform and to share ideas for raising revenue for critical services (hint.. the answer is likely a corporate loophole)
HOUSING DEBT WORKSHOP- Helena, MT
- Thursday August 22nd 7:00 pm
- St. Paul’s United Methodist Church Community Room
- A community dialog about the housing debt crisis in Helena and across the country, looking specifically at the role that the too big to fail banks played in the financial breakdown of our housing market. Sponsored by Strike Debt- Helena and Montana Organizing Project.
Hope to see you at one (or more!) of the events.
Time to Stop Corporate Tax Dodging and Invest in Education!
Join MEA-MFT and Montana Organizing Project for a “Back to School” Rally demanding that Congress STOP CORPORATE TAX DODGING!
Wednesday August 21st 12:00 pm Noon
Montana State Capitol, Helena Montana
Montana loses millions of dollars a year because corporate tax dodgers like Apple, Wells Fargo and Verizon take a vacation from paying their fair share of taxes. They stash a lot of their profits in overseas tax havens like the Cayman Islands, at the detriment to our education.
Nationally 70,000 children are losing access to Head Start education. And while Congress negotiated a deal to keep student loan rates down for the short term, they are at risk to rise substantially within a few years.
Montana students, teachers, families, and professionals are paying their fair share and they are demanding that corporations step up and do the same.
For more information or to RSVP to attend the rally please contact
Sheena Rice 406-490-9777 email@example.com
Terry Minow 406-442-4250 firstname.lastname@example.org
Recently Senators Max Baucus and Orrin Hatch asked their fellow Senators to provide them with advice on how to achieve “a simpler, more efficient and fairer tax code.” They started with a “blank slate”—asking colleagues to submit detailed proposals for what should be included in a reformed tax code.
Senator Baucus’ work on this presents an opportunity to address the growing economic inequality in our nation, that is most evident when you look at the number of large corporations off-shoring billions of dollars in profits to avoid paying their fair share (Apple, Verizon, and Wells Fargo are just a few examples) while working families are subsidizing large bonuses for corporate CEOs. The time for fairness in our tax code is NOW.
That is why MOP is encouraging Senator Baucus to prioritize and support proposals that call for an end in corporate tax dodging, and raise new revenue to protect vital services and programs as well as reduce the deficit. This can be done through the following ideas for tax reform:
First, we can and should raise well over $1 trillion in new tax revenue from the wealthy and corporations over 10 years. A primary goal of tax reform should be to raise sufficient revenues needed to meet our long-term fiscal challenges, reverse and prevent further cuts to critical benefits and services, and make needed investments to strengthen our economy and create jobs, not be used for more tax cuts.
Second, corporations must pay their fair share of taxes. Corporate tax reform needs to raise significant revenues and not be “revenue-neutral,” which would greatly increase the chance that the burden of deficit reduction falls on working Americans. In the deficit- reduction efforts so far, corporations have contributed almost nothing to help meet America’s fiscal challenges, while middle-class and vulnerable Americans have contributed almost $1 trillion through domestic spending cuts.
Third, tax breaks that encourage corporations to ship profits and jobs overseas should end. The United States must not adopt a corporate tax “repatriation” holiday or a “territorial” corporate tax system – measures that would provide a form of temporary and permanent tax amnesty, respectively, for companies that shift profits overseas. The simplest, most efficient and fairest solution to curb offshore tax loopholes would be to end deferral of active income of controlled foreign corporations, which permits U.S. companies to avoid paying taxes on overseas profits until they are brought back (“repatriated”) to the United States.
Fourth, the wealthy must pay their fair share of taxes. We must reform our tax code to raise significant new revenue from the richest 2% of Americans.
Do you agree that it is time for corporations to pay their fair share?
That our tax code should be fair for the 98% of Montanans and Americans who choose to keep their money at home rather than the Cayman Islands?
The time is NOW to invest in the US.
As you watch the fireworks this 4th of July, consider all the community planning and cooperation that went into that fiery display of patriotism. Then consider how some of the wealthiest and most powerful members of our national community—huge, multinational corporations—routinely shirk their responsibilities to our society.
By sheltering profits and shipping jobs overseas, big corporations dodge their taxes and depress our economy. America’s corporate giants have squirreled away nearly $2 trillion in profits in offshore bank accounts, much of it to avoid paying their fair share of taxes.
All this tax dodging adds up: federal legislation to fix the problem would raise nearly $600 billion over the next decade. We should enact those reforms right away, before we have to cut more kids from Head Start, deny another grandmother her Meals on Wheels—or maybe even cancel next year’s 4th of July fireworks.
Creating a fair and just economy requires significant public investment in critical services, programs and infrastructure that build and sustain an economy that works for all Montanans. This requires a balanced approach to raise sufficient revenue with everyone, including corporations, paying their fair share of taxes.
Our tax system is rigged in favor of big corporations and is not working for most Americans. We need to overhaul the tax code so that it reflects our values, and so everyone plays by the same rules. Big corporate interests are dominating the conversation in Washington DC, calling for cuts to Medicare and Social Security while they push for a “territorial” tax system- what amounts to a permanent tax holiday on profits made or shifted off-shore. This is NOT in the best interest of Montana.
We cannot cut our way to prosperity. To build strong local economies in Montana, we need to invest in an educated workforce, reliable roads and bridges, and a healthy middle class. These investments require resources. That’s why we support revenue-raising tax reforms to ensure that corporations pay their fair share.
Montana Organizing Project supports:
- Cracking down on the abuse of off-shore tax havens by multi-national companies and closing corporate tax loopholes.
- Calling on Wall Street to contribute to rebuilding the economy through a small tax on trades of stocks, bonds and derivatives.
- Local governments choosing to invest tax-payer dollars in community financial institutions that pay taxes and do not invest money in off-shore accounts.
These policies will raise the resources we need to invest in our future and level the tax playing field for strong local economies across Montana. Please click here to show your support for raising the revenue necessary to invest in our communities by ending handouts to tax dodging corporations. Also please send comments to Senator Max Baucus regarding raising revenue and ending corporate loopholes as he moves forward with tax reform.
UPDATED June 13, 2013
Immigration reform a hot item right now nationally. And there is currently a bipartisan federal bill, The Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, in Senate committee being discussed by lawmakers in D.C. The time to act is now!
Montana Organizing Project is specifically focusing on creating a fair and logical process for undocumented people that already live here to become US citizens. While this is largely a national issue, there are thousands of people in Montana affected by our current immigration laws. To raise awareness on this key topic, we are traveling the state showing the documentary “The Dream is Now” by Academy-Award winning director David Guggenheim. This film depicts the lives of four young undocumented immigrants that have been directly impacted by our current immigration laws.
Montana Organizing Project is taking the short film on the road to educate Montanans about the need for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
Great Falls JUNE 14th 7:00 PM: Central Labor Council Labor Hall 1112 7th Street
Helena JUNE 19th 6:30 PM: St. Paul’s United Methodist Church (Corner of Cruse and Lawrence)
If you are interested in discussing this issue or are wondering how you can help, please call or email Blair Ward with the Montana Organizing Project. Blair Ward: (406) 599-1818, email@example.com
Notes from Montana Organizing Project Lobbyist Sheena Rice
MOP Priorities Still in Play… All of the bills listed below require action from YOU. Please call 406-444-4800 to leave a message for your Representative and/or Senator on any or all of the bills. You can also send them . The Montana Legislature belongs to the people of Montana, our elected officials need to hear from you.
Medicaid Expansion: SB 395 (HB 458, HB 590, and SB 393)
There were four Medicaid Expansion bills introduced, two in the House and two in the Senate. This was a strategic move to keep vehicles alive for implementing Medicaid Expansion, one of the most critical acts that the Montana Legislature will do this session.
Only one of the Medicaid Expansion bills is still alive- SB 395. Sponsored by Senator Dave Wanzenried, SB 395 implements Medicaid Expansion and provides for reforms that will help health care providers across the state. It has the support of almost every major medical provider, the Montana Chamber of Commerce, multiple social justice organizations and the Montana Organizing Project.
It passed out of the Senate on a 26-24 vote and has been transmitted to the House. The hearing has been scheduled for Monday April 15th at 3:00 pm. Email Starla at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to attend the hearing. Please contact members of the House of Representatives and urge them to pass SB 395.
Provide State Insurance Commissioner with Health Insurance Rate Review : HB 87
Montana is one of the only states in the nation that does not review health insurance rates. MOP has long supported efforts to provide Montana’s Insurance Commissioner with such authority. The bill passed the House with clear bi-partisan support 58-40 only to quickly be tabled by the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee.
There is still an opportunity to blast HB 87 out of committee and to have it be considered by the full Senate floor. Please contact members of the Senate and urge them to support HB87.
Require Oil and Gas to Administer Grant Program for Oil and Gas Impacts: HB 218
Montana Organizing Project is closely watching this legislation; it is the last vehicle remaining to help communities address impacts from oil and gas development. We have concerns with this bill as it is currently written; mainly the distribution mechanism and an amendment affecting the impacts that can be addressed.
As it is currently written, the grants would be administered by the Board of Oil and Gas. MOP believes that the Department of Commerce would be a better administrator of funds of such significance, as HB 218 would administer grants in the tens of millions and Board of Oil and Gas has no track record of such grants, nor do they have experience with a budget of such magnitude. HB 218 was amended on the House floor to strike “social issues” language from the impacts that could apply for funds. This amendment was the result of fear-mongering from a fringe of representatives who were spooked by what could be considered a social issue. But that language provided for flexibility for the evident social impacts that eastern Montana communities are facing.
MOP voiced these concerns in the Senate Finance and Claims hearing on HB 218 in hopes that they will be addressed through amendments. When and if the bill leaves committee and heads to the Senate floor MOP will likely support the measure.
We couldn”t quite cross the finish line… The legislation listed below are key MOP priorities that are central to the Fair and Just Economy that have sadly been killed the by the 2013 Montana Legislative Session. We are not giving up on these concepts and will continue to educate communities about them in an effort to revive them in the 2015 legislative session, or perhaps even through an initiative process. Stay tuned.
Creation of a Partnership Bank: HB 482
We made a huge step by introducing HB 482, the core of MOP’s “Buy Local, Bank Local” campaign, in the 2013 legislative session, but need to do more relationship building with key stakeholders, namely the Banking Commissioner and Independent Banking Association members to address their concerns. By having a bill in hand now that we can use, MOP can pull in the needed support over the next 18 months as well as organize local initiatives that focus on the dangers of investing public funds in Wall Street.
Repeal or Reform Oil and Gas Tax Holiday: SB 295 and 399
One of the most disappointing defeats of the 2013 legislative session was the legislature failing to reform the irresponsible Oil and Gas Tax Holiday. Definitely check out this op-ed by MOP Board Member Brandon Schmidt that outlines how the legislature failed to address the critical needs being faced by eastern Montana communities.
Provide Housing Incentive Fund Tax Credit: HB 611
Similar to the Oil and Gas Tax Holiday debacle, the Montana Legislature made a big mistake by tabling HB 611 which would have created a Housing Fund similar to the successful program in North Dakota. There is no question that there is a housing shortage statewide, but unfortunately this program was dismissed for political purposes. MOP remains committed to investing in housing as a framework for solid economic development.
Other items still in play that MOP is working on…
Anti-Voting Rights: There is a strategic attack on Montana’s rights to freely participate in our elections. The only requirement to be able to vote is to be 18 years of age. MOP is committed to fighting any effort that makes it harder for people to vote. The following measures are all still alive- please contact your Representative, Senator and our Governor and ask them to kill any bill that makes it harder to vote.
- Repeal Same Day Voter Registration: HB 30
- Referendum to Repeal Same Day Voter Registration: SB 405
- Referendum to Create a Two Party Run Off: SB 408
Anti-Immigration: The state of Montana has zero authority to supersede the federal government on immigration issues. MOP is opposed to both bills anti-immigrant bills, as they promote racial profiling and hurt one of our most vulnerable communities.
- Prohibit Immigration Sanctuary Policies by Local Governments: HB 50. Was vetoed by the Governor.
- Provide that Employment of an Unauthorized Alien is Unlawful: HB 297. This legislation is headed to a Conference Committee as the House rejected amendments made by the Senate that made it less egregious.
Workers and Family Bills: Other items that MOP has deemed important and are watching closely as they move ahead.
- Create Montana Indian Child Welfare Act (MOP supports): SB 272 Passed the Senate with 49 supporters to 1 opponent, this bill was sadly tabled in the House Human Services committee. Please contact House Members and urge them to blast SB 272 out of committee.
- State Pay Plan (MOP supports): HB 13 HB 13 was amended to lessen the amount of the raise to get it out of the House. It is now before the Senate. Please call Senators and urge them to support our hard working state employees who have gone 4 years without receiving a raise, even though they fairly negotiated one with the Governor. Tell Senators to do the right thing and pass HB 13 with the 5/5 provisions.
If you have questions about legislation please contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 or email@example.com
In 2010, Congress adopted the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which has already started providing beneficial services to people across the country. Over the next several years, the ACA will continue to build on a number of strong components of our health care system, including expanding Medicaid coverage.In 2011, Medicaid provided comprehensive, affordable health coverage to approximately 106,846 Montanans monthly who would otherwise have gone without insurance; if Montana accepts federal funding for Medicaid Expansion, the number served is expected to have increased by approximately 78,000 in 2021, with most of the additional costs covered by the federal government.
In addition to providing low-income families with health coverage, Medicaid does even more: it is also an economic engine. Medicaid spending supports health care industry jobs in Montana’s counties and directly purchases goods and services. These direct health care purchases trigger further cycles of earnings and purchases that ripple throughout the economy, affecting individuals and businesses not directly associated with healthcare, and generating jobs, income, and economic activity.Medicaid’s contributions are particularly important in rural areas, which would face even more severe strains without the boost Medicaid provides.
Despite the economic activity generated by Medicaid and the support of Medicaid Expansion by Governor Bullock, the state legislature has not yet approved federal funding for expanding Medicaid in Montana, even going so far as to table Medicaid Expansion Bills (HB 590, SB 393 and SB 395).
It is time for the Montana legislature to put people before politics. Contact your Representative or Senator here and ask them to pass Medicaid Expansion.
Over the past weekend Immigrants from the Burley, Idaho and members of our partner organization Idaho Community Action Network traveled to Montana to share the personal stories and struggles with with the broken immigration system as pressure builds on passing Comprehensive Immigration Reform in 2013.
While immigration may not seem to a big issue in Montana, we know that problems exist here. Worse yet, the problems are out of sight, and are often unreported.
In order to educate Montanans of the need for Immigration Reform, community meetings featuring the bus tour as the main event, were held in Helena, Bozeman and Dillon. Montana Human Rights Network and Montana Immigrant Justice Alliance cosponsored the events.
At every stop community members engaged with the brave immigrants willing to come out of the shadows to tell their stories. The stories were moving, often leading to tears from the speakers and the crowd alike.
At the Helena stop, supporters of Comprehensive Immigration Reform joined the group from Idaho to leaflet outside of the Montana Democratic Party’s Mansfield-Metcalf dinner, urging attendees to call on Senator Tester and Baucus to support efforts to reform our broken system and create a path to citizenship.
Want to get learn more about our campaign for Comprehensive Immigration Reform? Contact Elizabeth Marum at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how you can get involved.
In Montana, newly-drilled oil and gas wells are subject to a significantly lower tax rate for up to 18 months after the start of production. At the same time, Montana’s communities struggle to deal with the effects of resource extraction- the increased demand for housing and public safety, the burdens on infrastructure, and the environmental and health impacts.
Reforming the oil and gas tax holiday would allow Montana to meet the immediate needs of our communities while also putting us on the path to long-term prosperity. Check out this short Oil and Gas Tax Holiday Video to learn more about the Oil and Gas Tax Holiday and how it impacts our communities.
Montana’s communities cannot afford the costly oil and gas tax holiday. From 2008 to 2012, the tax holiday cost the state and counties alone $152 million. Our local governments also experienced a $73 million loss during this period. These are dollars that could be invested to help communities deal with the immense impacts of resource extraction- allowing Montana’s towns and cities to meet the demands of the “boom,” while also preparing for the inevitable “bust.”
Local governments receive too little, too late. Cities are arguably the most affected by resource development. Yet, these frontline locations receive less than 0.1 percent of revenue in our current tax structure. To make matters worse, the oil and gas tax holiday means revenue is the lowest during the first year to year and a half after a well is drilled- the very time communities need funding to meet the demands of their residents.
Our communities struggle to keep their residents safe and healthy. Resource development causes an influx of new people to our communities. They, in turn, increase the demand for housing and education, place a strain on our infrastructure, and increase the need for public safety and law enforcement. However, the oil and gas tax holiday prevents funding for actually getting to the communities that need it.
The oil and gas tax holiday does not influence drilling. Companies drill where the oil exists. Montana’s effective rate of taxation on oil and gas, is significantly lower than both Wyoming’s (15.9%) and New Mexico’s (15%). Yet Wyoming and New Mexico have higher total production value.
Please contact your Legislator TODAY and tell them that it is time to end the Oil and Gas Tax Holiday. Ask them to support SB 295 sponsored by Senator Christine Kaufmann.
You can email them here or call 406-444-4800.
Pulling yourself up by the bootstraps: The concept is an American ideal, a well-established part of our folklore, an idiom that has embedded itself into our country’s lexicon. But, in reality, we find there is a more accurate way to describe it: A fairy tale.
For generations, candidates across the country have reveled in the opportunity to tell their own stories of perseverance in the face of adversity. We’ve all heard the tale: A young man with a tough background and a chip on his shoulder rises from the ashes of a hellish existence, pulling himself up by the bootstraps to make something of himself. Captivating and gripping, these ubiquitous narratives are an essential element of our political theater, required reading for “Getting Elected 101.”
Never mind the fact that the act of lifting up one’s self with loops attached to your shoe is physically impossible.
Indeed, we are seeing compelling evidence that this notion is a myth; it is also metaphorically impossible for Americans today to pull themselves out of poverty, especially when the deck is stacked against them.We see this when corporations that bring in extravagant profits choose instead to cut employee hours, pay salaries well below living wages, and skirt health care responsibilities. We see this with the worsening income inequality crisis, which had already reached historical levels. We see this as our elected representatives choose cuts to programs that are the only means to survival for our society’s most disenfranchised.
And we see this in the halls of the Montana Legislature. Which is why Montana Organizing Project partnered with the Alliance for a Just Society to release the 14th Annual Job Gap Report- 2012 to demonstrate the lack of living wage jobs and the impact that cuts to vital programs can have on working families.
The 2013 legislative session holds an opportunity for the legislature to support working families and to boost the economy. Medicaid expansion would benefit tens of thousands of low-wage workers and their families and would save the state money. Additionally, surplus funds can be used to reinvest in programs that support low-wage workers, who will spend additional income on goods and services, supporting the state economy.
This year, Montana faces a budget surplus of $426 million. Rather than using this surplus to provide tax cuts for those in higher income brackets, the legislature should take a balanced approach and ensure that funds are available to invest in working families. Over the past several years, the legislature has enacted harmful cuts to safety net programs supporting low-wage workers, making it more difficult for working families to meet their basic needs. Now that the state faces a budget surplus, the state must take a balanced approach that includes investing in infrastructure to help support workers. When workers have better support and are better able to meet the needs of their families, they will be able to spend money on goods and services, boosting demand and injecting money into the economy.
Thanks to the 36 Montana Organizing Project members who traveled to Helena, MT on February 18th and 19th to visit with Montana Representatives and Senators about key issues facing our state. Top priorities that our members were focusing on were:
In all we had 77 contacts to 45 Senators and Representatives. We were also able to hold 3 separate meetings with members of Governor Bullock’s staff and participated in the hearing on HB 482 and the hearing on SB 272 the Indian Child Welfare Act.
We made a very visible presence throughout the halls of the Capitol and legislators took notice.
MOP institutional member Indian People’s Action also had a successful Idle No More Rally on the capitol lawn. The event drew a crowd of over 150 people demanding racial, social and economic justice for ALL Montanans. The event received a lot of press. You can read the Great Falls Tribune story here. Also be sure to check out the story in Char- Koosta News.
What YOU Can Do Moving Forward:
There are lots of opportunities for your voice to be heard on important issues. Sign up for action alerts by emailing email@example.com.
You can easily contact your legislator by sending them a message here. You can also leave a message for a committee or up to 5 legislators by calling 406-444-4800 Monday- Friday 7:30 am -5:00 pm or Saturday morning.
If you are in Helena and want some hands on experience advocating for our issues please contact Sheena Rice at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 406-490-9777
The values of the Montana Organizing Project include a strong LOCAL financial sector, that works with communities, main streets and family farms and ranches. As such we recently launched a grassroots campaign
Montana Organizing Project is excited to see a resurgence in the Montana debate surrounding federal financial regulation as exhibited in HJ4 “Resolution to Restore the Glass- Steagall Act through Return to Prudent Banking Act” sponsored by Rep. Bill Harris R- Winnett, at the Montana Legislature. It is high time that Congress fixes the mess they made with the “too big to fail banks” that caused the greatest economic downturn since the Great Depression. And it is time for sanity to be restored to the way banking is done in our country. Congress must split investment banking from traditional banking and restore common sense to our nation”s financial policy.
When the Glass- Steagall Act was overturned, the wall between investment banking and commercial banking (which is what ordinary citizens use to manage their finances or grow their small business) was eliminated. Creating an economic climate that rewarded risky financial behavior on the backs of taxpayers across the nation, and financial consolidation skyrocketed. Now the combined assets of our country’s ten largest depository institutions equates to 65% of the banking industry’s assets and 75% of our country”s GDP. With this, financial opportunities and lending programs for small businesses and family farms have significantly decreased.
It would be remiss not to note that Glass-Steagall is in fact economic policy from the 1930s, so it cannot be said with certainty that an identical policy fits where we currently are in the 21st century. But Congress must restore prudence to our financial regulations.
Reinstating the “wall” means that banking institutions would choose between either commercial or investment banking. Making it easier to separate what needs to be federally insured and protected, from activities based in speculation and risk.
This is an opportunity for Montana to be on the right side of history. If the Montana Legislature adopts HJ4, it will send a message to Washington DC demanding federal policy that ensures that more sound financial policy will be in place for future generations.
By: Bert Chessin
The holiday season, with diverse celebrations of family and community marked in many faith traditions by gift giving, is a good time to reflect on how to best support our local community in our daily economic decisions.
While large national retail chains certainly play a role in the national economy, when you make the conscious choice to buy gifts at a locally owned Montana small business, chances are the owner is your neighbor. Money spent locally cycles through the local economy, rather than being sent to corporate headquarters out of state.
Small businesses have created about 65 percent of new jobs in the last two decades, in addition to bringing local flavor and vibrancy to our communities, from Missoula to Miles City. Buying local puts our money to work creating Montana jobs and preserving our rich local culture. Plus, if you like giving unique, handmade gifts, nothing beats shopping at a locally owned business. But, our investment in Montana should not stop with where we shop.
Banking locally is a powerful way individuals can invest in strengthening Montana’s economy, without spending a dime. While big banks regularly engage in speculative trading and other Wall Street bets that provide little economic value locally, the principle function of most small banks and credit unions is turning deposits into loans and other productive investments that benefit the local economies.
Local banks do well when their communities do well. That’s why small business owners are more likely to get a loan at a local bank or credit union where decisions are made by people who live in the community, know customers by name, and understand the local economy.Small and mid-sized banks generate more than half of all small business lending, even though they control less than one-quarter of all bank assets.
Contrast that kind of track record of local investment with the experience of the nation’s biggest banks whose volume of small business lending has fallen dramatically, even while gaining market share. The largest 18 banks control 60 percent of all bank assets, while generating only 27 percent of small business loans.
Why would Montanans want to send our money to Wall Street rather building our local economy here at home? That’s why the Montana Organizing Project (MOP) is launching our “Invest in Montana – Buy Local, Bank Local” campaign.
Over the next year, MOP will be promoting innovative ways that individuals, business owners, and policy makers can work together to invest in Montana, through collaboration with a diverse coalition of community, civic, labor and faith groups teaming up with small business owners and community members.
It starts with the deliberate choices we make daily, that recognize our interconnectedness to one another. Join the campaign this holiday season, by buying local, banking local, and investing in Montana.
Bert Chessin of Congregation Har Shalom in Missoula is the board chair of Montana Organizing Project.
In our community and communities all over the United States, local and national allies (including elected officials, clergy, advocacy groups, and small business owners) are coming together to make change at Wal-Mart and to raise their voices about the impact of Walmart in our neighborhoods.
For over a year now, workers have been calling on Wal-Mart to reform the company’s exploitative practices with regard to wages, scheduling, benefits and workplace safety. Workers brave enough to speak up have been slapped with retaliatory disciplinary actions including cutbacks on hours and even firings, while the company and Walton family continue rake in massive profits off the backs millions of low-wage workers.Walmart has made the Waltons extraordinarily wealthy — this one family controls a fortune equal to the wealth of the bottom 42% of Americans combined.
In June 2005 the Great Falls Tribune examined records for the state’s CHIP program and found that the private employer with the largest number of workers with dependents receiving the health insurance was Wal-Mart. Its 193 employees using CHIP represented about 4 percent of the company’s workforce in the state. Other companies high on the list were McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, NAPA Auto Parts and Subway. Source: Mike Dennison, “State Insurance for Kids Going to Employees You Might Not Expect,” Great Falls Tribune, June 26, 2005, p.16A.
What happens at Wal-Mart has ramifications far beyond the walls of any of its stores. To date, Wal-Mart has set the standard for driving down wages and maximizing profits. Instituting positive change at Wal-Mart could effectively transform the retail industry and improve working conditions for thousands of Montanans.
EVENT: Stand in Support of the Wal-Mart Boycott Rally
DATE/TIME: Friday November 23, 8:00 am – 10:00 am
LOCATION: Walmart at Mullan and Reserve
(Also leafleting on Thursday night 7:00 pm – call Starla 529-0622 if interested)
For more information, contact Starla
406-529-0622 – email@example.com
The Election is over. And now Congress must return to Washington DC to get back to work. They face a stark choice: who should pay for investments in our country’s future and to reduce the deficit– the richest 2%? Or the rest of us?
Days after the election, Congress will need to focus on “deficit reduction,” and many of the policies being discussed produce shocking cuts to the middle class and are unacceptable to most of us.
In the Lame Duck final session of the 112th Congress and when the next Congress starts in January, we need to stand firm for middle-class families by opposing cuts to Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Medicaid and ensure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share.
We can do that by paying attention at the voting booth.
Ask these questions of your candidate…
Will you support and strengthen the Affordable Care Act? The ACA stops abusive practices of big insurance companies, including denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and charging women more than men for the same coverage. Children will be able to stay on their parent’s health coverage until age 26. Insurance companies must spend at least 80% of premium dollars on health care services or quality improvements rather than administrative costs. Insurers must cover preventive care with no co-pay or co-insurance. Prescription drug costs have been reduced for millions of seniors on Medicare who fall into the donut hole. Nearly 4 million beneficiaries received a $250 check to help with drug costs in the ACA’s first year, and more than 2.2 million Medicare beneficiaries saved more than $1.2 billion on prescriptions in the second year – an average savings of $550 per person.
Say no to abolishing the Affordable Care Act or defunding the program and puting thousands of Montanan’s at risk of losing health care.
Will you defend Medicaid? Medicaid protects more than one in three children in our country and is the primary payer for 64% of nursing home care – a cost that would otherwise drown the typical family. It aided 1 out of 8 people in Montana in 2009. Block-granting Medicaid, as the Ryan Budget intends, would take away $810 billion from the program. Block grants or other caps on spending might save money for the federal government, but they also shift billions of dollars in costs to state governments that are already short of cash. This will lead to cuts in benefits, reduced payments to safety-net providers and less help for people in need.
Say no to plans that cut Medicaid funding or restructure the program through block grants for states, per-person caps or other changes to the payment formula that shift costs to the states.
Will you protect Medicare? Medicare is a benefit that people have earned and paid for over their working lives. We need to preserve Medicare, not end it. Many politicians say Medicare beneficiaries should pay more out of their own pockets. They accuse seniors of being wasteful for using too much health care and argue that retirees need to have “more skin in the game.” But the truth is that people with Medicare coverage already spend nearly 20% of their total income on health care. Medicare insures 177,835 Montanans — 18% of us and 98% of seniors. One-third of those seniors live ONLY on Social Security and will go without healthcare because they can’t afford to pay more.
Say no to turning Medicare into a “voucher plan” that shifts costs onto seniors costing them $6,400 more in the first year. Say no to any other plan that makes seniors pay more, including raising the age of eligibility.
Will you make the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share in taxes? To get our nation back on track, everyone needs to pay their fair share. Ending the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% is a good first step. We just can’t afford to keep giving tax cuts to those who need them the least. Millionaires and billionaires should be asked to pay more. We also need to close tax loopholes, like offshore tax havens, and end tax subsidies that encourage firms to send jobs overseas.
Say no to deals that don’t have serious revenue up front, plans that extend the Bush tax cuts, and plans to lower marginal tax rates even further for high-income people.
Will you walk away from a bad budget deal? Middle-class families can’t afford a bad deal that puts important programs like Medicare and Medicaid at risk while protecting tax cuts for the rich. It would be foolish Congress to agree to any deal that refuses to raise tax revenue. And they certainly should not accept a framework that cuts Medicare and Medicaid.
Say no to plans to reduce the debt on the backs of middle-class families, seniors and kids while preserving tax cuts for the rich.
Whether you are currently filling out your ballot, or you are waiting to cast your vote in person on November 6th, be sure to vote for Montana families and for a Fair and Just Economy.
Article written by Starla Gade- organizer for Health Care for America Now- Montana
Back in July when Congress was poised to vote on extending the Bush tax cuts, MOP and the Montana Small Business Alliance released a report showing the impact of the extending the Bush Tax Cuts on Montanans. Ultimately Congress passed a GOP bill that included the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2 percent; but Congress will re-visit the issue later this year.
The report shows that just 2.4 percent of Montanans would benefit from the extra tax cuts for income above $250,000, these cuts for the wealthy would cost the country $68 billion in 2013 alone. For comparison, $68 billion is as much as the federal government is spending nationwide in 2012 to repair highways, improve education and provide school breakfasts for low-income children, ensure clean drinking water, and deliver meals at home to frail seniors – investments that support strong local economies and small business development.
Major findings of the report include:
Now that the ballots are arriving in mail boxes across the state learn more about the candidates in your community. For the first time ever, MOP has collected information from candidates on the different priorities of a “Fair and Just Economy.”
Learn more about the candidates in these geographic reports.
Also be sure to check out key information about ballot measures.
Get informed. Ask questions of candidates when the call or come to your door asking for your vote.
And when voting, be sure to vote for a Fair and Just Economy!
Disclaimer: MOP is a 501 (c) 3 organization and as such does not endorse political candidates.
Paid for by Montana Organizing Project PO Box 438 Billings MT 59103
On Wednesday October 3rd 2012, Federal Judge Charles Lovell struck down Montana’s limits on campaign contributions dealing yet another blow to our laws that attempt to limit the role of money in elections and politics.
Montana Organizing Project is appalled at this decision that allows for corruption in our democratic process. Montana has a long history of the people fighting to keep our elections clean and fair, dating back to the days of the Copper Kings in Butte. The people of Montana know now, what they did then- when unlimited amounts of money are spent on elections, it leads to corruption. We also know that words, actions, thoughts and ideas constitute free speech, money does not.
So there is now a clash between the power of money and the power of people in Montana. And just like in the days of the Copper Kings, the people have a fighting chance. But we must unite and demand fair elections that are played on a level playing field. In order for this to happen, order must be restored and Citizen’s United which opened the floodgates for decisions overturning our laws must be overturned once and for all. This November 6th, the people have a chance to put our foot down. We have the opportunity to vote against the corporate takeover of our elections and vote yes on I-166.
This fight is not going to be easy, and much that needs to be done, as well as lengthy legal processes to suffer through, but it starts with the easy action of filling out the “Yes” bubble next to I-166.
This statement was authored by the Montana Organizing Project Board of Directors.
Administrator Note: This post was authored by Shahid Haque-Hausrath, executive director of Montana Immigration Justice Alliance (MIJA) and is cross-posted with permission from the author. You can read the original post here. Montana Organizing Project voted to oppose LR 121 at our 2012 annual meeting as it promotes racial injustice.- Sheena Rice
LR-121 is a referendum that will be appearing on ballots throughout Montana on November 6, 2012. LR-121 aims to deny a wide variety of state services to Montana residents who cannot prove that they are U.S. Citizens or documented immigrants. This post is designed to serve as a resource on the referendum, discussing how it came to appear on the ballot, what it seeks to do, and why it will be so costly and damaging to the state.
History of the Referendum
Unlike most referendums that are brought by the public and require signature gathering to be placed on the ballot, LR-121 was actually a legislative referral. The Montana Legislature passed HB 638, a bill brought by Rep. David Howard (R) to place this issue on the ballot as a referendum. Therefore, by operation of law, the referendum will now be brought before Montana voters in the general election.
Rep. David Howard, the proponent of this referendum, had unsuccessfully carried 3 bills in the 2009 sessionand 6 other bills in the 2011 session to attempt to bring the state into the business of enforcing federal immigration laws. All of these other bills were defeated, but his legislative referendum managed to pass both the House and Senate. The votes were almost completely along party lines, with Democrats voting against the referendum and Republicans voting in support. Two notable exceptions were Sen. Joe Balyeat (R) and Rep. Liz Bangerter (R) — both of whom split with their party to oppose the referendum.
The Language of LR-121 to Appear on the Ballot
The Montana Secretary of State has certified the following language to appear on the ballot:
AN ACT DENYING CERTAIN STATE-FUNDED SERVICES TO ILLEGAL ALIENS; ESTABLISHING PROCEDURES FOR DETERMINING A PERSON’S CITIZENSHIP STATUS; PROVIDING THAT THE PROPOSED ACT BE SUBMITTED TO THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF MONTANA; AND PROVIDING AN EFFECTIVE DATE AND AN APPLICABILITY DATE.
LR-121 prohibits providing state services to people who are not U.S. citizens and who have unlawfully entered or unlawfully remained in the United States. Under LR-121, every individual seeking a state service, such as applying for any state licenses, state employment, unemployment or disability benefits, or aid for university students, must provide evidence of U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status, and/or have their status verified through federal databases. State agencies must notify the U.S. Department of Homeland Security of noncitizens who have unlawfully entered or remained in the U.S. and who have applied for state services.
The costs associated with verifying U.S. citizenship or lawful alien status will vary by agency and cannot be precisely determined. However, on-going costs may include: hiring and training state personnel to use various federal databases; software, hardware and search charges; and information assessment and management costs.
 FOR denying certain state services to illegal aliens.
 AGAINST denying certain state services to illegal aliens.
In layman’s terms, this bill would insert the federal government between almost every agency in this state and the services they provide to Montana residents. As discussed below, this bill is part of a misguided effort to use state resources to enforce federal immigration laws, and will be costly and damaging to the state.
As you can see, this referendum includes the term “illegal alien” in some sections. Please refer to this resource for why the term “illegal alien” is offensive and inaccurate.
What State Services Will Be Denied to Unauthorized Immigrants?
The bill would require employees of the State of Montana to serve as federal immigration agents, attempt to determine the immigration status of applicants for services, and deny these services to undocumented immigrants. They will be required to use a costly “pay-per-use” federal database to perform these checks. These are the services that are to be denied:
Employment with a state agency. This referendum will require all state agencies to check immigration status and deny employment to anyone who cannot prove U.S. citizenship or authorized status. There are already federal laws requiring that all applicants for employment complete an Employment Verification Formbefore starting work. Most of you are probably familiar with the process — you present certain forms of ID to prove eligibility to work, and then you sign a form. The federal government has not imposed any additional requirements or mandated the use of their federal system to verify work authorization. Nevertheless, this referendum seeks to voluntary commit the state to using a costly and time-consuming federal database to screen employees.
Ability to attend any public university in the state. There is no federal law that prohibits undocumented immigrants from attending college. Most states allow undocumented students to attend college, although they may be required to pay tuition as non-residents of the state. Under Montana’s current laws, “[t]he university system is open to all people, subject to such uniform regulations as the regents deem proper.” This referendum would change this and require all students to prove their citizenship or immigration status, and be denied admission if they cannot do so. Somewhat redundantly, the referendum would also cut off an undocumented student’s ability to get student financial assistance. Worse, it would require the state to turn any undocumented students over to the federal immigration authorities!
Ability to get a state license or permit to practice any trade or profession. For the first time, this referendum would require state agencies that issue licenses or permits to screen applicants for immigration status. The requirement would apply to all licenses and permits provided in Title 37, which includes over 75 different professions from barbers to massage therapists and real estate brokers. One can only imagine the number of applicants that state employees will now be required to screen. Since current procedures do not require any such screening, this will likely require some significant changes in the licensing and permitting process.
Ability to get unemployment insurance benefits. The referendum would specifically prohibit undocumented aliens from receiving unemployment insurance benefits as provided under law.
Assistance with vocational rehabilitation. Montana law provides for some assistance to help “a person with a disability to enable the person to the extent possible to become independent and productive or employable.” The referendum would strip undocumented immigrants with such disabilities from getting any rehabilitation.
Services for victims of crime. Under Montana law, there is a Crime Victim Compensation fund to “help innocent crime victims with crime-related medical expenses.” This includes “lost wages and medical and funeral expenses incurred as the result of personal injury crimes. These crimes include homicide, rape, domestic violence, stalking, assault, child sexual and physical abuse, and drunk driving.” The referendum would prevent victims of crime who are undocumented immigrants from getting help.
Services for the physically disabled. The referendum oddly seeks to eliminate access to two types of services for physically disabled individuals. The referendum states that it will deny “services for the physically disabled, as provided in Title 53, chapter 19, parts 3 and 4.” These are the parts relating to “a program to make specialized telecommunications equipment and services available to persons with disabilities” and “newborn hearing screenings.” It is troubling that the referendum would deny access to necessary equipment for people with disabilities, and it is quite disturbing that it seeks to deny a simple hearing test to newborns. It goes without saying that most newborns in Montana are likely U.S. citizens by virtue of being born in this country.
Ability to get a grant. Finally, the referendum seeks to limit the ability to get any kind of grant as provided in Title 90 of the Code.
It should be noted that LR 121 appears to be drafted to deliberately create the impression that its scope is even broader than it actually is. At certain points, the language of the legislative referendum appears sweeping, seemingly reaching to all state services provided to undocumented aliens. Public perception of a law often shapes its implementation, and the broad language of the referendum will have lasting effects beyond the specific areas outlined above.
How Will the State Verify the Legal Status of Applicants for Services?
This referendum would require the State of Montana to check a costly federal database before granting services to Montana residents. Montanans have spent years fighting this level of federal intrusion into our day-to-day activities, as evidenced by the vocal opposition to federal REAL ID laws. However, this referendum would insert a federal government database into almost every agency of the State of Montana — and require us to pay for its use!
The federal database that would be used is the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (“SAVE”) system. The SAVE system is not free. The federal government charges between $.50 and $2.00 for each search in the system. The minimum cost is $.50. When you consider the numbers of applicants for state services, this could quickly add up to millions of dollars. State agencies will also waste time and resources training employees on how to use this system, and checking it before allowing access to a wide variety of state services.
The SAVE system is not a fully computerized system that provides immediate results. In actuality, this system often fails to ascertain immigration status at the “initial verification” stage, and a secondary or third inspection is required.
A report from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) states that 6% of its checks are not resolved immediately and require secondary or third inspection. USCIS estimates that secondary inspection can take up to 3-5 working days to complete. In actuality, applicants have complained of delays of over 15 days.
Agencies may be required to process paperwork in the third inspection stage, including a G-845S Document Verification Request. At this stage, the agency has to make copies of all of the applicant’s immigration papers, fill out a form, and send it to USCIS. Then, the agency must wait 10-20 working days or longer for a response.
The SAVE System is Similar to REAL ID
Requiring that our state agencies use federal systems to verify access to benefits has an impact on our state sovereignty. The mandatory use of the SAVE system was a major part of the federal REAL ID law that Governor Schweitzer and the Montana legislature resoundingly rejected in 2007.
It is important for Montanans to realize that this referendum imposes even more sweeping and burdensome requirements than REAL ID.
We Don’t Need this Law in Montana
Montana is one of the states with the least numbers of immigrants in the whole country. Montanans must consider if enforcing federal immigration laws are worth the delays in service and extra cost to the state.
During the 2009 and 2011 legislative sessions, the proponents of anti-immigrant legislation estimated that there are no more than 4,000 undocumented immigrants in Montana. One can safely assume that far fewer are actually accessing state services. It would cost the State of Montana far more to implement this law than we are “losing” by providing services to undocumented immigrants.
Fiscal Impact of LR-121
It should be noted that state agencies were asked to complete some fiscal statements, which were woefully inadequate and not well-reasoned. The true impact of LR-121 will reach far beyond the limited analysis in these agency reports.
Who is Currently Working to Oppose the Referendum?
For the past six years, an ad hoc coalition of organizations and individuals has worked to defeat over 25 anti-immigrant proposals at the past three legislative sessions. This coalition has included the Montana Human Rights Network, the Gallatin Valley Human Rights Taskforce, the ACLU of Montana, the , Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, the Teamsters, SEIU Healthcare 775 NW, members of the faith community, individual activists, concerned members of the community, and immigration attorneys. Without specific funding, the coalition has operated on in-kind contributions of staff time, printing, etc. from organizations as well as volunteer hours and resources from individuals.
Many members of this coalition have come back together in an effort to raise resources and run a campaign to educate Montana voters and defeat LR-121. Please if you can provide any help to defeat LR-121.
Over the past three years, Montana Organizing Project has traveled the state to talk to economic developers, faith leaders, farmers, Native Americans, small business owners, and union members to help us draw a picture of the Montana we all want. The pictures are incredibly similar, whether you are struggling to find a place to call home in eastern Montana due to the oil boom, unemployed in a border town, or seeing vital services cut to programs that families and communities depend on. We want a Montana with strong schools, places to live, strong communities, vibrant main streets with strong small businesses, access to quality and affordable health care.
We have constructed this picture into our agenda of a Fair and Just Economy that was introduced at our annual meeting at the end of June. Our concept of a Fair and Just Economy would:
Prioritize Investments in Public Services and Infrastructure in the Montana Budget, to Sustain the Well-Being of All Montanans.
Create a Montana Partnership Bank that Keeps Montana Dollars in Montana Instead of Sending Them to Wall Street.
Increase Access to Affordable and Quality Health Care by Implementing the Affordable Care Act.
For more information about how you can get involved in the campaign for a Fair and Just Economy, contact our organizer Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This election MOP is interested in finding out where candidates stand on specific issues facing our state and how we can get to a Fair and Just Economy, that works for all Montanans. Information from the survey will be released on our website in the beginning of October.
The mission of the Montana Organizing Project is promoting the dignity and empowerment of people with low and middle incomes whose voices have not been heard in their communities. Information gathered in our candidate surveys will help them make informed decisions when they fill out their ballot this Fall.
Download the 2012 Candidate Survey here.
Contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 if you have questions.
by Rev. Marilyn Pagan-Banks, Executive Director, A Just Harvest/ President, IIRON
“Cheat the poor to make a profit or give gifts to the rich—either way you lose.” Proverb 22:16
I like the Proverbs—they often go right to the heart of the matter. Nuggets of wisdom directed at a nation needing direction on how to live and be a liberated, prosperous, whole and holy people. A nation accountable to God and to one another’s well-being—shalom.
This particular Proverb speaks to an important issue we face in this country today. Congress must decide whether to begin to restore basic fairness to our tax system by ending the Bush-era income tax cuts for the richest two percent—households with income above $250,000 a year—while extending the tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans.
A few weeks ago the US Senate voted 51-48 on legislation that would extend the Bush-era income tax cuts to households earning up to $250,000. The House of Representatives voted later to extend these tax cuts across the board.
If the tax cuts are not allowed to expire for those earning over $250,000—the richest two percent of the country—it would cost the federal government $68 billion dollars in 2013! This is equal to what will be spent in 2012 on the following programscombined: infrastructure, K-12 education, Head Start, school breakfast, clean water funds and meals for homebound seniors.
We each need to urge our representatives to vote to end the Bush-era tax cuts for the richest two percent. Call your member of Congress now at (888) 744-9958. Even during the recess it is important that we hold our Representatives accountable.
We lose as a nation when everyone does not pay their fair share of taxes. The well-being of our nation is compromised when we give tax breaks to the rich while at the same time eliminating vital social services for the most vulnerable. There is no shalom when we put profit before people.
To learn more about the Bush Tax Cuts and their damaging effects, read Chris Conry’s “Breakdown of the Bush Tax Cuts“, “Why You Pay More than the 1%” and “Leaving Behind the Aristocracy.”
As an organization committed to economic justice, MOP continues to work for equity in our tax system. As a member of Americans for Tax Fairness, Montana Organizing Project supports the following principles:
Friday August 10th marked a major victory for Montana! The Montana Supreme Court ruled Legislative Referendum 123 (LR-123) unconstitutional and removed it from the November general election ballot on a 4-3 vote.
As a partner organization in the campaign to defeat LR-123, MOP is excited to celebrate this news! Moreover, we should all give a big thank you to MEA-MFT, Montana State AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and the Area Agencies on Aging for their leadership in facilitating the legal battle that resulted in today’s ruling.
Below is the news release issued by our friend, MEA-MFT on the ruling:
Supreme Court Rules LR-123 Unconstitutional
(HELENA) — Today, MEA-MFT praised the decision by the Montana Supreme Court which ruled Legislative Referendum 123 (LR-123) unconstitutional and removed it from the November general election ballot.
“We are grateful the Court decided not to waste voters’ time with a measure that is so blatantly unconstitutional,” said Erik Burke, executive director of MEA-MFT. MEA-MFT is a plaintiff in the court case, along with the Montana State AFL-CIO; Montana Public Employees Association; Montana Association of Area Agencies on Aging; and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Montana Council 9.
MEA-MFT is also a partner in the coalition that formed to oppose LR-123, called Montanans for Fiscal Accountability. The coalition is composed of 26 Montana organizations including business groups, faith leaders, AARP Montana, the Montana Nurses Association, labor unions, conservation groups, the Montana Public Health Association, MEA-MFT, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and of course, Montana Organizing Project, as well as many others.
“Montana weathered the recession better than most states because we saved during the good times,” said Burke. “LR-123 would have left no grain in the bin for hard times, even if it meant slashing funds for our kids’ classrooms, healthcare for low income kids, or laying off firefighters and police. Montanans don’t want that, and they would have voted against it in November.”
The Supreme Court affirmed District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock”s decision 4 to 3, with Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justices Jim Nelson, Brian Morris, and Mike Wheat in the majority. Justices Patricia Cotter, Jim Rice and Beth Baker dissented.
Due to the tight timeframes associated with preparing ballots for the general election, the Supreme Court issued its order without an opinion, analysis or rationale. The Court indicated those statements would be released in due course.
Over 70 Montanans from Baker to Missoula convened in Billings June 29-30 for MOP’s annual meeting “Uniting the Divides.” People from different religions, different geographies, different socio-economic backgrounds, and different ages were able to come together to talk about the common values they share as Montanans and their vision for a Fair and Just Economy in Montana that sustains the well being of ALL Montanans.
Keynote Speakers at the event were Pamela Chiang with the Center for Community Change who spoke about the role that community organizing plays in uniting divides. Chase Iron Eyes, attorney, activist, and author of lastrealindians.com spoke about the importance of racial justice in the West. He spoke about important role of coalitions coming together to address racial justice issues.
Other highlights included a panel on the “Eastern/Western Divide”, issue breakouts on housing, budget and revenue, health care and state banks.
There were also opportunities for leaders to hone their social action skills through a media workshop, a lobbying workshop, and a training on non-violent direct action.
Leaders prioritized three core objectives for our Fair and Just Economy platform:
Leaders at the meeting left invigorated about the many opportunities for social action in Montana and were inspired by the role that MOP’s coalition brings to social justice.
Join MOP leaders, board members, and staff June 29 6:30 pm at First Congregational UCC in downtown Billings. for a celebration of social justice and community organizing. The event is free for those attending the full MOP annual meeting “Uniting the Divides” and $25 without conference registration.
Keystone Speaker: The Role of Organizing in Uniting Divides
Pamela Chiang, Director of Organizational Learning with the Center for Community Change
We are excited to announce that at this years annual meeting “Uniting the Divides” June 29-30 in Billings will feature awesome breakout sessions where leaders can dive in and really understand solutions that will create a fair share economy here at home.
Here are just some of the topics that we will be covering:
Creating a Bank of Montana: What are public banks? How can public banks benefit local communities and promote healthy economies? In this breakout we will look at the Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only state owned bank and tribal owned banks as models for true banking reform and an opportunity for Montana to move its money from Wall Street to Main Street.
Investing in Affordable Housing: There is currently no revenue dedicated for housing in Montana, hurting communities across the state and Native Americans. From eastern Montana’s extreme housing shortage to a lack of affordable housing in central Montana, our lack of investment in housing is a serious problem. In this workshop we will learn about the history of the Housing Montana Fund, and why dedicating revenue to it during the next legislative session is a priority for communities across the state from Baker to Browning.
A Better Budget for Montana: Why is it important to talk about our public investments? How does the budget impact our communities? In this workshop learn more about potential legislative priorities that will benefit all Montanans and Indian Country from repealing the Oil and Gas Tax Holiday to talking a values based approach to our state budget process.
Health Care: What is at stake with our health care after recent partisan based attacks on reform? Learn about the benefits of the Affordable Care Act and what we can do to protect the law that improves health care access for 32 million Americans. The Act also made great strides to address health equity, especially in Indian Country. The ACA makes the Indian Health Care Improvement Act permanent. Before health reform, the law would come up periodically for renewal by Congress. But, often, Congress did not renew the Act for years and years – even though health care is covered by treaty rights. That meant that improvements and funding for the Indian health system were put on hold. Thanks to health reform, the Indian Health Care Improvement Act is now permanent.
Intrigued? Then register today to join us in Billings June 29-30! You will not want to miss this event! More information about other segments coming soon!
Please join us in Billings, MT June 29-30 for the 2012 MOP Annual Meeting “Uniting the Divides”. This year’s annual meeting will feature Pamela Chiang with the Center for Community Change discussing the “role of organizing in uniting the divides” and author and activist Gyasi Ross who will discuss “racial justice in the Northwest”. Please check out our full agenda here!
Other items of note for this years event are:
- Uniting the East/West Divide: Addressing Challenges and Opportunities from Baker to Missoula
- Breakout issue discussions on creating a state bank, affordable housing in Eastern Montana, better budget solutions for Montana, and health care.
- Action based workshops to develop leaders in lobbying, communication, and organizing skills.
MOP 3rd Annual Meeting “Uniting the Divides”
June 29-30, 2012
First Congregational Church
310 North 27th Street, Billings MT
A limited number of rooms have been reserved for a discounted rate of $84.99 (plus tax) at Billings Clock Tower Inn in downtown Billings until June 15th. Please make your reservation TODAY by calling them at 406-259-5511 under the reference “Montana Organizing Project.” There are both single and double occupancy rooms available.
Information about transportation options will be posted soon!
For more information please contact Sheena Rice 406-490-9777 or email@example.com. Register TODAY!
Be sure to check out the just released March 2012 edition of March 2012 Newsletter. In this newsletter you will find updates on:
There is also information about our upcoming annual meeting in Billings, Montana June 29th and 30th. Be sure to save the date! As well as the newest MOP members University Congregational UCC in Missoula, Congregation Har Shalom in Missoula and United Steel Workers Local #443 in Billings.
Please join us for an eastern Montana wide discussion addressing the challenges and opportunities around housing and infrastructure in our communities, and potential solutions that will work for our families and towns. Register Today!
Friday April 27th: Communications Tools YOU Can Use (Optional Workshop)
Hands on workshop on effective messages for building public support for affordable housing and homeless programs. The past decade has seen significant advances in the sophistication and success of affordable housing communication campaigns. Learn about the type of messages that work and how a cohesive messaging strategy can shape the debate in your favor. Workshop will be led by Michael Anderson with the National Housing Trust Fund Project.
Time: 5:30 PM
Location: The Tavern 11 North Main Street, Baker
You must Pre-Register to attend the communications workshop. Space is Limited.
April 28th: Eastern Montana Housing Conference
Addressing the challenges and opportunities for eastern Montana communities as they tackle the housing shortage facing them as a result of increased economic activity.
Time: 9:00 AM – 4:30 PM
Location: Fallon County Fairgrounds Exhibit Hall
This conference is sponsored by the Montana Organizing Project with support from the Center for Community Change, Neighborworks MT, SMART, Eastern Montana Economic Development Authority and more to come. If you are interested in sponsoring the conference, please contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777.
Rooms are reserved for the night of April 27th at the Montana Motel(406) 778-3315 and Sagebrush Inn (406) 778-3341 until April 13th. Rates for rooms vary. Please reserve using the code “Housing Conference”.
Questions: Please contact Sheena Rice 406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On February 21st over 25 community leaders and MOP activists gathered in Billings to discuss the goals and objectives of MOP for the 2012 year and how we can continue to move forward in our fight for economic, racial and social justice in Montana. After learning about MOP’s history and priorities as well as listening to a discussion about social justice and how it can be accomplished, the group split up into small groups to further dive into the issues. Below is an overview of what was discussed.
Health Care and the Affordable Care Act
Vital Services in Our State and Federal Budget
Programs that are vital to Montana communities and need to be advocated for in the 2013 legislative session:
Action Items before Legislative Session:
Rebuilding Montana’s Economy
Creating a Public State Owned Bank in Montana that would:
Action Items for the Public Bank:
Other Social Justice Matters
The mortgage fraud settlement announced yesterday is a tiny drop in a big bucket. It does not do justice for the millions of homeowners who lost their homes or hold the banks fully accountable for their crimes. For homeowners who were defrauded and lost their homes, $2,000 is too little, too late. It is a paltry down payment toward full relief for homeowners.
Despite its flaws, the settlement announced today is stronger than it would have otherwise been because of grassroots groups and the courageous stance of Attorneys General from Montana, California, New York, Nevada, Delaware, and Massachusetts, who fought hard to bring more relief to homeowners and make sure that any settlement does not allow the banks to avoid accountability for fraudulent activity not yet investigated. Due to their work and the work of many allies, momentum is building toward broad-scale relief for homeowners. Thanks must go out to Montana’s Attorney General Steve Bullock who was able to secure $20 million of the settlement for Montanan homeowners.
However this fight is not over. The Obama Administration needs to make sure that its task force goes the distance and delivers at least $336 billion in principal reduction on underwater mortgages and $50 billion in restitution for affected homeowners.
What happens next is critical. This is the President’s chance to show he is a champion for homeowners across the country.
The New Bottom Line is a new and growing movement fueled by a coalition of community organizations, congregations, and individuals working together to challenge established big bank interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities. Together, we are working to restructure Wall Street to help American families build wealth, close the country’s growing income gap and advance a vision for how our economy can better serve the many rather than the few. Coalition members include PICO National Network, National People’s Action (NPA), Alliance for a Just Society, and dozens of state and local organizations from around the country.
2011 has been an eventful year here at the Montana Organizing Project (MOP) as we celebrated our second anniversary in June and have much to be proud of this year, thanks in large part to support of our awesome members and supporters, like you!
Here are some of our accomplishments you helped make happen in 2011:
While we are proud about what we have accomplished, we are most excited about what we CAN do in the future for economic, racial and social justice in Montana. In 2012 we will educate voters about key budget and revenue decisions that affect them, build a coalition around creating a state bank of Montana similar to the Bank of North Dakota, help advocate for consumer friendly health care policy, and promote affordable housing development in our eastern Montana communities.
Your financial contribution will support our outreach to communities from Ronan to Plentywood, will support our program work and advocacy on important issues such as the implementation of a state based health care exchange, and help us develop community leaders who can advocate on issues in their communities.
You can donate . Or you can mail payment to Montana Organizing Project c/o Sheena Rice PO Box 438 Billings MT 59103. We hope that you will also consider becoming a MOP Trailblazer by making small donations ($10 or more) on a monthly basis (offered online only). This is a GREAT way to give as it allows those on a budget to give more in a year and ensures a steady revenue stream for our work.
Here is to a bright 2012! Happy Holidays!
Sheena Rice and Molly Moody and the entire MOP team!
PS. Your donations to the Montana Organizing Project are tax deductible through our fiscal sponsorship from the Alliance for a Just Society.
Have you watched our 2011 year in review video yet? Check it out now!
Members of SEIU Healthcare 775NW and the Montana Organizing Project headed to Washington, D.C. on Dec. 5 to join with thousands of peaceful protesters from around the country to Take Back the Capitol and send a message that Congress needs to represent the 99 percent, not just the 1 percent.
Over the past few months the country has begun to focus on the growing disparity between the 99 percent and the 1 percent, and its impact on our cities, neighborhoods, and rural areas. Thousands of Americans converged on Washington, D.C. to participate in four days of peaceful protests to make the voices of the 99 percent heard and counter the influence of the 1 percent.
“The problem in Washington is that too many members of Congress listen to corporate lobbyists from K Street and their campaign contributions instead of the 99 percent,” said Donavon Hawk, of Indian People’s Action a member organization of the Montana Organizing Project. “Now the 99 percent are coming to the corridors of power to make our presence felt.”
The situation for the 99 percent is dire. Nearly 14 million workers in the United States are without jobs; median incomes for most workers have fallen 6.7 percent in the two years since the recession of 2009; and income inequality is at its worst since the 1920s. And while the middle class and working people are suffering, taxes for the 1 percent are at an all-time low.
“I got on a plane and came to Washington because I’m part of the 99 percent that Congress has been ignoring,” said Winnifred Schafer a homecare worker and member of SEIU Healthcare 775NW from Wolf Point Montana. “We need good jobs here in Montana, not more budget cuts that make the economy even worse. We’re going down there to make sure Congress hears from the people, not just the lobbyists.”
Members of the Montana delegation are traveled to DC from many points across Montana: Wolf Point, Butte, Great Falls, and Missoula.
Local community banks and credit unions are essential for community development and growing community wealth. By choosing to bank locally, we as Montanans can support the places that we call home, rather than Wall Street. It means profits are invested in Montana and creating jobs that pay salaries and wages to people who live in our communities.
We can use our money to reflect our values, support our small businesses, create jobs and grow our economy all by having our money in a locally owned bank or credit union instead of a national bank.
When choosing a bank or credit union, think of how the decision can impact you or community by considering these principles:
Where you bank does matter. So talk to your current bank or research prospective banks using our Moving Money Guide. When you bank local, you are investing in Montana!
Be sure to check out our new campaign
This Holiday season the Montana Organizing Project and the Montana Small Business Alliance encourage all Montanans to invest in their state and their communities buy spending and saving their money locally.
Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.
Similarly, when you bank in a locally owned financial institution (either a locally owned bank or credit union) your investment is more likely to stay within your community helping support small businesses and community development projects. By banking with a local credit union, you as a member obtain a degree of ownership. By banking with a locally owned bank, profits stay in Montana.
The result of buying and banking locally is a strong investment in our communities and a significant investment in Montana.
If you are the owner of a local Montana business or financial institution and would like an “Invest in Montana: Buy Local, Bank Local” poster to hang in your establishment please contact Sheena Rice at 406-490-9777 or email@example.com.
We are excited to introduce MOP Organizing Notes a quarterly newsletter to keep our members and supporters up to date on the work that MOP is doing across the state!
In the Fall 2011 Organizing Notes you will learn more about:
But more importantly…..
You can read the Fall 2011 Organizing Notes here . Or if you would like to request a paper copy please contact Sheena Rice in our Billings office at 406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also contact Sheena if you are interested in submitting content for the Winter edition (due in January).
(editor note: MOP travel diaries will be a regular feature on our website highlighting the outreach MOP staff are doing and the work that is happening across the state, from Baker to Kalispell and everywhere in between- Sheena Rice, MOP Eastern Montana Organizer)
Baker, MT is a town of about 1,8oo people. Locals there joke that it is either next to nowhere or the center of the universe (being around 200 miles from Billings, Bismarck ND and Rapid City SD). And it is not the first town that traditionally comes to mind for a grassroots community organization to work in. Well for some that is, but for an organization like MOP, Baker is exactly where we need to be.
As MOP has expanded its outreach efforts into Eastern Montana it did not take long to realize the potential for work in this tiny town 83 miles southeast of Miles City. This is a town that boasts some of the oldest oil fields in Montana, and due to oil and gas exploration in the Bakken and other potential projects the town is on the cusp of substantial economic growth. And the community is trying to be ready.
There are significant challenges facing Baker from lack of housing, need for beautification and restoring abandoned buildings, stress on existing infrastructure and miscommunication among community leaders. In order to address these concerns the Eastern Montana Economic Development Authority decided that they needed to bring as many people together to discuss the opportunities and challenges in a way that would help create a vision for Baker and for Fallon County. It was at this step that they reached out to MOP to help with this process. By working with them MOP hopes to develop community leaders and help promote the need for real solutions.
On September 1, 2011 MOP facilitated a vision meeting at the Fallon County Fairgrounds that was attended by over 80 community members. A diverse group of people were represented, from faith leaders, small business owners, oil field workers, bankers (including MOP institutional member Fallon Credit Federal Credit Union), teachers, elected officials and farmers and ranchers. A group of energetic high school students also attended and inspired the entire group with the energy and commitment to community.
It was an inspiring event with hundreds of ideas thrown out on how to prepare the community for the opportunities it is presented with and clearly showed the commitment of community leaders to continue moving forward to reach its vision. But there is still a lot more work to do and the Montana Organizing Project is committed to continuing to work in Baker and other eastern Montana communities as they face the challenges of the current oil and gas boom in the area.
But to continue addressing the housing shortage, working with community leaders and empowering them to speak out on issues that affect them we need YOUR help.
Please consider becoming a MOP Trailblazer. By donating just $10 a month, Trailblazers support MOP’s outreach efforts to communities like Baker. As the Eastern Montana Organizer, I need to drive 230 miles to get to Baker, and that is not the only town I drive to and our projector director Molly Moody puts a fair number of miles on her car as well conducting outreach from Havre to Hardin. (And sometimes flat tires happen….)
MOP’s commitment to outreach in areas that do not get a lot of attention has significant costs, but they are costs that ought to be supported as the work is so vital to Montana’s future. The more thriving communities in our state the better Montana will be. Please become a MOP Trailblazer today. Just $10 a month and you will help guarantee that Molly Moody and I will continue criss-crossing Montana, meeting community leaders, allowing those in rural communities to have their voice heard in statewide policy discussions and day by day change Montana.
To become a MOP Trailblazer, join the Montana Organizing Project by selecting a recurring donation of at least $10 a month. For about $0.35 a day Trailblazers can support MOP’s continued outreach into our state’s more rural areas.
Congress was recently locked in a budget battle that’s grabbed round-the-clock media attention. Lost in the coverage are the real stakes in the debate, including the lives of the more than 50 million people covered by Medicaid, which remains in the budget-cutting cross-hairs. More than half of these 50 million are people of color. Racial disparities in health coverage have already reached alarming proportions. Cuts to Medicaid would make these disparities even worse, taking a toll on the real lives of real people.
The experiences and perspectives of some of these real people are captured in Medicaid Makes a Difference: Protecting Medicaid, Advancing Racial Equity, from the Alliance for a Just Society and 14 members of its Health Rights Organizing Project, a network of grassroots organizations across the country committed to the fight for health equity. Montana Organizing Project and Indian People’s Action contributed to this report.
Thanks to Medicaid, Ann Blacksmith, of Hardin, Montana, was able to treat her foot that she broke after she fell and slipped on the ice. Without Medicaid she knows that she would never have had her injury taken care of. Gina Owens’ grandchildren, in Seattle, Washington, get their asthma inhalers through the program. And when Hubo became pregnant in Lewiston, Maine, doctors and nurses were there to help because of Medicaid. Without the program, none of this care would be available to Ann, Gina and her grandchildren, Hubo, and millions of people like them.
Congress has been doling out tax breaks to corporations and millionaires. It’s time for Congress to change its priorities, because Medicaid matters, and so do our country’s communities of color.
Go to the Alliance for a Just Society website to read the storybook.
Click here to call your Member of Congress and tell them to protect Medicaid and stand strong for people of color.
Sign up now to attend a lunch time workshop featuring one of the experts in the field – Marcia Avner – Former Public Policy Director of the Minnesota Nonprofit Association and now staff of Northwest Area Foundation.
August 3rd in Billings – August 4th in Helena
Learn some skills and perspectives – share lunch with your peers in the nonprofit world.
Sponsored by Rural Employment Opportunities and Montana Organizing Project
Call REO to sign up – limited registration for this free session (lunch contribution requested). (406) 442-7850
Or contact Gary Sandusky – email@example.com
Community forum set to answer the public’s questions about health care and the Affordable Care Act.
Glendive, MT – The Montana Organizing Project and the Montana Small Business Alliance are holding a community forum to answer questions about the Affordable Care Act. The forum is scheduled for Thursday July 28, 2011 at 6:30 pm and will be held at the Glendive Medical Center.
Whether you are wondering about what the new health care law means for your family’s insurance, for the insurance you provide to your employees, if your child’s pre-existing condition is covered under your insurance, or about the timeline of when different parts of the Affordable Care Act will go into effect, we have answers to your questions.
Individuals interested in attending the public event can contact Sheena Rice with the Montana Organizing Project (406-490-9777 or firstname.lastname@example.org) to RSVP and for additional information. Light refreshments will be served at the meeting.
What: Health Care Community Forum
When: Thursday July 28, 201 from 6:30-7:30 pm
Where: Glendive Medical Center, Room 1
202 Prospect Drive
At its second annual meeting Montana Organizing Project (MOP) reset and refined its issue priorities. Sixty Montanans representing diverse areas of Montana from Hamilton to Hardin and from about 20 communities of faith, labor and civic organizations gathered in Butte. They reviewed the last year of MOP’s work and educated themselves on everything from revenue options for the state budget to the issue of poor ambulance service in Hardin for Native Americans. At a plenary to set the issue priorities for the next year the MOP gathering decided to adopt the following broad platform:
Fostering Economic Development in Montana
The Montana Organizing Project affirmed that we will continue to look at Montana based solutions for fostering economic development here at home and to explore innovative ways to make banks work for Montana’s economy.
Possible Opportunities for Action
Protecting Essential Services in State and Federal Budgets
The Montana Organizing Project will continue building momentum around state budgets and revenue that will invest in Montana’s future and protect those who need the most help.
Possible Opportunities for Action
Continuing Education on Health Care Reform
The Montana Organizing Project will continue being diligent in making sure the Affordable Care Act”s rules and regulations are not weakened down by insurance lobbying or undermined by lax enforcement.
Possible Opportunities for Action
The MOP gathering also adopted the following resolution committing to support Indian People’s Action.
Solidarity Vote for Indian People’s Action
Montana Organizing Project, as an organization with ‘social and racial justice’ in its mission statement, affirms the commitment of staff time and resources to building a Montana based Native voice through Indian People’s Action.
MOP also encourages member institutions, as well as groups which collaborate with MOP to support Indian Peoples Action where appropriate on their local and national campaigns.
Last Friday, April 1st, 2011, one hundred Montana Organizing Project leaders and activists partnered with the many groups within the Partnership for Montana’s Future for the “No Fooling with Our Future Rally! Courage- Not Cuts!” rally at the Capitol.
Media is estimating that 1,500 – 2,000 Montanans flooded the lawn to voice their objections to sweeping and hurtful cuts in the Montana state budget. The crowd consisted of faith leaders, union workers, Montanans struggling with disabilities, health care providers, Native Americans, children and many many more.
Speaking at the rally, Pastor Dan Krebill, Montana Association of Churches President and MOP Board Member led the crowd with chants of “These Cuts Hurt” while discussing cuts to vital services across the state.