The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana on July 12, 1990 · 19
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The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana · 19

Billings, Montana
Issue Date:
Thursday, July 12, 1990
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Clean-air bill 2C Appeal turned down....5C Happy trails 7C (0 Section C Thursday, July 12, 1990 SgrnKsolfyr getfs HELENA (AP) An initiative to increase the state tax on cigarettes by 25 cents a pack has gained enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot, its supporters said Wednesday. Dr. Robert Shepard of Helena, treasurer for supporters of Initiative 115, said the group had collected 19,179 valid signatures "and is still counting." 1-115 needs 18,351 signatures to qualify for the Nov. 6 general election ballot Doug Mitchell, deputy secretary of state, said Wednesday that his office had received 18,-522 signatures for 1-115. But Mitchell said his office won't certify the number of signatures until Monday, when office workers will go through signature lists to make sure there are no duplicates. Signatures on initiative petitions are submitted to county election offices, which verify the signatures and turn them over to the secretary of state for tabulation. County election officials have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit validated signatures to the state. The deadline (or submitting petitions to the county offices was June 29. . Figures from the secretary of state indicate that I-115 may be the only one of nine proposed ballot measures this year that will qualify for the general election ballot. Still, officials are waiting until Friday's deadline before making any predictions. "How many more (signatures) the counties have is anyone's guess," Mitchell said. "They may have a zillion, they may have not a lot." The only other measures with a substantial amount of signatures so far are Constitutional Initiatives 55, 56 and 60, but each was well short of the qualifying threshold earlier this week. Constitutional initiatives need 36,702 signatures-to qualify for the ballot. CI-55 is the "trade tax levy" proposal, which would abolish income and property taxes in Montana and substitute a 1 percent tax on all financial transactions. As of Monday, state officials had received 17,240 signatures for CI-55. The proposal's backers include some who supported the 1986 constitutional initiative that would have abolished property taxes in Montana. ' CI-56, which had 12,222 verified signatures Monday, would make it easier to recall elected officials. CI-60, with 15,851 verified signatures, would require that only the voters through an initiative could enact a sales tax. A similar measure backed by former Gov. Ted Schwinden and former state representative Verner Ber-telsen of Ovando remained well short of the required signatures for the ballot. Initiative 116, which requires a public referendum on any sales tax passed by the Legislature, had 6,236 signatures Monday. The other initiatives, their purpose and verified signatures as of Monday were : CI-57, to reduce the size of the Legislature to from i50 to 78 members, 7,917 signatures. CI-58, the "fully informed jury amendment," which requires judges to tell jurors they have the ability to invalidate laws they deem unfair, 4,672 signatures. ' CI-61, prohibiting the Legislature from altering voter-passed initiatives, 575 signatures. CI-59, requiring a public vote on all tax increases, 205 signatures. Cigarette companies launch campaign HELENA (AP) - An initiative increasing tobacco taxes in Montana has yet to qualify officially for the November ballot, but an anti-initiative lobbying effort by tobacco interests is well underway. - Funded by cigarette companies, local tobacco distributors and tobacco consumers, a group calling itself the Committee Against More Tax and Bureaucracy has prepared brochures and an extensive informational packet. The treasurer for the group is Jerome Anderson, a Helena attorney who has lobbied for the tobacco industry since the mid-1970s. Anderson said Wednesday he wasn't sure how much money the group has raised. The group does not have to file a financial report with the state commissioner of political practices until Sept. 10. Dr. Robert Shepard of Helena, treasurer for the pro-initiative forces, said Wednesday that his side has yet to organize its campaign. "We have put 100 percent of our effort into getting (Initiative 115) on the ballot," he said. "We're in the embarrassing position of having to say, 'Hey, we succeeded, and now we've got to put something together.' " Shepard said supporters are to begin organizing their lobbying effort next week. They expect to be outspent heavily by the tobacco industry and its supporters, he said. 1-115 would impose an additional 25-cent tax on each pack of cigarettes sold in Montana. The money would pay for health education, research on tobacco-related health problems, and the current state long-range building program. The anti-initiative lobby says the additional 25 cents would make Montana's cigarette tax the highest in the country at 43 cents a pack. It also says it would create a multimillion-dollar bureaucracy in the state Department of Health, jeopardize the long-range building bonding program currently funded by cigarette taxes, encourage "bootlegging" of cigarettes to avoid the tax, and possibly lead to higher taxes on liquor, beer and wine. Shepard said language in the initiative allows administrators of the tax money to shift funds to make up for any losses in building-fund revenue, and that the bureacracy would be minimal. He also said no one supporting 1-115 has said anything about higher taxes on alcoholic beverages, and that that argument is "irrelevant to the cigarette tax." Kevin to lose lone school The Kevin school board voted Tuesday night to close the community's only school after nearly 70 years in the small north-central Montana oil town. "A lot of people are sad because an era is coming to an end," board Chairman Wayne Gillespie said. When the Big West Refinery closed 13 years ago, many feared Kevin would turn into a ghost town and closure of the school has been viewed as another step in that direction. Gillespie said the board will sell the school and , equipment as sooaas possible. The decision to close the school came after the small , school's boiler failed and there was no money to fix it Sheriff to appear on 'Mysteries' Custer County Sheriff Tony Harbaugh will be featured on a fall episode of NBC's "Unsolved Mysteries." Harbaugh and Deputy . 1 Mark Lester spent Saturday! June 30, with a film crew re-enacting the unsolved . disappearance of Daniel Wilson of Longmont, Colo., near Miles City in 1988. , The film crew shot the scenes in Great Falls, where they had already set up for another story. "I'm really kind of anxious to see how the story pans out," Harbaugh said, adding that he hopes someone watching the show might be able to provide clues to Wilson's disappearance. Ideally, he said, someone will call and tell where Wilson is and what happened to him. Pranks plague 911 system A rash of prank calls to the Lewis and Clark County 911 phone system has local law of ficials worried that a legitimate call may go tragically unanswered. Dispatchers at the center in Helena say they receive about 40 prank and hang-up calls each day and about 20 legitimate emergency calls. Larry Myers, the support services division administrator said the prank calls have "really put a load on the dispatchers," who must monitor police radio transmissions as wen as the phones. "If we had four calls coming in at one time, there would be a busy signal" for the fifth call, which could cost someone's life, Myers said. ttETRAPARK PROJECT J ' : J- - j I (f i I , . , "' -. . ''' 4 , - ?s .-j Uw k.& IV - - vSff. . t -vTi J ,.r ,fm, 1 f'V.-- - - C H : .-f - ' : - v - - ";- , " " -' I-.;- r?t-.:- oryr. r.. -- -S-, .s.--- ,-r Gazette photo by Kyle Brehm Gary Doll of Ace Electric does prepara- ject calls for remodeling an area of the tion work for a new transformer as part of grandstand into an enclosed room pri-a $230,000 project at MetraPark. The pro- marily for simulcast horse racing. urns campaign spurs complaint HELENA (AP) A Democratic state representative has asked federal election officials to investigate the financing of U.S. Sen. Conrad Burns' 1988 campaign, claiming numerous violations of federal election laws. "The sheer scope of these violations ... compels a conclusion that the National Republican Senatorial Committee and the Montana State Republican Party were acting in blatant disregard of the law," Rep. Kelly Addy wrote in a complaint that he filed Tuesday with the Federal Election Commission. Addy, a Billings lawyer, asked the FEC to investigate immediately and to "take aU necessary steps to prevent recurrence of these actions in the 1990 Senate election states." Addy told The Associated Press Wednesday that he filed the complaint because state Democratic Party officials are not pursuing the matter and because he wants the allegations aired before the 1990 election involving Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Republican nominee Allen Kolstad. "They (Democratic Party officials) are busy with campaigns and I'm not," said Addy, who is not running for re-election this year. "I think it's important the people know who is supporting the people that they're being asked to vote for. I don't think that happened in the Burns-Melcher campaign. "I see the same thing shaping up with AUen Kolstad being the hand-picked candidate of the national GOP," he said. "I think people should be aware of this issue." A spokesman for Burns said Wednesday that campaign officials want to read the complaint before responding. State party officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday evening. At least four members of the bipartisan, six-member FEC must approve an investigation. Addy said he doubts that wiU happen, and that he expects his complaint win be settled in federal court. Federal election law says if the FEC does not act on a complaint within 90 days after the filing, the complaint may be taken to court. Addy's complaint outlined eight aUeged violations, most of which have been reported in the Montana I i v r BURNS questions media in recent months. It accused the National Republican Senatorial Committee of illegUy. f winding hundreds of thousands of doUars to the Burns campaign during the 1988 general election. Burns, a Republican, upset incumbent Democratic Sen. John Melcher with 52 percent of the vote in 1988. Campaign-finance records show that the GOP senatorial committee, based in Washington, D.C., transferred nearly $204,000 to the Montana GOP party in 1988, including $138,000 during the final four weeks of the campaign. Other out-of-state party groups transferred another $69,000 to the state party. The committee also arranged about $196,000 in "bundled" contributions from individuals across the country, and spent another $107,-000 on the Burns campaign. Perhaps the most serious charges in the complaint concern the money transfers, the "bundled" funds, and the aUeged failure by the national senatorial committee to report fully its assistance on daily tracking polls. GOP officials have said the transfers were legal because they paid for local "party-building" activities, allowing the state GOP to spend other money on the Burns campaign. The complaint said that argument "defies logic," because without the transfers, the state party wouldn't have had enough money to pay for mailings on behalf of Burns. The complaint also said the senatorial committee undervalued the tracking polls it supplied to Burns, and that the bundled funds were ffle-gaL A U.S. District Court ruled earlier this year that the committee's bundling operation in 1986 resulted in excessive contributions to 12 U.S. Senate candidates, the complaint said. "Bundling" involves the gathering of contributions from individuals around the country and transferring them en masse to specific candidates. U.S. offers to pay for half of clean-coal plant BUTTE (AP) The U.S. Department of Energy has offered to pay half the cost of a new $69 million processing plant at Colstrip that would be used to demonstrate a new process for improving the quality of coaL Montana Power Co. announced Wednesday. The rest of the cost would be paid by Western Energy Co., a subsidiary of the utility, and its partners, MPC said. Paul Gatzemeier, vice president for Western's Montana-Wyoming operations, said the plant would use the company's patented process as part of the federal government's clean-coal program. "We have overcome many hurdles to reach this point, and while we still have a good way to go, we are much closer to proving our coal-conversion process for commercial application," he said in a news release. The funding is stiD subject to congressional review, Western Energy has to complete negotiations with possible partners in the plant and the company needs continued federal tax credits for the project to proceed, he said. The Western Energy project is one of 38 a- If the demonstration is successful, Western Energy hopes to have a privately financed, commercial-scale plant built and operating by 1997. Paul Gatzemeier Western Energy official 99 being financed under the Energy Department's clean-coal technology program, a $5 billion government-industry effort to develop processes for burning coal more efficiently and cleanly in power plants. Montana Power said final congressional approval of the federal funding is expected in September, and design and construction of the plant could take 18 to 30 months. About 150 construction jobs would be created and, when finished, the plant would employ 21 people, the company said. The demonstration plant would operate for three years under the agreement with the government It would be located at Western Energy's Rosebud Mine and would work in con- junction with existing coal crushing and other facilities there. The conversion process takes low-quality coal and increases its heating value by as much as 100 percent while reducing moisture and sulfur content The resulting coal is a cleaner fuel that can be transported more economically and burned in many existing plants without the need to make major boiler modifications, the company said. Raw coal is first fed into a vessel where hot gases remove loosely held water and then into a second reactor where heat extracts chemically bound water and certain sulfur compounds. After the coal cools, it moves through vi brating screens and separators to remove additional sulfur and other chemicals. "A key advantage of the process is that it operates at low pressures," Gatzemeier said. "Other coal-upgrading techniques under development require high pressures and relatively expensive pressure vessels for the drying step." The plant would produce about 300,000 tons of coal a year from Montana's portion of the Powder River Basin. Coal in this area typically contains 30 percent water, making it more expensive to transport and burn, the company said. The coal usually has low heating values," which means that more coal is needed to produce the same amount of energy. In the United States, large deposits of such low-rank coal are located in Montana, North Dakota, Alaska, Wyoming and the Gulf Coast "If the demonstration is successful, Western Energy hopes to have a privately financed, commercial-scale plant built and operating by 1997," Gatzemeier said. Such a facility would be large enough to process between 1 million and 3 million tons of coal a year, he said.

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