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The Billings Gazette from Billings, Montana • 17

Location:
Billings, Montana
Issue Date:
Page:
17
Extracted Article Text (OCR)

Hillings (gazette LOCAL STATE 2 Friday, July 20, 2012 B5' Transportation director: New highway law good for Montana City, SD2 planning align on process Measure came after much compromise by houses of Congress By CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau HELENA The new federal highway law is good for Montana because it provides slightly more money than in the past but also greater certainty for planning future projects, state Transportation Director Tim Reardon said Thursday. Reardon, speaking to the Legislatures Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee, said Montana for the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1 will be receiving $380 million in federal money for the construction of highways and bridges and $20 million in transit funds. There will be a slight increase the second year.

For the state fiscal year that ended June 30, the Montana Transportation Department paid out $360 million to contractors, he said. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 6 and can be largely credited to the leadership in both the U.S. Senate and House and I suspect, a lot of ples your ability to plan construction projects, Reardon said. He said the bill provides for consolidation of a number of transportation safety programs. It also gives states more flexibility to move money around.

Thats obviously a benefit to a state like Montana, Reardon said. There is enough money in there for us to successfully complete our program. The law also provides performance measures for states to meet and to address any deficiencies. Reardon said Montana is already ahead of the curve in those areas. Montanas highway safety record is improving, Reardon said, although there have been a rash of motorcycle accidents on state roads.

The transportation director said he isnt sure why the motorcycle wrecks have increased, the agency is looking at increasing its safety education program for those riding motorcycles. Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missoula, asked whether the motorcycle accidents were rising because of an increase in their use. He asked for statistics comparing the number of accidents per 1,000 miles ridden or similar numbers. Reardon said would have to check on the statistics.

urging by the states and contractors, Reardon said. Both sides made significant compromises. The House, controlled by Republicans, was willing to remove the provision to mandate the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Reardon said, while the Senate, with a Democratic majority, made significant concessions to streamline environmental permitting for highway projects. Sen. Ron Erickson, D-Missou-la, asked how the environmental streamlining would have affected the permitting on the so-called megaloads.

He was referring to the attempt by Imperial OilExx-onMobil to haul large loads of oilfield equipment on some Montana highways to the tar sands of Alberta. Reardon said any lawsuits challenging permitting would have to filed within 30 days. He said he doesnt believe it would change the environmental analysis done by the department for similar proposals, but the federal regulations havent been adopted yet. Reardon said new law covers 27 months, which is shorter than what have been six-year highway bills in the past. Over the past three years, there have been 10 short-term federal funding extensions, Reardon said, adding: That just about crip Shorter appraisal cycles endorsed Two-year terms, rather than six, works with statistical modeling, Bucks says By CHARLES S.

JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau HELENA The state Revenue Department will ask the 2013 Legislature to authorize it to reappraise residential, commercial, agriculture' and forest property across the state every two years to replace the current six-year reappraisal cycles. Revenue Director Dan Bucks said the agency supported two unsuccessful bills in 2011 that would have reduced the cycle to two years and one year. The movement to shorter cycles involves the application of more statistical models that were moving to anyway, Bucks told the Legislatures Revenue and Transportation Interim Committee. If the 2013 session were to approve a two-year cycle, it is something that we could transition to at a reasonable cost. Several Republican senators endorsed the idea of two-year reappraisal cycles.

Im happy to see this longterm solution, I hope, said Senate Majority Leader Jeff Essmann, R-Billings. Bucks said the current cycle runs through Dec. 31, 2014, with new appraisals with new proper hi 1 1 1 i I John Quandt, Donna Witham, Josi Wilgus, Patty Nordlund and James Mariska. The EPAs assistance program is designed to help municipal planning in two main ways, Beaudry said. First, it audits SD2 and city policies to see where there are overlaps and where there are com tradicting regulations.

That way, Beaudry said, know what were trying to align. Second, the program will act as a kind of cost calculator, examin- Jl 1 ing a number of planning scenar ios and outcomes and then show-" ing their potential cost. In that sense, the Small, Growth Technical Assistance' Program doesnt make decisions for the city or the school district. Rather, it shows the cost effectiveness of the planning decisions they make. City Council member Jim Ron-quillo, who represents the South Side, asked if the program would close schools.

He said residents in his neighborhood had heard rumors that Newman Elementary School was slated for closure. Beaudry explained the EPA program doesnt recommend school closure but it would show school and city leaders the economic impact of closing a specific school. In terms of a possible closure for Newman, Lew Anderson, SD2 facilities director, quipped that he hoped that wasnt the case. Weve got a quarter of a mil-, lion dollars being spent right now on Newman to replace all its windows, he said. Chairwoman Teresa Stroebe, who just traveled to Helena last week with new Superintendent Terry Bouck to address the state.

board of public education about SD2s overcrowded classrooms, said classroom space in the district is at a premium. I dont think were going to be closing anything, she said. Phillips did not indicate how he might rule, although he pointed out that it seemed the donation may not constitute a conflict of interest since it was made prior to Gallik taking office. Phillips also agreed with COPP lawyers that allow- ing court review of every dis- cretionary decision made by the commissioner could open the floodgates to partisan legal wrangling. But Phillips also acknowl-edged the GOP makes some good points, in particular that the law seems to allow for the legal review.

The judge, from Lewistown, took the case after Helena judg- es who know Bullock recused themselves. Phillips made headlines last year after freeing killer Barry Beach after he spent three decades in prison over the objections of the attorney generals office. Bullocks office is now ar-l guing to the Montana Supreme Court that Phillips made the wrong decision in that case. I I night bag with makeup, photos of her children, some check stubs and other possessions. Marchant told Taft that Grossman and her boyfriend left the house a little before 2 a.m.

the last night she was seen. Although Grossman and her boyfriend had a history of fighting and alleged physical abuse, Marchant said the two seemed both to be in a good mood when they left the house. She was fine when she left there, Marchant said. They were doing good. Taft last saw her daughter in mid-March, a few days before Grossman was last seen.

Her talk with the detective gave her a glimmer of hope, she said. Yesterday I thought she was dead, and today I have some hope, Taft said. million to Bresnan. Bucks said the Bresnan case isnt over because the department is appealing the District Court decision. In response, Allison Waters, director of media relations for OptimumCablevision, said in a statement: The District Court clearly ruled that the Montana Department of Revenue cannot indiscriminately and unfairly raise taxes on businesses, and we arg confident this judgment will be upheld on appeal.

We are proud to be in Montana, where we are creating jobs and making significant investments. We will, continue to work to promote a fair environment that encour-' ages business grouch." Grant from EPA will help identify commonalities and conflicts By ROB ROGERS rrogersbillingsgazette.com Armed with new planning tools, the city of Billings and School District 2 have put together a group of six residents to give input on fostering a collaborative planning process between the city andSD2. Trustees and City Council members met at noon Thursday for their regular quarterly meeting and discussed a host of planning issues. The advisory committee of six residents will help with a grant recently awarded to the city and school district designed to help the two entities work more closely together. Its going to be a wonderful tool, said Candi Beaudry, city planning director.

The grant known as the Small Growth Technical Assistance Program was awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency in March and is an award of services rather than money. Billings was one of five cities in the country to be picked. With it, the EPA comes to Billings, works with the community and creates a model plan that could be applied to the various planning needs of the city and school district. The joint committee of residents three named by the district and three by the City Council was formed so there would be community input in the process and so that both the city and school district were equally represented. They include Mary Westwood, Bullock Continued from B1 need to be made by the time the candidate files for ballot access with the secretary of state.

The Montana Republican Party lawsuit was filed against former Commissioner of Political Practices Dave Gallik, who has since left the office. But office staffers testified Thursday that the commissioner prior to Gallik, Jennifer Hensley, crafted the decision that Gallik finalized. I thought the decision was fine. I didnt disagree with her," said longtime COPP staffer Mary Baker. I think the law allows for a candidate to file unknown until January through March in the fil-ingperiod, at which point they are going to have to declare what they are running for.

The GOP complaint also alleges that Gallik should have recused himself from the case since he once donated to Bullock before taking his present position. Search Continued from B1 else the detective said. Instead, Taft handed out posters to each person, detailing her daughters disappearance, for them to post at area businesses. Grossman is a 5-foot, 6-inch white woman who weighs 130 pounds. She has blue eyes and blond or strawberry blond hair.

While in the parking lot, Taft also met with Nicole March-ant, who lives at the home where Grossman was last seen. March-ant brought Taft items of her daughters that had been left at Marchants house. They included a webbed laundry bag with clothes, shoes and laundry detergent, a black over Telecoms Continued from B1 Montana Supreme Court a ruling by District Judge Susan Watters of Billings in favor of Bresnan Communications, now called Optimum, and against the Revenue Department. Watters ruled earlier this month that the department incorrectly put all of its cable television and telephone company business in one classification for purposes of taxation. That effectively doubled some of the companys property taxes, The Billings Gazette reported.

As a result of that decision, 29 Montana counties owe at least $5.6 Speaker tells of Rankin's stand against war ty values taking Jan. 1, 2015. If the two-year cycle is approved, the department could complete the reappraisal cycle and provide new property values by Jan. 1, 2017. I think that would be workable, Essmann said.

Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Ka-lispell, agreed, calling it a good idea." Some critics say the six-year reappraisal cycle is it is so long that it doesnt adequately capture property values that are rapidly changing. They say the residential property values didnt fully reflect actual declines in values during the recession in some parts of Montana. The Revenue Department, however, has insisted that its studies and a review by a consultant who is a national authority in the field found the reappraisal to be highly accurate. In summarizing its reasons for a two-year reappraisal cycle, the Revenue Department said the six-year update in values typically results in large changes in property values.

The typical response is to mitigate the increases by phasing in values, the department said. As a result of this six-year cycle and phase-in, the property tax system is extremely complex with confusing calculations that make it virtually impossible for taxpayers and the public to understand their own property tax valuation and their own property tax bill. One of the most contentious LARRY MAYERGazette Staff Montana State University Bozeman history professor Mary Murphy speaks about Jeannette Rankin during the Western Heritage Center's High Noon program Thursday. tors to oppose his request. At first, Montana newspapers didnt say much about her vote, but later she was chastised by the press inher home state and the East Coast.

Two months after her vote, Rankin sent a form letter to Montana women explaining her position and correcting mistakes the press had made about her. Many women wrote back to their Jeannette in personal letters that reassured her of their support, Murphy said. Some wrote to her in the simple faith in her gender," Murphy said. They wanted a congresswoman and not a congressman. Some were mothers concerned about their children and other mothers children serving in the trenches.

Others worried about the safety of husbands and wondered if there would be enough manpower to bring in crops. Some were concerned about how democratic European allies like Great Britain were. One woman saw the war mainly benefiting Wall issues in the 2009 Legislature involved try ing to figure out way to ease the impacts of the reappraisal now in place on homeowners. The department also said the six-year gap in reappraising property gives rise to serious equity problems across the state, raising serious legal and constitutional questions. Given recent advances in technology (e.g.

sophisticated aerial imagery and change detection software), it is operationally and administratively feasible to reappraisevalue (classes of) property every two years and thus eliminate the complexities and the equity problems," the department said in an explanation. Switching to reappraisals every two years would cost $1.2 million in fiscal 2013, $1.5 million in 2014 and $1.9 million in 2015, the agency estimated. Rep. Dick Barrett, D-Missou-la, asked what it would cost to go to a two-year reappraisal cycle and then switch to annual reappraisals after that. He sponsored the annual reappraisal bill in 2011.

Bucks said the department would have to study that issue, but would probably stick with the two-year proposal for now because you have to decide how much you press the envelope. There was little public comment on the proposal. Nancy Schlepp, president of the Montana Taxpayers Association, said the group isnt sure yet whether it would support a switch to a two-year reappraisal cycle. Street, big business and other special interests. This is a money war, one wrote.

A war for rich men to get richer. One correspondent admired Rankin because she had no copper wires to her, a reference to her independence from the Anaconda Copper Co. that controlled mines in Butte as well as many politicians and newspapers in the state. Opinions about Rankins stand played against conflicted feelings about the war, Murphy said. The U.S.

was split over the countrys role in world politics. During the war, half of Montanas population was immigrant-bom or had foreign-bom parents, who may have had relatives who were considered enemies of the U.S. Montana also was gripped by labor strikes that followed Buttes Spectator Mine Disaster, which killed 167 men in 1917. Harsh state laws passed during the war prosecuted 130 Montanans for sedition. Rankins anti-war vote and her support of striking workers sabotaged her effort to run for the U.S.

Senate in 1918. She was elected to the House again in 1940, just in time to face another difficult vote in late 1941 after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. This time she is the only member of Congress to vote against war. The Montana Humanities Speakers Bureau helped fund Murphys appearance. Her speech was taped and will be shown over public-access Community 7 TV on Saturday at 3 p.m.

and 6:30 p.m. and Sunday at 9 p.m. By MARY PICKETT mpickettbillingsgazette.com Jeannette Rankin was criticized for her stand against the U.S. entering World War I. But she also received many letters from Montana women sup-portingher opposition to what some saw as a war to benefit the rich, a Montana State University Bozeman history professor said Thursday in Billings.

Mary Murphy spoke at the Western Heritage Centers High Noon series that is focusing on women to complement the centers A Mile in Her Shoes: Montana Women at Work exhibit, which is up through Sept. 29. Murphy is the RANKIN author of Hope in Hard Times: New Deal Photographs of Montana, 1939-1942 and Mining Cultures: Men, Women and Leisure in Butte, 1914-41." Murphy has researched correspondence that Rankin sent and received during her first term in the U.S. Congress, 1917 to 1919. Not only was Rankin, who grew up in Missoula, the first woman elected to Congress, she was the first woman to take a seat on in any democratically elected governing body in the world.

The evening of Rankins first day as congresswoman, President Woodrow Wilson called for the country to go to war to make the world safe for democracy. Two days later, Rankin was one of 50 representatives and six sena-.

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