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2018 Election Environment Featured Jon Tester Matt Rosendale Montana Politics Senate Race 2018

When Rosendale Was Voting Against $50,000 for Purple Heart Recipients, He Was Fighting for Millions for Real Estate Developers

While Senate candidate Matt Rosendale was voting against a measure that would have given Purple Heart recipients a small scholarship in recognition of their service to the state, he was pushing an ALEC-written measure for real estate developers and other landowners that would have cost state and local governments in Montana $600 million dollars

Let’s start with the vote against Purple Heart recipients. I went back to the Legislature’s page to listen to the discussion back in 2013. When Representative Rae Peppers introduced the bill, she noted that there were only about 200 Montana veterans who would be eligible for the scholarship and asked that the state offer a “small token of appreciation” to those who sacrificed for our nation and state.

The entire appropriation for the bill was $50,000 per biennium.

Speaking on behalf of the bill were Dan Antonietti from the Veterans of Foreign Wars and Jim Higgins from the Montana National Guard Association. Higgins argued before the House Education Committee that the bill would help give the young men and women who were wounded “the best possible opportunity to well in our society, despite their injuries,” specifically touching on how the bill could help some veterans with PTSD.

No opponents spoke against the bill in the Education Committee. In questioning, Republicans members of the committee hoped that they could raise the scholarship amount to better reflect the service of wounded veterans.

When the bill reached the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee, there were once again no opponents to the bill.

With no opponents speaking against the bill in any committee hearing, with no discussion in the Senate, Matt Rosendale voted against this small token for veterans. Back in 2013, he didn’t have the integrity necessary to defend that vote and today he’s running from it.

If wounded veterans weren’t a priority for Rosendale in 2013, what was? Real estate developers like himself were, even at a potential cost to the state of hundreds of millions of dollars.

He sponsored a bill called the “Montana Property Fairness Act,” an ALEC-written bill that would have cost state and local governments $600 million over five years, opened up the state and Legislature to an overwhelming number of frivolous lawsuits, and undermined the regulatory system that protects Montana’s public lands.

At its core, the bill, if passed, would have given private landowners the right to compensation from the government for perceived reductions in the value of their property, a huge boon to real estate developers. The bill, which created a presumption that landowners would be correct when making a claim, would have undermined permitting, land management, and regulations across the state.

According to analysis from the Office of Budget and Program Planning, the Rosendale bill would have opened up the state to massive legal liability ranging from claims against the permitting for Smith River recreation to highway construction. The Department of Transportation alone estimated it would have needed to hire 10 FTE just to deal with the claims Rosendale’s bill would have required.

As the Montana Association of Planners noted in its testimony against Rosendale’s bill, “SB 284 will mean endless lawsuits, higher taxes, reduced services, lack of predictability in land use matters, and erosion of the democratic process.”

The measure was so poorly written and so dangerous to Montana, that even the 2013 Legislature let it die in committee.

It makes total sense that Mr. Rosendale doesn’t want to talk about his legislative record. Given that, while voting against $50,000 in scholarships for Montana Purple Heart recipients, he was pushing an ALEC-written measure that would have bankrupted state and county governments and opened the state up to endless lawsuits to enrich real estate developers, he hopes that Montanans won’t pay much attention to his real record.

It’s become clear in this Senate race—from the deplorable primary until now—that Rosendale has no intention of running a campaign based on ideas for governance or the records of the candidates. His hope is that he can distract Montana voters with personal attacks and ideas roughly at the level of those coming from a carnival barker.

Let’s make sure that Mr. Rosendale knows we’re going to pay close attention to his record. The votes he’s cast and the measures he’s endorsed should be what this race is about, not his misleading ads or the outrageous claims his campaign makes.

Rosendale might want us to forget his record. Let’s make sure we don’t.

If you appreciate an independent voice holding Montana politicians accountable and informing voters, and you can throw a few dollars a month our way, we would certainly appreciate it.

About the author

Don Pogreba

Don Pogreba has been writing about Montana politics since 2005 and teaching high school English since 2000. He's a former debate coach, and loyal, if often sad, fan of the San Diego Padres and Portland Timbers. He spends far too many hours of his life working at school and on his small business, Big Sky Debate.
His work has appeared in Politico and Rewire.
In the past few years, travel has become a priority, whether it's a road trip to some little town in Montana or a museum of culture in Ísafjörður, Iceland.

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