Chamber of Commerce Questionnaire Responses
Below are my responses to the Chamber's legislative questionnaire
2020 CANDIDATE QUESTIONNAIRE
The Billings Chamber of Commerce invites you to answer the following questions about your candidacy, positions, and opinions. Your answers will be published and made available to our members for their consideration as they vote this fall. We hope you will take advantage of this opportunity to inform the approximately 47,000 people employed by our members.
Our mission is to publicly support policies that will facilitate economic growth in our community and produce positive impacts well into the future. In addition, we want to make sure our members have sufficient information to make good decisions. Rather than grading or evaluating answers as we’ve done in the past, we will publish them as written, reserving the right to edit for word count, clarity, and taste.
While we will not be grading/evaluating candidate answers, your responses will be taken into account when considering potential endorsements. If you would like to be considered for an endorsement, you will need to submit a completed questionnaire, and be available for a possible interview with members of our Advisory Board. The Advisory Board may then issue a recommendation to the full Billings Chamber Board of Directors for final approval.
We are looking for business friendly candidates who support the Billings Chamber’s mission to develop a strong business climate and quality of life that fosters prosperity. Business friendly candidates embody the following qualities: (1) job creator; (2) problem solver; and (3) community leader.
The deadline for finalizing answers is 11:59 pm July 31, 2020. Please limit your responses to each question to 300 words. Feel free to contact the Billings Chamber’s Business Advocacy Director, Daniel Brooks (daniel@ billingschamber.com), with any questions or clarifications.
Some candidates have aspired to elected office for years. Others seek change after an impactful experience. Incumbents may want to use their experience to get things done for constituents. What is your “why?” behind running for office?
I have worked my entire career to improve access to necessary healthcare for all Americans. The attacks on expanded access from Federal elected office holders and the fragile support for recent improvements in Montana are a major motivator for seeking office.
I have worked as an epidemiologist and to improve public health in Montana. I feel the legislature needs people with my knowledge and experience in this arena. As we seek to subdue the current epidemic, we need to develop policy that prevents a future similar event (this epidemic is not the last) and helps us recover from this crisis.
I believe we are under investing in young adults and families. Policy needs to pivot to focusing on their success,
What are your policy priorities? (i.e. attracting workforce, reducing government spending, expanding healthcare coverage, addressing infrastructure needs) What do you hope will be the impact of implementing these policies?
Expanding healthcare coverage and access using well regulated private and public financing. Controlling wasteful spending in the financing component of our health care system and protecting essential clinical services.
Family friendly policies that promote family development, reduce the “brain drain” of young Montanans moving elsewhere, and encourage potential employees from elsewhere to look at Montana as an enticing place to raise a family and have a satisfying career.
Ongoing lifelong education, career development and retraining is a crucial component for Montana to offer high quality jobs as the economy rapidly changes.
How will you, as a policymaker, balance immediate needs against making long-term decisions for future generations? (i.e. expanding reserves or early childhood education)
If Montana’s economy is going to grow in the future, the key component is increasing the number, education, and training of young people. Increasing the productivity of current employees is perhaps a near term intervention that will expand to economy. Policies that encourage full time jobs and discourage the excessive use of part time jobs will quickly increase the productivity of the involuntarily part-time employees., “Demography is destiny” and will overwhelm any policies that do not address this problem.
As an elected official, do you see yourself as a “trustee” or a “delegate?” A trustee sees themselves as having autonomy to deliberate as they see fit, leaning on their experience and conscience. A delegate sees themselves as acting in accordance with the input of a majority of constituents. If you see yourself as a delegate, how will you solicit input from constituents? As an elected official how do you plan to communicate with your constituents?
We have representative democracy. The individual sent to Helena for 90 days has received input from constituents in the campaign and election completed 2 months before. I have made hundreds if not thousands of phone calls and home visits to voters in my district and will make thousands more before the election. This input will be crucial to informing my decision making in Helena, The representative has an obligation to honor that input but will be forced to act on all the information they are receiving on multiple issues in a very short period of time. It that instance the representative is going to have to judge what best benefits the constituency not the representative’s personal feelings.
Do you view bi-partisan solutions and compromise in the legislative process as essential? Please provide an example of a time you’ve worked with individuals with opposite viewpoints to accomplish something.
Compromise is essential to the legislative process. I was on the Board of the American Rural Health Association when it merged with the National Rural Primary Care Association to form the National Rural Health Association. I was on the Legislative authorized and Governor appointed Montana Public Health Improvement Task Force in the mid-1990s which included county commissioners, legislators, State employees, and representatives of various State organizations. We developed a consensus report the Governor and the Legislature that included the public health response to a new infectious disease.
During the 2019 Legislative Session two interim study bills were passed to investigate our tax system. Regardless the ultimate conclusions of those studies, what are your thoughts about adjusting our tax system? Removing the business equipment tax? Adding local option authority? Changing property assessments? What adjustments should be made, if any?
I believe local option authority should in principle be supported. I believe Montana should consider different property tax assessments for owner occupied and recreational properties (second homes).
Businesses across the country have voiced concern with legal liabilities regarding COVID-19. A few states have passed legislation protecting businesses from civil liability for damages or injury resulting from COVID-
19 exposure, without excluding instances of willful misconduct, reckless or intentional infliction of harm, or eliminating standing employee protections. Will you support liability protections for business? With requirements or exemptions?
The best protection for businesses is effective science based guidelines on how to operate in this new environment. With those in place, businesses who are diligent should have limited liability. This also provides a potential basis for insurers to start developing risk assessments that can lead to reasonable coverage options. Liability law should recognize good faith efforts to mitigate risk.
Medicaid expansion was initially passed in 2015 and reauthorized in 2019 by a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers. The most recent bill made significant changes, including work requirements and asset testing. Would you recommend any changes to Medicaid expansion and would you support full funding for the program?
If employers are unable or unwilling to provide employer based insurance then public options need to be available. If “work” requirements are shown to be effective in stimulating people moving into the workforce then that might be something to be continued. Whether “work” requirements can be equitably managed remains to be seen and they may be an unnecessary and wasteful bureaucratic expansion. Medicaid expansion should have permanent authorization. I don’t know the definition of “full funding”.
State and local governments are most likely going to face reduced revenues due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In a 2017 Special Session, lawmakers and the governor authorized cuts that reduced funding for mental health and addiction treatment, which essentially shifted costs from state programs to local government. How will you prioritize to ensure the legislature is not just passing along costs, especially to local public safety budgets?
Mental health and addiction problems have downstream impacts that drive public safety concerns, healthcare costs, lack of employment, etc. etc. Defunding these services is penny-wise and dollar foolish.
During the 2019 Legislative Session a bill, the 406 Impact Districts (SB 340), was introduced to create a new economic development tool similar to successful models utilized in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The public-private partnership model ensures that private money leads the investment. When returns are realized, a portion of the public return (increased tax revenue) can be used to offset the costs of developing public assets. What revisions would you make, if any, to the tool while considering the intent is to attract private investment and wisely use public dollars?
Assuming that the intent of the private investment would be to generate better jobs for Montanans, the success of such a model is fundamentally dependent on having an educated engaged workforce. Minnesota and Pennsylvania have robust higher education systems that are a consistent draw for young people from other locales who in turn become employees and citizens that fuel such a public private partnership. Increasing post-secondary education and training in Billings and the State is crucial to long term economic success for our community and State.
I don’t believe private entities should have “reimbursement” with public funds until they are operational in a real sense. Reimbursement should be tied to the financing structure of the project. The less equity the private entity puts in up front the less the public should reimburse “expenses”. As the private equity increases then the public reimbursement can increase.