The June 8 primary election will see Jeff Burrows and Patrick Connell each seeking the Republican Party nomination to run in November for the House District 87 seat in Darby. The Ravalli Republic sent the candidates a questionnaire about issues likely to be of concern to voters this year. Here are their responses, some of which may have been edited and consolidated for space:
What makes you a good candidate to represent Ravalli County at the Legislature?
Burrows: I will uphold my constitutional oath of office.
Connell: My education, experience, ability and passion regarding the issues important to HD 87 make me the best candidate. As of yet, I have heard no one volunteer in my district to raise their own taxes, so reducing the size of state government and its programs is Job 1 for me. My experience handling multimillion dollar budgets for several firms will be extraordinarily important. A life's career dealing with Forest Service policies will assist me in gaining parity for rural communities dealing with federal land management plans by drafting legislation to direct the Department of Commerce, through the Bureau of Business and Economics, to engage and comment on all significant federal land management proposals from the standpoint of their impact on the socioeconomic well-being of rural Montana communities. I have hunted the upper Bitterroot for 40 years, understand the catastrophe of wolves' numbers run amok and will introduce legislation that directs FWP to use the wolf tag money to pay for the elk/wolf study getting under way in the Bitterroot.
What changes would you support to the state's DUI laws?
Burrows: I think DUIs should be dealt with on a local level. Every scenario is different and I do not think blanket state legislation is the answer to our DUI problems. I think common sense by our local law enforcement is the best way to handle our DUI situation.
Connell: The present law has an adequately increasing level of penalties for lawbreakers if there were more aggressive prosecution and sentencing of lawbreakers. (Blowing into a tube) is fundamentally wrong for a country based on the premise that you are innocent until proven guilty. Rather, I would support a statewide call-in system 24/7 so that a law enforcement officer can, with probable cause, obtain a warrant for DUI and then make an arrest, and obtain both a urine and blood analysis. Remember, DUI is "driving under the influence" not just drunk driving. With the proliferation of medical marijuana use in the state, along with misuse of prescription drugs, the ability to quickly obtain bench warrants is a must.
The state is considering broad budget cuts. Do you agree with the governor's approach? Explain why or why not.
Burrows: Yes, spending by government on all levels (federal, state, local) is out of control. I would support legislation to see major cuts in government spending and taxes.
Connell: The size of government and its programs under the (Gov. Brian) Schweitzer administration has grown in size by roughly 40 percent over the near six years of his administration. Had it not, we would not be in a budget crunch today. Nobody from the district I will represent has yet offered to pay more taxes to cover the shortfall, although there probably are some who'd be happy to raise other peoples' taxes. I support the governor in trimming the budget; although, the proof will be in the pudding whether the result will be enough to get us out of this mess.
The state's new medical marijuana law is creating some challenges for local law enforcement. What would you like to see the Legislature do to address this issue?
Burrows: The medical marijuana mess has been created because government has tried to legislate it. Growing marijuana for personal use is not prohibited by the Constitution and therefore should not be prohibited by statutory law. I would like to see legislation passed for legalization of growing marijuana for personal use and get rid of the medical marijuana mess created by government control.
Connell: I feel that Montanans were duped. If marijuana was the only avenue for release of pain and suffering, well, we wanted Grandma or Pop to have the best quality of life under the circumstances, and we voted for it. Now the truth comes out that out of some 12,000 medical marijuana card holders, only about 300 are for cancer victims. Consider: medical marijuana prescriptions do not indicate the dosage, frequency of use, nor quantify a joint's potency, or that what is sold can be clinically evaluated. Finally, the purity, clinical safety, and regulatory oversight demanded for all other drugs over the counter or prescribed is lacking. The cows are already out of the barn on this, and the Legislature along with the Department of Public Health and Human Services need to develop a sane and orderly regulatory process immediately.