Second helpings of huckleberries to the momentous news that, after 30 years, Montana is regaining its second seat in the U.S. House. Data released by the U.S. Census Bureau last week showed Montana’s population has grown 9.6% since the previous census — enough to place the state among those with enough residents to warrant another federal representative. The “early look” at the 2020 census numbers signaled how representation will be reapportioned among several states, with Montana one of six states to gain a congressional delegate and Texas gaining two.
The bitterest of shrunken chokecherries to state lawmakers who helped pass a pair of bills meant to make life harder for a small fraction of our fellow Montanans. House Bill 112 is the notorious proposal to bar transgender athletes from participating in sports; Senate Bill 280 is the ignorant attempt to prevent transgender individuals from updating the gender on their birth certificates. A grateful serving of huckleberries awaits Gov. Greg Gianforte if he honors the Montana spirit of equality and basic human decency by vetoing these two discriminatory bills.
Humanitarian huckleberries to the change from “temporary” to “transitional” for a relatively new outdoor shelter that helps people experiencing homelessness. The facility is a project supported by Missoula County, the United Way of Missoula County and Hope Rescue Mission to provide support to those in need of safe, secure shelter during the pandemic. The camp offers outdoor tents with sanitary facilities and an array of social services on private land, near a location known for lots of illegal camping and constant littering. The groups behind the Temporary Safe Outdoor Space have been holding regular listening sessions to address complaints from neighbors who have legitimate concerns about impacts to their neighborhood, as well as share the facility’s success in helping dozens of residents secure permanent housing.
Vaporized chokecherries to the passage of a bill that blocks communities like Missoula from prohibiting the sale of certain electronic cigarette products proven to entice youth. Senate Bill 398, from Sen. Jason Ellsworth, R-Hamilton, was “indefinitely postponed” on a 31-18 vote, only to be revived and forwarded on to the House, where it passed on a final vote of 59-40. The state legislation will put a nail in coffin of Missoula’s push to ban flavored vaping products. Even though it is already illegal to sell tobacco products to minors, the most recent Montana Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that more than 58% of Montana students had vaped within the previous 30 days, and a study funded by the National Institutes of Health found that teens in particular are drawn to candy, mint and fruit flavors.
Chokecherries tossed out the window to Gov. Greg Gianforte for canceling a bison reintroduction plan years in the making. Hopeful huckleberries to members of the Montana Legislature’s American Indian Caucus for requesting help from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland in crafting a new plan to reintroduce wild bison to public lands in Montana. In their letter to Haaland, the caucus members note that the Interior Department’s Bison Working Group issued a report last year that identifies priorities for establishing and maintaining bison herds, as well as providing “opportunities to restore cultural connections to bison by working with tribes inextricably linked to bison.”
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Executive Editor Jim Van Nostrand and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.