Pre-recorded huckleberries to the recent district court decision upholding Montana’s ban on those universally despised automated telephone messages known as “robocalls.” The state has had a ban in place since 1991, but last year a political consulting company that operates out of Michigan challenged the constitutionality of the prohibition, arguing that it infringes on the right to free speech. Instead, last week, U.S. District Court Senior Judge Charles Lovell ruled that the ban appropriately protects Montanans’ constitutionally recognized right to privacy – which includes the freedom to live without the “annoyance and harassment” posed by certain uninvited phone calls.
Unfortunately, due to a general lack of enforcement of the ban by county attorneys, who have more important matters to prosecute and not nearly enough time or resources to track down the source of every robocall, Montanans are likely to continue receiving these unwanted phone calls each campaign season, illegal or not. Unenforceable chokecherries to that!
Mushy huckleberries to Jessie Royer, who won her fourth Race to the Sky dog-sledding competition and set a new record for consecutive wins after crossing the finish line in Lincoln late Monday night. Royer is used to setting records, however; at age 17, she became the youngest musher and first female to win the Race to the Sky, a 500-mile-long race back in 1994. She was named rookie of the year for the 2001 Alaska Iditarod, and from 2008-2011 was the highest-placing female in that 1,000-mile dog sled race. Royer and her dogs will make a run at the Iditarod again this year and, with any luck, she’ll be adding yet another win to growing list.
Huckleberries to the land deal that will allow the Bureau of Land Management to begin repaying its decades-old debt to Montana. The BLM owes the state more than $4 million due to an act passed by Congress in 1889 that admitted Montana and four other states to the Union. Now, as a first step in a deal expected to be completed before the end of 2019, the BLM is offering to turn over more than 2,000 acres of cropland in Hill and Choteau counties, and another six acres in Miles City, to satisfy some $1.82 million in debt. The State Land Board must approve the deal before it can move forward, which it is likely to do because it will not only save the state money, it will help boost funds for the state school trust.
Rivers of chokecherry juice to the uncertain funding situation for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s 319 program, which has been used to restore polluted rivers and streams throughout western Montana and beyond since it was created as part of the Clean Water Act in 1987. President Trump’s proposed budget “zeroes out” the program for fiscal year 2018/19 and leaves it dependent on continuing resolutions passed by Congress to carry out its important work.
Prosperous huckleberries to Montana’s improved ranking on a national list measuring prosperity. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard (http://scorecard.prosperitynow.org/) moved Montana from 10th place last year to sixth place this year, largely by earning higher grades in the areas of education and financial assets. The Treasure State also scored the highest possible ranking for small business ownership. On the other hand, Montana also has the lowest possible rate of employers in the private sector who provide health insurance for their employees.