STUDY and ACTION
This publication is the adopted League of Women Voters of Montana (LWVMT) State Program for 2009-2010. It includes current LWVMT Positions and summarizes the evolution of these Positions.
The LWVMT program has two components: Positions and Action.
The membership identifies an area of interest or concern, then studies the issue and reaches consensus or concurrence on a Position on the issue.
Once a Position is adopted, the League may take Action on it. The Montana League may take Action on government issues in Montana based on LWVMT and League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) Positions.
The League is a political organization, one which takes political stands on issues, including ballot issues. The League takes sides on issues on which it has a Position, but the League does not support or oppose any political party or any candidate.
Nonpartisanship does not stop Leagues from presenting League Positions on issues during a political campaign. The League lobbies the electorate much as it would lobby a legislator when an issue on which it has a Position is on the ballot. It gives the public information on the issue, clearly delineating the League's Position.
As a service to voters, Leagues conduct public issue forums, informal gatherings, and other meetings where candidates and League members and the public have an opportunity to interact. Sponsoring such meetings does not constitute either endorsement or opposition to the candidates who participate. These meetings are a means of getting candidates views known to the electorate.
League members are encouraged to be active in the political process so long as their political activities as individuals are not confused in the public mind with official League policies and programs. However, local League and State League board members may not run for partisan office or participate in a major way in any political campaign. Board members may serve on nonpartisan public commissions as individuals or, when officially designated by the League, as representatives of the League.
The League's political activism, based on League Positions, has made a difference.
THE LEAGUE IN MONTANA
The roots of the League of Women Voters go back to 1840, when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton met at the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London and made a pact to start a women's rights movement in the United States.
Eighty years later, on February 14, 1920, Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association, spearheaded the founding of the League of Women Voters in anticipation of ratification of the 19th Amendment. Mrs. Catt saw the League as a way to educate newly franchised voters. She said women must keep informed "...human affairs, with their eternal change, move on without pause. Progress is calling you to make no pause. Act!"
The first Montana League organizational meeting was held in Great Falls on April 26, 1920, and the groups made plans to establish by-laws for the Regional Convention, which was held in Butte on May 25, 1921. Mrs. A. F. Rice of Butte was elected president.
The first convention established Montana League goals to work toward efficient government, the good of public welfare in government, and international cooperation to prevent war. The League adopted non-alignment with any political party, but possible support for legislation and policy. Another objective was to urge every woman to register to vote. Montana counted Jeanette Rankin, Maggie Smith Hathaway, Frieda Flegelman, Belle Flegelman Winestine, and Dr. Mary B. Atwater among its citizens who had been involved in the suffrage movement from the beginning.
By 1952 local Leagues were active in Billings, Butte, Havre, Helena, Great Falls and Missoula, with a membership of approximately 300. On October 23, 1953, Irene C. Sweeny, National Organizer, met with 29 delegates from the six city Leagues to coordinate the local Leagues. Laura Nicholson was named State Chair of the Executive Committee. LWVUS required a State League to conduct a State Government study, with each local League investigating some phase of government. The study culminated in publication of Know Your State, used for many years in Montana classrooms as a text. On April 20, 1957, the first State Convention was held in Butte. The State League celebrated its 40th anniversary at Council in Hamilton in May 1994.
At the National Convention in San Francisco in May 1974, full membership in LWVUS was opened to men. At the National Convention in New York City in May 1976, a move to change the name to League of Voters was rejected because the LWV name would have been in the public domain, open to expropriation by any group.
Any individual may become a member of the League by joining a local League, or by becoming a Member-at-Large of the State League. Membership is open to all citizens of voting age who subscribe to the purpose and policy of the LWVUS.
PRESENT MONTANA LOCAL LEAGUES
Billings Bozeman Area Helena Area Missoula
STATE PROGRAM SUMMARY
The Montana Constitution To promote a Constitution limited to fundamental law. Declaration of Rights To protect the right of citizens to a healthful environment, to privacy, and to freedom from discrimination. The Executive Branch To provide for alignment of executive agencies by function. The Judicial Branch To promote a unified court system with merit selection of judges, and equalized financing. The Legislative Branch To provide a partisan legislative body with single member districts based on population, meeting in annual sessions, with special sessions as needed. State-Local Government To provide a flexible and comprehensive framework of state law pertaining to local governments, including alternatives for local financing, and community and city-county land use planning. State Government Finance To provide a broad-based tax system that is equitable, provides adequate revenue, effectively administered and enforced. To maintain the permanent Coal Trust Fund, allowing appropriation if interest and income by the Legislature, requiring super majority of three-fourths of each house to approve withdrawing principal.
Vote by Mail Expanded use of vote by mail for all elections.
Child Care To promote a system of high quality, affordable, developmentally-appropriate child care. Criminal Justice System To protect society from criminal behaviors, while providing services to enable prisoners to become law-abiding citizens. Education To promote efficient and equitable financing of public education with the state funding its share of the cost. To provide a basic education which produces graduates with critical thinking, reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Libraries To promote adequate funding to purchase books and materials, pay staff and maintain buildings.
Mental Health and Care of the Developmentally Disabled To provide community and regional programs, with centralized care where needed, with adequate guaranteed funding. Privatization of Government Functions To promote use of definite criteria to be used in deciding whether or not to privatize government function, and provide safeguards for citizens in contracts with private providers if a decision is made to privatize government functions.
Air To promote quality air standards to protect human health and safety, to ensure the integrity of ecosystems, and to facilitate the enjoyment of the natural attractions of this state. Energy To protect Montana's natural resources, promote a balanced approach to energy problems, and encourage cooperation with other states and Canada. Land Use To protect resources through tax incentives and stringent state standards, encouraging local comprehensive planning and stewardship of land. Transportation To provide better and more affordable access to housing and jobs for Montana citizens and help Montana to reach overall goals of conservation and reduction in the use of fossil fuels . Water To promote wise use of the state's water resources, protecting water quality and water supplies against potential depletion and/or pollution, while protecting existing water rights and uses, instream flows and reservations for future needs.
THE MONTANA STATE CONSTITUTION
To promote a Constitution limited to fundamental law.
The Montana State Constitution of 1889 stood as an outdated and inflexible obstacle to changes needed in state government. The League studied administrative structure in 1956, and the relationship between state and local governments in 1963. The Legislative Council began a study of the Montana Constitution in 1967, publishing the results in October 1969. The 1971 Legislature approved a referendum calling for a Constitutional Convention, which was passed by the electorate in November 1971.
The State League adopted a study of the Montana Constitution, setting aside most other programs in order to conclude the study in time to take action at the Constitutional Convention convening January, 1972. 100 delegates were elected in November 1971, including 19 women, 8 of whom were LWV members. Two of the male delegates are current LWVMT members.
League members testified and wrote letters throughout the 54-day session, and worked to inform the public of the intent and wording of each article in the new Constitution. The Constitution was passed in June 1972.
Between 1972 and 2000, 96 petitions for Constitutional Initiatives were filed; 23 received enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. The electorate rejected 13 initiatives and approved 10; one was voided by the courts after the election, and one was removed from the ballot by the Montana Supreme Court. In addition, the Legislature submitted 30 referenda to a vote of the people in these years; the voters approved 20 and rejected 10 of them.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports: A State Constitution limited to fundamental law, outlining the framework of government and delegating powers.
DECLARATION OF RIGHTS
To protect the right of citizens to a healthful environment, to privacy, and to freedom from discrimination.
The Declaration of Rights in the Montana State Constitution is an important reaffirmation of fundamental principles on which our government is based. The Montana State Constitution of 1972 added those three protections for Montana citizens in addition to those already guaranteed under the United States Constitution.
A major concern of the League nationally is areas where degradation of the environment threatens the human population and the entire ecosystem. Montana League members support a balance between adverse environmental impact and the economics of industrial stability, in order to protect the clean and healthful environment traditional to Montana.
Although advanced surveillance techniques by the government are sometimes necessary for the protection of the public, effective restraints on their use are essential.
Prior to 1972, freedom from discrimination in Montana existed only in statutory law. The League supported a guarantee of freedom from discrimination, especially relating to sex discrimination, in the Declaration of Rights.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. The right of each citizen to a clean and healthful environment.
2. The right of individual privacy, which is essential to the well-being of a free society and not to be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.
3. Freedom from discrimination against persons for reasons of race, creed, color, national origin, sex, culture, social origin or condition, or political or religious ideas.
THE EXECUTIVE BRANCH
To provide for alignment of executive agencies by function.
The 1963 State League Convention adopted a position in support of reorganizing the executive branch into not more than 20 departments, exclusive of offices authorized in the Constitution. An amendment to the 1889 Constitution culminated in the Executive Reorganization Act of 1972, which was incorporated in the 1972 Constitution, with the stipulation that all departments be under the supervision of the governor.
Departmentalization by function remains the first priority. Maintenance of a traditional system of checks and balances is also crucial. Some agencies, such as the legislative Office of the Fiscal Analyst and executive Office of Program Planning and Budget, serve as important checks and balances for each other. The level of proficiency of state government is dependent on the continued autonomy of such agencies.
The League supports election of the governor and the lieutenant governor from the same party on a single ticket.
The League supported measures in the 1960s and 1970s to implement a classification system and compensation plan for state employees, and to extend the merit system in state government. Extension of the merit principle in state government, including equal employment opportunity and the human rights doctrine, remains a League objective.
The League continues to support bi-partisan advisory councils and task force committees.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. Equalization of authority and responsibility of the governor, as head of the executive branch.
2. Effective organization of the administrative branch, including departmentalization by function, use of bi-partisan advisory councils of qualified citizens, maintenance of a traditional system of checks and balances, and extension of the merit principle in state government employment, including the tenets of equal employment opportunity and adherence to human rights doctrine.
THE JUDICIAL BRANCH
To promote a unified court system, with centralized control over court functions, minimum standards, and equalized financing, and to provide merit selection of judges.
The League took no action to influence the Judicial Article of the 1972 Constitution because adequate study was not possible in time to reach a position. In 1975 the League adopted a position favoring merit selection of judges. In 1977 continued study led to adoption of a position favoring centralized administration of the court system. This centralized administration would be responsible for records, work loads, standards, finance, and personnel. The League was particularly concerned that lack of uniform records rendered virtually impossible the analysis of kinds of cases, relative workloads of judges, and other comparisons. The League supported equalized financing of courts as a means of equalizing court facilities.
In the 1977 legislative session, the League successfully supported a bill providing for a court administrator under supervision of the Supreme Court. Continuing legal education for judges and state funding for district courts, supported by the League, failed to pass.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. A managerial position in the judicial branch of state government to provide centralized administration of the court system.
2. A uniform method of record-keeping, equalization of workloads for judges, equalized financing of the courts, and adequate training of personnel.
3. Requiring counties to maintain minimum standards for court facilities.
4. Requiring judicial personnel to utilize continuing education opportunities, and making such opportunities more readily available.
5. Merit selection of judges.
THE LEGISLATIVE BRANCH
To establish a partisan legislative body to meet in annual sessions and in special sessions, if needed, and to provide single member districts based on population.
The 1972 Constitution provided for annual sessions of not more than 60 legislative days, with special sessions to be called by the governor or by written request of a majority of the members of the Legislature. Annual sessions were held in 1973 and 1974; a special session immediately followed the 1973 session to finish the work. A constitutional amendment in 1974 was passed, providing biennial sessions of no more than 90 days in odd-numbered years.
Since then special sessions have been called in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, two in 1986, 1989, 1990, two in 1992, 1993, 1999, and 2000.
The 1972 Constitution, supported by the League, provides for no more than 100 single-member House districts, with two House Districts comprising a Senatorial district.
Prior to 1972 the Legislature reapportioned itself. LWVMT supported the 1972 Constitutional provision for a commission of five citizens, none of them public officials, to reapportion and redistrict the Legislature after each federal census. The majority and minority leaders of the Senate and House each appoint one commission member; these four select a fifth person who serves as chair.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. A partisan legislative body.
2. Annual sessions.
3. The Legislature as well as the governor be able to call special sessions with unrestricted agenda.
4. Single-member districts, based substantially on population, to allow for necessary local diversity and to protect minority representation.
5. Reapportionment by a commission.
STATE-LOCAL GOVERNMENT RELATIONS
To provide a flexible and comprehensive framework of state law pertaining to local governments, including encouragement of interlocal cooperation and alternatives for local financing.
Under the 1889 Montana State Constitution, local governments had no powers expressly granted to them by the Legislature. In the 1960s the League called for relaxing state government control over local planning, for allowing cooperative agreements among local governments, and for improving administration of property taxes, as well as support for city-county consolidation efforts, and for a legislative study of special districts. In 1971 the League supported constitutional provisions to empower local governments to assume powers not specifically denied them by constitutional or statutory law, allowing local governments to adopt charters under proper procedures. In the 1971 Legislature, the League supported two successful bills: allowing county commissioners to establish subdivision regulations; and empowering cities and towns to require a waiver of the right to protest annexation if the city or town furnished sewer and water services in an area to be annexed.
A unique provision of the 1972 Montana State Constitution requires voter review of local government every 10 years. Two local government consolidations, fourteen charter governments, and hundreds of interlocal agreements have occurred because of this provision.
Taxation for both state and local governments continues to be a major issue. Montana grows more diverse, and local governments need more flexibility to face the impact of growth in major urban areas, the proliferation of suburbs, and increasing tourism, recreation, and development of second home resort areas.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. Fair and equitable tax reform which would give local governments the ability to use alternative sources of revenue without increased reliance on gambling revenue.
2. Broadening the framework of Montana law which allows local citizens flexibility to adjust governmental structures and services to fit particular areas and needs including: a. Latitude for innovation in urban areas and more support in rural areas to meet state mandates, particularly air, water, and public health protection; and b. Distribution of Federal funds allocated to state departments to meet Federal mandates, based upon need, population, and scope of impact.
3. The unique voter review process that is submitted to local voters every ten years.
4. Community and city-county land-use planning to give direction for orderly growth and to balance the interests of suburban and urban areas in annexation proceedings.
5. Improvement of the administration of the property tax system in Montana by developing methods to reflect current market value for determination of property tax.
6. A comprehensive survey of state and local revenue in Montana, including the impact of special districts on local governments, by a reliable body responsible to the legislature, executive, or both.
7. Allowing local governments the ability to raise revenue to carry out state mandates through local-option taxes (e.g., real estate transfer tax, resort tax, and local impact fees.
8. Encouraging cost-sharing contracts by local governments with state government departments. STATE GOVERNMENT FINANCE
To provide a broad-based tax system that is equitable, provides adequate revenue for all state-funded services, and is effectively administered and enforced.
HISTORY The League supported the balanced budget provision in the 1972 Constitution. In addition, based on a 1979 study, reaffirmed in 1988, the League has strong positions on three basic issues: taxation, the budget process, and severance taxes. The League has called for efficient and equitable financing of public education, with the state fully funding a high quality basic education and state-mandated education-related services. Primary goals are equity of funding and equity of taxpayer effort. The League supports a balanced and progressive tax system which yields sufficient revenue to fund government services. Diversity yields stable revenue and prevents reliance on a single tax source, particularly one with a narrow base. An equitable tax system considers ability to pay and the relative burden of taxpayers. Taxes need to be easy to compute and pay, difficult to evade, and not expensive to collect. Budgeting should identify state goals and priorities, and relate funding levels to program goals. In 1982 the League recommended program review and evaluation, identification of agency and program priorities, accurate revenue estimates in the executive budget and the appropriation bills, and clear relationships between programs and revenue sources. The League opposes the proliferation of earmarked funds because of their detrimental effects on responsive, accountable budgets and on program management. The League supports vigilant public involvement in the biennial review by the Legislative Finance Committee of all existing revenue dedication provisions.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. The balanced budget provisions in the Montana Constitution as an adequate spending limitation.
2. The executive budget amendment authority in the Montana Constitution.
3. An accountable, responsive state budget process based on program planning principles, with meaningful participation by the public, legislature, and executive agencies from the earliest planning stages through adoption and oversight.
4. Promotion of efficient and equitable funding of all state-funded services, including education.
5. Diverse sources of revenue, with emphasis on progressive tax structures, user fees, and severance taxes.
6. Control of the number and establishment of dedicated revenue accounts and public involvement in their biennial review by the Legislative Finance Committee.
7. Consideration of both state and local tax structure and burdens in evaluating Montana's tax system.
8. Severance taxes, including a coal severance tax, that address the current and future impacts of resource development and provide an appropriate level of revenue to the state.
9. The partial allocation of severance tax proceeds to trust funds to meet future needs, including dedication of 50% of the coal severance tax revenue to the permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund.
10. Maintenance of the permanent Coal Trust Fund without a cap.
11. Appropriation of interest and income from the Permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund by the Legislature.
12. Super-majority vote of three-fourths (3/4) if each house to approve withdrawing principal from the permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund, and then only under catastrophic circumstances.
13. Investment policies for the permanent Coal Tax Trust Fund which include consideration of the state's economic development goals. VOTE BY MAIL
HISTORY At their 2006 Annual Meeting, members of the League of Women Voters of Ravalli County agreed to conduct a study of Alternative Voting Systems other than the traditional polling place/absentee voting system then in use in Montana. The study was precipitated by significant recent changes in Montana election systems: the 2002 federal Help America Vote Act which brought electronic vote counting machines; public concern over the accuracy and security of these new machines; and LWVUS Resolutions SARA and CARL that affirmed League support for voting systems that employ voter-verified paper ballots or records and routine random audits. The study focused on a vote by mail system similar to the one then in use in Oregon. It was judged using LWVUS criteria of whether it was secure, accurate, recountable, accessible, transparent and cost effective. Ravalli County LWV adopted their Vote by Mail Position at their April, 2007 Annual Meeting. The LWV of Montana concurred with their position the following month. This allowed League members to participate in the Interim Study of Vote by Mail in 2007/2008, advocating for a pilot program to determine if Montana should allow vote by mail for federal as well as state and local elections.
POSITION The LWVMT supports expanded use of vote by mail for all elections.
To promote a system of high quality affordable, developmentally-appropriate child care.
Changes in the work force have had dramatic consequences for families and children. The need for high quality, affordable child care has far exceeded the supply. Recognizing the societal importance of child care, the State League began a study of child care in 1987, and adopted a Position in 1989.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. An active partnership among parents, caregivers, the private sector, and government to enable children to become well-adjusted, successful, and contributing members of society.
2. A system of high quality, affordable, developmentally-appropriate child care facilities, including: a. Enforcement of standards of safety, health, nutrition, and staff/child ratios. b. Recruitment and training of caregivers. c. Economic incentives for employer involvement. d. Local referral programs to link families to appropriate child care. e. Registering and licensing pre-schools. f. Before-and-after-school care, utilizing the public school system. g. Transitional care, and a sliding-fee schedule for low income families. h. Interagency cooperation to identify needs and solutions. i. Public awareness.
THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
To protect society from criminal behaviors, while providing services to enable prisoners to become law-abiding citizens.
In 1968, the League began a study of the State prison and explored the possibility of establishing pre-release and work-furlough programs for the old, overcrowded state prison. The League concluded these programs would aid in resocialization and rehabilitation. A position supporting these, in addition to counseling and education programs, and a new state prison was adopted at the 1971 League Convention.
A Criminal Justice System study in 1975-77 reviewed not only the prison, but also city and county jails. This study centered on a number of progressive concepts in penology. Some of these concepts were incorporated into the 1977 League position.
The new prison facility, completed in 1976, was also soon overcrowded, and Montana lost its contract to house women prisoners out-of-state. In 1979 the Legislature voted funds to build space for women at the men's prison complex. But, this was not done. Women prisoners were housed for thirteen years in a renovated warehouse at Warm Springs.
In 1991 funds were allocated for a 120-bed women's prison, but instead the State purchased the 46-bed Rivendell facility in Billings. At the same time the State established plans for community-based Department of Corrections programs. The move to Billings for women prisoners was made September 28, 1994.
In 1999, the Montana League agreed that "women's issues" should be studied and addressed as part of the Criminal Justice position, and the focus should be on children of incarcerated parents in order to break the intergenerational cycle of crime and dysfunctional families. In 2001 the League adopted a separate position on the Women's Prison. In 2002 the League coordinated the two positions into this inclusive Criminal Justice System Position.
The Montana League of Women Voters believes the State of Montana should take a new direction with corrections especially regarding women and families. Of great significance and concern is our overall finding that there is a need to move in the direction of parent-child reunification in cases of formerly custodial caregiving parents. There is a related need to distinguish between "violent" and "non-violent" in classifications of women based on a realistic threat to society.
In general, the League supports:
1. The pre-sentence investigation required by Montana law should include the defendant's immediate family situation, including specific information on whether or not the defendant is the custodial caregiving parent of a child under 13 years of age and, if so, the age of the child and the defendant's plans for care of the child during incarceration. A trained advocate should be assigned to each child to represent her/him at all procedures related to her/his welfare.
2. The State should not automatically sever parental rights if the parent is incarcerated for more than a year.
3. Mandatory life sentences, rather than capital punishment, should be considered when sentencing violent offenders.
4. A continuum of state-wide, community-based options, which provide for probation, halfway houses, deferred sentences, electronic monitoring, and restitution to victims, etc., should be available to judges and should be considered as alternative sentencing, especially in cases involving youth, non-violent and first offenders, and mothers of young children.
5. When planning to build or remodel, consideration should be made for the classification of the inmate population. During incarceration, the League supports:
1. The state prisons are appropriate placement for criminals requiring tight security.
2. Placement in local jails should be used only for those requiring temporary incarceration.
3. Family Services (DPHHS) and the Department of Corrections should coordinate to provide quality counseling and education programs in the prisons to enhance the prisoner's successful return to society. These voluntary programs should include education and vocational training, personal and family counseling and parenting classes, counseling to prevent victimization, and drug treatment. Measures of family reunification and recidivism should be included in evaluations of treatment and education programs for the inmates. Dependence on grants to fund the parenting programs should be replaced by a state funded parenting program staffed by educationally qualified personnel.
4. Provision should be made for regular communication between parent(s) and child(ren) in comfortable, quiet facilities. When necessary, transportation, meals, and lodging should be provided. Halfway houses should include appropriate facilities for children plus emphasis on family integration.
5. There should be opportunities to meet the spiritual needs of inmates.
6. Montana needs separate and safe facilities for youth, first offenders, women, the habitually violent, sex offenders, and drug offenders.
7. Montana should provide equity in facilities and programming for state prison residents, regardless of age, sex, race, color, or creed. The exception to equity should be to address the unique needs of (1) pregnant inmates with prenatal, obstetrical, postnatal and infant care provided, all commensurate with regular hospital care, and (2) formerly caregiving custodial parents, whose plans for rehabilitation should include family reunification, parenting and job training.
8. There should be periodic and routine review of each prisoner by the rehabilitation staff. At exit/parole, the League supports:
1. There should be regular, independent review of the method of selection of State Parole Board members and of the Board's operation.
2. The State should hire an adequate number of qualified parole officers, some of whom are qualified in child counseling and the teaching of parenting skills.
3. The Department of Corrections should consistently allow work and study furloughs and pre-release programs for all non-violent offenders, after screening by the professional rehabilitation staff of each prison.
4. Programs for treatment and education, and advice on vocational education, college opportunities and job skills should be easily accessible before release, during pre-release processing, and in subsequent stages of re-entry to society. Addendum The League supports adequate provision by Montana state agencies in areas where local governments are unable to provide services. Health and legal services, such as guardian ad litem programs, for children should be available. Work/study programs are also considered invaluable. The League recognizes the need for adequate funding and recommends the apportionment of money among the Criminal Justice System components to enable these recommendations.
To promote efficient and equitable financing of public education, with the state funding its share of the cost, and to provide a basic education which produces graduates with critical thinking, reading, writing and mathematical skills.
HISTORY The Montana Constitution mandates equal opportunity to develop the full educational potential of each person through a basic system of free public elementary and secondary schools, with the state funding its share of the cost of such a system. To determine whether this mandate was being carried out, the League conducted a study of the educational system. The League found that the constitutional mandate was not being fulfilled. This was partly because such key terms as "equal opportunity," "basic education," "state share," and "equitable funding" were not defined. In 1997 the League adopted the following definition of a high-quality basic education: A basic education must offer all students a curriculum supported by technology, libraries and teaching staff, sufficient to provide individualized instructional programs. A basic education will produce graduates capable of critical thinking, with reading, writing and mathematical skills. Together with knowledge of science, the humanities, the arts and governmental processes, these will combine to enable them to become productive workers and active citizens. The dramatic increase in school budgets financed by local voted levies indicates that state funding is still inadequate. Funding per student is one convenient and objective measure for determining equality of opportunity. Funding levels must be combined with state standards for such essentials as staff, equipment, textbooks and programs. Equality of funding must be tempered by differences in the needs of students in different localities and situations. Geographic isolation may increase transportation costs and necessitate higher salaries to attract teachers. Smaller schools have greater per pupil costs. Students with special needs or abilities are unequally distributed in school districts. Current funding relies heavily on property taxes. Variations in taxable valuation among school districts produces a wide disparity in mill levies needed to fund state-mandated programs. In 1986 the League adopted a Position supporting full state funding of a high-quality basic education and of state-mandated services. The League supported equity in funding and in taxpayer effort. The League also supported state accreditation standards to ensure equal opportunity for basic education for all students. Standards define the minimum program to be offered by school districts, which are free to provide programs beyond the minimum. The League favored broadening the tax base for school districts and equitable taxes. Another League goal has been consolidation of schools and/or services, taking into consideration such factors as isolation, grade levels, and school size.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. The existing structure which governs and funds the public school system of the state.
2. Changes within that structure to provide: a. That the state fully fund a high-quality basic education. b. That the state fully fund state-mandated services. c. That equity of funding and equity of taxpayer effort be primary goals.
To promote adequate funding to purchase books and materials, pay staff, and maintain buildings.
The League of Women Voters believes democratic government requires the informed and active participation of citizens. The League also believes every person should have access to free public education that provides equal opportunity. Building on these principles, the League of Women Voters of the Helena Area conducted a study of the Lewis and Clark library system, and reached a consensus on the local level. In 1999 the State League concurred with the Helena League, agreeing that the same problems of uncertain funding are prevalent throughout the state, and that the State League should support public libraries.
1. As repositories of knowledge and information, libraries are an important resource for information for citizens.
2. Libraries should maintain current stocks of books, periodicals, and other information sources (such as computers to access Internet sources).
3. Libraries should be open a maximum number of hours so all segments of the populace have access.
4. Libraries must have adequate funding to purchase books and materials, pay staff, and maintain buildings.
5. To facilitate long-range planning, staff should know from year to year how much money will be available.
MENTAL HEALTH AND CARE OF THE DEVELOPMENTALLY DISABLED
To provide for community and regional programs and for centralized care where needed, with adequate, guaranteed funding.
HISTORY In 1967 the League began a study of the custodial institutions of the state, with emphasis on improving existing services. The institutions were underfunded, with poorly qualified, overworked, underpaid employees, and high turnover. The League supported legislation passed in 1971, which permitted federal medical assistance payments to eligible residents of the institutions. Centralized services, under control of the Department of Institutions, were supported by the League. In 1974 employee dissatisfaction culminated in a strike at Boulder and Warm Springs, bringing media coverage not only of the plight of the employees and patients, but also of the squalor and decay of the facilities themselves. An improved salary scale and patient-employee ratio resulted from the strike. The Developmentally Disabled Act of 1974 provided for establishment of community homes for those who were capable of learning and functioning outside an institution. The League supported the concept of clients remaining in their own communities, with services provided by mental health professionals. Funding for comprehensive community mental health centers became available from Federal and state sources. Participation was a matter of local option; twelve counties chose not to participate. The Special Education Act in 1979, supported by the League, extended special education to all school districts. The League helped produce two films with the Montana Council of Churches which illuminated problems in our mental health services: "Us and Them, Mental Health in Montana" and "Beyond Bricks and Mortar."
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. Adequate funding for qualified personnel and facilities.
2. Maximum use of available Federal funds.
3. Access for all residents of Montana to a broad range of appropriate mental health services and technology as close to home as possible, not limited to persons with severe and long-lasting disabilities.
4. Establishment and maintenance of comprehensive community mental health centers.
5. Adequate screening, diagnosis, and follow-up of adult and child clients.
6. Treating mentally, emotionally, and developmentally disabled persons with dignity by determining and meeting individual needs of clients.
7. Recognition that a home, employment, and a supportive social environment are basic needs of persons with mental illness, emotional disturbances, and severe developmental or acquired disabilities to help them become as self-sufficient as possible.
8. Provision of employment counseling and support.
9. Elimination of fragmentation and duplication of services.
10. Separation of mental health services from the Department of Corrections. PRIVATIZATION OF GOVERNMENT FUNCTIONS
To promote the use of definite criteria to be used in judging whether or not government functions should be privatized and, if it is decided by the legislature or other decision-making bodies to privatize, to provide safeguards for citizens in contracts with private providers.
The League's interest in privatization began as a result of the failure of the state contract privatizing mental health services. The study was approved by the State Convention on May 15, 1999, and later extended until June 2001 by the State Board.
The study focused on state and local government units. The goal was to analyze the pros and cons of privatizing government The study was intentionally limited to privatization measures likely to be considered by state and services and products, to provide guidelines to used in deciding whether or not to privatize functions, and to determine what safeguards and provisions should be included in the contracts in the event of a decision to privatize.
The position was adopted by the State Board on September 7, 2001.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports the following procedures:
1. In deciding whether or not to privatize a government service or product, the following criteria must be considered: a. The existence of competition or the lack of it among potential providers. b. Accurate cost estimates, including direct and indirect costs, to provide the service or product from both the government agency and the private service. c. Whether or not adequate technical expertise and equipment are available to the government agency providing the service. d. The potential impact of privatizing on government employees, such as substitution low wage, no benefit jobs for higher wage jobs with benefits. e. The government agency's ability to improve its services as an alternative to privatizing. f. The probability that privatizing will improve the service or product. g. How essential a service or product is the health, safety, and welfare of the state or community, and how disruptive a failure of a privatization contract might be.
2. If government policy makers decide to privatize public services, the following safeguards are essential: a. Trained staff available to write and monitor contracts, with access to the provider's records for this purpose. b. The government agency remains responsible for the services provided and for the contractor's performance. c. A back-up plan is ready if the privatization project fails. d. Services must be maintained, or improved cost effectively. e. Periodic audits should be scheduled by the supervising agency, and penalties applied for performance failure. f. Government should receive fair market value for property paid for with tax money that is transferred to a private company.
3. Special additional considerations are essential in any plan to privatize "soft services" for vulnerable populations such as the very young, old, poor, incarcerated, or mentally or physically handicapped. Important safeguards are: a. Minimal disruption during transition from public to private delivery of services. b. Evaluation of private provider's performance by government staff and by independent evaluators with expertise. c. Clear grievance procedures for addressing service problems, including denial of service. d. Recognition that the quality of services is more important than monetary savings.
HISTORY The following position was adopted in April, 2008, by the Billings League of Women Voters and it was adopted May, 2008, at the state convention, by the Montana League of Women Voters.
POSITION The League of Women Voters proposes to reduce vehicular traffic by increasing the use of public transportation with expanded mass transit systems. Improved public transportation will provide better and more affordable access to housing and jobs for Montana citizens and will help Montana to reach overall goals of conservation and reduction in the use of fossil fuels. The League of Women Voters urges maintenance of existing highways and requests reexamination of plans for new highways in order to divert funding to public transportation.
To promote quality air standards to protect human health and safety, to ensure the integrity of ecosystems, and to facilitate the enjoyment of the natural attractions of this state.
Prior to 1985 the State League had no position regarding air quality. In 1993-94 local Leagues studied the issue along with the national League policy statement and existing local and statewide regulations. The 1995 Convention adopted the air concurrence statement.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. The use of alternative energy sources to produce cleaner air.
2. Regulation and reduction of pollution from stationary sources.
3. Regulation and reduction of ambient toxic-air pollutants.
4. Measures to reduce transboundary air pollutants both interstate and international.
5. A coordinated statewide program of air pollution prevention, abatement, and control, including the establishment of ambient air quality standards necessary for human health and ecosystem preservation.
6. Regulations which make industries responsible for reducing the air pollution they generate.
To protect Montana's natural resources, promote a balanced approach to energy problems, and encourage cooperation with other states and Canada.
A state energy study was adopted in 1977. Since LWVUS was involved in a national energy study, a committee composed of a representative from each local League drafted an energy position for Montana, submitted to local Leagues for concurrence. Concurrence was reached in December, 1978, with final approval from the state board in January, 1979. The state energy position was reviewed in 1993 and 1994, when concern over inefficient use of energy led to the addition of support for regulations requiring energy conservation in building codes in 1994.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. A balanced approach toward resolving the energy dilemma.
2. Conservation as the cornerstone of a state or regional energy policy.
3. Regional energy decisions made through a process providing equal representation for all affected states.
4. Montana's right to plan, site, and reclaim energy production facilities within its borders, considering conservation measures and social, economic and environmental impacts.
5. An open decision-making process at the state and local levels of government which includes citizens in planning and implementation.
6. Policies which stimulate development and use of alternative and renewable energy sources.
7. Rail transportation of coal to energy demand areas; we oppose coal slurry pipelines.
8. Resolving differences between Canada and the U.S. resulting from energy development.
9. Attention to energy efficiencies in the community development process.
10. Beverage container deposits, and a ban on non-returnables.
11. Energy education programs for adults and children in schools and other public forums.
12. Maintaining or increasing the coal severance tax.
To protect resources through tax incentives and stringent state standards, with local planning authority, based on land and water inventories.
In 1975 the Montana League adopted a state study of the relationship between taxation and Montana land-use patterns. A Position based on this study was adopted in 1977, adding the concept of stewardship to a Position adopted in 1976 relating to state and local roles in decision making. The League Position emphasizes local control of local land use issues, based on minimum state standards, with a goal of protecting land from development that might cause irreversible damage to physical, social, and/or economic environments.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. Comprehensive planning and stewardship of land as a finite resource.
2. A progressive system of taxation that provides incentives for sound land-use decisions.
3. State support to local jurisdictions through technical assistance and data sharing and the granting of authority to local bodies to implement innovative land use planning.
4. Protection of fragile or historical lands, especially lands from large-scale private and public developments which cause significant changes to physical, social, or economic environments.
5. Integration of land-user, water resource , and natural resource planning by: a. Compiling comprehensive resource inventories of land and water. b. Setting priorities and goals for the state with significant input from citizens. c. Coordinating state and local agencies and governmental bodies. d. Developing a comprehensive state land-use policy.
6. Requiring comprehensive impact statements for all major public and private developments
7. Judicial resolution of land-use conflicts between governmental bodies, and between citizens and governmental bodies.
To promote wise use of the state's water resources, protecting water quality and water supplies against potential depletion and/or pollution, while protecting existing water rights and uses, instream flows, and reservations for future needs.
The Montana Water Law reflects the historical National League support of wise management of resources in the public interest and an environment beneficial to life.
The 1983 League Convention adopted a study to define "surplus" water, to explore market uses of surplus water, and to consider Montana's relationships with neighboring states. The Position adopted in 1985 is broad in scope.
Recent drought conditions in Montana have increased interest in water storage facilities for agricultural operations and maintaining instream flow for fisheries.
The League of Women Voters of Montana supports:
1. Water resource programs and policies that reflect the relationship of water quality and quantity to ground and surface water resources.
2. A permanent advisory board or commission that represents all water users.
3. A legally defensible adjudication process.
4. A reservation system that protects instream flows and allows for future needs.
5. A reasonable nondegradation policy that meets requirements of the Montana Constitution.
6. Development of storage facilities to conserve water for beneficial uses.
7. Careful analysis of existing aquifers and adjacent streams in future water allocation requests.
8. A system for marketing surplus water available after completion of the adjudication and reservation processes, including provisions for: a. Protection of water quality and water supplies against potential depletion and pollution. b. Evaluation of the economic, social, and environmental impacts of the diversion facilities and of the impacts on the basin of origin and on the receiving area. c. Limitation of the sale to legally-defined beneficial uses. d. Protection of existing water rights and uses, instream flows, and reservations for future needs. e. Limitation on the amount of water sold and on the length of time water can be marketed.
LOBBYING FOR THE LEAGUE
The following are guidelines on lobbying for the League of Women Voters:
Do not speak in the name of the League of Women Voters of Montana without prior approval of your statement by the state board or the lobbying coordinating committee. We need to be sure that what is said in the name of the League of Women Voters of Montana is the position adopted by LWVMT. Even when the statement is in line with our position, our lobbyist needs to be aware of all statements made in the League's name. Never speak in the name of the League in opposition to the League's position.
League members are free to present any testimony they choose without prior approval when speaking as individuals for themselves only.
If you are preparing testimony for legislative hearings, remember to keep your presentation short, one double-spaced page is recommended, with a copy for each member of the committee and an extra one for the secretary of that committee. Remember that legislators receive reams of paper, and appreciate brevity. Include your name, address, and phone number when you can be reached.
Do your homework. Know more than you say in your testimony, in case you get asked . If you do get asked a question to which you do not know the answer, say you don't know, but you will find out and get back to the questioner. Then find out and get back!
Be polite. Be unfailingly polite. Do not argue. Remember that even if the person you are lobbying may not be receptive on one particular issue, on another issue that person may provide a needed vote in support of a League objective.
Testifying is not the only effective method of lobbying. Of great importance are the supporting letters, phone calls and e-mails sent by local League members. Often the most effective approach is to your own representative or senator. However, there are times when it appears likely that a legislator has an eye on a state office, and will be receptive to communications from other constituencies. When you write, remember that a hand-written post card is one of the best communication devices: it is brief and it can be waved around to show how many people cared enough to write.
One very effective method of lobbying is a personal visit by a constituent to a legislator. League Day at the Legislature, when local League members are encouraged to invite their representatives to a luncheon honoring our legislators, is a good opportunity to talk informally and let them know League members take the responsibilities of citizenship seriously.
Send a thank you for a supporting vote. Let your legislators know that you are paying attention to what they are doing. Good legislators are grateful for your appreciation; bad ones need to know someone is watching.
COALITION GUIDELINES (Adopted September 1992)
The following guidelines will be considered when the League decides whether or not to join a coalition:
1. The coalition's major issues should mesh with League positions, though there need not be a League position on every issue with which the coalition is concerned. The aims of the coalition must not conflict with League positions.
2. The major goals of the coalition should be in accord with the adopted Advocacy Agenda or Citizen Education priorities, or the goals should be ones the League expects to work in the future to achieve.
3. The coalition's activities should bring added effectiveness to the overall efforts to achieve the League's organization, advocacy or educational goals.
4. The members of the coalition should be organizations with which the League can work effectively. The League should have confidence in the leadership of the coalition and may serve in a leadership capacity.
5. Expenditures for work with the coalition (including staff and volunteer time, as well as cash and in-kind expenses) should be worth the investment.
6. The representative in a coalition shall be a state board member.
7. Joining a coalition should be a state board decision.
NONPARTISAN POLICY STATEMENT LWV of MONTANA (Adopted December 1993)
The League may take action on governmental measures and policies in the public interest. However, it shall not support or oppose any political party or any candidate. Recognizing that the League experience uniquely equips members for public life and wishing to encourage members to utilize their knowledge and abilities, non-board members are urged to participate fully in party activities (on an individual basis). Board members' activities must be limited to preserve the League's nonpartisan position. The president, the voter service director, and the action chairperson shall not run for or hold elective office. If one of these board members declares for an elective office, the member should resign from the board. Public notices released by the League announcing the resignation of a board member to run for political office should be carefully worded to avoid the appearance of endorsing the resigning board member's candidacy. Board members shall not chair or administer fundraising or political campaigns, chair campaign events, or work in a significant way in the campaign of a candidate. A board member may serve on any public advisory board, commission, committee, or coalition; however, that board member does not represent the League unless officially designated as a League representative by the League board. A board member may not speak or in any way work against a League position. The political activities of a spouse or relative of a board member are to be considered as separate and distinct from the activities of the board member.