Tester criticizes Postal Service execs for refusing lower pay

FEBRUARY 28, 2012

Senator questions executive salaries as Postal Service considers drastic cuts

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is taking the leaders of the U.S. Postal Service to task, demanding that executives be willing to cut their own salaries as they propose cuts to the nation’s mail service.

 

Tester said that if senior postal executives were willing to cut mail delivery standards and close rural post offices, they should also be willing to “forgo bonuses or reduce salary.”  

 

The Postal Service’s Board of Governors recently told Tester that cutting the salaries of its top employees would have a “chilling effect on the management of the organization.”  Although the Postal Service is struggling financially, the Postmaster General last year earned $800,000 in pay and benefits.

 

Tester responded by pointing out that the heads of both the Treasury and Defense departments – facing their own difficult challenges – earn much less than they might in the private sector.

 

“Civil servants, like the Postmaster General, have unique public responsibilities and sacrifices inherent to their positions,” Tester wrote the Postal Service’s Board of Governors.  “The reality is that many of our government’s senior leaders share this distinctive burden.  Public service is uniquely different [from the private sector] and the Postal Service must rise to meet that expectation.”

 

Tester also took issue with the Board of Governors for suggesting that the Postal Service is a “private enterprise whose operations should be dictated solely by the private marketplace.” 

 

‘The Postal Service is a public entity with unique service requirements that are critical to rural America,” Tester wrote.  “Yet the Service’s plans to erode service standards, close facilities and thus reduce its own effectiveness suggest that this public requirement is lost on the Board of Governors and senior executives of the Postal Service.”

 

The Postal Service in August announced plans to consider closing 85 Montana post offices, and more recently recommended consolidating mail processing facilities in Kalispell, Missoula, Helena, Butte, and Wolf Point.  Pressure from Tester and Montanans eventually convinced the Postal Service to keep Missoula’s facility open.  

 

Tester, a member of the Senate committee that oversees the U.S. Postal Service, said that he remains committed to reforming the Postal Service in a way that preserves the “public nature of the institution.”

 

Tester’s letter to Board of Governors’ Chairman Thurgood Marshall Jr. and Board Member Louis Giuliano is available below and online HERE.

 

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Rehberg, House Pass Legislation to Protect Private Property Rights

February 29, 2012
CONTACT: Jed Link, 202-225-3211

Rehberg Introduced Original 2005 Legislation To Correct Kelo v. City of New London Decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg,  joined House colleagues in passing H.R. 1433, the Private Property Rights Protection Act.  This badly needed legislation would correct a dangerous expansion of eminent domain authority by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case Kelo v. City of New London.  In that case, eminent domain was used to seize land for the purpose of economic development – not public use.  Rehberg introduced similar legislation in 2005 – the Private Property Protection Act (then H.R. 3083).

“There aren’t many things more important than property rights, especially in a state like Montana where the land plays such a big part in our day-to-day lives,” said Rehberg.  “In 2005, the Supreme Court made a dangerous decision to put property rights at risk by expanding the government’s authority to seize it by force.  In recent years, we’ve seen the federal government giving business cronies on Wall Street and K Street billions of dollars in tax payer bailouts.  Who’s to say handing over our private property isn’t next?  That’s why we needed this bill when I introduced similar language in 2005, and it’s why I hope the Senate acts quickly to get this to the President.”

In Kelo v. City of New London, the High Court ruled governments may seize homes, small businesses, and other private property to further economic development.  This is a significant expansion of the authority of eminent domain, which traditionally has been reserved for cases of public use and public welfare.

Among other things, the Private Property Rights Protection Act restricts the power of states or local governments that receive federal economic development funds to use eminent domain over property intended for economic development.  Essentially, it argues that the public benefit of economic development is not a sufficient public use to warrant the revocation of private property.

“Property was listed among the three unalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence – the document that shaped the very creation of our nation,” said Rehberg.

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BAUCUS: MONTANA POISED TO LEAD THE NATION TOWARD ENERGY SECURITY

February 28, 2012

***NEWS RELEASE***

Senator Responds to New Report, Highlights Montana Energy Development Opportunities

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus reaffirmed his call for Montana to lead the way toward the nation’s energy independence in response to new recommendations released today by a coalition of energy industry, environmental, state and labor leaders. The proposals came from a broad group of stakeholders, some of whom participated in Baucus’ 5th Montana Economic Development Summit where Baucus was instrumental in bringing some of the country’s foremost energy experts, including Energy Secretary Chu, to meet with Montana energy leaders and explore new ways to capture and develop the state’s vast energy resources, from wind to coal to oil and gas to biomass. Today’s recommendations are aimed at boosting domestic U.S. oil production while reducing the nation’s CO2 emissions.

 

“It’s a win-win for our outdoor heritage and for our energy future to look for ways to both develop more oil and get more carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.  Our economic development summits are designed to bring people together to come up with solutions for jobs and this is evidence that they work.  From a CO2 pipeline and injection project under development in the Bell Creek oil field in southeastern Montana to an innovative public-private carbon sequestration project in the Kevin Dome in Toole County, Montana is helping to lead the way. I look forward to working with members of this initiative to make the existing federal incentives work better to promote a safer, cleaner and more prosperous American economy,” said Baucus, who as Chairman of the Senate’s tax-writing committee helped author the carbon sequestration tax credit in 2008.  This incentive provides taxpayers up to $20 per ton to capture and permanently store carbon dioxide.

 

The Enhanced Oil Recovery Plan released by the National Enhanced Oil Recovery Initiative, the Great Plains Institute and the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions was welcomed with bipartisan support in Congress today.

 

Contact: Kate Downen 406-839-4713/Kathy Weber 406-329-7980/Jennifer Donohue 202-224-2651

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BAUCUS ASKS MONTANANS TO TESTIFY ON FARM BILL

February 28, 2012

 ***NEWS RELEASE***

Senator Looks to Montanans for Input on 2012 Farm Bill during Senate Agriculture Hearing

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Montana’s senior U.S. Senator Max Baucus called on Montana farmers and ranchers to share their insight into working lands conservation programs during a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on the 2012 Farm Bill today. As a senior member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Baucus is currently writing the next Farm Bill. During today’s hearing he asked Montana agriculture producers to work with him to improve the bill and share their ideas on how to make the bill’s conservation programs work better for ranchers and farmers.

 

“Montana farmers and ranchers are the original conservationists. They know best how to work the land and because they depend on the land, they have such a critical role in protecting our outdoor heritage and I am thankful that Carl was able to share a real boots on the ground perspective with the Committee today,” said Baucus. “As President Eisenhower once said, ‘Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from a corn field.’ That’s exactly why input from Montana farmers and ranchers is so critical in this process. I value their ideas and will keep looking to them to make the next Farm Bill as strong as it can be for good-paying agriculture jobs.”

 

Some of the key witnesses at today’s hearing enjoy Montana roots including:

 

  • Bruce Nelson, Farm Service Agency Administrator, a fourth-generation wheat farmer from Fort Benton, Montana and former Montana Farm Service Agency Executive Director
  • David White, Natural Resources Conservation Service Chief, who served as the State Conservationist in Montana from 2002 to 2008.
  • Carl Mattson, Mattson Farms, Chester, Mont.

 

During the hearing, Baucus also highlighted the work the Natural Resources Conservation Service and Montanans are doing to keep sage grouse off the Endangered Species list.  The Sage Grouse Initiative in Montana has paved the way to preserving sage-grouse habitat while increasing the sustainability of working ranches and farms across the West.  Chester farmer, Carl Mattson testified as to the importance of a grassroots, team-approach to conservation during the hearing. Audio/video clips are included below and a transcript is available online HERE.

 

AUDIO:

MP3 audio file: http://gp1d.senate.gov/sdmc/Baucus/022812_BAUCUS_1_AUDIO.mp3

 

VIDEO:

MPEG2 video files:

 

 

Contact: Kate Downen 406-839-4713/Kathy Weber 406-329-7980/Jennifer Donohue 202-224-2651

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Republican Senate Candidates Embrace GOP Culture War, Attack on Women’s Health Care

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 28, 2012
CONTACT: Matt Canter, (202) 485-3129

Republican Senate Candidates Embrace #GOPCultureWar, Attack on Women’s Health Care

Scott Brown, George Allen, Josh Mandel, Dennis Rehberg, & Dean Heller All On Defensive About Their Attacks On Women As Vote on Blunt-Brown Amendment Nears

Two weeks ago, national Republican interests groups and Republican candidates like Scott Brown and George Allen giddily attacked Democrats for supporting measures that protect access to contraception and other forms of health care  for women.  Now, these divisive Republican attacks against women are boomeranging, forcing Republican Senate candidates like Brown, Allen, Dennis Rehberg, Dean Heller and Josh Mandel to run for the hills, rather than explain why they are championing measures like the Blunt-Brown Amendment that would block access to basic health care services for women instead of measures that create jobs.

“The coordinated GOP attack on women and basic health care access shows independent voters that the Republican party is far more interested in advancing the divisive culture wars than working to create jobs and fix the economy,” said Matt Canter, spokesperson for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. “Republican powers that be and Republican Senate candidates are running on an anti-women agenda that puts common forms of contraception at risk and blocks access to non-controversial health care treatments for women across the country.  From a political perceptive we’ve seen this play out before in Senate races like Colorado in 2010 and the Personhood debate in Mississippi in 2011. Republicans are on the wrong side of this issue.”

Across the country, Republicans are hiding from their own attacks against Democratic candidates who support access to contraception and birth control.

Few places is this more apparent than in Massachusetts, where Scott Brown tried to attack his opponent Elizabeth Warren for wanting to provide access to contraception to women.  Brown fully embraced the extreme Senate measure that would allow any employer or insurance provider to take away coverage for contraception and basic health care services for any reason.   Now, Brown is being hit on all sides for the Blunt-Brown amendment in Massachusetts, with Bay State women, advocacy groups and pundits grilling Brown for supporting the extreme measure.

Even worse for Brown, he continues drive the issue home with Bay State voters by distorting Ted Kennedy’s record in a series of misleading radio ads.  The Kennedy family and Kennedy’s former aides are calling Brown’s bluff, demonstrating how Brown is distorting Kennedy’s record and calling him to take down the misleading ads.

In Virginia, George Allen is running into similar problems.  After touting in his support of Virginia “personhood” legislation just a few weeks ago and tying himself to the GOP’s war against contraception, Allen’s now drawing fire for campaigning on the legislation that would make certain kinds of contraception illegal instead of focusing on creating jobs. Allen even doubled down on the GOP culture war by calling for a national personhood policy. And just yesterday, Allen refused to denounce a Virginia measure that would force women to undergo an extremely invasive ultrasound, a procedure that experts say would meet the Virginia definition of rape, before they could terminate a pregnancy.

Other Republican Senate candidates are also embracing the #GOPCultureWar and attack on women’s health care.  Dennis Rehberg cosponsors the Brown-Blunt amendment, and Dean Heller has already taken on tremendous criticism for voting to cut Planned Parenthood and deny Nevada women access to basic, non-controversial health care treatments. And in Ohio, Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel is under scrutiny for supporting a “heartbeat bill,” which would make abortion against the law before most women would not even know they were pregnant. The law would have no exceptions if the pregnancy were the result of rape or incest.

“Whether it’s Scott Brown fighting for a bill that would allow employers to block health care coverage for women, George Allen’s legislation that would make some types of birth control illegal, or Josh Mandel’s support for the so-called “heart beat bill,” it’s obvious Republican Senate candidates want to push an extreme social agenda that hurts women rather than create jobs across America,” Canter added.

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Tester fighting for Montana’s wind industry

Senator joins bipartisan call for stable tax system to offer more certainty, create jobs

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing to extend the wind production tax credit to keep Montana’s wind industry growing and to create more jobs in the Big Sky State.

 

Montana’s wind power capacity was only a single megawatt in 2004, but now Montana wind energy companies generate nearly 400 megawatts of power. 

 

The wind industry’s recent growth, fueled in part by the tax credit, lowered the cost of wind power more than 90 percent.  Tester said extending the tax credit, which is set to expire at the end of the year, will enable wind companies to keep expanding and to make long-term business decisions. 

 

“The future of the American wind industry requires a stable tax environment in which to operate,” Tester wrote Senate leaders this week.  “Reauthorizing the wind production tax credit will provide the wind industry with the stability and predictability to plan for the future.”

 

The wind energy industry employs hundreds of Montanans, jobs that could be at risk if the credit expires.  According to the American Wind Energy Association, tens of thousands of Americans build wind turbines, wind towers, and other industry parts at 400 manufacturing facilities nationwide. 

 

“Failure to extend the production tax credit will weaken this growing manufacturing sector and destabilize an industry just before it completes its transformation to being cost competitive in the marketplace,” Tester wrote.

 

As President of the Montana State Senate, Tester was responsible for a state tax credit and a renewable portfolio standard that encouraged the development of wind energy in rural Montana and helped launch the state’s wind industry.

 

In November, Tester and Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), introduced a bipartisan bill that streamlines permitting for renewable energy projects on public lands.  The measure ensures that funds generated by energy development benefits states, counties, and various conservation efforts.

 

Tester’s bipartisan letter to Senate leadership is available online HERE.

 

-30-

 

Contact:          Andrea Helling or Dan Malessa – (202) 228-0371

 

 

 

DAINES ANNOUNCES FILING DAY EVENTS

Kicks Off Filing Day in Conrad, Where Montana Roots Began

BOZEMAN, Mont.__ Congressional Candidate Steve Daines formally announced his filing day events today, for Tuesday February 28th.  The day starts with a 9:00am filing announcement in Conrad Montana, the town Steve’s great-great-grandmother homesteaded to as a widow with 7 children.
 

Filing Day Schedule
Tuesday February 28th

9:00am – Kick off
Home Cafe – Conrad
408 1/2 S Main Street
 
1:00pm – Official Filing
State Capitol – Helena
Fan Window Area
 
5:30pm – Filing Day Rally
Hilton Garden Inn – Bozeman
Room – Larkspur A
 
Press welcome at all events.
 

Tester calls for reevaluation of security clearance policy

Senator wants fair treatment for service members who seek sexual assault counseling

 

(U.S. SENATE) – Senator Jon Tester is pushing to reevaluate the national security clearance process to protect service members who sought counseling for sexual trauma.

 

To acquire a security clearance, applicants must list whether they have received mental health counseling and if so allow an investigator access to their health records.  But Tester says service members should not have to disclose professional counseling they seek to cope with sexual trauma.

 

Studies show that more than 20 percent of servicewomen are sexually assaulted while serving in the military. 

 

Tester says the current screening policy discourages qualified service members from applying for important national security positions and discourages them from getting the counseling they need.

 

“Seeking care does not constitute a valid security concern, and it is not something that should be discouraged by the very nation they fought to defend,” Tester wrote. 

 

As of 2008, national security clearance applicants no longer have to list counseling for combat trauma on the security questionnaire, known as the SF 86.  The change was made to help reduce the stigma that often prevents service members from seeking care for combat stress.  Tester wants the same, fair treatment for individuals who seek help for sexual trauma.

 

“The current policy is a violation of privacy and being a victim of sexual assault should not preclude a service member from gaining or maintaining a security clearance,” Tester added.  “We can do better.”

 

Tester first looked into the issue after a veteran contacted him last year about it.  He also heard about the lifelong effects of combat and sexual trauma at a women veterans’ roundtable earlier this month in Billings.

 

There were as many as 19,000 instances of sexual assault in the military in 2010.  While most assaults occur against women, men are affected as well.

 

Tester announced in December that the VA would improve the accuracy and consistency of their disability claims process related to Military Sexual Trauma.  The VA’s action comes after Tester and Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told the VA further action was needed to improve the process.

 

Tester’s letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is available below and online HERE.

 

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February 23, 2012

 

 

The Honorable James R. Clapper, Jr.                                      The Honorable Leon Panetta

Director                                                                                   Secretary

National Intelligence                                                               Department of Defense

Office of the Director of National Intelligence                      1000 Defense Pentagon

Washington, DC 20511                                                          Washington, DC 20301-1000

 

Dear Director Clapper and Secretary Panetta:

 

Recently, Secretary Panetta expressed concern that as many as 19,000 instances of sexual assault occurred in the United States military last year.  Some studies have estimated that at least 20 percent of servicewomen and one percent of servicemen have been sexually assaulted while serving our country.  Undoubtedly, we must protect the survivors of these terrible crimes and do everything in our power to prevent such assaults from happening in the first place.  And we must be vigilant in ensuring our policies or practices do not unnecessarily further traumatize these men and women.

 

As you know, the Standard Form 86 (SF 86), Questionnaire for National Security Positions, is currently the document used by military personnel and government employees to apply for a Security Clearance.  Question 21 of that form asks whether applicants have consulted with a mental health professional or other health care provider about a mental health related condition.  If question 21 is answered in the affirmative, the applicant is directed to sign an authorization for release of medical information — allowing an investigator to get complete access to the individual’s file and to ask the survivor or relevant health care provider whatever questions he or she deems appropriate.

 

In 2008, combat trauma was excluded from such disclosure on question 21 of SF 86 to help remove the stigma of service members seeking mental health counseling.  Today, I strongly urge you to take steps to also exempt sexual assault-related mental health counseling because being a victim of sexual assault should not preclude a service member from gaining or maintaining a security clearance.  The current policy is a violation of privacy and creates a disincentive for service members to seek the mental health counseling they need.  We can do better.

 

I hope you take this request under consideration, and I look forward to finding resolution of this matter.  It would be a modest yet meaningful step for survivors of sexual assault.  At every opportunity, these survivors should be encouraged to seek the care and assistance they need.  Seeking this care does not constitute a valid security concern, and it is not something that should be discouraged by the very nation they fought to defend. 

 

Sincerely,

(s)

Jon Tester

Bullock: U.S. Supreme Court’s PPL Decision ‘Doesn’t Take Away’ Stream Access Rights

HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock released the following statement regarding Montana’s stream access laws in response to inquiries regarding the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on riverbed ownership in PPL Montana LLC v. Montana.

“Montana has some of the strongest stream access laws in the nation, preserving the ability of all Montanans to hunt, fish, float and recreate on public streams and rivers. This decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, while disappointing, doesn’t take away or affect that right.

“The ability to access public lands and rivers is an integral part of our heritage as Montanans – and something that I want my three kids and the next generation of Montanans to inherit. But hunting, fishing and recreating on public lands is about more than just our heritage – it’s about the economic viability of rural communities and small businesses. I will always fight for them.”

As an assistant attorney general, Bullock wrote the landmark opinion in 2000 which established stream access from publicly owned bridges. While previous attempts to codify that opinion into law had failed, large bipartisan majorities passed HB 190 in 2009. That legislation was written by then-Rep. Kendall Van Dyk, D-Billings, and supported by Bullock.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in PPL Montana LLC v. Montana has no impact to Montana’s stream access law. Montana’s access law says the public can recreate on any natural stream — irrespective of who owns the bed and banks — as long as that stream is capable of supporting recreation and as long as those using the stream do not go above the normal high-water marks where the banks are owned by private interests.

The ruling, issued this week, applies to the riverbeds immediately under the PPL dams in question and whether the state can or cannot charge rent for their use.

 

#

John Doran

Public Information Officer

Department of Justice

Office: (406) 444-9869

Cell: (406) 422-6894

jdoran@mt.gov

Rehberg Announces Call for Montana’s Young Artists to Submit Original Artwork for the 2012 Congressional Art Competition

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Montana’s Congressman, Denny Rehberg, today invited Montana high school students to submit their original artwork to Montana’s Congressional Art Competition for a chance to be displayed for a year in the halls of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

“Each year, the Congressional Art Competition presents a new opportunity for Montana’s young artists to be recognized and rewarded for their talents, which is important to an aspiring artist,” said Rehberg, Chairman of the Labor, House Heath and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “There’s something inspiring about growing up and living in Montana, with our great outdoor opportunities and rural values. I look forward to viewing the artwork and showing my colleagues Montana’s talent.”

Each spring, the House of Representatives holds the Congressional Art Competition to recognize the outstanding artwork of high school students from each congressional district by displaying their work for one year in the Cannon Tunnel in the U.S. Capitol. The well-traveled Cannon Tunnel connects the U.S. Capitol Building with the House Cannon Office Building. It is used by members of Congress on their way to vote as well as thousands of tourists from around the world every year. The grand prize winner and a guest will also be invited to a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Reception in Washington, D.C. in June.

The competition is open to all students enrolled in a Montana high school or home-school equivalent. All submissions are due by Friday, April 27, 2012.

The first runner-up’s entry will be displayed for the public in Rehberg’s Washington, D.C. office. For the past several years, Rehberg has used his Facebook page as a way to involve Montanans in the judging.  The artwork will be posted and fans will have the opportunity to vote for the finalists.  Further information, including official rules, guidelines, and instructions for submission, can be found online at http://rehberg.house.govunder the Art Competition heading in the Services tab or by clicking here.

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