Victory at the Veterans Home
Mar 11 - The Montana House of Representatives, by a 59-31 vote, amended HB 2 to restore current state funding of the Montana Veterans’ Home and keep it open as a public institution. Thanks to everyone who helped MEA-MFT stop this bad idea.
This battle isn't over, though. HB 2 will be heard again Friday morning, March 18. The veterans Home will be discussed at that time. We don’t know what amendments will be proposed. Please contact the members of Senate Finance and Claims to ask them to support the Montana Veterans Home.
The quickest way to reach legislators is to call 444-4800. You can leave a message for 5 legislators at a time. Or you can e- mail them through the legislative e-mail system. Select Senate Finance & Claims Committee.
"Many people worked hard for the initial victory," said MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver. "Our members at the Veterans Home. Many veterans. MEA-MFT governance leaders in the Flathead and around the state. MEA-MFT member John Fleming. Our February 21 rally. All headquarters staff here in Helena.
"But I would be remiss not to especially acknowledge the work Terry Minow (MEA-MFT political director) and Bill Howell (MEA-MFT put into this effort. Without them, we would have lost."
From left: Robyn McKenzie, Anne Bullock, and Janis Johnson, MEA-MFT members at the Montana Veterans Home, are some of the 17 individuals who have gathered 2,371 signatures against closing the Vets Home, and they aren’t stopping!
The story made front page in the Lee newspapers across Montana. Here's an excerpt:
Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, said the proposal to save money by privatizing operation of the 114-year-old [Veterans] home was presented and approved without enough time for veterans and the public to weigh in.
“A lot of people gave a lot of blood, sweat and tears to protect our freedoms,” he said. “The way it was done in committee wasn’t a fair and accurate way. We owe our veterans more than just looking at this for a week.”
Every Republican from heavily Republican northwest Montana voted for the amendment to restore the home’s funding, as did all 32 Democrats and several other Republicans.
Among them was Rep. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, himself a military veteran.
“It’s pretty simple,” Ankney told fellow House members. “You don’t want to care for (veterans), as a taxpayer, then don’t send ’em.” Read the entire story.
MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver said, "Veterans deserve high quality care, and that is what is provided at Montana Veterans Home. The home is a five star facility because it provides appropriate staffing, excellent specialized services, and dedicated, qualified, experienced staff.
"To diminish care for our veterans, especially now when the United States is waging two wars, is just plain wrong."
Feaver said that the sponsor of the amendment to close and privatize the Home, Senator Dave Lewis (R-Helena), admitted that cost savings provided by the amendment would come through cuts in salaries and benefits.
"This mean-spirited plan cuts jobs and cuts wages for working people," Feaver said. "It will hurt the economy of the whole Flahead Valley. Do we want a race to the bottom in wages for working people? I don’t think so.”
Listen to radio news story.