As your representative, I will fight for human rights—from voting rights to trans rights to working towards dismantling the cruelties of the prison-industrial complex. I will also work to address what I see as four of the big, interconnected areas where Montana is failing to adequately help its residents: housing inequality, health care, infrastructure, and climate change.
In 2021, Montana saw a series of attacks on LGBTQ people, from a multitude of anti-trans legislation to a religious “right to discriminate” bill. To combat these attacks, we first need to elect more LGBTQ people to office. Having LGBTQ people in the room where the laws are being written helps shift the conversation to be more equitable and reduces the likelihood of harmful legislation arising. Additionally, we need to fight against any discriminatory bills that do appear, work to undo the harm that has already been done by past legislation, and look to take proactive measures by passing laws outlawing conversion therapy and ending the gay and trans panic defenses.
Voting is a fundamental right in our society, and it is a right that should not come with asterisks or caveats. Any attempts at voter suppression—whether that is in the form of voter ID laws, limiting same day voter registration, restricting ballot drop-offs—must be stopped. Voting is a core aspect of our democracy, and Montana’s legislature should work to eliminate barriers to voting and encourage all Montanans to participate in our democracy.
Lastly, while it is impossible for any singular law to fully address the racist thread that runs through the entirety of American history, it is the legislature’s job to take an anti-racist stance as it drafts its laws. This can come in the form of fighting against voter laws that disproportionately impact Indigenous communities and Tribal Nations, by looking for ways to reduce the harm caused by the prison-industrial complex, or by finding ways to give land back to the Indigenous communities it was stolen from.
When it comes to addressing the housing crisis, there are three areas of emphasis that need to be addressed. The first of which is landlord-tenant laws, which over the last several decades have been tilted further and further in the landlords’ favor. In a city like Missoula, where nearly half of its residents are renters, equitable landlord-tenant laws are the first step towards affordable housing. Secondly, policies need to be put in place to allow municipalities to build affordable housing. Policies like inclusionary zoning, while not a fix by themselves, are an important part of the toolkit when it comes to creating a comprehensive housing plan, and it is the legislature’s job to make sure municipalities have access to these tools and are encouraged to use them. Thirdly, laws restricting short-term rentals need to be considered, as increased housing inventory does no good if those homes are being purchased and rented out by people looking to make a profit.
Lastly, any housing plan also needs to address the needs of our homeless community members. The Montana legislature should look to support housing-first solutions that also increase access to medical and mental health services.
Whether it is an annual checkup, mental health care, or reproductive care, health care should be (1) affordable, (2) accessible, and (3) without stigma. The legislature must work to protect & expand health care access and coverage for all Montanans, as well as look to expand protections and reduce costs for people who are on employer insurance. Further, we must work to address the mental health crisis facing our youth—both through direct support for those with mental health needs, as well as through addressing many of the largest stressors of our contemporary society (climate crisis, housing inequality, erosion of human rights).
Additionally, in 2021 Montana passed several pieces of legislation limiting access to abortion. These are currently being challenged in the courts; however, it is the legislature's job to fight for abortion access for all Montanans who want an abortion, regardless of their reason. Abortion is health care, and like all health care, it is between a doctor and a patient. It is not the legislature’s job to interject or moralize someone’s decision to have an abortion.
Infrastructure matters because affordability does not inherently mean accessibility. The legislature must allocate budgetary dollars to ensure that our infrastructure is repaired where it is falling apart, bolstered where there is need, and set up to succeed for decades to come. This can come in the form of investing in roads, in public transportation (both within cities/towns, as well as across the state), or in working to increase internet access for all Montanans. Additionally, it is important for Montana to invest in renewable energy such as windfarms and solar, both to divest from our reliance on fossil fuels, as well as to increase jobs and establish a secure, climate friendly energy future for Montana. Regardless of which infrastructure proposals are being looked at, it is important to remember that our homes, our hospitals, and our schools are only as good as the infrastructure that allows us to access and utilize them.
We are in a climate crisis, and underpinning each and every policy decision, there needs to be an understanding of and an accounting for that climate crisis. There are positive solutions to be worked towards—promoting renewable energy, working to preserve and care for our public lands, improving infrastructure and public transportation across Montana, and working to promote smart growth within Montana’s cities. The list goes on. But the legislature cannot pass a single law combatting the climate crisis and consider its work done. Whether we are addressing housing inequality, health care, infrastructure, or any of the myriad of issues facing Montanans, if we are not accounting for the climate crisis in every decision we make, any victory will be short-lived, and it will be our planet and our future that will suffer.