Out West Roundup: Montana must rewrite transgender bathroom ballot description

Author: Associated Press - October 20, 2017 - Updated: October 27, 2017

In this Jan. 4, 2017 photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum greet the crowd at the governor's inauguration celebration in Bismarck, North Dakota. The former tech executive Burgum's Silicon Valley-styled approach to leading North Dakota government has sparked conflicts with longtime Republican power brokers. (Will Kincaid /The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)In this Jan. 4, 2017 photo, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and first lady Kathryn Helgaas Burgum greet the crowd at the governor’s inauguration celebration in Bismarck, North Dakota. The former tech executive Burgum’s Silicon Valley-styled approach to leading North Dakota government has sparked conflicts with longtime Republican power brokers. (Will Kincaid /The Bismarck Tribune via AP, File)


Montana must rewrite transgender bathroom ballot description

HELENA, Montana — The Montana Supreme Court ordered the state attorney general to rewrite ballot language for an initiative that would require people to use public restrooms and locker rooms designated for their gender at birth.

The court ruled in a challenge from the American Civil Liberties Union of Montana, saying the language did not include the initiative’s specific definition of “sex” and was otherwise vague.

The justices agreed with the ACLU that the ballot language does not specify that the law would apply to local government buildings and public education facilities and does not include how much it would cost them to comply.

It also isn’t clear in the language that people could sue the state for emotional or mental distress if they encounter a transgender person in a public bathroom and the facility had not taken reasonable steps to prevent it, the court said.

The conservative Montana Family Foundation has until June to gather nearly 26,000 signatures to get the initiative on the November 2018 ballot. State lawmakers rejected a proposed referendum on the issue this year.


Wyoming K-12 standards reviewed to add Native American education

CHEYENNE – Native Americans in Wyoming soon will receive more recognition in statewide K-12 education.

During the 2017 session, the Legislature passed Enrolled Act 119, which requires the Wyoming Department of Education and State Board of Education to update the state’s social studies standards to include Native American history, cultural heritage and contemporary contributions.

The bill also requires the two entities to update the standards in cooperation with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes.

Scotty Ratliff is a member of the State Board of Education and was the state’s first Native American legislator. He is a member of the Eastern Shoshone tribe.

“I think it’s something that is going to be really welcomed by the teaching world,” he said. “Over the course of my lifetime, I bet I’ve had literally hundreds of teachers ask for information.”

‘Move Cheyenne’ exploring rail, road options between Wyoming, Denver

CHEYENNE – The Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce is shifting its focus to transportation along the Interstate 25 corridor and the role it could play in economic development.

Move Cheyenne is an initiative to develop transportation solutions along I-25. Possibilities include rail and road options to facilitate travel that Chamber CEO Dale Steenbergen said would provide sustainable economic activity.

“It’s about transportation up and down the Front Range, and also east and west,” he said during the Chamber’s October luncheon on Friday. “There’s a lot of business between here and Denver. And that business can’t get done because you can’t get from Fort Collins to Longmont. So there’s a coalition that’s been working on that.”

Until the Move Cheyenne initiative began, the Chamber’s Wyoming Wranglers – advocating for increased federal funding in support of military missions in Cheyenne and the surrounding area – was the focus of its efforts in Washington, D.C. But during its most recent visit to the capital, conversations with congressional delegates and agencies looked at the importance of transportation, said Stephanie Joy Meisner-Maggard, chamber vice president.

New Mexico

Federal judge hears fight over New Mexico campaign contributions

ALBUQUERQUE — Attorneys for Republican Steve Pearce are seeking a preliminary injunction to tap nearly $1 million in political contributions he collected while in Congress to use in his gubernatorial run.

They argued during a hearing in federal court that New Mexico Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver, a Democrat, is misinterpreting a state law that limits campaign contributions and is effectively violating Pearce’s constitutional rights.

They say the transfer of funds between Pearce’s federal and state accounts should not be considered as an individual contribution. They also highlighted inconsistencies in the reporting law, which allows candidates running for offices within the state to transfer money from one account to another despite the limits.

Attorneys for the state denied that the defendants are treating Pearce differently due to his party affiliation.

Proposed New Mexico science standards omit global warming

SANTA FE — A proposed overhaul of New Mexico’s state science standards for public schools came under intense criticism this week at a packed public hearing in the state capital for omitting or deleting references to global warming, evolution and the age of the Earth.

Comments at the hearing overwhelmingly sided against state revisions to a set of standards developed by a consortium of states and the National Academy of Sciences. Of the 20 initial speakers, none backed the standards.

Public school teachers, state university faculty, Democratic Party officials and the science chairman for a school catering to local Native American students urged the Public Education Department, led by a recent appointee of Republican Gov. Susana Martinez, to throw out its proposed changes and adopt unedited standards.

“I am appalled that the state of New Mexico would choose to disregard research-based standards in place of politically motivated and scientifically inaccurate information. By excluding scientific facts, educators would be asked to purposefully obstruct preparation for college, careers,” said Melissa DeLaerentis, coordinator of a math and science learning center for Las Cruces Public Schools.

North Dakota

Governing in jeans: Burgum’s unique approach to North Dakota

BISMARCK, North Dakota — Tech executive-turned-governor Doug Burgum replaced his office desk chair with a wellness ball, assigned corporate titles to top subordinates and once wore jeans on the floor of the staid North Dakota Senate.

With a style reflective of Silicon Valley, the 61-year-old former Microsoft vice president bucked power brokers in his Republican Party to win the post leading the most conventional of state governments. In their latest of several conflicts, lawmakers are planning to sue Burgum over line-item vetoes they argue stepped too far onto their turf.

Such friction has been rare in North Dakota, so overwhelmingly Republican that Donald Trump carried it by 36 points last year. At the Capitol, the GOP controls more than 80 percent of both chambers.

“Republican legislators don’t want to be critical of a Republican governor, but I can safely say none of us have a working relationship with the governor,” said GOP Rep. Bob Martinson, who has worked with six other governors in his 45-year tenure, currently the longest in the state.

Burgum and lawmakers have also clashed over how much the governor could pay in staff bonuses as well as over upgrades to a new $5 million governor’s mansion. He volunteered to pay for such improvements as a skylight and heated garage floor out of his own pocket, but legislative leaders rejected the idea that Burgum should be able to influence the design decisions even if he bankrolls them.

In an interview, Burgum dismissed the suggestion of any tension with lawmakers, pointing to hundreds of bills they passed and he signed. He was particularly irked by the idea he has been less accessible than previous governors.

“Any time legislators ask for a meeting they get them,” Burgum said.

Associated Press

Associated Press