Out West Roundup: Montana mandates ‘net neutrality’ for state contracts

Author: Associated Press - February 2, 2018 - Updated: March 28, 2018

In this Sept. 7, 2017, file photo, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock speaks before a U.S. Senate committee Capitol Hill in Washington. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File )


Montana mandates ‘net neutrality’ for state contracts

BILLINGS, Montana — Montana last week became the first state to bar telecommunications companies from receiving state contracts if they interfere with internet traffic or favor higher-paying sites or apps, under an order from Gov. Steve Bullock intended to protect so-called net neutrality.

The Democratic governor’s order comes after the Federal Communications Commission last month repealed rules enacted in 2015 that had more tightly regulated companies such as AT&T and Verizon.

Commission members said the repeal was needed to ensure the government maintains a “light touch” in its oversight of the internet. But critics such as Bullock contend change will hurt consumers and make it harder for startup companies to enter the market.

“There has been a lot of talk around the country about how to respond to the recent decision,” Bullock said in announcing his order before a group of computer science students in Helena. “It’s time to actually do something about it.”

Bullock is the first governor to take action, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

His order applies to any company seeking a new state contract for telecommunications services after July 1. At that time, in order to receive a state contract companies must not “unreasonably interfere” with Montana internet users’ ability to access the content of their choice. That includes giving preference to websites that pay more to internet providers.

Terms of existing telecommunications contracts with the state — worth about $50 million annually — would not be changed, Bullock spokeswoman Marissa Perry said.

It was not immediately clear if Bullock’s order could face a legal challenge for being out of step with the FCC plan.

The FCC repeal — expected to go into effect this spring — pre-empted states and cities from imposing rules that contradict its own plan.

Perry said Bullock had latitude on the issue because his order applies only to state contracts and the terms by which Montana, as a consumer, wants to buy internet services

New Mexico

Democrats eye lifting New Mexico’s $50M film spending cap

SANTA FE — Democratic state lawmakers want to eliminate New Mexico’s annual $50 million cap on film incentive spending but the future of the proposal is unclear amid Republican opposition.

The bill which would eliminate a cap on incentives is moving through the New Mexico House and comes after state officials reported the film and television industry contributed more than a half-billion dollars to New Mexico’s economy in 2016.

Rep. Antonio “Moe” Maestas, an Albuquerque Democrat and sponsor of the bill, said outside of Los Angeles and New York, the state of New Mexico is one of the top film producers in the country. “It’s time to remove the cap and the disincentives that it places on economic development and film production here in New Mexico,” Maestas said.

Rep. Bill McCamley, a Las Cruces Democrat, said there was a direct correlation between the money the state spent on incentives and the return it got.

Some critics of the cap fear it could lead productions to pass by New Mexico for other states.

But Rep. Rebecca Dow, a Truth or Consequences Republican, said she sees the tax credit as going to some of the wealthiest people in the world and seemed to be playing favoritism. “I’m trying to understand why a certain industry should be such a winner,” she said.

Data from the New Mexico Film Office show film and television productions contributed $505 million to the state’s economy in 2016. That included 61 major productions.

SOS: New Mexico lawmakers’ ‘donate’ button on websites legal

ALBUQUERQUE  — New Mexico state lawmakers aren’t supposed to raise money or campaign while they are in legislative session.

But the New Mexico secretary of state’s office said this week nothing in the state’s campaign finance laws prevents them from having a “donate” button on their campaign websites.

New Mexico secretary of state spokesman Joey Keefe says the state law doesn’t bar state lawmakers from having the “donate” button where supporters can actively give money to a campaign. But he says those lawmakers can’t send out emails asking people to visit their websites to donate.

Keefe says Secretary of State Maggie Toulouse Oliver encourages state lawmakers to remove the donate buttons as a “best practice.”

A number of state lawmakers are running for other offices.

South Dakota

South Dakota could become first state to repeal Marsy’s Law

PIERRE, South Dakota — Some South Dakota legislators want to repeal a voter-approved constitutional “bill of rights” for crime victims, citing unintended consequences like high costs to counties and protections they say have actually hampered investigations.

South Dakota is the first state to seek to repeal “Marsy’s Law” of the six that have enacted it, said Gail Gitcho, a spokeswoman for Marsy’s Law for All. Montana’s Supreme Court recently tossed the constitutional amendment that voters approved in 2016, citing flaws in how it was written.

It’s named after California college student Marsalee “Marsy” Nicholas, who was stalked and killed in 1983 by an ex-boyfriend. It has restricted access to some victim information and guarantees victims or their families will be notified about such things as court dates and a perpetrator’s release.

South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson said last week that lawmakers would be seeking to strengthen victims’ rights provisions already in state law before asking voters to repeal the Marsy’s Law constitutional amendment they passed in 2016.

The measure has been approved by voters in California, Ohio, Illinois, Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.


Navajo Nation to open first tribal police academy

The Navajo Nation will train its own police officers at its new Navajo Nation Police Academy.

Navajo Nation Public Safety Director Jesse Delmar says no other tribe has its own police academy.

Delmar says the Navajo Nation Police hired 20 recruits last week who will be trained in Chinle, Arizona.

They could begin training as soon as February.

The Gallup Independent reports the Navajo academy will use curriculum based off of the Arizona Peace Officers Standards and Training curriculum.

Navajo Nation Police Chief Phillip Francisco says in the past, recruits have been trained at Arizona State Police academics.

He says being far from their families for about four months took a toll on the recruits.


Law enforcement officials push harsher penalties for eluding

CHEYENNE – In the wake of several recent high-speed chases with law enforcement in Laramie County, local and state officials are pushing for stricter penalties for people who flee from the police.

Officials from the Cheyenne Police Department and Wyoming Highway Patrol are urging state lawmakers to pass a provision that would add stricter penalties for “eluding” – or fleeing – from the police.

But some worry that enhanced penalties will serve more as a tough-on-crime statement than an actual deterrent.

Under current Wyoming law, eluding is a misdemeanor punishable by a maximum of six months in jail and/or a $750 fine. But a host of other states have adopted enhanced, felony penalties for more serious versions of the offense.

In Colorado, for example, so-called “vehicular eluding” carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and/or a $2,000 fine, with harsher penalties if people are injured or killed during the pursuit.

Wyoming Highway Patrol Administrator Col. Kebin Haller said those statutes could go a long way toward keeping the public safer on the road.

“It’s certainly an intentional act to cross the median, say, on the interstate and drive head-on into traffic,” he said.

Sabrina King, policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union, urged the Legislature to consider whether passing such laws would actually deter people from committing more crimes.

“If this is an increasing problem, we should be asking why and not just throwing a felony at the wall and hoping that it sticks,” she said.

Cheyenne Police Department spokesman Officer Kevin Malatesta said that while a new provision wouldn’t shut down such pursuits overnight, it would give law enforcement another tool to protect the public.

“Our hope with a law such as this is that it would deter the action to begin with – we wouldn’t need to be having the pursuits as often,” he said. “Hopefully it would make people think twice before they run from us.”

Associated Press

Associated Press