Montana’s House District 33 includes northeastern Hill County from North Havre to Wild Horse, northern Blaine County, northern Phillips County, and western Valley County including the western half of the city of Glasgow.
Incumbent Republican Casey Knudsen is seeking his third two-year term in the June 2 primary. He is opposed by Joyce Stone of Glasgow.
Ballots will be mailed out this week.
The district is heavily Republican. The Democrats failed to nominate a candidate for the seat.
Joyce Stone background: I am a registered nurse and a board-certified emergency room nurse. I received my degree from Montana State University in Bozeman and started practicing at Billings Clinic before moving up to the Hi-Line to marry the love of my life, Ryan. We have four amazing adult children and a couple of grand-dogs. I am a breast cancer survivor. Cancer changed my life more than just physically, and from my experience I’m a better nurse and a better human.
Casey Knudsen background: Knudsen, 29, is seeking his third term in the Montana House, where he is vice chairman of the Agriculture Committee. He is a graduate of Malta High School and Montana State University. He serves in the Malta Fire Department and the Phillips County Ambulance Service. He is a member of the Montana Stockgrowers Association and the Montana Farm Bureau.
The Havre Herald: What do you think Helena and the state government can do to help the communities in your district? What kind of legislation would improve life in your area?
Stone: Northeast Montana exists! We have amazing communities that contribute to the income of the state, yet we see a disproportionate amount of the monies being spent between eastern and western Montana. As your legislator, I’m willing to work hard to ensure our communities aren’t forgotten at the discussion table.
Knudsen: I believe the biggest issues state government can focus on are, number one, preserving the individual freedoms we have and hold dear as Montanans. And two, building a business climate that not only welcomes new businesses into the state but encourages the growth and prosperity of the businesses already established. A flourishing business environment creates prosperity all around, and as a state, we very much need to improve ours.
The U.S. Supreme Court could be on the verge of overturning Roe vs. Wade. If it does, the state will be in charge of determining rules for abortions in Montana. What limits should be placed on abortions in the state? Age limits, parental consent, time limits, or total prohibition?
Stone: Reducing abortion is important. The rate of abortion is the lowest it’s ever been since 1972. The reason is largely due to increased access to birth control and increased sex education. I support legislation that has a data-driven and substantive effect on lowering the number of abortions in the state of Montana.
Knudsen: Abortion should, at the bare minimum, be limited to before a child is capable of feeling pain, which is a policy I have voted for in past sessions. Parental consent is a complex issue, as there is a host of circumstances that could make parental consent impossible, such as child sexual abuse. I do believe there should be an age limit up to which parents would be informed or parental consent is required, but the specifics would have to be thoroughly investigated as to not create more problems than we are trying to fix.
What are your views on Medicaid expansion for people near the poverty level? Should the program be continued?
Stone: The impoverished are the first folks who should be provided with access to health care. Access to health care improves outcomes and allows the impoverished the opportunity to climb out of poverty by eliminating job loss and absence due to poor health. Legislative parameters that require accountability rather than providing a no-strings-attached handout help ensure those who need it most can obtain the benefit.
Knudsen: I believe one of the hallmarks of a civilized society is taking care of those who cannot take care of themselves, and in that way Medicaid is fairly effective. Where Montana’s expanded Medicaid program falls short is with making sure the people who are using it actually need the service. The expanded Medicaid program has far too much room for fraud and abuse, such as the work requirements included in the bill voted on last session being completely unenforceable. If we are going to spend tax dollars on these state programs, they should be watched closely.
Should Montana replace its income tax with a sales tax?
Stone: No. Montana does need to find a way for out-of-state travelers to help pay for our local infrastructure. I don’t believe Montanans should bear the financial burden for the use of infrastructure by non-residents.
Knudsen: No, I do not believe the Legislature should replace the income tax with a sales tax. A common misconception is that Montana does not have sales tax, which is incorrect. We have the gas tax, the hotel bed tax, liquor tax, tobacco tax, hospital tax, rental vehicle tax, and others. This does not include the municipalities that charge a “resort tax,” a sales tax on most goods within their city limits. These are all sales taxes, placed on products which the buyer pays at the time of purchase.
How do you think the state government has handled the coronavirus pandemic so far? And how do you think we should handle it going into the future?
Stone: The Legislature ensured an adequate rainy-day fund was available for this crisis. However, those funds will be depleted shortly. That’s why it’s critically important that fiscal constraint is used in the upcoming legislative session, to ensure accountability to the taxpayers and return of those reserve dollars we have been able to use.
Knudsen: I do not agree with the governor choosing the winning and losing businesses during this outbreak. There is no rational reason that Costco was allowed to have a store full of people, or a large firm continuing operations as normal with a large amount of employees in the building, while a small-business restaurant or casino couldn’t operate even if abiding by the strictest health codes and social distancing guidelines, especially in areas like ours that have extremely limited cases [of COVID-19], if any. In the future, we should focus on getting business back to normal as fast as safely possible, because having the government continuously cut checks to every citizen is not the answer.
What other ideas do you have for the coming session of the Montana Legislature? What issues would you like to tackle?
Stone: The COVID-19 crisis and economic impact will take front and center stage in the 2021 session. There are going to be tough budget choices to make. My focus will be on representing the people of northeast Montana and supporting the Montana way of life.
Knudsen: My number one goal is to protect our individual freedoms. We as a constituency have allowed our rights to be continuously and methodically restricted for far, far too long, and I promise I will do everything in my power to make sure each and every person can live their lives as they please, without harming other persons or property. Calvin Coolidge once said, “It is more important to kill bad bills than pass good ones,” and I believe that wholeheartedly. We have enough laws governing each and every aspect of our everyday lives; we do not need more.
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Write to John Kelleher at [email protected]