Means Cleans LLC, 1965 Lakehills Dr #1, 304-430-9920, William Means, Service

Dan Wobig, 305 S 12th St W, 591-3617, Dan Wobig, service

Elite Garage Door Service and Repair, 3029 Stillwater Dr, 855-9390, Wes Wagner, service

Trident Construction, 423 Kuhlman Dr, 698-7821, Jeremy Austin, general contractors 

D Kerner Driver Services, 1706 Canary, 894-0743, Doug Kerner, service

Broadwater Lawn Care, 426 1/2 Broadwater Ave, 208-7008, David Carpenter,  service

Garney Companies Inc, 1700 Swift St, Kansas city, MO, 303-791-3600, Joel Heimbuck, general contractors 

La Taqueria, 923 12th Ave, Laurel, 702-0662, Miquel Hernandez, restaurants

Radius Contracting LLC, 3057 W Copper Ridge Loop, 855-0094, Thomas Hester, general contractors 

Huckleberry Hog, 423 Kuhlman Dr, 971-207-7373, Tina Larsen, restaurants

Holden Excavating LLC, 41 Centennial Rd, Columbus, 321-3040, Carson Holden, service

PCL Construction Inc, 1711 W Greentree Dr #201, Tempe, AZ, 602-799-3586, Scott Tweten, general contractors 

Creative Light Wellness, 4152 Iron Horse Trail, 876-3761, Shannon Johnson, service

Emeraldsky Creative, 501 S 44th St W #2310, 272-6205, Johnna Jablonski, retail sales

Guitron Construction LLC, 301 2nd Ave N, Greybull WY, 307-250-1876, Michel Omar/Lopez Guitron, general contractors 

Dragoon, 3920 Decathlon Pkwy, 855-5718, Aiden Hansen, roofing contractors

Susan Diekemper, 510 7th St W, 670-7331, Susan Diekemper, service

Mooer Power Digital Assets, 3238 Turnberry Circle, 939-1735, Brandon Mooer, Misc

Revtech LLC, 3125 Laredo Place, 519-9225, Alex Mares, general contractors 

Elements Massage, 3420 Central Ave, 245-5100, Corina Zackowski, solo practitioner

Duggins Creation Innovations, 2307 lake Elmo Dr, 940-5497, Trenton Duggins, general contractors 

Jagged Edge Yoga, 304 N 29th St, 690-8181, Dodi Hurd, service

BCC Enterprise LLC, 1509 Columbine Dr, 307-751-2883, Chelsea Wiley, service

Montana Dress Co LLC, 2814 2nd Ave N, 969-3777, Barbara Wells, retail sales

Nava Transportation, 143 Broadwater Ave, Sammy Nava, service station

Mt Beach Bum Designs, 304 N 29th St, 690-8181, Dodi Hurd, retail sales

OEM Tech LLC, 1346 Avenue E, 591-8182, Kee Sung Hamblin, service

4DLOCS Shades, 616 1/2 N 24th St, 561-0374, Darius Yellowtail, retail sales

Tracy Construction LLC, 2706 Buffalo Horn Dr, Laurel, 696-9349, general contractors

Dragon Egg Games Billings LLC, 2499 Gabel Rd #4, 702-1241, Fred Mooreier, retail sales

High Noon Vapor LLC, 3202 Henesta Dr Ste K, 839-2191, Daniel Michaelis, retail sales

BW Caring Corporation, 926 Main St Ste 18, Daron Brooker, service

Big Sky Detailing and Cleaning Services, 19 S 28th St, 969-1499, Noah Price, service

Topz Sandwich Co., 320 Main St, 969-1045, Tucker Veltkemp, restaurants

Steady Grinding Coffee House, 2376 Main St, 839-4895, KC Johnson, restaurants

Handcrafted Pride, 3900 Olympic Blvd N104, 200-1258, Emily Sullivan, retail sales

J&J Arborist, 116 Hugh Lillard Ln, Heron MT, 208-610-9014, Joshua Ray, service

Dust Bunny Cleaning, 1212 2nd St W, 200-1386, Keiland Hildebrandt, service

Mammoth Survey Co Inc, 3045 Tamico Dr, 208-4228, Zachary Hassler, service

Out of the Attic, 939 Wicks Ln, 208-5108, Kristie Boelter, retail sales

Custom Contractors Inc, 6830 Pinto Dr, Shepherd, 698-8767, Kevin Wold, general contractors

Austin Construction, 529 Eggebrecht Ln, 591-9806, Austin Specht, general contractors 

Evans Construction and Remodel, 1636 Augsburg Dr, 647-3810, James Evans, general contractors 

The Chariot Group Inc, 3120 Denali St Ste 1, Anchorage AK,  907-222-5300, Denise Thomas, service

Cannoli Bliss, 300 S 24th St W, 307-752-3581, Marissa Logan/Bliss Cannoli, restaurants

Jodie Bierbach, 2120 22nd St W, 697-1594, Jodie Bierbach, solo practitioner

Diamond Willow Creations, 1420 Avenue B, 561-4251, Raven Volkomener, retail sales

Mongrel Makeovers, 234 Alderson Ave, 598-6148, Tonya Oberg, service 

Monkey Rose Boutique LLC, 2120 Constellation Trl, 217-8163, Michaela Leinwand, retail sales

B-Euphoric Coaching LLC, 30 24th St W #201, 794-8385, Bri Burt, service

NO H2O LLC, 919 Lake Elmo Dr, 661-0518, Anna & Mark Yepez, service

Pettus Plumbing and Piping, 12647 Hwy 72 W, Rogerville AL, 256-389-9191, Tony Robertson/Grover Johnson, general contractors 

Ridgeway Esthetics, 2001 Rosebud Dr Ste D, 208-8411, Sara Ridgeway, service

Laurie Neubauer, 142 Avenue B, 661-2965, Laurie Neubauer, service

El Concrete Company, 327 Old Divide Rd, Roundup, 428-8040, Cary Olson, general contractors 

Michael Crowley, 1702 Dickie Rd Trl 5, 861-2810, Michael Crowley, general contractors 

Brothers Billiards, 1442 Main St, 855-0464, Todd Krum, retail sales

Parlour 406, 2701 1st Ave N Ste 200, 534-0647, Sonja Roy, service

Bauer’s Handyman Service, 5 Piccolo Ln, 702-6206, Phillip Bauer, general contractors

Heidi Betz, 127 S 12th St W, 591-0562, Heidi Betz, service

OPA Grill,907 Copper Valley Cir, 794-9771, Nicole Grovijahn & Brandon Raw, Restaurants

All State Sign Group, Inc., 5907 2nd Ave N, Great Falls, 899-1042, Raean Bilbey, service

Second Nature Consulting LLC, 1432 Teton Ave, 850-0461, Neil Kiner, architect

P Thomas Smith Counseling, 320 Nesting Pl, 647-3490, Thomas Smith, service

The Rice Shack, 21 S 26th St, 206-351-3664, Jeremy Eide, restaurants

Big Sky Lumber Import LLC, 3295 Granger Ave E, 861-6189, Vahid Haguerdiev, office only

TDS MetroCom LLC, 2621 Hoffman Ave #3, 608-516-1702, Doug Haselwander, service

Treasure State Air duct Cleaning LLC, 2925 Chapman Ln, 696-3656, William Jaksha, service

Holdem LLC, 3319 Rimrock Rd, 850-4331, Joshua Tolentino, service

Foldem LLC, 3319 Rimrock Rd, 850-4331, Joshua Tolentino, real estate rental

Jo Smith, 2215 Broadwater Ave, 672-3913, Jo Lynne Smith, solo practitioner

Old School Welding, 3032 Saddleback Trl, 690-9068, Joseph & Joseph Jr Malchuski, service

JR Fuller Construction LLC, 204 Foundation Ave, Laurel, 876-0262, Justin Fuller, general contractors 

Circle W Construction, 3950 Belmont Rd, 696-7487, Jeff Wickham, general contractors 

Kostelecky’s Painting Service, 573 Acorn Pl, 661-4272, Brandon Kostelecky, service

S&J Electric Inc, 2780 Fairgrounds Rd, 208-226-2450, Kyann Philips, electrical contractors

Michael Day, 1500 Poly Dr Ste 130, 969-1145, Michael Day, service

A Village Home Care, 100 N 27th St Ste 600-C, 413-8519, Maggie Houston, service

LI’s Foot massage and Foot Soak, 1915 Broadwater Ave, 200-7130, Li Yao, service

Breton Avenir Construction Services Inc, 14724 Pleasant Valley Rd, Chillicothe OH, 614-530-4723, Jeff Butler, general contractors 

Pro Communications LLC, 4513 RD 3 NE, Moses Lake WA, Paul Volkmar, service

The Bow Shop, 10 Miners Place Apt 2, 853-0150, Jarrett Gunther/Ridge Karr, service

Evedone Bookkeeping, 253 Windsor Cir S, 281-3068, Evelyn Amponsah, misc

Bailey & Sons Construction, 1232 Avenue D, 580-414-0083, Kenneth bailey, general contractors 

Backbone Builders, 2156 Pueblo Dr, 413-0724, Kellen Backbone, general contractors 

Masters Massage, 1124 16th St W Ste 6, 534-8760, Tracy Masters, solo practitioner

Educational Furnishings of Arizona LLC, 6913 W Buckeye Rd Ste 200, Phoenix AZ, 602-484-7331, Claudia Sillman, retail sales

Ashely Zubick, 4130 Buchanan Ave, 647-3689, Ashely Zubick, solo practitioner

Top Notch Independent Contractors, 580 Chinook Pl, 696-7703, Devin Miller, general contractors 

Blount Construction and Development Inc, 5646 Hesper Rd, 698-6170, Chris Blount, service 

Griffin Construction, 80 Stringari Ln, Belfry,  698-9550, William Griffin, general contractors 

Extravaganza Cleaning LLC, 4042 Chamberlain Dr, 561-9221, Tina Kester, service

Errol G Seiffert, 2823 6th Ave N 315, 647-4813, Errol Seiffert, service

Campfire Blend Coffee Co, 4152 Iron Horse Trl, 876-3761, Shannon Johnson, retail sales

Yellowstone Park hosted 938,845 recreation visits in June 2021, making it the park’s most-visited June on record. This is a 64% increase from June 2020 (573,205 recreational visits) and a 20% increase from June 2019 (781,853 recreation visits). So far in 2021, Yellowstone Park has hosted 1,587,998 recreation visits, up 17% from 2019. This year is compared to 2019 instead of 2020 because of COVID-19.  This list shows the year-to-date recreation visits thru June over the last few years: 2021 – 1,587,998; 2020 – 719,054; 2019 – 1,358,629; 2018 – 1,381,708; 2017 – 1,354,137; 2016 – 1,432,071

Kalispell City Council is considering a proposal to develop a city parking lot into a five-story hotel. The lot is located at Third St W and Main St. In addition to this proposal the developer could build a three story parking garage at First Avenue and First St W.

Demand for jet fuel by commercial airlines and firefighting aircraft in Montana and the Pacific Northwest led to departure problems and daylong flight delays recently at Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport. In recent days flights in and out of Fresno Yosemite International Airport were disrupted by jet fuel shortages blamed on the lack of tanker truck drivers.

Jewel Basin Center in Bigfork welcomed hundreds of pickleball players for the 2021 Crown of the Continent Tournament. The USA Pickleball sanctioned event was exclusively for the 50-plus age players. The event drew 243 players from two countries and more than a dozen states.

Justin and Debbie Blagg are the new owners of the Townsend/Canyon Ferry Lake KOA Journey to the KOA Family of Campgrounds. The campground is located at 81 Silos Road in Townsend. It has pull-through sites for recreational vehicles, seven cabins and four tent sites.

Two fly-fishing businesses in Craig have said the hoot-owl restrictions placed on 35 miles of the Missouri River between Holter Dam and Cascade will not impact their business too severely. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks has implemented the restrictions in which fishing is not allowed from 2 p.m. to midnight. These restrictions will remain in place until streamflow and water temperature conditions improve.

Whitefish Outfitters has opened a new store on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. The store offers equipment rentals, equipment sales and tours of the greater Whitefish area. Guides at Whitefish Outfitters give tours inside Glacier National Park or to lesser-known destinations outside the park.

Stephen M. Keim, Lt. Col. (Ret.) has been sworn in , as the Montana Selective Service State Director by the Agency’s Region III Director, Steven Kett, Col. (Ret). He was nominated by Governor Greg Gianforte and appointed by Acting Selective Service Director Craig Brown. Currently, Keim is a member of the Montana State University Police Department where he is the Safety and Security Manager for the Museum of the Rockies. Keim is a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel from the MTARNG, having 36 years of service.

Rebecca and Kirk Treece are the new owners of Minuteman Press franchise at 2100 South Avenue West in Missoula. They bought the independent printing business Advertiser Montana Printing and are now operating as a Minuteman Press franchise. Minuteman Press in Missoula is located at 2100 South Avenue West.

The Gallatin County Real Estate Market report from the Gallatin Realtors: The number of new listings increased 2.6% in June compared to last year, from 235 to 241. Pending sales were down 27.8%, from 227 to 164. The number of closed sales decreased 3.5% from 170 to 164. The average days on market decreased 57.1%, from 56 to 24. The median sales price increased 53.8%, from $456,325 to $702,000. Sellers received 102.4% of their list price, up from 98.4% last June. The inventory of available homes decreased 42.1%, from 373 to 216, while the months’ supply of inventory dropped 48.3%, from 2.9 to 1.5.  

Dümmen Orange presented a check in the amount of $80,000 to Yellowstone Forever, the official nonprofit partner of Yellowstone National Park. Earlier this year, Dümmen Orange teamed up with Yellowstone Forever to sell Yellowstone Petunias at Lowe’s and independent garden centers throughout North America. The special variety of petunias were created by Dümmen Orange to commemorate the world’s first national park, Yellowstone, which was established in 1872. Royalties from the sales of Yellowstone Petunias will support a variety of projects inside Yellowstone’s nearly 3,472 square miles of land.  

Billings Clinic is operating a new helicopter air ambulance service in Bozeman. This is an expansion of the Billings-based fixed wing MedFlight Air Ambulance service and provides an extension of critical lifesaving transportation throughout the region. “Having this service in Bozeman saves critical time for patients who need emergency medical transport to a higher level of care,” said Scott Ellner, DO, Billings Clinic CEO. The helicopter and flight team includes nurses, paramedics and pilots.

The Bureau of Reclamation is conducting an inspection of a fixed wheel gate at Hungry Horse Dam Aug. 2–13. The public may experience potential traffic delays during that time. Hungry Horse Dam is located off Highway 2 in Hungry Horse. “August is typically a busy month for the visitor center and surrounding area,” said Hungry Horse Field Manager Bill Dykes.

In Bozeman, Audrey’s Pizza Oven and Freefall Brewery reopened last week. After three years of renovations, Audrey’s Pizza’s new location is on North Seventh Avenue and West Aspen Street.  Audrey’s Pizza has been a staple in Bozeman since 1960 and Owner Steve Schlegel is thrilled to reopen and with the new Freefall Brewery inside too.  Audrey’s Pizza and Freefall Brewery also have a location in Billings at Rimrock Mall.

According to the National Association of Realtors, foreign buyers purchased $54.4 billion worth of U.S. existing homes from April 2020 through March 2021, a 27% decrease from the previous 12-month period and the fourth consecutive annual decline in foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate, according to a new report from the National Association of Realtors®. Foreign buyers purchased 107,000 properties, down 31% from the prior year, as the COVID-19 pandemic led to a strong global economic contraction and a decline in international tourist and business arrivals. The dollar and sales volumes are the lowest since 2011, when those figures were $66.4 billion and 210,800 properties, respectively. China, Canada, India, Mexico and the United Kingdom were the top five countries of origin by U.S. residential sales dollar volume. The annual dollar volume for foreign buyers from China, Canada and Mexico all dropped by at least 50%. The top U.S. destinations for foreign buyers were Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and New York.

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport announced that Alaska Airlines will introduce non-stop seasonal service to San Diego and San Francisco, California this winter.. The service will operate daily from December 16, 2021, to April 18, 2022. The new winter service is an expansion of the current existing summer routes at  alaskaair. com with fares starting as low as $89 from Bozeman. 

Dear Senator Tester

At the forefront of our recovery from the economic fallout caused by the COVID-19 pandemic is the Biden Administration’s $2 trillion-plus American jobs Plan. It’s an ambitious proposal meant to create jobs, strengthen infrastructure, and position the U.S. to compete globally – ultimately, putting Americans and our communities back on strong financial footing.

However, there are pieces of the President’s plan that, while well-intentioned, will ultimately prove detrimental to the financial well-being of small businesses and local communities across Montana and the rest of the nation. Specifically, increasing the corporate tax and the Global Intangible Low-Taxed Income (GILTI) rates. Under the tax plan, the Biden Administration has proposed increasing the corporate tax rate from 21% to a staggering 28% and the GILTI rates from 10.5% to an untenable 21%.

Of course, increasing taxes on America’s largest, multi-national companies is a tried -and-true talking point, but as organizations representing Montana’s bankers, businesses, and contractors, we know that in reality, corporations wouldn’t be the ones paying for these taxes.

Small businesses and their employees who are at the heartbeat of local communities would feel the largest impacts of these tax hikes whether it be via a direct tax or passthrough. In fact, history shows that workers bear between 75% and 100% of a corporate tax hike since it restricts businesses from increasing job growth and wages.

As a fierce advocate for Montana businesses and our economic recovery, it is imperative that you work with your colleagues in Washington to find less harmful solutions than tax hikes that have been proven time and time again to hurt the people they are meant to help. Saddling our businesses with extra tax burdens while attempting an economic recovery does not help get Montana’s workers, families and communities get back to their feet – it only knocks them back down.

Montana needs you to fight for smart policies in Congress – ones that both pull us out of the pandemic and put us on a path to recovery. We hope you will not compromise economic stability and advancement by raising corporate and GILTI taxes.

Cary Hegreberg, President and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association

Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana  Chamber of Commerce

David Smith, Executive Director of the Montana  Contractors Association

Joe Kola has joined Stockman Bank as market president of Stockman’s new bank scheduled for construction next year in Whitefish.  This new bank will be Stockman’s first in the Flathead Valley, and its 37th full-service banking location in Montana. Kola will oversee Stockman’s entrance into the market and supervise all phases of staffing, lending, operations, planning, and development of the Flathead market. 

Kola brings 22 years of banking experience to the position, serving most recently as market president for a multi-state bank in Kalispell. He started his career on the teller line while attending the University of Montana’s School of Business Administration, earning a bachelor’s degree in finance followed by an MBA. After college, he worked as a credit analyst, then as a commercial relationship manager, a commercial group manager, and finally as a market president. He has worked in Missoula, Whitefish, Jackson, Wyoming, and most recently in Kalispell.  Along the way, he attended Pacific Coast Banking School, graduating with honors, and completed Leadership Wyoming (Class of 2015). A Kalispell native, he returned “home” in 2019 from Wyoming.  His wife, Tracy, is also a Kalispell native and their twin boys will attend Glacier High School as freshmen this fall. 

 “We are excited to welcome Joe to the Stockman Bank family,” stated Jeremy Morgret, Chief of Branch Supervision for Stockman Bank. “His experience, and deep-rooted knowledge and understanding the Flathead Valley will be key for us as Stockman enters this new market.”

 “While Stockman already has many customers in the Flathead Valley, we look forward to serving more of our neighbors throughout this beautiful region of our state,” added Bill Coffee, CEO of Stockman Bank. “We will soon have a temporary banking office for Joe and his future team and will begin construction of a new state-of-the-art banking facility in Whitefish next year. We are confident our unique brand of Montana community banking will bring more options and a higher level of customer service to the Flathead Valley.”

The KLJ Solutions Holding Co., parent organization to KLJ Engineering LLC (KLJ), and its Board of Directors has announced Eric Michel, as the organization’s chief executive officer (CEO). Michel fills the gap left by previous CEO Barry Schuchard, who passed away in March of this year. “It’s really an exciting time at KLJ. Eric brings a combination of extensive industry experience and an enthusiasm for growth to this role,” said Dan Bayston, Vice Chair of the KLJ Solutions Holding Co. Board of Directors.  

Michel brings decades of construction, engineering, and leadership experience to the role. In joining the nearly 85-year-old company, he also brings enthusiasm for the firm and the industry, having previously spent time with the company as the Vice President of Energy and Natural Resources. He received a bachelor’s degree in electrical and electronics engineering from North Dakota State University. He will locate out of the company’s Saint Paul, Minn. office.

Janiel Olson recently joined RBC Wealth Management as a Financial Advisor. RBC Wealth Management financial advisors assist individual and corporate clients in selecting appropriate investments including stocks, taxable and tax-exempt bonds, options and mutual funds. They also assist clients with wealth plans, retirement plans and goals-based planning.  Janiel graduated from Montana State University Billings (MSUB) with a Bachelors in Business Management and Masters in Healthcare Administration and was a member of the MSUB basketball team.  Janiel was born and raised in Billings, where she now lives with her husband.   

Trade and tourism across the Canadian border is a very important part of Montana’s economy, which means the border closure over the past year has been greatly detrimental to our economy.

Governor Greg Gianforte, the governors of Idaho and North Dakota, and the premiers of two Canadian provinces have called on U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to immediately open the border between the two countries.

On Wednesday, July 21, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced it was extending its temporary restriction prohibiting non-essential cross-border travel from Canada through at least August 21.

In response, Gov. Gianforte, the governors of Idaho and North Dakota, and the premiers of Alberta and Saskatchewan urged Biden and Trudeau to work together to reach an agreement allowing for the immediate movement of citizens, goods, and tourists between the two nations.

“Our relationship is one built on mutual respect and friendship. As we continue to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and work together on joint initiatives to provide vaccinations to more and more of our citizens every day, the time has come to allow our citizens to move safely and securely across our shared border,” the leaders wrote in a letter to Biden and Trudeau.

Gov. Gianforte and Alberta Premier Jason Kenney have worked together to combat the pandemic. In addition to encouraging Montanans to get the free, safe, and effective COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Gianforte announced on May 7 that Montana and Alberta signed a Memorandum of Understanding whereby Montana would provide vaccines to Albertan commercial truck drivers and their families at a rest stop near Conrad, Montana. On May 20, the governor visited the vaccine clinic off I-15. Over the course of four weeks, Montana administered 1,235 vaccine doses at the clinic.

The U.S. governors and Canadian premiers concluded their letter to Biden and Trudeau, writing, “Our two nations, and the states and provinces along our shared border, have a long history of secure, safe and free flow of goods and services across the border, as well as citizens traveling between our countries for business, shopping and tourism. We request our federal governments return to this symbol of friendship once again by securely opening the northern border.”

Governor Gianforte signed the joint letter with Idaho Governor Brad Little, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum, Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, and Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe.

The Center Square

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell tried to calm lawmakers’ fears about rising inflation but also said it would probably remain elevated for months to come.

Testifying before Congress, Powell said the Federal Reserve was willing to step in to address the situation, but that inflation should level out next year.

“As always, in assessing the appropriate stance of monetary policy, we will continue to monitor the implications of incoming information for the economic outlook and would be prepared to adjust the stance of monetary policy as appropriate if we saw signs that the path of inflation or longer-term inflation expectations were moving materially and persistently beyond levels consistent with our goal,” Powell said in his prepared testimony.

“In addition, we are continuing to increase our holdings of Treasury securities and agency mortgage backed securities at least at their current pace until substantial further progress has been made toward our maximum-employment and price-stability goals,” he added. “These purchases have materially eased financial conditions and are providing substantial support to the economy.”

Powell’s testimony comes on the heels of troubling news of a major spike in inflation. The Bureau of Labor Statistics released federal data showing the largest one-month spike in consumer prices in more than a decade.

“The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) increased 0.9 percent in June on a seasonally adjusted basis after rising 0.6 percent in May…” BLS said. “This was the largest 1-month change since June 2008 when the index rose 1.0 percent. Over the last 12 months, the all items index increased 5.4 percent before seasonal adjustment; this was the largest 12-month increase since a 5.4-percent increase for the period ending August 2008.”

That data was the latest in months of troubling economic reports that drove lawmakers to press Powell. Despite Powell’s push for calm, many Republicans were not convinced.

“Democrats’ socialist stimulus is already causing skyrocketing inflation and trillions more in wasteful spending would only make it worse,” Mike Berg of the National Republican Congressional Committee said.

Inflation, though, is not the only economic indicator worrying economists. Elevated unemployment despite widespread job availability has led Republican governors around the country to push back against supplemental federal unemployment benefits passed by Congress earlier this year. The payments, $300 weekly on top of state unemployment benefits, have made it easier to stay at home than return to the workforce, according to Republicans.

The Senate, the upper house of Czech parliament, has approved the right to use arms to defend oneself and others under legal conditions to be embedded in the constitution as a reaction to the EU’s pro-regulatory stance on firearms acquisition and possession.

The amendment comes as a reaction to a petition signed by 102,000 people, including a number of top elected officials. It was launched by hunters and other arms owners in reaction to the European Commission’s effort to limit the possession of arms, including legally possessed ones.

This right was included in the Senate-proposed amendment to the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the constitution. Senators, therefore, passed the amendment as expected.

Based on the amendment, the Charter of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms will include a new article saying that ‘the right to defend one’s own life or the life of another person even with the use of a weapon is guaranteed under the conditions set by the law.’

According to the authors of the bill, this constitutional change will prevent the right to bear arms from being restricted by common law and will strengthen the position of the Czech Republic in the debates on further EU regulations.

Now President Milos Zeman must sign it into law. The president cannot veto a constitutional bill against common pieces of legislation.

Every year billions of dollars go up in smoke as the West battles forest fires. Every year that’s between $10 billion and $20 billion federal dollars.

A recent issue of PERC Reports claims that such losses are unnecessary and the reason it’s so high is a mix of perverse incentives for property owners and local governments, complicated regulations, overlapping bureaucracies, ineffective strategies that continue to get funding, and poor policies.

“Wildfires are getting bigger and more devastating, and muddled incentives are making a bad situation worse. The root of the problem is the idea that the federal government will show up virtually anywhere, anytime, to ty to put out wildfires, regardless of the cost or effort required,” states the article “When the Government Makes Wildfires Worse,” written by Tate Watkins, a fellow at PERC (Property and Environment Research).

PERC is a Bozeman-based think tank founded in 1980, which focuses on property rights, markets and innovation to encourage environmental stewardship.

Watkins makes the point that “government wildfire policy often seems to promise the wrong kind of help, given how much of the spending aimed at putting out large fires is ineffective. Even if there’s been little appetite to reform the blank check approach to fighting wildfires, various private actors are taking matters into their own hands, from companies providing insurers with sophisticated risk models, to financial innovators decreasing the likelihood of catastrophic fires breaking out in forests, to individual residents deciding to make their homes more firewise.”

PERC advocates for regulatory reforms and for other innovative approaches that would expand and expedite forest restoration and reduce fire risks.

Bureaucratic obstacles need to be “flattened,” and communities need to be better positioned to invest in forest management themselves, the article recommends.

Wildfires have become such a problem, even political adversaries like Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif) and Steve Daines (R-Mont.) have reached across the aisle to get more done to proactively manage forests. They have co-sponsored a bill to speed up efforts to decrease fire risks such as prescribed burns and mechanical thinning.  Their aim is to streamline such requirements and cut red tape that the Endangered Species Act sometimes imposes.

Federal spending in fighting wildfires has doubled over the past decade and grown fivefold since the late 1990s. Unrestrained spending is a philosophy that signals to residents that its “perfectly fine to build and live in fire-prone areas.” It encourages high-risk choices increasing the potential for catastrophe.

For over 50 years there has emerged a philosophy, including that of the federal government, that all forest fires should be put out no matter what— not always a good policy. “….fire is often a positive force…” Fire is sometimes necessary for some species to rejuvenate.  Timber owners in the Southeast have understood this fact and have routinely carried out controlled burns as part of managing their timber.  But states the article, “Decades of suppression have left many western forests choked with dense stands of small-diameter trees, underbrush, and other growth,” contributing to high fire risks in the West and “partially accounts for why wildfires in the west are getting worse over time.”

Before 2000, wildfires destroyed a few hundred structures in the US each year. From 2000 to 2010 that rose to between 3000 and 4000 structures annually. In 2018 nearly 25,000 structures burned.

Economic damage has been surging year after year – now totaling between $10 billion to $20 billion annually.  In 2020 fires in the West – especially California, Oregon, Colorado and Washington, killed 47 people and cost $3.6 billion in suppression efforts and caused $16 billion in damages.

Fires are no longer considered a seasonal issue, but a concern year round.

The biggest reason for an increase in fires is that people are building more homes in “harm’s way.” They encroach more and more into areas at greater risk. By 2010, “wild-land-urban interface” areas had more than 43 million homes in it. The expansion doesn’t just put more property at risk but the human activity increases the risk of fires.

PERC economists – Dean Lueck, Indiana University and Jonathan Yoder, Washington State University —  report that the “federal government has essentially had a ‘blank check’ to suppress wildfires since the 1908 Forest Fires Emergency Act. They describe wildfire fighting today as a ‘highly structured, hierarchical, military style’ effort.”

“This network comprises a bewildering array of laws, policies, and contracts that crate a complicated mix of incentives and outcomes,” they claim, which result in inefficiencies in the system that often make suppression efforts ineffective.

For example, tanker drops of fire retardants have little effect on large fires, as do “backfires,” but still the tactics continue to be funded. In many cases, the cost of suppression far exceeds the value of the protected resources.

The situation is one in which, “…Homeowners don’t pay for the government’s all-out efforts to put out fires and protect their lives and property; tens of millions of taxpayers do.”

“Prices contain information,” states the article.    

The government’s expenditures are “implicit subsidies to property owners,” which can be more than 20 percent of a home’s value. “In Montana and Idaho, the subsidies exceed the total value of the federal transfers to those states for the Temporary Assistance for Needy families program.”

The subsidies also undermine incentives for property owners to take preventive actions such as reducing undergrowth that fuels fires or to use fire resistant building materials or for local governments to enforce codes for defensible space regulations. They likened the policies regarding wildfire to those created by federal flood insurance.

The government’s policies create “distorted incentives.” They reduce the cost of insurance premiums for home owners, who if they had to pay the cost for the real risks, might find their choices less affordable and less desirable.

It was further pointed out that most of the subsidy benefits do not fall to low income citizens but they actually subsidize the high income.

The significance of “price signals” are lost on California, where in 2018 the state legislature prohibited insurance companies from cancelling or refusing to renew policies for up to a year after a wildfire emergency. “Choosing to risk having your home destroyed by a wildfire is one thing. But other policy holders or even taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize you to take that risk,” states the article.

 Recommendations made by Lueck and Yoder includes two reforms: one, to let more fires burn more widely, especially in areas where few structures are at risk and to concentrate resources on protecting life and property… and two, to set funding at a base level and to let agencies “bank” unspent funds from year to year, which would encourage homeowners and insurers rather than “far-flung taxpayers” to foot the bill and support incentives to make better decisions.

Other actions that could be taken to try to reverse the situation is to reduce ignition risk and to limit the intensity of wildfires when they do break out, such as prescribed burns and selective harvesting.

The author concedes that there are often much political and environmental opposition to such efforts and “when they do get off the ground bureaucratic and legal obstacles often limit their scope.”