By Kim Jarrett, The Center Square

A proposed long-term care staffing rule from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services would not improve care but would force nursing homes to close, 14 Republican governors said in a letter to CMS.

The rule changes would require long-term care facilities to conduct a facility assessment that includes a staffing plan within 60 days of the rule’s implementation. The second phase of the rule mandates a registered nurse must be onsite 24 hours a day.

The final element of the rule would require a registered nurse on site for 0.55 hours per resident day and nurses aides onsite for 2.45 hours per resident. It would be implemented three years after the final rule is published.

The governors, including Gov. Greg Gianforte, said the rule would lead to a crisis in the long-term care industry.

“America’s long-term care industry is facing a full-fledged workforce crisis, hitting lows not seen since 1994,” the governors said in the letter. “Between February 2020 and December 2022, facilities lost more than 200,000 workers, and industry observers view long-term care as among the hardest hit sectors in healthcare that has still not recovered from the COVID-19 pandemic. Such challenges are especially acute in rural areas. Despite this, the CMS requirements would force over 80% of facilities nationwide to hire more staff at a time when workers, particularly RNs, have never been scarcer.”

The requirements could force nursing homes to close, they said.

The Iowa Health Care Association agrees. Twenty-seven nursing homes have closed in Iowa since 2022, according to the association, which represents 318 nursing homes and other long-term care facilities across the state.

“The CMS rule issued today to enforce the Administration’s proposed mandate will needlessly exacerbate the extraordinary health care workforce crisis, tear at the fabric of our rural communities, and threaten access to long-term care services for Iowans who depend on those services to meet their most basic human needs,” said IHCA president and CEO Brent Willett the day the rule was released. “Today’s rule, if allowed to stand, will result in further closures, introducing needless trauma into the lives of residents and preventing access to care for rural Iowans who deserve it.”

The letter is signed by the governors of Iowa, Nebraska, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.

Commercial

West Grand Retail Partners LLC/ Fabricon LLC, 1335 Golden Valley Cir, Com Addition, $88,000

Lordwith LLC/ Harley Construction, LLC, 427 Lordwith Dr, Com Addition, $13,000

Laighton D Jones Dental Proper/ Jones Construction, Inc, 502 Wicks Ln, Com New Other, $2,500,000

City Of Billings – Parks Dept/ Creekside Construction Of Montana LLC, 2005 6th Ave N, Com New Other, $210,710

Albertsons Companies/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 670 Main St, Com New Parking Lot/Non- Building Structure, $110,000

Step Inc/ Edgewater Construction LLC, 1437 Wyoming Ave, Com Remodel, $9,000

Miguel Murillo/ Jones Construction, Inc, 2212 Grant Rd, Com Remodel, $166,000

Shiloh Crossing Partners LLC/ Jones Construction, Inc, 820 Shiloh Crossing Blvd, Com Remodel, $280,000

Fischer And Erwin/ Dynamic Construction Solutions LLC, 2324 Rehberg Ln, Com Remodel, $214,400

Lordwith LLC /Dynamic Construction Solutions LLC, 421 Lordwith Dr, Com Remodel, $280,000

Olson, Grant A & Bethany J/ Miller Construction & Remodel LLC, 1826 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $15,000

Better Billings Foundation/ Langlas & Assoc., Inc., 543 Aronson Ave, Com Addition, $1,000,000

Rocky Plaza Association/ Yellowstone Electric Co., 1400 Poly Dr, Com Addition, $80,000

City Of Billings (Airport)/ Monarch Limited Of Montana, 2543 Altimeter Dr, Com New Warehouse/Storage, $120,000

Caramel Cookie/ Jones Construction, Inc, 3465 A J Way, Com Remodel, $17,256

Beartooth Business LLC/ Jones Construction, Inc, 2940 Grand Ave, Com Remodel, $148,500

Broso Valley Lodging Investors, 3550 Ember Ln, Com Remodel, $490,604

Billings Mt 1 Fgf LLC/ Star Service, Inc., 2900 4th Ave N, Com Remodel, $240,000

Mark Weber, 2212 Grant Rd, Com Remodel, $250,000

Dibra Investment Holdings LLC/ Neumann Construction, 4120 King Ave W, Com Remodel, $150,000

Nelson, Andy & Bert, 2413 Montana Ave, Com Remodel, $3,000

Residential

Hartmann, Dexter A & Brenda, 1010 Harvard Ave, Res New Accessory Structure. $43,200

Simonson, Steven G & Rachel E/ Nygaard Builders LLC, 5342 Cabernet Ln, Res New Accessory Structure, $8,000

Brownell, Michael R & Mary S, 3910 Heritage Dr, Res New Accessory Structure $65,000

Billings Best Builders/ Billings Best Builders LLC, 5216 Grass Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $553,000

Leon Clause/ Green Jeans LLC, 1207 Cherry Island Dr, Res New Single Family, $310,000

 4 Mt Homes Inc/ 4 Mt Homes Inc, 2317 Entrada Rd, Res New Single Family, $213,528

4 Mt Homes Inc/ 4 Mt Homes Inc, 820 Hermosa St, Res New Single Family, $188,246

4 Mt Homes Inc/ 4 Mt Homes Inc, 821 Hermosa St, Res New Single Family, $188,246

Lorenz Construction LLC/ Double Duece Ventures LLC, 3543 Rachelle Cir, Res New Single Family, $375,000

Cdh, LLC/ Cdh, LLC, 5231 Rich Ln, Res New Single Family, $278,601

Christensen/ Michael Christensen Homes, 1240 Timbers Blvd S, Res New Single Family, $450,000

Christensen/ Michael Christensen Homes, 1246 Timbers Blvd S, Res New Single Family, $450,000

South Pine Design/ South Pine Design, 1757 E Thunder Mountain Rd, Res New Single Family, $450,000

The Billings Community Foundation has completed the 2023 grant cycle awarding regional non-profit projects in the Greater Yellowstone Region over $110,000. Non-profit organizations in a 9-county region were invited to apply for grants in the range of $2500 – $5000, with grants issued being issued at a celebration luncheon on October 17.

Grant categories include Capacity Building, Collaborative Projects, Community Impact, and Endowments. Now in its 15th year, the BCF annual grant cycle has provided more than $670,000 to charitable causes in our area. Funding for grants comes both from Billings Community Foundation BCF impact funds and from donor-based funds managed by the Foundation.

The Billings Community Foundation manages over $8 million dollars in assets that support donor wishes in support of local non-profit efforts. In addition, BCF hosts non-profit projects through Fiscal Sponsorship “The community foundation is a central point of contact between donors who have desire to support their local community and our organizations who can move the needle on some of our most valuable challenges and continue important work in the region” said Zack Terakedis, the Foundation’s new Executive Director. “Our grant program has grown from around $10,000 in the first few years to now more than $100,000 given out each year. Our board of directors is committed to growing lasting resources for the non-profits who are creating positive impact in their local communities.” Eligible organizations are 501c3 non-profits with an impact in Big Horn, Carbon, Custer, Fergus, Musselshell, Rosebud, Stillwater, Treasure, and Yellowstone Counties. Grant Recipients include: St. Vincent de Paul, Riverstone Health Foundation, Billings Depot, Code Girls United, Our Montana, Veteran’s Navigation Network, Montana Legal Services, Yellowstone Valley Animal Shelter, Western Heritage Center, CASA of Yellowstone County, Montana Health Professionals for Healthy Climate, Billings First Congregational Church, Marketplace of Ideas, United Way, Boys and Girls Club, Family Service, United Campus Ministries, Friendship House, Special K Ranch, Great Plains Youth Programs, YWCA, and Family Promise

The MSUB College of Business and ISPGAYA University in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal have partnered for the Spring 2024 semester to facilitate collaboration between faculty and students. Working in cross-cultural teams, students will work with Owen Haacke, Owner of Empress Brokers International to create an international business plan for the company. 

In February, students from both countries will work together remotely on the initial phases of the plan. In March, MSUB students will meet with their teams in Portugal for a week. To conclude the collaboration, the ISPGAYA students will travel to Montana in April to give their final presentations. 

Dr. Jessie Perius, Assistant Professor and instructor for the course says, “This collaboration will help our students further develop their digital and soft skills as they work in multicultural cross-disciplinary teams. Plus, the opportunity to experience a new culture and make professional connections will provide them with valuable life experience I can’t give them in a classroom.”

By Christen Smith, The Center Square

The Biden administration cut a $7 billion check to launch its vision for a hydrogen-fueled future.

The money augments $40 billion in private investment to build seven hydrogen hubs across the nation that will decarbonize transportation and industrial manufacturing, slashing 25 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year.

The amount “roughly” equates to removing 5.5 million gasoline-powered vehicles from the road, or just under 2% of the estimated 286 million operational cars in the United States.

After calling climate change “the only existential threat to humanity” during a news conference in Philadelphia, President Joe Biden touted federal infrastructure spending as the key to reigning in greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning away from fossil fuel reliance.

“Today’s announcement is all part of a bigger vision to do just that,” he said.

The hubs expand across seven regions and 16 states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia, New Jersey, Delaware, California, Texas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Washington, Oregon, and Montana.

Together, the network of pipelines, storage facilities and refueling stations will use natural gas to produce energy and capture the resulting carbon emissions underground, creating 3 million metric tons of hydrogen annually – or about 30% of the federal government’s “clean hydrogen” goal for 2030.

“I found that when the government invests in the needs of the American people, guess what? The private sector jumps on real quick,” Biden said.

Hydrogen can be produced in three ways – referred to as gray, blue or green. Gray hydrogen is produced with natural gas and steam; blue is produced the same way, but its carbon gets captured and stored underground; and green is produced with renewable energy, such as wind or nuclear.

Others warn that relying on federal subsidies may waste taxpayer money, especially since the promised benefits of carbon capture, in particular, haven’t panned out.

Despite this, the administration said two-thirds of the projects will work with green hydrogen, in some capacity, and has publicized a four-year timeline to complete construction on the hubs.

By Jack Miller

In 2020, many American corporations and academic institutions adopted new policies to promote “diversity, equity, and inclusion” (DEI). Among these, Boston University decided to build an “anti-racist” research center around activist Ibram X. Kendi. Now, however, Kendi and his center are under fire for mismanaging resources and failing to deliver on the racial reconciliation they promised.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are all laudable virtues– unfortunately, though, Kendi’s ideology fails to live up to these high ideals. In his book “How to be An Anti-Racist,” for instance, Kendi offers the nonsensical statement that, “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.” That is not what America is about.

Achieving true diversity, equity, and inclusion starts with recognizing we are all individuals first. Instead of assigning collective guilt or praise to arbitrary groups, we need to recognize the promise of the Declaration of Independence. We are all, as that document says, “created equal,” not in some physical or other attributes way, but with “certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

America is a very diverse nation. Every age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, and socio-economic background is represented in this country. This contributes to a rich tapestry of perspectives and experiences. Genuine diversity means celebrating these differences, not trying to homogenize individuals into group identities that claim a special “oppressed” status.

We are also a nation striving for equity for all, which means focusing on the principles of fairness and justice for all. America is built not on the false promise of equal outcomes, but on the notion that everyone is owed an equal opportunity to succeed. We haven’t fully achieved this goal, but we are getting ever closer.

And the same applies to “inclusion,” the concept that we have a society where “all individuals, regardless of their background, characteristics or differences are treated with respect, fairness and equity and are provided with equal opportunities.”

Diversity, equity, and inclusion are virtues that should spark a powerful movement to unify Americans. We should insist that we, as a nation, live up to those rights that we are guaranteed. DEI should not be a movement that tears us apart, but rather a movement that unites us as Americans.

Our Declaration goes on to state that since we are all equal, we all are guaranteed our life and our liberty. But what about that last guarantee, the guarantee of, “the pursuit of happiness?” Notice that it does not guarantee happiness – only the “pursuit” of happiness.

In America it is up to each individual, based on their own abilities and their own efforts, to achieve their own happiness. This is what is meant by meritocracy, the notion that we can each rise into success according to our abilities and hard work. To make all this a reality, everyone should have as equal a place at the starting line as possible. And the best way of assuring that is by giving everyone the best education possible. So, where do we start?

Since over two thirds of high school graduates do not go to college, and many who do go drop out, the obvious place to start is in the K-12 system. Everyone should receive a great education in reading, math and other basics. Everyone should also learn what has made America “the land of the free” where living “the American Dream” is possible for all in their “pursuit of happiness” so they are prepared to help achieve that vision for themselves.

To make this happen, we need the best teachers possible. Teaching is a noble profession and teachers should be well paid, with the best receiving more and the worst being fired. We should look to promote competition in other parts of our school system, as well. One policy we should consider is voucher programs, in which parents can choose the best schools for their children, whether public, religious, charter or private. That kind of competition is what has made our economy the strongest in the world. It would also work in education.

We also need to devote more resources to improving higher education for those who do go to college. And for that vast majority who do not go onto college, the educational opportunities should not stop on graduating from high school. There is a wide array of internships, trade schools and junior colleges available that will help young people find good, well-paying careers. There should be more such post high school training opportunities and young people should be encouraged to attend them.

What unites all Americans is a shared belief in the power of opportunity. We are a vast, diverse nation, with a multitude of identities and social groups. And yet all Americans should be able to affirm the individualism at the heart of our experiment. As an Orthodox rabbi recently asked me, “Are you an American first or a Jew first?” Without a pause, I said, “I am me first, an individual, and I am also a very proud American and a very proud Jew. In America that is possible.”

In America the belief in diversity, equity and inclusion combined with my own hard work, meritocracy, has led to a great life for me and my family. This should be possible for all. Instead of tearing down what we have already achieved, we must build on it to make it a reality for all.

Jack Miller is the founder and chairman of the Jack Miller Center, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to reinvigorating education in America’s founding principles and history, from K-12 through college.

Humana  and Greater Good Health have announced the opening of primary care clinics in Missoula, Billings and Great Falls, Montana. 

The clinics are in-network with all Humana Medicare Advantage HMO and PPO plans offered in Montana, as well as a Humana Dual Eligible Special Needs Plan for certain patients qualifying for both Medicare and Medicaid. Greater Good Health will also see patients with Original Medicare.

Greater Good Health’s value-based, senior-focused clinics will have a strong commitment to delivering high-quality care and addressing the specific needs of senior patients through prevention, condition management, and coordinated care.

The first Greater Good Health clinic to open will start seeing patients in Missoula at 2230 North Reserve Street today, Oct. 30, 2023, followed by the Billings location at 1423 38th Street W, Ste. 3, which is scheduled to open on Nov. 27, 2023.  There are also plans for a third location to open by the end of this year in Great Falls at 405 3rd Street NW. 

“Greater Good Health is focused on simplifying and coordinating care while educating and empowering seniors,” said Jesse Gamez, Humana Intermountain Medicare President. “I am so grateful to have helped bring this new model of healthcare to the state of Montana, which will expand access to primary care to a rapidly growing senior population.”

“Physician shortages have created massive gaps in healthcare,” said Greater Good Health Founder & CEO Sylvia Hastanan. “Meanwhile, seniors across Montana struggle with access to primary care, and we are responding to the needs of the community by opening comprehensive primary care clinics in partnership with Humana.

By Olivia Johnston, Mountain States Policy Center

Is the U.S. Supreme Court posed to slam the door shut on efforts by some to impose wealth taxes across the country?

We may soon find out.

Multiple states, Idaho and Montana included, along with over 25 organizations have filed amicus briefs in favor of a Washington state couple, Charles and Kathleen Moore, against the United States, for what is anticipated to be the biggest tax case to reach the Supreme Court of the United States in several decades.

This upcoming term, the highest court will hear Moore v. United States, which is on appeal from the 9th Circuit. This litigation poses the Court with the ultimate question: is a realization event necessary for the federal government to impose a tax? A realization event occurs when a taxpayer has money in their hands.

Here is what we know about the case: The Moores hold an 11% ownership interest in KisanKraft, a farming manufacturing company operating out of India. Since the Moores bought in, the company has done exceptionally well, with profits increasing each passing year. The Moores are seeing gains on paper from their overseas investment, but they haven’t cashed in here in the United States. They were taxed on this increase in investment value, which only existed on paper.

The Moores’ position is that the tax imposed is unconstitutional under the Sixteenth Amendment and numerous prior court rulings. The Moores argue that the Ninth Circuit essentially took away the constitutional limit of the federal government to only tax what is deemed as income, and that, “This case is the cleanest vehicle the Court will ever see to address realization under the Sixteenth Amendment.”

The dispute arose due to Section 965 of the Internal Revenue Code, the repatriation tax, being applied to the Moores. This tax was a result of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, requiring U.S. corporations operating outside of the country to transfer wealth back, a one-time tax. The portion affecting the Moores requires that any person who holds more than 10% of a foreign company that is composed of over 50% U.S. ownership, also called a “CFC”, is subject to taxation; realization event, or not. The Moores were placed in this category due to their 11% ownership in KisanKraft, a CFC. Sec. 965 was codified to combat companies leaving the U.S. and making their money elsewhere.

The government’s position is that while it is true that the government has not historically implemented a tax without realization, “the Supreme Court has made clear that realization of income is not a constitutional requirement. Essentially, the government seeks to overturn the definition put forth in Glenshaw Glass, that “undeniable accessions to wealth” are taxable.

The government seeks to broaden what constitutes a taxable event. If the Court decides in favor of the Moores, it is likely the Court will attempt to sever the statutory language. This would be the easiest solution, as it would allow for the single clause of the repatriation tax to discontinue while maintaining the other portions of the Trump tax legislation, and there is a strong presumption of severability.

If the Court sides with the government, this decision would have great implications for Americans – both financially, and administratively. Not only would the government create greater amounts of paperwork for the taxpayer and the government, but it would also tax money that individuals don’t actually have, in their hands.

The greater concern this case presents is the impact on the legality of wealth taxes.

The National Taxpayers Union Foundation amicus brief offers what several Mountain State policy analysts believe the Court will do; “This Court could uphold the MRT for C corporations but excuse individuals such as the Moores. This Court could determine that the MRT does not violate the realization requirement because the business realized them even if the individuals did not receive a distribution.”

Under this likely approach, the purpose of the MRT is maintained while upholding the constitutionality of a realization requirement.

The Moore name might be on the documents, but there are many Americans whose interests could be significantly hindered if the government prevails. This is not a Court that has shown a desire to increase tax liability. It is unlikely the majority will be receptive to accepting the Solicitor General’s arguments on behalf of the government during oral arguments.

But, as lawyers say daily, it depends.

ONEOK, Inc. announced that it has completed its acquisition of Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. (Magellan), creating a more diversified North American midstream infrastructure company focused on delivering essential energy products and services to its customers, and continued strong returns to investors.

Said Pierce H. Norton II, ONEOK president and chief executive officer, “Our expanded products platform will present additional opportunities in ONEOK’s core businesses and further enhance the resiliency of our company. We are committed to ensuring a smooth transition aimed at delivering on the many benefits of this combination for our customers, employees and shareholders.”

ONEOK, Inc. is a midstream service provider and owns one of the nation’s premier natural gas liquids (NGL) systems, connecting NGL supply in the Rocky Mountain, (including Montana) Permian and Mid-Continent regions with key market centers and owns an extensive network of gathering, processing, fractionation, transportation and storage assets.

Magellan Midstream Partners, L.P. is a publicly traded partnership that primarily transports, stores and distributes refined petroleum products and crude oil. Magellan owns the longest refined petroleum products pipeline system in the country, with access to nearly 50% of the nation’s refining capacity, and can store more than 100 million barrels of petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel and crude oil.

By Michael J. Marino, Yellowstone County News

Originally constructed in 2006, the 22,500 sq. ft. S-Bar-S building in Lockwood will soon transform into a third location for Ranch House Meat & Sausage Company, a locally owned meat processing business, after a sale which was finalized in August.

S Bar S owner Ryan Stichman said, “We have no plans on shutting our doors.  January 1, 2022, I purchased S Bar S from my uncle, Tom Stichman.  I am the 3rd generation Stichman to own the business.” 

Stichman said his family has been looking at ways to downsize the store for a few years. They plan to break ground on a new, smaller lumber and hardware store late this fall or in early winter, as well as to renovate their original building to use as offices.

In the meantime, Stichman said S Bar S will lease an area of their old store from Ranch House as they prepare to move.

“We are excited about our future and our ongoing support of the Lockwood community that we have had since 1971,” wrote Stichman.

Ranch House Meats owner, Shane Flowers, said he plans to maintain the company’s two existing locations, which include one off Henesta Drive in West Billings, the other in Shepherd along Highway 312. Both stores sell hand-cut Montana beef, pork, and bacon as well as various smoked meats. In addition, the Shepherd location also offers custom smokehouse meats and private labeling.

What’s in store for the eventual third location off Old Hardin Road in Lockwood?

“It’s going to be strictly manufacturing,” said Flowers, “It’s going to be smoked products only.” He said, although a small area near the front of the building will serve as a retail environment where one can buy retail meat products, most of the space will be dedicated to “value added production” like snack sticks, jerky, and summer sausage.

The feedback from Lockwood residents as to this retail location has been “really positive,” according to Flowers. “I think, as a company, we will hopefully be an asset to the community, providing some jobs and tax base as well for them, [with] the amount of production we’re anticipating on doing.”

Flowers says he’s been eyeing the S-Bar-S building ever since it first went up for sale several years ago, noting its layout and open floor plan which would allow him to “build out the way we want it.” He also predicts that it will “create a great visual” for his future clients.

The decision to purchase the S-Bar-S building rather than expand the company’s existing locations was made for a couple of reasons. The first is that Flowers expects he will need “a fair amount of labor” to ramp up production work. “It’s going to be a lot easier to pull labor the closer we are to Billings,” he explained.

Flowers further said he looked into adding on to the Shepherd store but found the cost to be fairly significant due to the building running off less advanced utilities like wells and septic tanks.

As far as an opening date for the new Ranch House Meats location, Flowers told Yellowstone County News nothing is set in stone yet because some items, like equipment orders and construction supplies, are still being ironed out. However, as soon as the site is ready to launch, the company intends to make an official announcement.