South Carolina is the third worst state to have a baby, writes Dean Clancy, Senior Fellow, Health Care Policy for Americans for Prosperity. The key driver to the problem, he states, is government red tape “that creates artificial shortages for hospitals, obstetrics services, perinatal services, and intensive neonatal car.”

Clancy sites an associate analyst, Thomas Kimbrell, whose data shows that in South Carolina families use neonatal intensive care units (NICU) 30 times more often than what government estimates claim is needed under the state’s “certificate of need” plan.

He goes on to say that State and local “certificate of need” or CON laws are well-named: they’re the biggest “con” in American health care today. For Montanans that’s problematic because Montana is one of the handful of states that still requires “certificate of need” to expand health care.

“These unnecessary, harmful laws require hospital systems and other health facilities to get approval from a government agency before they can open or expand their facilities in a given area,” said Clancy.

Often, just adding a single new bed or MRI machine requires government approval, a process that can add years and thousands of dollars in costs.

“All Certificate of Need laws should be repealed to boost competition and reduce costs for patients,” claims Clancy.

Kendall Cotton, President and CEO of Frontier Institute, reports that, “Under Montana’s “certificate of need” program, the government gets to determine if a new health care business is ‘needed’ in a process that lasts at least six months and charges a fee of $500, or 0.3% of the intended expenditure. The effect is to limit competition that could give residents more choices and lower costs.”

For example, in 2019 Montana denied new applications for home health businesses in Yellowstone County, despite the government’s own estimate of 795 patients in the county with an “unmet need” for home health care. Those new services could have opened up beds at hospitals and increased access to care during the pandemic.

In addition to home health, Montana requires certification for outpatient surgery centers, nursing homes and even drug rehabilitation facilities.

Certificate of need programs were pushed by the federal government in 1974, but by the mid-1980s the program was declared a failure and Congress withdrew it.

While 15 states dropped their certification programs, Montana did not. Existing health care facilities benefit from keeping out new competitors, so the programs remain stubbornly in place.

Research by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University shows abolishing certificate of need laws could help reduce health care costs, potentially saving each Montanan $214 per year.

An effort in the 2019 legislature to repeal Montana’s certification program was vetoed by Gov. Steve Bullock, who said the certification laws “prevent the creation of excess capacity in health care facilities.” In other words, the laws reduce competition that could increase access and decrease costs.

“With health care capacity at critical levels for many Montana counties, state lawmakers should repeal harmful and anti-competitive certificate of need laws,” advises Cotton.

A University of Montana director recently received the most prestigious award from a national association of regional economic research centers.

Patrick Barkey, director of UM’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, received the Thayne Robson Award from the Association for University Business and Economic Research (AUBER). The award is the highest honor that AUBER awards to an individual for longtime commitment and service to the organization. Award winners must be economic and public policy leaders in their state.

Barkey is the past president of AUBER, has served as Secretary-Treasurer for more than a decade and has been a member of the organization’s board of directors.  “I am humbled to receive this honor, especially considering the outstanding AUBER leaders who have preceded me,” Barkey said.

“No one has been a stronger advocate of AUBER than Pat,” according to John Deskins, AUBER’s president and director of West Virginia’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research. “He has devoted years to working to make the community stronger, and we owe him so much for his dedicated service. He is a great asset to applied economics research centers nationwide.”

The fee to register a Limited Liability Companies (LLC) or a corporation in Montana has been reduced by the Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen from $70 to $35. In 2021 the Secretary of State registered 29,000 new LLC’s.

The reason the fee can be reduced, said Jacobson, is “due to increased efficiencies in our office.”

Jacobsen stated that she wants businesses in Montana to know that they are supported and appreciated. She said that her office is looking forward “to seeing our record business growth continue for years to come.”

To register a business, go to Information is also availability regarding different kinds of business structures and what is required by government of each.

By Aikta Marcoulier, SBA Region Eight Administrator

During July, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will kick off its Build America, Buy American month of action to highlight the administration’s commitments to America’s small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups and highlight the benefits of the president’s bipartisan infrastructure law that will create opportunities for small manufacturers and contractors.

As Montana and the nation recovers from the pandemic, and supply chain issues, the federal government must begin to level the playing field for small manufacturing firms wanting to scale up, expand, and compete globally.  As I visit local communities throughout the Rocky Mountain region, I am seeing more jobs, more hope, and something else more important: the rebirth of pride that comes from buying American.

Montana is a hub for small manufacturers. One example is Hi Country Snack Foods, which is based in Lincoln. Hi Country is the largest employer in the county employing 50 full time people. The business started as a beef jerky company forty years ago, but under the ownership of Travis Byerly the business has expanded into new products lines including a variety of flavored jerky, and specialty seasonings.  Byerly also operates the Hi-Country Trading Post which is packed full of made in Montana products.

The SBA’s mission is to assure there is an equitable federal procurement strategy that prioritizes small, disadvantaged businesses which will increase competition and rebuild our economy from the bottom up and the middle out. The SBA is collaborating with an array of federal agencies to take “shopping small” to a whole new level by transforming how the U.S. government-the world’s largest buyer-spends more than $560 billion of America’s tax dollars on goods and services each year.

To assist businesses with planning, strategy, and contracting, the SBA has various partners including local Procurement Technical Assistance Centers (PTACS) to assist small businesses. President Biden laid out his vision to open more doors to federal contracting with an ambitious goal: Increase the share going to small, and disadvantaged businesses by 50 percent by 2025. Buying from small, and disadvantaged businesses will leverage the federal government’s purchasing power to reestablish domestic supply chains and American made products – using market growth opportunities to strengthen our nation’s industrial base.

Included in these reforms is an effort to make certain that “category management,” a government-wide initiative to strategically source commonly purchased goods and services, does not shut out small businesses. We want to make it easier for more small businesses owned by people of color, women, and veterans, to do business with the federal government. The administration has directed over 40,000 federal contracting officers across government to spend tens of billions of dollars more with small, disadvantaged businesses.

The  Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s $1.2 trillion created an enormous opportunity for small construction and service firms.  The SBA stands ready to support these businesses with bonding capacity, access to capital, and the ability to subcontract with large businesses to get their fair share of the contracting pie. We must ensure all taxpayer dollars are being used to fortify entrepreneurship, innovation, and domestic supply chains, and in the process strengthen our democracy by creating equitable pathways to the American dream.

By Joe Mueller, The Center Square

Taxpayers paid $4 for every $1 in wages and benefits received by workers in jobs saved by the federal government’s pandemic Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), according to a new study by the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

The Fed study also found PPP didn’t support jobs at risk of disappearing, and money flowed disproportionately to wealthier households.

“The PPP was a very large and very timely fiscal-policy intervention, saving about 3 million jobs at its peak in the second quarter of 2020 and distributing $800 billion well within two years of the onset of the COVID-19 crisis,” authors William Emmons and Drew Dahl concluded in their study, “Was the Paycheck Protection Program Effective?”

“But it was poorly targeted, as almost three-quarters of its benefits went to unintended recipients, including business owners, creditors and suppliers, rather than to workers. Due to differences in the typical incomes of those varied constituencies, it also ended up being quite regressive compared with other major COVID-19 relief programs, as it benefited high-income households much more.”

When COVID-19 pandemic-induced executive orders forced small businesses to stop or reduce operations, the PPP was created as a temporary program under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. Forgivable loans began on April 3, 2020, one week after President Donald Trump signed the legislation and three weeks after a national emergency was declared. The low-interest loans could be made without collateral for up to $10 million to businesses with fewer than 500 employees. The loans were forgivable if businesses maintained employment and wages at pre-pandemic levels for two to six months following acceptance of the funds.

The Small Business Administration reported 90% of the nearly $800 billion in PPP loans were forgiven by last month, according to the study.

The Fed report quoted research published in the Journal of Economic Perspectives estimating PPP loans saved 2.97 million jobs per week in the second quarter of 2020 and 1.75 million per week during the fourth quarter of 2020. The research also found the cost per job saved for one year was $169,000 to $258,000. The average wage and benefits for a small business employee was $58,200 in 2020.

Small business owners spent $3 out of every $4 in PPP to pay suppliers and meet other expenses, according to the Fed report. The research found that 72% of PPP funds went to households with incomes in the top 20% of the national distribution. Comparatively, 20% to 25% of the federal government’s unemployment insurance went to households in the top 20%. Approximately 10% to 15% of stimulus checks – up to $1,200 per adult and $500 per child – went to households in the top 20%.

Governor Greg Gianforte announced the State of Montana has added three additional counties to the presidential major disaster declaration for Montana: Yellowstone, Treasure, and Sweet Grass. Six counties in southern Montana are now eligible for aid through FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.

“I appreciate Administrator Deanne Criswell and her team at FEMA for approving the state’s request to add Sweet Grass, Yellowstone, and Treasure counties to the presidential major disaster declaration for Montana,”

On June 16, Gov. Gianforte announced the state secured a major disaster declaration for severe flooding. The initial declaration applied to Park, Stillwater, and Carbon counties.The federal aid that accompanies the major disaster declaration supplements state and local resources being used to offset widespread damage caused by the flooding. Specifically, the FEMA Public Assistance Program provides supplemental federal grant assistance for debris removal and the restoration of disaster-damaged, publicly owned facilities, and specific facilities of certain private nonprofit organizations.

By Evelyn Pyburn

Almost a fourth of Montana’s incumbent state legislators in Montana were ineligible to file for re-election this year because of term limits. It’s been over 30 years since Montana adopted term limits, amid much controversy and with lots of contrasting predictions about their impact.
So how have term limits impacted the state legislature and representative democracy?
Not very much, according to Brad Molnar, Laurel, who is a Montana State Senator, representing District 28. In fact, Molnar says there really are no term limits, given the options that state legislators may serve eight years in the House, eight years in the Senate, and then repeat.
In Montana, this year, according to Center Square, term limits accounted for 75 percent of the open districts in Montana, the largest percentage since 2014. The largest effect was on the state Senate, where they left 12 of the 25 districts holding elections open. In the House, 18 of the 100 districts up for election were left open.
Molnar is perhaps the only legislator who can compare the two eras as an active legislator. Not many people served in the state legislature 30 years ago and is a state legislator today. Molnar was first elected to public office in ‘93, as a Republican Representative. Term limits became a reality with the passage of Constitutional Initiative-64 in 1992.
After serving eight years in the House and being himself term-limited out, instead of running for the other house, as many legislators do, Molnar ran for the Public Service Commission, to which he was elected in 2004 and then re-elected in 2008.
Molnar then ran for Senator to represent District 28, in 2020. He assumed office on January 4, 2021 and his current term ends on January 6, 2025.
As a freshman legislator just learning the ropes 30 years ago, Molnar had an opportunity to gain some unique insights. He served with legislators who had already served 20 or 30 years when term limits went into effect and who were still able to serve another 8 years – so there were plenty of long-termers in the state legislature during Molnar’s tenure, and they were quite used to having things their way.
“In some ways the legislature was more constrained 30 years ago and in other ways it is more constrained now” says Senator Molnar.
Molnar discovered as a freshman legislator 30 years ago that the success of a bill depended upon “decisions of the leadership.” “The leaders determined if it would pass or not. It was not a partisan issue. You would stand in line because they had been in power so long and had developed friends over for so long – now you don’t see so much of that.”
The parties tend to stick together more now, said Molnar. Any horse trading that goes on tends to go on within the parties and there is considerably less bipartisanship negotiations.
And there are fewer caucuses. We used to have caucuses all the time. We would interrupt a debate and caucus to understand and talk it out. All of that has changed,” said Molnar. “Only two or three Senate caucuses were held last session.”
“We no longer talk together. We are preached to,” he added.
“First, ‘they’ would tell you not to bring a bill up,” if it was troublesome for some reason. But “if it came up, because the other side brought it up, then we had discussions, which we could do in caucuses because you could say things and you could change your mind as they were closed to the press.“
But now decisions are made in the “Solutions Caucus.” The Solutions Caucus, today, plays a key role in shaping state policy, according to Molnar — it is the center of power in the state legislature. “They call the shots…. that is where the money is. They join with Democrats on spending issues so the minority of the Republicans negates the majority of Republicans and tempers rise. Their ‘solutions’ are always bigger government. I am not aware of any of their solutions that do not now need solutions. ”
The Solutions Caucus has been described as a bloc of comparatively moderate Republicans who break rank with Conservatives to vote with Democrats in support of a measure. Explained one member of the caucus in a news report, “You get into the ring and you work to solve problems.”
Molnar has always been tenacious about any issue that violates the constitution – especially going back 30 years when the Constitution seemed far less in vogue as a political issue. Nowadays, the Constitution is on everyone’s lips, so is there more awareness of issues in relation to their Constitutionality?
Not at all, said Molnar, noting that there is a small cadre of legislators who do focus on issues from a Constitutional perspective, and they work together to try to bring awareness to others. “We fight for the rights of everybody,” he said. But, it is not a popular pursuit. There were several bills passed in the last state legislature, declared Molnar, which were “highly unconstitutional, and known to be so.”
In fact, Molnar said he is in agreement with about a third of the Court decisions that over turned 24 (so far) of the laws passed in the last session. He expressed concern, though, that the courts are activists attempting to write state law, usurping the legislature’s role.
Molnar lamented that today there is little depth to the discussion of issues. “It is all about talking points, not facts,” he said, “Before we dug into the facts. We listened to opposing points of view. There is a desire (now) to silence any dissent. Now it degenerates into name calling. I get in trouble for violating rules, when in fact the issue is the interpretation of a rule that seems to challenge dissent. Compared to past sessions, I have walked into an alternative reality.”
“Because I respect the constitutional limits placed on the legislature, I am a dinosaur now,” said Molnar.
One argument in opposition to term limits that was often raised was the claim that they would give the bureaucracy greater power. That didn’t happen, said Molnar. “The bureaucracy is more powerful, but not because of term limits, but because of the personal weaknesses of the legislators.”
Molnar said that the Republicans are so glad now to have a Republican Governor and to have a majority that that they are reluctant to rock the boat. This result is the silencing of many voices. “The Governor has a right to nominate his cabinet but legislators should ask challenging questions – you need people to ask questions, and get honest answers” said Molnar. Legislators are reluctant to ask questions and discouraged from doing so, according to Molnar.
CI-64 prohibited the following public officials from seeking re-election if they already held the office for 8 years in any 16-year period: Governor, Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Superintendent of Public Instruction, Secretary of State, State Auditor, State Representative, State Senator and US Congressional Representative.
In 1995, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down term limits on congressional terms, saying that states do not have the constitutional authority to regulate the tenure of federal legislators.

The Montana Farm Bureau was thrilled to learn that the Montana agreement for the Cooperative Interstate Shipping (CIS) program has been finalized by the United State Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety Inspection Service. Authorized in 2008 and launched by USDA in 2012, the CIS program permits selected state-inspected establishments that comply with federal inspection requirements to ship their product in interstate commerce. Montana joins only nine other states approved and certified for the CIS program.

During the 2021 Montana Legislative Session, there was extensive discussion regarding the expansion of meat processing capacity, as well as value added opportunities for all segments of agriculture. The Montana Legislature elected to invest American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds and regular state managed dollars into many different projects including meat processing, addressing the need for more meat processing capacity.

At MFBF’s request, the Montana Legislature allocated funding and directed the Department of Livestock could pursue CIS certification. This action supported value added agriculture even further, by helping give ranchers expanded access to consumer markets outside of Montana’s borders.

“I first learned about the Cooperative Interstate Shipping (CIS) program in 2020, when our former MFBF president, Hans McPherson and I were participating on American Farm Bureau’s Livestock Working Group, which was tasked with looking into ways to improve state and federal laws and regulations for the benefit of cattle ranchers across the country,” said MFBF Senior Governmental Affairs Director Nicole Rolf.

“The CIS program preserves and strengthens state meat inspection programs and expands existing plants’ abilities to market meat across state lines, giving cattle ranchers more marketing opportunities and broader markets,” noted Rolf. “The timing just seemed to be right for Montana, where we are lucky to have a healthy blend of custom exempt, state inspected, and federally inspected plants already. When the Montana Legislature decided to pursue this USDA-FSIS approved program with the goal of expanding marketing capabilities for Montana ranchers, MFBF was very appreciative.”

Montana State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski said the agreement benefits the state two-fold. “It no longer restricts our processors from selling across our borders, as they will have the same privileges as USDA-inspected plants. In addition, the CIS certification means the program is funded so the inspection service does not cost the plant any more money. Having a state inspector at a plant is a cost share with the USDA of 50/50, meaning fifty percent comes from the federal government and the Montana General Fund matches it. With CIS, because we have to do things exactly as the federal inspectors do, the USDA increases their share to 60 percent.”

In a Department of Livestock questionnaire on becoming CIS certified, Zaluski noted that 15 plants expressed interest. “That’s nearly 50 percent of all our 31 state-inspected establishments, which includes state-inspected processing and slaughter facilities. We will be meeting with the FSIS regarding how to bring these state-inspected packing plants on board,” said Zaluski. “We believe the FSIS plans to visit those plants to work out the details on how to do an inspection to achieve CIS certification.”

“MFBF is ecstatic to see this program signed into existence for our state,” concluded Rolf.  “As state-inspected meat plants opt in to the program, ranchers seeking to market beef directly to consumers will have one more avenue to do so, no matter where in the country those customers and potential customers live. We appreciate the support from the Governor, the work of the Department of Livestock, and the support from the Montana Legislature to get this done in such a timely fashion.”

IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) released investigational statistics about COVID-related fraud investigations conducted by the agency over the past two years.

The agency investigated 660 tax and money laundering cases related to COVID fraud, with alleged fraud in these cases totaling $1.8 billion. These cases included a broad range of criminal activity, including fraudulently obtained loans, credits and payments meant for American workers, families, and small businesses.

“The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed into law nearly two years ago as a safety net for Americans in light of an unprecedented health crisis. Unfortunately, even during times of crisis, criminals pop their heads out to look for ways to take advantage of those in their most vulnerable state. Thanks to the investigative work of IRS-CI special agents and our law enforcement partners, we’ve ensured criminals who try to defraud CARES Act programs face consequences for their actions,” said IRS-CI Chief Jim Lee. 

As a result of the investigations, the consequences include a 100% conviction rate for prosecuted cases with prison sentences averaging 42 months.

The IRS Criminal Investigation Denver Field Office conducts investigations throughout Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. IRS-CI encourages the public to report known or suspected fraud attempts .To report a suspected crime, taxpayers may visit

Some states are suspending their gas taxes in order to make gasoline cheaper for their citizens. Georgia and Maryland are such examples, where taxes add 30 cents and more to the cost of a gallon of gasoline. California adds 67 cents. In Montana, as of Jan. 1, 2022, tax on a gallon of gas was 33.3 cents, ranking Montana 21st for the highest gas tax.

Gas prices are hovering near all-time highs in the United States. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline stood at $4.24 as of March 23 – up 70 cents from a month ago.

What Americans pay at the pump is subject to a number of factors – the most important of which is the price of crude oil, which is determined by global supply and demand. As major markets around the world have banned Russian oil imports amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, the global energy market has tightened considerably, sending gas prices to record highs.

While shocks to the global energy market are largely out of the control of U.S. policymakers, other factors affecting gas prices are not, namely taxes. The federal government levies a tax of 18.4 cents on every gallon of gas sold to American motorists.

On top of the federal gas tax, as of January 2022, Montana levied an additional tax of 33.3 cents per gallon – the 21st highest gas tax among states. Currently, the average price of a gallon of gas in Montana stands at $4.02. Including the federal tax, taxes account for 12.8% of the average price of a gallon of gas in the state.

Gas taxes are typically used to fund road and highway repair projects to fix damage caused by usage and wear. In Montana, vehicle miles traveled per year total about 14,670 per driver, the 14th most among states.

Not only are taxes adding to the pain Americans are feeling at the pump, but the revenue they generate has failed to keep up with infrastructure maintenance costs and inflation. While many states are adjusting tax rates to address the shortfall, the federal gas tax has not changed since 1993.