Tim Leeds Havre Daily News email@example.com
The count of people attending the annual Hill County-Blaine County Lincoln-Reagan Day Dinner continued to grow as the event drew closer, with the final tally more than double what was expected. “We don’t know exactly what the attraction is,” Hill County Republican Party treasurer Gail Rader said at the Plainsman Steakhouse before the event officially began Sunday afternoon. She said the initial sign up was for about 60 people, with the final count more than 120. The attraction could have been the speakers U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, R-Mont., and state Rep. Wendy Warburton, R-Havre or a reaction to the election of Democrat Barack Obama to the presidency. It also could have been because of the entertainment, she added Blaine County author, singer and storyteller Ken Overcast was the featured attraction. Blaine County Republican Party Chair Richard Cronk said the turnout from his county was gratifying the Blaine County Republicans, just reorganized last year, were about half of the people in attendance. “We’re very pleased to see so many people here,” he added. Warburton, who spoke after Rehberg addressed the crowd, gave an update on the situation in Helena. She said that, while her Democratic fellow legislators from north-central Montana tend to be moderate and good to work with, there are radical liberals at the session in Helena it is important to oppose. “I’m here to tell you how vitally important it is to elect more Republicans to the Legislature,” she said. Warburton said part of what she has been trying to do is to kill “bad bills” in committee the committees are split to reflect the makeup of the House, and if a vote is tied in committee, the bill fails to pass out of committee. One of the bills Warburton helped stop was the funding for the Healthy Montana Kids initiative, which would have increased coverage for children under Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The initiative, supported by former state Auditor John Morrison, passed in the November election by a nearly 70-percent margin. Warburton said one of the reasons she voted against funding the initiative was that when people passed I-155, there was a projected state budget surplus of nearly $1 billion. Since then, the economy has crumbled and things have changed, she said. Warburton also said she opposes the idea, as passed in the initiative, of people at 250 percent of the poverty level being able to enroll their children in the state plan, pulling them from private insurance offered by employers. Some of the bills she said the Republicans have been able to kill include a bill to prevent discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation and a bill that would have increased the possible fine for animal cruelty, second offense, from $2,500 to $25,000. Some good bills Warburton said she supported included a bill to increase penalties for second offense sexual assaults and a bill that made Montanamade firearms kept in Montana exempt from federal firearm regulations.