GREAT FALLS – Jon Tester, Montana’s senior U.S. senator, visited the Montana This Morning set Tuesday to discuss several issues impacting both the state and nation.
President Donald Trump recently made an emergency declaration, which aims to fund a southern border wall. Tester addressed the impacts the declaration could have on the Treasure State.
“It depends on where they take the money from, if they take it from military construction, which projects?” Tester said. “We have some very important projects out here at the base and up on the hill that the military construction fund funds and depending where those monies come from, it could have a negative impact.”
Tester added the bill passed last week included not only funding for a wall, but also funding for manpower, technology, and the ports.
For Malmstrom Air Force Base, Tester said hangar upgrades could be affected by the declaration.
“Those hangars are critically important to get upgraded to the twenty-first century so we can get our airmen out to the missile silos quicker,” Tester said. “The work that is being done at the silos themselves is also very, very important.”
The silos have been in the ground since 1960, or since President John F. Kennedy’s ‘Ace in the Hole,’ and updates are important, according to Tester.
It takes years for military construction projects to reach a funding line, Tester said, and many of Malmstrom’s projects have been on the construction list for years.
“I don’t know where the dollars are coming from yet, but it could potentially have some negative impacts on Montana,” he said.
After addressing the emergency declaration’s potential impact on Montana, the conversation shifted to the missing and murdered indigenous people’s crisis.
Tester said the incidents are far too common and lawmakers need to determine whether there’s problems with law enforcement such as the FBI or Bureau of Indian Affairs, or with the families not knowing where to report a loved one missing.
Tester said he requested a government accountability study to pinpoint what needs fixed in what appears to be a broken system. The “Studying the Missing and Murdered Indian Crisis Act” must still pass and the recommendation to the Government Accountability Office still needs to be approved.
“This is unacceptable,” he said. “We need to get to the bottom of it sooner rather than later. There are too many families that are being destroyed and too many people’s lives that have been turned upside down because of this.”
As for agriculture, Tester discussed recent legislation prohibiting the Department of Transportation from enforcing electronic logging device (ELD) rules on livestock haulers.
Tester called the prohibition a practicality issue.
“If truckers have to stop after a certain number of hours on the road and unload their livestock, you’re not going to get them loaded very easily,” he said.
In a press release, Tester stated the legislation gives ranchers and livestock haulers flexibility to safely transport their products across the country in the way they know best.