HDN: Should the Legislature act to reduce state spending or increase revenue? What programs would you cut and how much or what would you do to increase revenue?
Bergren: The state of Montana is only two states that are in the black, with 325 million dollars in the bank, the bills paid and no one laid off. The House Appropriations Committee looks at every dollar that is spent, they will make the decisions on what needs to be cut and what needs to be kept. As Montanans we know how live within our means and will continue to do soon throughout the next legislation.
Hutton: When the legislature convenes in 2011 it has been predicted that there will be a “budget shortfall.” If we were running the government like we were running a small business, we would re-evaluate our spending habits, and use our “mental octane” to come up with ways to increase revenue. There is no way I can say what programs need to be “reduced” until I have been presented with the facts. In order to increase revenue, we need to look at developing our natural resources. We have to make our state “business friendly” and turn “free enterprise” loose to create jobs.
HDN: Several proposals to increase regulation of driving under the influence are being proposed. What, if anything, do you think should be done to change DUI laws?
Bergren: Montana has the most lenient laws in the United States. I think we need to do some research and look at other states and what changes they made, and how that affected the DUI stats, before we make any changes. We need to be will informed so that we can make the best decision for Montana.
Hutton: It all starts with personal responsibility. However, when people who are driving under the influence are putting our families at risk, law enforcement needs to step in. Before we talk about new laws, we need to enforce already existing laws. The men and women who wear the badge and risk their lives every day are getting tired of seeing people with their ninth and 10th DUIs.
HDN: The topic of assisted death, as per the Baxter decision by the Supreme Court, is expected to be a topic in the next session. What, if anything, do you believe the Legislature should do to change regulation of assisted death?
Bergren: I believe research is also needed on the issue. Oregon legalized assisted death 12 years ago and has conducted many studies. We should look at research before making any new laws.
Hutton: We have stepped onto a “slippery slope,” and we need to proceed with a great deal of caution. There are those who consider themselves to be “social engineers,” deciding who should live and who is not worthy. I will be one who will “err on the side of caution.”
HDN: What, if anything, do you think the Legislature should do to change the regulation of abortion in Montana?
Bergren: We need to make sure that we have good education so that way abortions are rare. We also need to make sure they are being done safely and legally.
Hutton: Abortion continues to be a “hot button” topic throughout the state. Let me go on record as saying, I believe wholeheartedly in the sanctity of life. In Nazi Germany, Hitler did not start out killing the Jews. He first exterminated the handicapped and the elderly. Why? Because they were not considered “lives worthy to live.” In recent history, our nation bought and sold the African Americans, forcing them into a life of slavery. How? Because they were considered to be less than human. The Native Americans were herded like cattle to live on the reservation. How could this happen? Because they were considered to be less than human. How is it we can have over a million abortions a year in America? Because that little baby is deemed “less than worthy.” So, this issue is more than just abortion, it is the sanctity of life: the aged, the handicapped and the unborn.
HDN: Several issues, such as medical marijuana, children’s health insurance programs, regulating loan interest rates, funding hunter access programs, informing juries of the right to judge laws and constitutionally defining a person, have been proposed, passed or defeated by voters through the initiative process. What do you think is the role of the Legislature in changing or overturning initiatives passed by the initiative process, or in enacting initiatives rejected by the voters?
Bergren: We do need some kind of regulations on issues but what those should be, should be decided by within the proper committee. I would have to see the bill and see what the final version looked like before I would commit to voting on something.
Hutton: Simply because a law is made by initiative on the ballot does not mean changes can’t be made. A bad law can be voted in by the people, and if that happens, the Legislature should act to correct the problems. There is nothing wrong with making amendments to a law. The medical marijuana initiative is a good example. The voters passed it on the ballot. It isn't working and the next Legislature will have to come up with some ways to “ratchet this thing down.”