Tony Belcourt: Experience needed for next Legislature
An incumbent legislator said he believes he should be re-elected so he can use his experience, including on the House Appropriations Committee, in what he said will be a key legislative session in 2013.
“I think my last two legislative sessions gave me valuable experience how the process works with the state Legislature …, ” said Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder. “This year, with the projected budget surplus and the funding mechanism in place, it’s going to be key to have somebody there with experience in there that understands the process and gets help for the residents of north-central Montana. ”
Belcourt faces Clarena Brockie of Hays, dean of student affairs at Aaniiih Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. No other candidate has filed in the race for the seat in House District 32, which stretches from Hill and Chouteau counties through southern Blaine and Phillips and into Valley County.
Belcourt was born in Havre in 1971 and grew up in Box Elder. He was active in 4-H, he said — he is a 4-H leader with his son and daughter now involved — and attended Montana State University-Northern, although he did not graduate.
His experience includes serving on the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency Hill County Committee.
He also served for four years on the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s council at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation, and his position as chief executive officer of the Chippewa Cree Construction Corp.
Belcourt said his experience as a small business owner and rancher, as well as in the Legislature, would help him next session. He knows the long hours and dedication that are required, he said.
“It’s an endurance race, is what it is, and you’ve got to build those alliances, ” he said. “(You’ve) got to build the trust. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat or Republican, people have got to trust what you can get done and hold you true to your word.
“You’ve got to stand up for what is right, and, too many times, I think we get involved in the party system, ” Belcourt added. “I’ve been known to stand up on what’s right or wrong whether it’s a Democrat or Republican issue. ”
Belcourt said a key issue facing the next Legislature will be health care, especially depending on what the U. S. Supreme Court rules on the health care reform plan passed in 2010.
“We keep kicking the can down the road, ” he said. “We’ve got to figure out some way to address that issue, the rising cost of health care, without putting a damper on state coffers. ”
What to do is a complex question with many alternatives, he added. He said he believes some kind of tort reform to deal with lawsuits is needed, and that increasing use of telemedicine might help.
Dealing with oil exploration and development also will be a key issue, he said, adding that development is occurring from Browning and Valier to Cut Bank and Shelby and in other regions.
“You can’t just say it’s the Bakken, I think it’s the oil boom …, ” he said. “I think the state needs to step in and help with some of these local communities with their infrastructure needs, ” he said, adding that the state then should start long-range planning with communities about their housing needs.
“We’ve got to quit thinking this is a short-term cycle, ” he said. “I think its a long-term investment, and (we need to) build some of these communities’ (housing) — these mancamps, those are no good for anybody. ”
He said his top issues at the next session would be creating jobs and investing in infrastructure.
That would include the state bonding bill defeated in the last session, for construction including a new automotive and diesel technology building at Montana State University-Northern.
Belcourt said he thinks part of the projected budget surplus could be used to pay for the construction outright.
“Infrastructure and schools, they are going to create jobs, plus they will help our economy in the long run, ” he said.
Clarena Brockie: Would bring dependability, experience
A candidate for the state House district that stretches from Hill and Chouteau counties through Blaine and Phillips and into Valley County said her experience and dependability make her the best candidate in House District 32.
“I have all the experience, ” said Democrat Clarena Brockie of Hays. “I have the experience in education and leadership.
“I am very, very dependable, ” she added, “and I am not afraid of making difficult decisions. ”
Brockie, dean of student affairs at Aaniiih Nakoda College on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, faces Rep. Tony Belcourt, D-Box Elder, in Tuesday’s Democratic primary. No other candidates have filed in the race.
Brockie, who was born in Havre in 1949 and moved with her family from Hays to Los Angeles, then back to Fort Belknap, attended a boarding school for part of her early education, then graduated from Harlem High School in 1967.
She received a certifi-
cate in business technology from Haskell Indian Nations University and has sat on its board of regents for 17 years, including serving as president of the board. She received a bachelor’s degree from Northern Montana College, now Montana State University-Northern, stopping to have two boys and start raising them in the process.
Brockie received a master’s degree from the University of Arizona in Tucson, and said she paid for that education through $80,000 in scholarships, receiving about 98 percent of those for which she applied.
“That shows some initiative on my part, ” Brockie said.
Her career includes many administrative and developmental jobs at both Rocky Boy’s and Fort Belknap Indian reservations before becoming dean of student affairs at the college in 2000.
Brockie said part of her background is standing up for what she believes in, something she was taught by her father and grandfather, both of whom were on the Fort Belknap tribal council.
“I am not a follower, ” she said. “I have always set my own path. ”
But, she said, she also can work with people.
“I think I have some diplomacy and that’s what you really need, diplomacy and dealing with people from various backgrounds.
“I’m not one of those that flies off the handle easy, ” she added, “And I take all things into consideration. ”
Brockie said she thinks the top issues facing the next Legislature will be working to provide quality health care, providing jobs, and improving the economy.
One key issue will be dealing with development stemming from the oil boom in the Bakken formation, she said. The key to helping communities be ready, to ensuring they have the needed infrastructure, health care, schools and law enforcement, is planning by the state, she said.
“(The state) should have a planning committee, ” she said. “They should be talking about … what do we do, what are our plans. ”
Brockie said a key issue for her is providing a quality education.
“We need better funding for our students, ” she said. “They’ve reduced the amount of Pell (grants) you can get from eight to six years, so we need to think about getting our students through school faster, but also looking at some of the programs we put them in. ”
That could include making certain students are getting the classes they need without taking unneeded classes — perhaps a refresher is all that is needed for some, instead of a remedial class, she said.
Another key issue, Brockie said, is making certain the teachers in the state are being paid enough.
She said a source for helping with education could be the projected state surplus.
“We should look at areas where there is not enough funding, ” Brockie said, “share the wealth. What better place to invest in than in the education of our youth? ”