Senators unite to fight robocalls, protect public access

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Red state, blue state. Left, right. With us, against us.

In today’s polarizing political climate, it’s not often we hear about Republicans and Democrats coming together in support of a common cause. When it does happen, it’s certainly worth noting.

Last week we were pleasantly surprised to see not one, but two examples of honest-to-goodness bipartisanship from both of Montana’s senators.

U.S. Sens. Steve Daines and Jon Tester cosponsored the TRACED Act, legislation that takes on illegal — and supremely annoying — robocalls.

We’ve all gotten these calls. Often it appears to be a local number, when in fact it’s just a bad actor looking to take advantage of innocent consumers. They’re out to get our money and/or personal information. Experts say it’s best to screen these calls — don’t pick up.

A whopping 26 million robocalls were placed in the U.S. last year alone, and this legislation does a lot to silence these scammers with increased fines and other stiff provisions. It also mandates that wireless carriers take steps to implement new technology that can decipher if a call is from a legitimate number or a phony phone.

The act passed the Senate 97-1 on Thursday — finally something (nearly) everyone can agree on.

Montana’s two senators also joined forces last week in demanding the Trump Administration fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was just a few months ago that we cheered the passage of a public lands package that permanently reauthorizes the federal fund that invests earnings from offshore oil and gas leasing to help protect public lands and waters.

Unfortunately, a 98 percent cut to LWCF funding is proposed in the fiscal year 2020 budget. Daines sharply called out the funding slash as “a slap in the face to Congress.”

“The numbers that came from the administration were very disappointing,” Daines told Interior Secretary David Bernhardt at a hearing last week, noting that 70 percent of Montana’s fishing access points are funded through the LWCF.

Tester called on Bernhardt to reverse course and support new legislation that ensures LWCF receives its fully authorized amount of $900 million annually.

As we’ve noted previously, the fund has invested more than $579 million to protect Montana’s open spaces, historic sites, and to increase recreation access. Locally, it has protected places such as Glacier National Park and Lone Pine State Park. 

Thankfully, it has the full support of Montana’s congressional delegation. Let’s hope their united voices are heard.

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