State Legislature 2020: Hannah Olson
I work in the local non-profit sector and am an avid community volunteer. My involvement in the Billings community compelled me toward local politics. The more I became involved, I began to recognize a serious void in our representation. It turns out very few working moms with young children run for legislative seats. Young moms face a unique challenge with campaigning, as well as finding childcare options for serving in the 90-day legislative session. I’m running because that voice must be present when decisions about our children are made, even if I have to spend time away from my own family to accomplish it.
During the 2019 session, I lobbied for the Medicaid Expansion, and that experience taught me a lot. My family and I were recipients of Medicaid, and realizing the impact the legislature has on our daily lives made me realize how important it is to elect people who truly represent our values and communities. As a resident of the Southside and of House District 52, I believe my neighbors and community deserve to be represented by someone who lives here and understands what they care about and why.
- Healthcare remains a priority because it’s unreasonable that so many folks can’t afford to see a doctor or have access to vital mental health treatment. Without worrying about health coverage, people will: be empowered to start businesses, work for small businesses, work freelance, become independent contractors, etc.
- Without a strong public education system, we have little hope or investment in our future. Kids have to come first.
- Everyone working a full-time job should be able to support themselves and their families. A living wage with benefits and reasonable paid leave is essential if we are to stifle the systemic cycles of poverty and the ripple effect they have on our children and communities (think crime, abuse, neglect, addiction, etc.).
- Our revenue structure should be reformed to alleviate homeowners and redistribute the way we fund our schools, public safety, and infrastructure. We need to generate new revenue without introducing a new levy or cutting vital programs every time we encounter a major deficit.
Many of the problems our government works to solve are ones they’ve created by failing to invest in the future. My philosophy stems from my belief that you can’t keep patching a broken roof while the foundation is crumbling. For example, if we want to invest in public safety, we need to address what causes an increase in crime and not just expand jails and add police; we have to address causes and create solutions that empower our communities from the bottom up.
Investing in education to empower our future is a start and should begin before elementary school. It’s beyond time that we invest in pre-K and set families up for success from the beginning of a child’s life. When childcare costs exceed a mortgage and parents are forced to leave the workforce because they can’t afford daycare, we are adding layers upon layers of problems: we are losing the valuable workforce we need, and many children aren’t receiving adequate preparation for public schooling at home. Every problem creates a ripple of other problems.
We need to address all of our budget and policy issues with this critical-thinking, future-focused, holistic approach to guarantee a strong future for Montana.
I will come to the table as an individual with an approach and a set of values, but if elected, I will also be there to serve my community. Legislation is a form of service to my district, and I owe it to my constituents to support decisions and vote for policies that benefit the greater good. To be a Representative comes with the responsibility of representing those who have elected me. This is why it’s so important for me to run and serve in a district in which I live.
As a Representative, communication and transparency are vital. Constituents and community members should have access to their elected officials and should be heard whenever their concerns address a policy that has the potential to impact their lives and families. Through the use of technology and social media, in-person and phone conversations, and through written correspondence, I have been working hard to establish relationships with constituents. I hope that after the election, they will feel comfortable reaching out to me so that I may represent them as authentically as possible.
A legislative body should look like the communities it represents, which means it should be as diverse as possible. Legislators should represent every socioeconomic status, race, age group, and religion, and they should be there to work together for the common good. Whether this legislative utopia is achieved or not, the bottom line is that each legislator is elected by their constituents to do what’s best for them. That means compromise is absolutely necessary.
I’m a proud Democrat, but I was raised in a Republican house in rural Wyoming. I helped my dad campaign for Sherriff in 2014 as a Republican, and I know that as different as we may think about many things, communication and compromise are possible when we listen as much as we talk.
Throughout my non-profit career, I have worked with many people with belief systems that differ from my own. The reason we’re all there, however, is because we share a goal. I believe compromise is possible, even when it’s challenging. With so many different values and philosophies, there is bound to be passionate discourse and stubbornness, but the goal must remain the same: to do what’s best for the people of Montana.
As a homeowner and a young person who works hard to make ends meet for her family, I can appreciate the efforts on behalf of lawmakers to alleviate the reliance on property taxes for revenue. There’s a dichotomy among voters wherein people want services, but they don’t want taxes. There are solutions that assuage the burden of individuals and spread the costs more fairly without draining reserves and creating deficits.
Raising the exemption on the business equipment tax was a bipartisan effort that supported small businesses while holding large companies accountable for their share. Because the majority of this tax falls on energy companies and large entities whose profits are generated through Montana’s resources, then unless a compromise can be achieved without losing revenue, it has to remain. With that, there are other solutions available for taxpayers so that the state is creating revenue in other ways as well. Adding a local option authority is definitely worth considering. It puts the spending decisions in the hands of communities and could alleviate the occurrence of the levies in which voters grow tired.
There must be a balance between protecting civil liberties of individuals and the freedoms therein for privately-owned businesses, especially regarding policy meant to protect businesses, employees, consumers, and the public. With that being said, health standards should not be up for debate, whether it’s a pandemic or not. When it comes to protecting our communities and keeping our economy functioning, there should be no exceptions for compliance within reasonably established mandates.
The health department sets standards of sanitation and safety for businesses to keep both customers and workers safe. If added precautions are recommended during a global pandemic, we should assume them in order to stay as safe as possible and to avoid collapsing our economy or driving low-income families further into poverty.
First and foremost, I support expanding Medicaid as vastly as possible to guarantee healthcare—which should be regarded as a human right—for every citizen.
Work requirements establish accountability and prevent exploitation of the system, but there must be reasonable exemptions for those who are unemployed for legitimate reasons. Every Montanan (and American) should have access to healthcare regardless of their circumstances. Medicaid affords necessary health and security for many, and the expansion provides coverage for working people who are between needing assistance and financial stability with affordable premiums. I still think we can do more.
My family and I were previously covered by Medicaid. Our coverage allowed us to work the flexible jobs we needed while raising our child and made it possible for me to complete my education. Without Medicaid, we would have assumed jobs with benefits that would still leave us paying for childcare we couldn’t afford and would have prevented me from graduating. Medicaid isn’t just a handout— it’s a hand up for many.
It empowers communities by building up families and the future of Montana. Further, it keeps rural hospitals open, encourages small business owners, affords mental health care, and combats poverty.
If you pay attention to the struggles the Billings City Council faces regarding funding, then you know this is a glaring problem. If we’re addressing issues holistically, we wouldn’t be making cuts to mental health and addiction treatment. For example, Billings is in the process of voting on a public safety levy. If we had adequate funding to support mental health and addiction treatment services, imagine the ripple effect that would occur on multiple levels: unemployment, poverty, crime, abuse, neglect, incarceration, reliance on social services, and more! We’ve got to prioritize spending and responsibly generate the revenue we need without doling it out to homeowners and relying on levies.
We’ve got to start strengthening the foundations of our systems and communities, not weakening them. We can’t continue to slap band-aids on the gaping inadequacies that result from negligent decisions that perpetually disregard the future of our state.
In order to achieve this, our state must generate new revenue and stop putting the burden on our cities.
The concept encourages balanced growth and ingenuity while creating jobs and revenue for the state. It’s clear that voters and legislators weren’t quite ready for the One Big Sky District in 2019, and a lot of that has to do with a resistance to change. Montanans value their small-town culture and the reliability they’ve come to depend on through consistency and stability. This is not a bad thing, as it preserves what’s great about Montana. However, it can also stifle progress and limits great ideas without fully realizing the many benefits of them. Folks walk through downtown Billings imagining all that will crumble if the OBD is erected, but they’re also not considering all that will rise up in its place. If the concept is ever to be seen to fruition, there will need to be new approaches taken to accommodate the many who challenge any disruption in their communities. When a community realizes the benefits of a project and shares a goal for economic growth, then there’s a greater chance progress and development can be achieved.
This is a membership communication paid for by the Billings Chamber of Commerce and provided for the benefit of our members.