Laurie Bishop Incumbent MT House district 60



Nelson King:  Howdy neighbors, welcome to A Podcast Runs Through It. Now most times this is where we tell you what's going to happen on the show, which I can say right now is we're going to have an interview with Laurie Bishop, our state representative from Park County, and we're going to talk about what happened in the state legislature this year, or didn't happen. But mostly, since this is our first podcast, we want to introduce ourselves and talk a bit about what we plan to do. There are two of us who do most of the talking, I guess. Probably it comes a little too natural to us.  Dixie Hart.

Dixie Hart: Hello there. 

Nelson King: And Myself, I'm Nelson King and we are, I guess technically the hosts. What can A Podcast Runs Through It do for you? Well, for starters, we hope that you will sit down with us every other week to catch up on the local, regional, state, and national news. That's important. But minimally, news that's not covered at all or covered very little by the usual suspects in the media. We plan to make the podcast available on Friday evenings so that it's available all through the weekend for people who have the time at that point to listen. This podcast, we will resolutely tune and color by where we live, Montana.

Dixie Hart: And hopefully that color will be blue, at least big Sky Montana, political blue. We want to let you know that we do have a point of view here and it's a progressive point of view. We are dedicated to basing opinions on facts and we will have a transparent agenda to remind folks of all the things that are happening to our community and our country that need our attention.

Nelson King: Yeah, we want to make this clear. A lot of this podcast will be political in content and progressive in perspective. To do this podcast, we really do want to reach out to the community. In future episodes we will incorporate topics and presentations from all kinds of people. We'll do interviews, as today we're going to interview Representative Laurie Bishop and we hope to interview many more people including candidates and office holders of all political persuasions.

Dixie Hart: We would really like to see this podcast become a place where you can get to know your political leaders, the ones that are in office and the ones who would like to be elected by you. We also hope to set up an archive, so in your free time you can go back and hear what these candidates had to say.

Nelson King: The so-called news cycle that we live in today seems to run in minutes rather than days, and that's another reason for this podcast. This particular podcast is going to start by running every two weeks is a way to get a convenient review and some perspective on pieces of news that seem to whiz by way too fast for comprehension. Maybe we don't move as slow as motor oil in January, but the pace here is definitely deliberate. We know we can't cover everything. For us, brevity and clarity are going to be the keywords. Now this would be a good time for a commercial break. Only, we don't have commercial breaks. In fact, we have no sponsors at all other than just people that want to do this. So, this is the time to start the interview.

Nelson King: Afternoon! Today we have Laurie Bishop who is our, we could call her, our local state representative, district 60, which is basically Livingston and surroundings. 

Laurie Bishop: Yes. 

Nelson King: And, uh, I'm really happy to have you here. This is actually our first interview with a candidate or somebody who represents government.  And what we're intending to do here is, you know, to, to ask you some questions and then have you give us your fullest possible answer and, uh, to explore a little bit about what you're thinking and why you think it might kind of stuff.  So, uh, with that said, Welcome!

Laurie Bishop: Thank you for having me. It's really a pleasure to be here and I'm excited to be a part of this.

Nelson King: Great.  And uh, I won't go in, we've maybe you could just tell us a little bit about how you got into politics and what you're doing now and that kind of stuff.  Just the background information.

Laurie Bishop: Sure. I think my journey into politics was just started by being involved in things at the local level that I cared about.  And, um, as you get engaged over time, people are starting to think about like, who do we want out in these different places representing us?  And you yourself get to think about what are the levers I can pull that might have more power.  Um, but I also had a family to raise and for much of my kids' lives was balancing being home with them with work or work and not being home with them.  And so, kind of said to myself, I want to wait for my kids to be older.  I don't want to go and save the world for my kids at the expense of actually just getting to be present with them and parent.  So, I was pretty intentional about wanting to wait for a while and just kind of put that on the back burner.

Laurie Bishop: And then as my kids aged and as I gained more experience both in being engaged at the local level, but then by that point, having had a chance to touch on certain topics at the state level and learn a lot more. Um, I started to lift my head up and realize, oh, it's getting to be about that time.  And, and in that moment,  I looked at our local representation at the local level in Helena and just didn't feel like it was hitting the mark I wanted it to hit and um, and felt like my readiness was approaching.  And so that's when I started to just plant little seeds about that interest and that grew really rapidly into a wildfire of like, it would be really exciting to have someone run in house district 60 in particular, who really wants the seat, who isn't just running because we need someone to run.  But to have somebody motivated to really do the work, to win the seat and represent our community, um, just felt like something that was a strong interest to a lot of people.  So, it felt like the match was the right one for me at that time.

Nelson King: Yeah.  One of the things we're really interested in doing is highlighting local representation, whether it be in the state or the county commissioners or wherever.  Because all too often, especially in, in mainstream media or general media, you don't hear much about that.  And actually you have more impact probably on our daily lives than a lot of other even federal levels.  So, I'm really happy you are here to talk about it.  And then your motivation seems like it was pretty clear you wanted to do this at the local level.  Um, now we just finished a legislative session. 

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. 

Nelson King: And I got to remind people this only happens every two years. 

Laurie Bishop: Correct. 

Nelson King: So, it's like if it didn't happen now, it won't happen for another two years. Or if it did happen, something not happy, it's going to hang on for at least two years.  So, um, what do you think was the, well, what was the essential issue that you worked on in this legislature? 

Laurie Bishop: There was no, so question for me, and I think for many of my colleagues, and honestly, I would say on both sides of the aisle that the most critical work was Medicaid expansion renewal.  And for me, you know, I kind of take my priorities for the work that I'm going to do from the district.  So, from what people are telling me. And not only was that critical for us, um, on lots of different levels.  So obviously people's health is really critical.  Um, our numbers reflect roughly the numbers of enrollment in the state.  So, it's roughly 10% of our entire population.  So, that's accounting for the fact that we also have subsidized healthcare for children, for kids age, birth to 18.  So, when we think about that 10% number, it's an even larger chunk of our adults and our local numbers are just about the same.  And so being able to secure our critical access health care here and know that we're investing in that health and investing in people's health is also investing in their economic health and their wellbeing.

Laurie Bishop: Um, and more, I think maybe one of the biggest issues that we think about in our community is also investing in people's mental health.  And so, in terms of having really struck out and said mental health is going to be one of my top priorities, there is no mental health care system in our state and there is nothing to be done policy-wise if we haven't secured people's access.  And so I'm, so there was no question that that had to be the top priority and was able to, even though I wasn't involved directly in that legislation, being on the House leadership team for the minority party, which is really was the center of where the hard work, much of that hard work got done.  Um, put, gave me a front row seat to really be able to help row the boat in that direction.

Nelson King: Would you, well, and just, you know, taking a high-level look at what happened in the legislature, what would you say were the principal successes?  And I won't call them failures, but let's say things that didn't happen that you wanted to have happen.

Laurie Bishop: So, Medicaid expansion renewal, obviously it was a huge success.  Infrastructure was another enormous success.  Our state has gone without a comprehensive infrastructure package for many years.  I think we all see that, we see that, um, not it not only really impacts thinking about our state and its readiness in any way, but it also affects our local communities.  So being able to get those kinds of projects through and get that funding through makes it easy for any community like ours to consider the projects that they have and that they might get funded in the future.

Nelson King: What specific type of infrastructure are we talking about?

Laurie Bishop: So, a lot of what we end up talking about in those infrastructure projects is water and sewer, um, streets.  Uh, it is your transportation projects.  So, there are so many different funding streams that can come into and be considered infrastructure.  We in 2017, were able to increase the fuel tax to put more dollars that really go towards our highways and in, in part towards our city streets. So, as an example, we're in the second big year, I think everyone knows, we see Main Street.  It takes no, it's no mystery.  Um, we're in the second big year of a, of a local project that would have otherwise been a four-year project if we didn't have the infusion of those dollars.  But then it also goes to things like bridges and it goes to buildings.  It, it's things like Romney Hall at Montana State University. Montana state is educating an increasingly larger number of our state's college aged population.  And the sheer pressure of that is really put a prime demand on their classroom space.  And so being able to really keep that, um, university in the position of doing that good work and having some state skin in the game where they have done a really masterful job of bringing in private dollars and that's great.  Um, but we have a responsibility to play a role in that higher education as well.  So, things like that are included in infrastructure.

Nelson King: And that kind of makes the point that infrastructure is a big subject.  It's not just roads, bridges, it's a lot of other things.

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. And it includes our, you know, it's things like our schools and um, and just being able to do boilers and the demands on communities are sort of two-fold.  So, we are increasingly seeing two ends of the spectrum in our state.  We're seeing population centers that are getting larger quickly, which puts a huge demand on their needs and their services.  And then we're seeing the flip of that, which is our more rural communities getting smaller and still needing and, and having it be a critical part of their economic development and viability to be able to provide the resources and services, but having a smaller and smaller tax base to do that.  And I think that both of those are incumbent upon state legislatures to really pay attention to. We don't succeed as a state if we haven't thought about the needs of every kind of community in the state.

Laurie Bishop: So, infrastructure was huge this session. Other big wins the session were being able to, in addition to that infrastructure piece, sort of separate out and achieve funding for the heritage center. So be able to really preserve Montana's historical assets and be able to assure that we will be preserving them properly and making them available to everyone public in our state and out of state to be able to enjoy.  Um, we also were able to see some budget restoration.  So, uh, I think our community was one of the communities that was hardest hit by the budget cuts during the prior interim.  I would say that we still have a budget that doesn't fully reflect the needs of our state and that starts with an income conversation.  Um, but luckily, we were able to make some restorations to particular parts of the state budget in particular around human services that really helped.

Laurie Bishop: And then to be able to continue some work around mental health, strategic planning and increased, um, prevention around suicide.  And then lastly, I think one of our big wins was that we finally, after almost 20 years of trying achieved protections for emergency responders, so in the fire fighter protection act,  we assured that with the strong relationship between particular illnesses that we see that are fatal for particularly for our firefighters, they were not covered under workers' comp for that and now they will be.  So that was a huge win. I think on the flip side, in terms of what we didn't get done, um, pre-k was probably the hardest loss.  There were lots of losses here and there and almost every direction.  But pre-k I think was particularly rough and, and it was not just that we were not successful in securing a policy that would assure a pre-k moving forward, but we even lost ground where we had some dedicated funding.

Laurie Bishop: Um, we were unable to assure any continued funding moving forward on the state's part. And that was not only a loss in terms of what we could do within our state resources, but it put us at a deficit of being able to build on good work that had been done through a large federal grant that's just coming to an end. So, I think that that was the one that hurt the most.  It was also the way that it played out.  One of the more divisive issues of this session and our caucus again felt that, um, maybe most and uh, and so it was challenging on a lot of fronts.

Nelson King: Um, how about the, in the area of, well, we can call it the climate emergency, climate change.  I know this is always controversial at almost every legislative meeting, but, um, and I'm thinking particularly for example, C-PACE. C-PACE is a version of PACE. PACE is Property Assessed Clean Energy. Both forms. The C is for commercial and the PACE for the private personal use.  They're both, uh, people probably familiar with the idea of providing some kind of tax advantage for using, for example, solar energy.  Um, you can explain a little bit more about it.

Laurie Bishop: Yeah, it's, you know, I think as we look at the investments that we can think about it both on the residential side and the commercial side and C-PACE was, um, sort of building off of good work that had been done to try to get PACE through which would have been residential specific and then trying to make it specific for commercial investment when, when you're making that large upfront investment into a property, there's a lot of logic in, in the lever that it pulls, which is allows the, the longer term funding for that to come through by connecting it to your tax bill, which I think not only makes that a viable project where you're able to directly relate the, um, annual savings through, um, through not paying for that energy, um, through other sources and being able to credit your, let's say solar energy back on onto the grid.

Laurie Bishop: But then also by relating that to the ongoing payment for that. So, you know, where you can basically say the payment I'm going to take on is going to be offset and it's going to be offset in real time.  And furthermore, offset in a way that allows it to convey with the building, which probably is more reasonable in a residential setting, but I think is also reasonable for businesses making that investment.  And I think it's a good example of incredibly good work that was done and that that good work was rewarded in the Senate where that started.  And we saw that it was the, the legislation was sent through a path that was reasonable, you know, starting in an energy committee and um, and it, and it really got a fair shake and then it hit a wall in the House that many things hit, which was having it sent to a committee where it didn't necessarily belong.  Um, and the, the just didn't have the interest and it could easily get wrapped, wrapped up in some pretty ideological, um, roadblocks.  And, um, I think that that isn't a sign of whether or not it's possible. I think it's, you know, to me there was much of how that played out that says this is great policy.  This is policy that a lot of Montanans want. This is policy that a lot of legislators want.  And we should come and take a run at that again.

Nelson King: No, it strikes me as that's a, like you say, a good example of things that started really well and got all, shall we say derailed by the process almost.  I know you personally, like you, you, you have always said that you'd like to work with people and of course almost every politician says that, doesn't necessarily be true, but you seem to have a real interest in the mechanics of legislating how you actually get a bill put together, put on the floor, taken to the other house.  You know what I mean?

Laurie Bishop: And this was one where, you know, I had a conversation after this session about this very piece of legislation and I think what can be really hard for people who are close to legislation like that is to feel like they somehow did something wrong.  And I think we will really drive ourselves a little nutty trying to figure that out.  Where when I look at the levers around this and the way that it went, this is a strict case of we need more people in the legislature that understand and care about these issues and are willing to do good work on them.  And we are going to, um, sort of falsely labeling falsely lay blame if we keep thinking it's about the strategy.  There were a lot of pieces about the strategy that were very well thought out and well executed with this legislation.  But there are also power level levers and when the majority party gets to decide where a bill goes and you have to really keep your powder dry on certain things, you can't make every single thing that doesn't go the way you wish it would go and that you think has a path to success, the thing that you're going to fight for no matter which side of the aisle you're on.

Laurie Bishop: And so sometimes we see pieces like this where it does go a little bit off the rails in the second part of the session because that's when people are having to really pick their battles.  And, um, I think that's part of what we saw with this one.

Nelson King: So, I'm just gonna, my follow up question is, you know, what can we do?  We, being the general public, um, obviously we take the position you need to be engaged in what's going on.  You have to understand that when we get to local elections, local meaning state and regional, you know, that you have to be engaged with that, that these things don't happen.  So here we had a bill which we have both commercial and private public, you know, it's a very generally acceptable, it had a history.  They knew what it was going to do and yet when it came to pushing and shoving in the final part of the legislative session, it just didn't have enough support.  Right. I mean that's right. 

Laurie Bishop: Correct. And I, it didn't have, I would say, I would almost put it more like it didn't have the right support cause a committee can take things down pretty quickly and that is only a representative of a small chunk of any group of people.  And so then you, we did have an effort to try to get back out onto the floor, but that threshold was just too difficult.  And again, some of those votes you're going to see are going to be about decisions that aren't necessarily about the policy by the time we're trying to do something like blast it to the floor.  And I think, um, it's continuing to keep that pressure on your local representative.  So sometimes I think there are so many different pieces that get thrown at us and as local, you know, when we think about the topics that we're engaged with our local folks around, as each individual representative looks at that, it's more likely to be the groups that they have more contact with that are more aligned with what the way they vote and the issues that they care about and work on.

Laurie Bishop: And so sometimes those topics when they come to them in the session are a little newer to them and they may not have seen them before.  And so even if someone voted one way in one session, it does not mean that there cannot be work done in the next session.  And I have conversations with legislators all the time where, you know, they might look at something where we were on different sides of it and say, “I don't know that we're that far apart.  We didn't get there today, but it doesn't mean we wouldn't get there sometime in the future.”  And so, you know, there's only so much new information and shift that happens during the session, but sometimes you'll watch that build.  And I always say it's always worth continuing to build and put more pressure on.

Nelson King: Yeah. And I think what you're saying is there is a process and the public can get involved in that.  Well by electing people that are according to what they want, but also by staying on top of the issues and putting communications to these people or with organizations that are pushing it and that sort of thing.

Laurie Bishop:  It’s both. I think it's, you know, the organizations do masterful work, but some of the most masterful work they do is to help organize people to get their voices in.  And legislators on both sides of the aisle will tell you that the most meaningful to them is when they hear from individuals.  And so, it's okay if that came through a coordinated effort, but it's always still really powerful that for them to hear that.  And I had, you know, I had pieces of legislation where, um, there was an outside group doing work to get the individuals to call their legislators and I had people call me and say, I'm supposed to call you and say this, but I actually think that.  And so, I'm calling to have that nuanced conversation with you and give you my full thoughts on that.  And that was great too.  It was really helpful.

Nelson King: Yeah.  So, what you're talking about is credible contact from constituents that you want to put it that way with people in the legislature.  Good.

Laurie Bishop:  Super valuable. 

Nelson King: Yep. Um, any other general comments about this legislative action or,

Laurie Bishop: Yeah, I think, you know, overall we look on, you know, I would say for the, for the Democrats and for the House, um, minority caucus in particular that we looked back and by and large had a real sense of success in, in this session.  And, uh, you know, even though we think our largest success comes through continuing to elect more like-minded folks and we have done that. We've increased those numbers every session over the last 10 years.  We also know that it is that work in the middle that really can get things done when you're in the minority.  We don't pass things as minority officeholders if we don't have willing dance partners on the other side.  So, I think it was ours to screw up, if that makes sense.  And we were pretty proud of the work that was done to really keep our ship moving forward and, um, and to be able to play a, you know, just a strategically good plan that got us to where we wanted to go on just about everything that we set out as our priorities in the beginning.  So, so overall that was a good sign.  And, and even just from within the caucus, having about a quarter of our caucus was first term legislators to have incredibly well qualified folks that came out of local government and tribal government positions where they had just a wealth of leadership experience. And to see that at play on the house floor was pretty awesome.  So, it was really a good experience.

Nelson King: Yeah, I do. General impression was that man wasn't the greatest session, but it wasn't the worst either.  Things actually got done. 

Laurie Bishop: Yes. Yeah, for sure. 

Nelson King: Um, speaking of getting things done, you have a number of things that you are personally involved in, issues that come up from time to time.  Uh, maybe you could tell us a little about what's called the local option tax bill check, which actually I think the house had it. It was a HB 435 or something like that.

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. And we actually called it the gateway local option tax in that gateway referred specifically to gateway communities.  So, communities that were shouldering a national park and it was, um, that was a particular run at a larger problem.  So in the way that we're funding our state government, um, we already recognize within that design that there are certain communities that have a local tax base that is not adequate to meet the burdens. And the burden that we look at in particular as the burden of tourism.  Or can, you know, people who are coming from outside of that district and recreating or spending time in that district, um, and putting pressure on the services there but aren't a part of the local property tax paying base in particular.  And so how do we situate those communities to do that?  So, we already have a local option tax allowable in the state of Montana for communities that are under a certain population cap. And our community the community of Livingston happens to be outside of that. And it also has to be an incorporated community like that.  So, you can't really think about that larger area that might encompass both a part of your, let's say city, um, outline as well as thinking about the parts of your county that might be a part of that as well.  

Nelson King: Yeah, like Gardner. 

Laurie Bishop: Like Gardiner. When you look at the incident command, if you look at sort of the response from our sheriff's office in particular on highway 89 south between Yellowstone National Park and Livingston, if you look at those numbers versus the numbers on highway 89 north just north of, of our area, they're radically different.  So, it really shows the relationship between our proximity to the park and the amount of tourist traffic that we have in our community as a whole.  And so, um, again, coming back to the work of your local community, right?

Laurie Bishop: `What does your local community care about? It was really our county commissioners that looked at this and saw this imbalance.  And I will say, having seen the numbers for all over the state, the imbalance in Park County is the most out of whack.  So, the number of the, the tourist dollars as a representation of, of impact to the size of the population is the most out of scale in park county than it is amongst any other county in the state of any size, larger, small.  And yet we don't have the ability to leverage this tax.  And so, um, so our, our local government looked at this and said, we're, we need help, you know, what can you do to help us figure out how to meet this imbalance?  Because the writings on the wall, we're maxed, there's nothing more for us to do.  And yet the demand on our services is really, really high.

Laurie Bishop: And so, um, it was, it was a really collaborative effort.  So, it was obviously a collaborative effort with our local government, both city and county.  We're all on board, full commissions, but also, um, MACo, which is the Montana Association of Counties, picked this up and picked the fight as one that they would take on specifically for Park county because they recognized the pressure that Park county was under.  So, what that meant represents is that county commissioners from every other county in the state said, yeah, we're willing to put our name behind this, and we want to see this go through.  And then in addition, there was interest from some of our populations, hunters from Billings and from Missoula and from Bozeman, because again, when we talk about the pressures that are on some of our rapidly growing communities, and then in addition their tourist pressures as well, um, they are feeling that as well.  

Laurie Bishop: And so local communities all over the state are saying, “You are passing more and more of the buck to us, the state legislature is taking on less and less of the responsibility.  And it doesn't mean that those services don't need to be taken care of.  It only means that the funding levers to pay for them are different.  And now they're ours, but you haven't given us all the tools to do that.  And we need to find ways of protecting our local tax base the same way you think you're protecting them when you're at the state.”  And so that's really where the, the legislation came from. And what it would basically do is say that we would be able to have a local option tax that would be designed by the community voted on by the community.  So, the community could choose when the tax is levied. If they only want to levy at during the months when the tourist traffic as high as that's their choice.  They decided what they tax and then they also, we built into it that up to 50% of the tax that would be collected would first go to property tax owners and minimize their burden before going to any new projects.  And the new projects would be focused primarily on safety and infrastructure.

Nelson King: Did this roll through successfully.  

Laurie Bishop: It did not. It started in the House Tax Committee and it ended in the House Tax Committee.  Um, and one of the, one of the things that we did the session, um, which is a common tactic is when you've got an idea that there's lots of interest around, try it a bunch of different ways.  So, it was one of three or four different runs at trying to expand the allowable use of local option tax.  All of them failed.

Laurie Bishop: But they all went through that house committee, um, with the exception of one that started over in the Senate.  And in so doing, um, put a lot of pressure on those folks to say, all right, something's got to give.  And one of the fertile pieces that it helped to, um, to support was a study that came out of the session that's really looking at the funding sources in the state and considering how they are or if they are adequately meeting our needs.  And that includes local government.  

Nelson King: So, come the next session…

Laurie Bishop: We will have more fruitful data around the relationship between things like a local option tax to other forms of taxation.  We're doing some work as well to really assure that, um, that what gets discussed in that study is really comprehensive and meets the needs that the legislature really has in those considerations.

So, the hope is that it leaves a, it moves us a little farther along a path for some more expansive conversations in future sessions. 

Nelson King: I think our take on this would be, that's another, that's an issue that could be added to the list of things people need to get behind. 

Laurie Bishop: For sure. Yeah. And I think, you know, this is one where um, there's a lot of different thoughts around sales tax.  I am somebody who has said, you know, once I learned more about a general sales tax and the role that it plays at the state level and the regressive nature of, of that, um, I have never gotten behind a full statewide sales tax and I don't necessarily see that changing.  But this is something different and this has been something that even though there are some people who are like “No more taxes ever, I just said no, didn't you hear me the first time?”  There are a lot of people in this community who have said, we really could use this, and we don't mind seeing something like this come in because we know the benefit that would come from it. 

Nelson King: More tourists, more services going out, nothing to pay for it.

Laurie Bishop: It's notable that we've had local option sales taxes in communities across the state for, you know, at this point over 20 years.  And there isn't one community that voted it in that didn't renew it the next time it was up and the time after that.  And the time after that.  Every community that has a local option, sales tax finds that it is working for them and they might tweak it and they may want to make changes to how they design it in future iterations, but they continue, the voters continue to approve it at higher rates every time.

Nelson King: Yup. Makes Sense. Let's switch gears a little bit and talk about something that I know is really close to your heart, which is children. 

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. 

Nelson King: And uh, childcare for working parents, uh, preschool, these issues. 

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. 

Nelson King: Could you talk a little bit about your attitude and I, I know some of these are actual legislative pieces that you've put..  But a lot of it's your own engagement.

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. So, these are, these for me are both, um, legislative and political interests and they’re professional interests.  So my day job is I work as the director for the Montana Afterschool Alliance.  So really lifting up the supports and advocacy for that part of, of the state that is taking care of kids in that out of school time, which is 80% of their waking hours over the course of a year.  And so, we really look at, um, what is that relationship and what to communities need.  So, what we know about as that is really slamming communities and slamming our state and I think as a nationwide issue, is that care for children is, there’s ..., it's not plentiful enough.  It's not affordable enough.  So, families are really struggling and that means that they cannot fully participate in the workforce.  Um, and they, so that impacts their earning capabilities and obviously adds a lot of stress to that situation.

Laurie Bishop: And it also just really impacts then the workforce of tomorrow.  So, there's a strong relationship between being able to have engaging opportunities either in the early years or in those out of school times during the school age years that are strongly linked, unequivocally linked to success.  And that success in being able to get to high school graduation, it's success in being able to make it to a career that a …, be successful in that career, have great earning potential, stay out of the judicial system. All of those pieces are related.  And so, um, I really look at it as both the workforce of today and the workforce of tomorrow.  And I also look at it through the lens of how it particularly impacts women.  So, we know that when we have looked at the pay rates of women accounting for all other factors that women are making less than men.  And I am, I am not just convinced, but there's plenty of data that shows that a big part of that, not the only part, but one of the big parts of that is that women are more likely to be forced into caregiver roles.  That in our society we do not value and we do not pay for.  And furthermore, they are more likely to work in industries of care-giving that are not as well paid.  They're more likely to be the CNA than the doctor and they’re …, and so they're just not going to have the same earning potential in those positions.  And we don't value the way in which we paid those positions.  So, for me, this is a huge part of equity in pay and equity and access to opportunity for women and girls.

Nelson King: Yeah.  And probably one of the more frustrating things because basically you're talking about children and our future. 

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. 

Nelson King: And everybody's, oh, that's great. And then, but, but they don't put their money there. 

Laurie Bishop: And I in, you know, there isn't, if we just think about, you know, we, I am, uh, don't love the way that we often make a comparison between the private side of things and the public side of things and try to treat what we do in the public sphere of really just together as a society meeting each other's needs, to businesses that are operating for profit.  But if we wanna use that business lens and we want to think about our return on investment, there isn't a better return on investment than early childhood in particular.  It is hands down the best bang for the buck.  And we know that those investments will lead not only to better outcomes that are financially linkable for the people and the families who receive them.  But we also know that societally we save a ton of money.  It's much less expensive to assure that someone's needs, our basic needs are met and that they're well educated and well prepared to go out in the world, than to pay for what happens when all those needs haven't been that met.  And now we're heading sideways and engaging with the judicial system or unable to keep a job, so struggling with our own financial capabilities and potentially leading to cycles of that within a family.  So, so we, we know that it's the best bang for the buck.  We know that it's a financially really strong investment.  We don't have to just care about people. We can care about money and it's still a good idea.

Nelson King:  Well, how much does this run afoul, your philosophy, your approach, right, afoul to the constant refrain that government can't do these things, all right?   When you're looking at things that are not profitable, probably, or they're even innovative and so who else was going to do it?  But well, how much do you find that that's the biggest barrier you're running into is that they just don't want government to do this?

Laurie Bishop: And you know, I, when I think about government or whether we're talking about city government or I think state government or federal government, it is true that there should be some sort of division around government doesn't do business, right?  Like we're not, we're not there to do the business, but we're there to make sure that the streets are paved so that the trucks that are hauling the stuff that the business needs can get across.  That we're there to assure that there's a, an electrical, you know, supply.  We don't, may not, we don't offer the supply, but we have a hand in making sure that it's appropriate, that there's clean water, that business has what it needs to function and that business has what it needs to be attracted to a particular place and do their business there.  So there's a strong relationship in terms of what government's responsibility is and how that impacts what we all benefit from and want and what other states, other communities are figuring out how to do.

Laurie Bishop: So, it's the way in which your government invests in attracting business, meeting business needs, meeting community needs.  It's all of that. Even if you don't subscribe to the idea that, gosh, just making sure we're all okay together is something that we all share an interest in.  Um, but we can also look at it as this is actually does fit right in with the vital needs of, of business.  We know that when businesses are thinking about where to locate, if their workers don't have access to childcare, that's probably not a great idea for them to locate their right.  So, government does have an interest in incentivizing the development of those parts of our larger community needs that really attract and make it a fertile place for everyone to do what they need to do. 

Nelson King: Let me extend that a little bit.  The health of downtown Livingston, the city of Livingston in general.

Laurie Bishop: Yeah. Yeah. 

Nelson King: It is part of what you deal with. 

Laurie Bishop: Sure. Yeah. And just thinking about, yeah.  What makes businesses go?  Um, I think sometimes we get confused.  I, you know, it's hard, it is hard to land back in the community after this session and start seeing things like fighting over a parade route, which I don't think really are fundamentally about what our needs are.  I can be sensitive to the needs of that, but we still attract a lot of great people that come to our community and enjoy the parade and really take in the sites and um, I think we still put on a great show and that we're thinking about public safety, pretty important and really awesome.  I think when I think about what those needs are and how I've watched them emerge, obviously a thriving downtown is important.  Um, we I think have seen that both ebb and flow a little bit over the last couple of years where that the downtown construction has undoubtedly been stressful for some of our main street business owners.

Laurie Bishop: And, um, and that, that traffic and having it compromised at the, at the most critical part of the year is one that I, I don't think we can deny that that's been hard on them.  And last summer in particular, I think I was, it was something that the whole community was talking about and caring about is I was out on doors.  Um, it's maybe a little bit less impactful this summer, but it's still, I think we still feel it.  

Laurie Bishop: But really the biggest thing for us right now is housing.  And that is one where we are feeling the same thing that is being felt all over the state.  And also, I think being felt nationally that, um, multiple factors again, but we simply have not built enough housing to meet the demand.  Um, I think it's related to market forces that have made it harder and harder for our typical workforce to be able to afford our typical homes.  And so, workforce housing, quote unquote, is higher density housing that's getting smaller and smaller, but it's still highly in need in order to meet the needs within the markets that have been created and exist today.  Um, so we're really feeling that and I think it's, we've been watching it play out in multiple iterations actually, is that as it has progressed, but I think it's been at this point going on five years that it's been coming and probably three years of intensely feeling that pressure. And, um, that really is not only changing the landscape of our community and people, you know, the difference between people who work and live in the same community as often as they do or people who, um, are still working.  I think we've, we've, part of it is we see a large influx of people who are retiring into our community and how awesome to be a part of a community that people, when they get to the stage in their life and want to be really intentional about where they can live versus what they can do, choose our community.  Um, but that also puts a little different pressure on demand and the reflection of our community as well.  So that's probably the biggest one that I see that I, I know is interfacing with the work I do at the legislature and is also right on the minds of, of our local government as well.

Nelson King: Well, yeah, thanks.  I, I know we've covered a lot of local issues too and it's important to do that.  Um, but it just for all the, to finish up here a little bit, uh, throw this open to your opinions or your, your take on various, I would call them national issues, but, um, you're a Democrat, so you obviously people are going to label you that you come from a particular liberal or liberal point of view.  But I think you also have, uh, your personal take on these things, which I seems to be pragmatic and kind of let's get things fixed and get them done.  Um, but right now of course everybody's talking about the immigration issues, particularly the southern border.  Um, and then recently we tie into the racism issues, which, uh, our President has stoked with a huge blast of kerosene or whatever you want to call it.  So how would you, what do you, what do you, what is your take on these issues and how do they relate?

Laurie Bishop: What an amazing, and I don't want amazing to sound really too positive because there's a lot of negative in that.  What an amazing moment.  I mean, I think, I think the, I maybe need to stop being amazed cause I think we're all there, but that, that every day just feels like another, another assault.  Um, on immigration, I think it's, uh, the interest that has been stoked, um, and in my opinion, falsely stoked by the president, around how we should be thinking about that issue and what the focus should be on, um, is, is racist, um, is irresponsible, is not in any way meeting the needs that are emerging.  Um, and that includes the needs of our country.  Uh, so we're you know, when, what we know is that the more welcoming any community can be, the safer that community is.  There's a direct relationship between community safety when people feel as though they are able to engage with law enforcement without being in fear.

Laurie Bishop: So, it doesn't matter whether that's in a city or that's at the border.  Um, but also at the border we have fundamentally not resourced something that's in high demand.  So, we don't have enough judges.  We don't have enough infrastructure in place to meet the needs as people arrive and are seeking very legitimate asylum.  Um, and nor are we playing, uh, any sort of particularly helpful role in figuring out what that means in other countries.  But it's not a whole lot different than watching Syrian refugees flock away from, from their communities and landing on other, other country's borders and watching what's happening in Europe.  We're seeing some of that same piece, but ours has been emerging over, I would say a little bit longer time and we have continuously failed to really figure that out.  And I think that's intentional.  Um, but all of that being said, there is, I just don't know what the conscionable response is to why we're doing this, the way that we are in terms of separating children from families and literally locking people up, including children.

Laurie Bishop: So, um, so I am disturbed. I think it's racist. I think it's ill placed attention and it's upsetting.  And I think in terms of racism and what's happening in our country, you know, I, I was thinking about this, so I, you know, I haven't lived in Montana my whole life and I, um, had the, I just call it the honor of, I'm going to high school in a community that was an intentionally, intentionally integrated community.  So, it was Shaker Heights, Ohio on the, one of the first suburbs going east on, um, out of Cleveland.  And it was founded to specifically be integrated.  And there were lots of different things that were done to assure that.  Does that mean that it's perfectly harmonious and that there's incredible equity?  It does not.  But I have the, the privilege in high school of being able to grow, of being able to engage in conversations that helped me have a much, much more comprehensive understanding of the difference in our privilege as we navigate this, this country based on the color of our skin.  And that informs a lot of how I respond to things.  I also have a last name of Friedman and you know, so I, um, you know, I, it's, it's fascinating to watch these issues play out and know that I am of a heritage of people who were turned back from entering this country at a certain point and when they had need. So…

Nelson King: Thank you.  That's good piece of insight, I think, that where you're coming from. I will use, we want to ask candidates some of the bigger picture ideas because we need to know, have you ever thought about these things and do you have a point of view and you know, we assume that most people know about national politics, but just because you're a state representative doesn't mean that you aren't also tuned into a lot of these national issues too.  There were a lot of things we didn't cover today.  Um, let's see.  Healthcare specifically and the marijuana issue.  Um, you, I assume you have opinions about all that too, and you come across as having a kind of a wealth of thought given to most of these things, which is, it's good to know.

Laurie Bishop: I try. I try

Nelson King: So well, thank you very much.  Appreciate it.  And, uh, we hope that, uh, you know, we'll probably revisit some of these issues as we get closer to the elections next year.  So sounds good. Lori Bishop, thank you very much. 

Laurie Bishop: Thanks very much. Good to be here.

Nelson King: And that wraps it for today from A Podcast Runs Through It.  On behalf of all of us here, Jerry Cole, Stewart Nelson, Cynthia Hills, Dixie Hart, and myself, Nelson King.  Thank you very much. Tune in in a couple of weeks and we'll have another one for you. Bye y'all.