Melissa Smith- Montana – State House District 23
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background.
I currently live and work in Great Falls, Montana.
I was raised in Havre, Mont., and spent my summers with my grandparents in the Flathead Valley. I received a first-class education here, from kindergarten – high school in Havre through my B.A. from the University of Montana in Missoula. I perform as a concert pianist in the Great Falls area, both as a soloist, accompanying singers and instrumentalists, and as a member of the Great Falls Symphony. I am also the president of the board of the Paris Gibson Square Museum of Art.
Why are you running for office?
I have been involved in community organizing, running individual campaigns, and non-profits of all kinds since my university days. I have enjoyed that work immensely; however, I am now seeking a seat at the table where Montana’s laws are made and its budgets passed.
Our values are reflected by where our money gets spent.
What are the three biggest issues facing your community?
The three biggest issues facing our community in House District 23 are:
- affordable housing;
- economic opportunity; and
- public safety.
Access to public lands (for the average Montanan for hunting and fishing), and checks and balances in the various branches of Montana’s state government are two additional issues of importance.
At the end of the day, accountability and a level playing field are paramount and play out in all of the above areas.
How do you propose to solve those problems?
The legislation we pass must emphasize the responsibilities of government as well as those of individuals to address our most pressing challenges. I will be a passionate defender of Montana’s clean and healthy environment, Montana’s Constitution, our public school system, affordable housing, public health, food security, restorative justice, and all issues which underlie our public safety.
What is your stance on environmental and climate concerns that are facing your community?
I believe that climate issues pose an existential threat to all thriving communities.
Unless we seriously cut through the misinformation and change our ways, we will not have clean air, water or a place to live.
I believe we must address energy from both the demand and the supply side — we must figure out how to use less, quickly, while simultaneously weaning ourselves off of fossil fuels and ensuring that the energy we do require is sourced sustainably, starting immediately. Of course, this means taking care of those whose livelihoods have been made in the fossil fuel industry. I have several ideas for how to ensure a compassionate transition for those energy workers who have helped produce America’s energy for more than a century.
What commonsense gun safety measures would have the most impact on your community?
I believe in Everytown for Gun Safety’s “Be SMART” program. It has been designed to help parents and adults normalize conversations about gun safety and take responsible actions that can prevent children’s death and injuries by guns.
How would criminal justice reforms impact your community?
The criminal justice reforms that we need are more prosecutors, more courts, more judges, and more public defenders. We are not currently able to make progress on civil cases due to the chronic backlog in criminal cases, which causes delay. Justice delayed being justice denied, the criminal justice system would benefit all around from increasing funding to enable better programs, community resources such as case managers for parolees, and restorative justice initiatives.
How would you work to protect a woman’s reproductive health?
I would work to ensure that Montana’s women’s constitutional and statutory rights to privacy in all of their medical decisions are not lost. I would actively work to defeat any legislation that attempted to introduce vigilantism in Montana’s enforcement of its healthcare access laws.
What measures would you advocate to ensure that your constituents have the right to vote?
Disenfranchisement is the enemy of democracy; I would work vigorously against all voter suppression bills. Montana has no place for legislation that attempts to suppress voters’ rights to elect their leaders; such legislation shouldn’t even make it out of committee.
I would work to ensure that proposed bills do not make it out of committee whenever there is clearly a violation of the Montana Constitution, and legal challenges would obviously ensue, wasting taxpayer money and potentially degrading our democracy.
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