March 23, 2017

HELENA, MT  --- The Delta Kappa Gamma, Alpha Chapter honor society of Helena presented ExplorationWorks with their Golden Legacy Award for 2017. This donation will help support ExplorationWorks’ Early Explorers program for preschoolers and their caregivers.

The Golden Legacy Award was established in 1987 for the purpose of making a significant contribution to our local communities and our state organization, of which Alpha is the Helena local chapter. The group selected ExplorationWorks this year as their area of interest.

“We are so pleased that the Alpha Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma has selected our organization as their Golden Legacy recipient,” said Nikki Anderson, Executive Director at ExplorationWorks. “Donations like these help keep programs such as Early Explorers available to everyone that visits the museum.”

Early Explorers education program gives preschool-aged children an opportunity to experience interactive, hands-on science activities led by skilled educators passionate about learning. The program is offered Tuesday through Friday at 10:30 a.m. and offers a variety of classes and topics each week. For more information about the types of programs ExplorationWorks offers, please visit www.explorationworks.org.


About ExplorationWorks
Since 2002, ExplorationWorks has been inspiring kids and their families to discover, explore, and develop a lifelong love for science. As one of only two science centers in Montana, ExplorationWorks offers hands-on exhibits, programs, workshops, classes, and camps for kids, youths, families, seniors, as well as school and community groups.

About Delta Kappa Gamma
Delta Kappa Gamma is a professional honor society of key women educators in the United States, Canada, Europe, Latin America, and Japan with a mission to promote professional and personal growth of women educators and excellence in education.

 


 

 

by Michael Siebert
UM Community News Service

The Montana Legislature is responsible for accomplishing a great deal during the 90 days it meets every two years.

But lawmakers are actually only constitutionally required to do one thing — create and pass a state budget.

Last week, the House of Representatives got one step closer to that goal. Fifty-six days into the session, legislators passed House Bill 2, the bill that lays out funding for every major state agency. Lawmakers allocated $10 billion in general fund money to be spent over two years. HB 2 will now move onto the Senate, which will make further amendments to the bill.

It sounds simple enough. But the budget has been one of the most contentious topics of the entire session, with legislators debating every nook and cranny in an effort to have their values represented.

The budget can also be difficult to understand. Even legislators have disagreements about what certain numbers or allocations mean. But, it also affects each and every Montanan. How the final budget shapes up will touch just about every aspect of life in Montana for the next two years.

The Basics

In order to understand why the budget is so important, it’s necessary to first understand where all that money goes.

“House Bill 2 quite simply is the money for the operation of state government,” said Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton.

Ballance is the chair of the House Appropriations Committee, or the group of representatives who put together the budget before it is sent to the rest of the House. They are also sent bills to determine whether or not they are financially feasible given the budgetary constraints of the year. The Appropriations Committee takes into account everything from the amount each state agency spends to the state’s projected revenue.

Because HB 2 covers so much territory, the greater appropriations committee also splits into multiple subcommittees. Those subcommittees deal with specific portions of the budget. This year’s budget is broken into five categories — General Government, Health and Human Services, Natural Resources and Transportation, Corrections and Public Safety and Education.

“We are very dependent on the research that the subcommittees have done,” said Appropriations Committee Vice Chair Randy Brodehl, R-Kalispell.

In this particular session, however, the legislature had to make difficult choices about which areas to prioritize. First and foremost, they had to fill a significant budget shortfall. The 2015 session left an ending fund balance of around $270 million, but that was nearly depleted by the beginning of this year’s session, largely because of a drop in revenue coming in from oil and gas exploration.

Aside from filling the hole in the budget, the appropriations committees also must make sure that the state’s “essential services” are funded, and “to achieve structural balance as required by the Montana constitution,” Ballance said.

Why it matters

While these numbers can seem abstract, they have tangible effects on Montanans. Each section of the budget oversees a vast number of government agencies, programs and individual positions.

Section A, General Government, alone covers the Legislative Branch, the Governor’s Office, the Commissioner of Political Practices, the Office of the State Auditor, the Departments of Revenue, Commerce, Administration, Labor and Industry and Military Affairs, and all of the offices within those departments.

Each of those areas regulate everything from liquor sales to workplace safety, and must work within the confines of the budget they are given. The numbers dictated by the legislature for the biennium, or next two years, tell them exactly how much they’re allowed to spend. If, for example, the Department of Military Affairs determines they were not given enough money, they must still work within the confines of their allotted budget.

Usually, that means cuts. This session, in particular, has seen a significant amount of cuts, due in no small part to the revenue shortfall and lack of money leftover from last session.

Ballance said the cuts in the budget often reflect cutting money that went unused in the previous budget. One example Republicans pointed to is a program that provides care for low-income seniors and long-term care for disabled people. That program didn’t spend a large portion of its allocation in the last budget. In this budget, it could see a reduction of almost $44.2 million.

Nevertheless, many other areas are facing significant reductions too. The Addictive and Mental Disorders Division could see an additional $22.3 million in cuts. The entire meat inspection division of the Department of Livestock would receive no funding under the budget.

Much of this funding gets matching funds from the federal government as well, which is lost when the state dollars disappear. A failed amendment to the budget that would have cost roughly $5,000 in general fund money would have also brought in $800,000 in federal matching money to fund workplace safety programs.

Democrats in particular pointed to General Government, Health and Human Services and Education as problem areas.

Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, went so far as to call the cuts “unacceptable.”

“These are deep cuts that will affect people's’ lives every single day,” Eck said. “We cannot go forward with a budget like this in good conscience.”

The split across party lines

While both parties were represented in the appropriations committees and subcommittees, Republicans hold a majority this session, with 59 representatives to 41 Democrats. That means Republicans are the primary drivers of what the budget will look like by the time the session concludes.

In the past, when Republicans held the majority, that wasn’t a problem. Minority Vice Chair of the Appropriations Committee Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings, said in 2013 the budget was passed unanimously with no amendments.

This year was much different. When the budget entered second reading last week, Democrats used the opportunity to propose 26 different amendments to HB 2 during a marathon eight-hour floor session. The amendments attempted to fix what the party saw as budgetary shortcomings. Some were comparatively small, like an amendment to provide $32,000 for Indian language immersion programs. Others were substantially larger, like one that would have restored roughly $20 million in higher education funding.

“It was a long, hard day,” Eck said. “But that, to me is a success, to be fighting for our folks and making sure their voices are heard on the floor.”

But by the end of the day, every Democratic amendment had been shot down on party line or near-party line votes.

“We spent a whole day trying to fix it,” said Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula. “It’s a bad bill for Montana.”

However, Republicans argue the budget accomplishes nearly every goal the legislature set out to meet for the session. Ballance said most of the governor’s requests for cuts were fulfilled, and that all essential services received adequate funding.

“It was done without cutting existing services, without further burdening the taxpayers,” Ballance said.

It is now up to the Senate to make final adjustments to the budget. Once approved, it will be sent to Gov. Steve Bullock, who has authority to request line item changes or veto the entire budget.

Eck said the House missed an opportunity to create a more serviceable budget before it reaches the Senate.

“We could have a better budget right now if we chose to,” Eck said.

Michael Siebert is a reporter with the UM Community News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism and the Montana Newspaper Association.

 

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for Mainstreetmontana.com

by Tyler Morrison

 

To me, St. Patrick’s Day is literally the elephant in the room. It isn’t really a holiday I’ve had any interest in since my early 20’s, but every year it comes around, sits its big fat butt on my calendar, and then doesn’t move until after March. This year, I am officially protesting the holiday by completely ignoring the event altogether, and I’m not going to write about anything related to the color green, clovers, or any part of Irish culture whatsoever. So, instead, here’s a few thoughts about beer.

The mouth of a perfectly contented man is filled with beer, according to an ancient Egyptian hieroglyphic inscription. Many of us would agree that after a hard set of tennis or an afternoon cutting grass, there is little in this world more satisfying than a cold, bubbly pint. Doubly agreeable is lifting a mug while eating food cooked with beer.

In fact, ancient Egyptian and Sumerian physicians considered cooking with beer a healthy practice.

I don't recall when I first cooked with beer, but I do recall what I cooked: chili. For years, this was the only thing I cooked using beer, but eventually I began to experiment with other dishes. I figured, I regularly cook with wine, so why not beer? I started adding it to other soups and stews, including beer in my barbecue sauce and braising corned beef brisket in it.

Although Germans do sometimes cook with beer (biersuppe - beer soup - is a famous example), Irish and Belgian cuisines are more famous for using beer as an ingredient.

Beer itself is easy to make: Boil a mixture of grain, water and perhaps hops. Let it cool. Filter out the grain and add (or capture) yeast. Store it until it quits bubbling. Drink. That's basically it. Like with bread, you are creating a microfarm for the yeast, and the yeast does all the work. You just do the heavy lifting (5 gallons of beer weighs nearly 42 pounds). In addition to what I can only assume are the vast and numerous cardiovascular benefits of repeated 16 oz. pint curls, beer does actually contain a compound called Xanthohumol in the hops commonly used in brewing beer. It has been seen to play a major role in the chemoprevention of cancer, including prostate cancer.

Beer brings three things to food. The hops add bitterness, which is offset with the sweetness of the malted grain and complemented by the flavor of the yeast. Dark beers also provide a distinct roasted flavor.

The effervescence in beer makes it an excellent addition to batters used for frying, producing a lighter crust. And some of the lightest biscuits I've ever eaten were made using beer. Because of the hops, reducing beer too much can result in an unpleasantly bitter dish. So, if you're using beer in a slow-cooking braise, use a milder beer and dilute it with stock or water if necessary. Pale ales and nut brown ales are a good choice, but in general, avoid India pale ales, as they tend to have a high hops content.

Because of the bitterness, beer pairs well with sweet vegetables such as carrots, corn and caramelized onions. And just as wine is often found in marinades, beer, too, is a great choice. I think it's a particularly good addition to marinades for game such as venison. And as the recipe for Guinness Stout Cake shows, beer even has a place in desserts.

So pour a bit of brew in a pot, pie or cake. Drink the rest of it. Think about your ancestors and the long heritage of those wee, little beasties who eat sugar and starch, and produce wonderful flavors: yeast.

I've been hearing and reading about Guinness chocolate cake for years. Beer and chocolate may strike you as an odd combination, but this isn't just any beer, it's Guinness stout, a thick beverage made from roasted barley that adds a smoky note that just happens to complement chocolate perfectly. There are lots of very similar recipes for this deservedly popular cake. I adapted one published by King Arthur Flour, but substituted cream cheese icing.

 

Cake

1 cup Guinness (or other stout)

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter

3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder*

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

2/3 cup sour cream

Icing

8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup confectioners' sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch springform pan, place a round of parchment paper on the bottom and butter it, then flour the pan.

Cake

Place the stout and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Whisk in cocoa powder until mixture is smooth.

Thoroughly combine flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in large bowl. In another bowl, beat together the eggs and sour cream until well-blended. Add stout-chocolate mixture to egg mixture and beat just to combine. Add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed.

Finish mixing by folding batter with a spatula until completely combined. Pour batter in the springform pan and bake cake until a toothpick inserted into center of cakes comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Place cake on a rack and cool for 10 minutes, then remove the sides of the pan and cool completely.

Icing

Beat together the cream cheese and sugar. Add cream and vanilla and mix. Spread icing on top of cake to echo the appearance of a glass of Guinness and its head of foam.

*Dutch-process cocoa is acid neutral. If you use something like Hershey's cocoa (which is acid) the cake may not rise properly. If you do use Hershey’s instead, add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to the flour mixture.