Montana State Capitol Building
Paul Thomas Richards was elected to the Montana House of Representatives, defeating incumbent Rep. William Campbell. At the time, Richards was the youngest legislator ever elected in the United States. Richards was experienced, having worked in four prior legislative sessions, three in Montana and one in Washington.
The Montana House of Representative's entrenched leadership had become recalcitrant. Rep. Richards helped install new leadership in the Montana House and was appointed to his top committee choices and assigned a key physical position on the House floor that helped Richards coordinate two dozen other legislators on key votes
Rep. Richards Successfully Sponsored Landmark Legislation, Including:
• Montana Voter Information Handbook. This legislation created a publication sent to every registered voter in the state. The Voter Information Handbook spells out proponents’ and opponents’ arguments for or against initiatives, referenda, Constitutional amendments, and other ballot measures. The Voter Information Handbook also provided opposing sides to rebut each other's initial statements.
Until the passage of the Montana Voter Information Handbook, whoever spent the most money on initiatives, referenda, Constitutional amendments, and other ballot measures almost always won.
Rep. Richards' Montana Voter Information Handbook leveled the playing field; providing voters with equal access to essential information from all sides on the issue under discussion.
As a result of the Voter Information Pamphlet, Montana became well known for its surge of forward-thinking initiatives that had previously failed muster through largely-lobbyist-controlled policiticans.
• Montana Ballot Clarification Act. This legislation provided voters with simple language describing what they vote for or against; right where they mark their ballots.
Before passage of Rep. Richards' Ballot Clarification Act, extremely confusing language on the ballot that utilized double and triple negatives and other tricks of the lobbying trade was followed by "FOR the Above Amendment" or "AGAINST the Above Amendment." With unlimited layers of "lawyer-ese," with all respect, Montana voters hadn't a clue which way they were voting.
Rep. Richards' Montana Ballot Clarification Act boiled everything down to a concise statement located exactly where voters marked yea or nay. For example, instead of "FOR the Above Amendment" or "AGAINST the Above Amendment," Montana voters are now presented with a far-more-easily understood "FOR Annual Legislative Sessions" and "AGAINST Annual Legislative Sessions."
• Montana Small Claims Courts. This legislation finally gave Montanans a simple and direct lawyer-less court through which to satisfy small claims. Small Claims Courts make justice available to all, not just the wealthy who can afford the most expensive attorneys.
When this legislation was stalled in the Montana State Senate, Rep. Richards somehow convinced Ralph Nader to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, Mr. Nader, an attorney, was a leading national proponent of justice assured by accessible and affordable access to courts.
Resultant publicity helped blast Rep. Richards'
bill out of committee to a strong floor victory
Mr. Nader, I’d like to apologize for my
seatbelts being glued to the floor
by severe overflow and spillage
from my then-wife’s many, many
super-sized Mountain Dew containers.
Mountain Dew works as well as epoxy glue!
Mr. Nader wouldn’t let me start the vehicle
to get to the Judiciary Committee hearing
on time, until we had pried both sides of
both his and my seat belts free.
It took perhaps about 15 to 20 minutes,
with Mr. Nader and I using eating utensils
to successfully loosen the
Thank you, Ralph.
I have used seat belts ever since.
• Tax Increment Financing. This legislation encourages the restoration and renovation of existing buildings, by deferring property taxes increases over a multi-year period. The community benefits from restored buildings, historic preservation, and revitalization of urban centers. The property owner benefits from less initial property taxes. As the property becomes more financially viable, taxes incrementally increase, thus further benefitting the community. This single piece of legislation has revitalized the core of almost every Montana city and town.
• Retention of the House Floor. Rep. Richards was the author of the controversial House rule barring professional lobbyists from the House floor for two hours prior to convening. Before Rep. Richards’ rule, professional lobbyists had unlimited floor access. As heated the debate at the time, the “Richards Rule” remains in effect 40 years later.
• National Energy Policy. Rep. Richards successfully sponsored a joint resolution questioning national energy policies that promote rapid development of fossil fuels, at the expense of "National Sacrifice Areas," including Montana. The resolution cited the need for energy conservation and alternative energy and "respectfully requested" the federal government "to consider the interests of all the American people, not just the fossil fuel corporations, in formulating national energy policy."
• Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council. Rep. Richards conceived the Pacific Northwest Planning Council to take back political and economic powers stolen and coopted by the coal industry, nuclear power plant promoters, and the light metals industries and rightfully return them to the Citizens of the Pacific Northwest.
Rep. Richards initiated Montana’s official involvement in Pacific Northwest regional power planning. He questioned existing power planning solely by utilities that favored exponential growth in coal-fired and nuclear power plants; rejected energy conservation and alternative energy; and subsidized aluminum and magneseum corporations, which consumed a full one-third of all the Pacific Northwest’s electricity.
One of Rep. Richards's first orders of business was to stop the Libby Nuclear Plant and the Thompson Falls Nuclear Plant, both slated for Northwestern Montana's Clark Fork River. The Bonneville Power Administration ( B.P.A.) was illicitly beginning construction through two "dummy" fronts, which Rep. Richards exposed.
Rep. Richards personally lobbied four state governors and Prime Minister David Barrett of British Columbia; helped lobby through the new power planning council through four state legislatures; and then went to Washington, D.C. to lobby the Council through the United States Congress (see below).
Rep. Richards’ resolution, along with Richards’ visits to the governors of Oregon, Idaho, and Washington, helped create the Northwest Power Planning Council, which ended the “Corporate only” policy of the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bonneville Power Administration.
For the first time; states, governors, legislatures. Indigenous Nations, and Citizens of the Pacific Northwest had a say in whether or not their communities would be graced by massive coal-fired and nuclear power plants.
After he voluntarily retired as a legislator, Richards lobbied in Washington, D.C., to help secure Congressional passage authorizing the the Pacific Northwest Power Planning Council.
Despite a Treaty specifically negotiated to promote international cooperation concerning the Columbia River; the United States Congress rudely dumped British Columbia's Prime Minister Barrett, within whose province the river orginates. My personal apologies to the gracious and kind Prime Minister and his constituents, including Indigenous Nations, who most certainly deserved equal seats at the table.
Facing a superb bridge-building opportunity with this powerful, progressive Canadian neighbor; the U.S. Congress defaulted to outdated outmoded inefficient kneejerk disrespectful "We're Number One" (and better than them) crap, rather than daring enter a new era of mature international respect, communication, and cooperation.
Since Rep. Richards conceived it and four states' legislatures and governors, both houses of Congress and the President passed it; the Council has ordered the Bonneville Power Administration to abandon the slush funds and corruption of worthless centralized dangerous nuclear and dirty coal power plants.
The Council is now forcing near-total redirection of funds from porkbarrel black holes, such as the Trojan Nuclear Plant,, which was from its inception so unsafe it was never used; to energy conservation, insulation, water conservation, renewable energy, small hydro, solar, mass transit, recycling, southern-facing building, compact flourescent lighting, rain conservation and effective utilization of water and resources in projects such as community gardens.
Rep. Richards' Council guaranteed and mandated public information; citizen participation and activism; state government involvement, review, and participation; Indigenous Nations' involvement, review and participation; and many “sunshine provisions” such as those innovated and advanced in Montana's precedent-setting 1972 Constitution.
Federal taxpayers have saved billions; Tribes are teaching us about hatching grounds and fisheries; wildlife habitat is now valued, restored and protected; and our region is successfully converting from a solely dead-end extractive economy to a renewable and sustainable economy.
The countless organized crime corporate hustlers and "revolving door" insiders within a so-called public agency, that physically kept Rep. Richards from entering public buildings in Portland to obtain information about the $685 million Trojan Nuclear Plant that was built from 1970 to 1976 with inferior materials, never worked, and torn down in 2006; are now permanently excised from the Bonneville Power Administration (B.P.A.); which was, under the tutelage of Donald Hodel, perhaps the most corrupt and out-of-control bureaucracy in federal government, excluding oil drilling regulation and the military.
Hodel moved up the Corporate feeding chain; serving as United States Secretary of Energy from 1982 to 1985 and as United States Secretary of the Interior from 1985 to 1989 under President Ronald Reagan. He later assumed the presidency of the Christian Coalition.
The power planning Council conceived by Rep. Richards is now called the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.
Rep. Richards Also Sponsored Legislation That Addressed the Following:
● Montana Department of Transportation. Rep. Richards wanted integrated inter-modal transportation in Montana and introduced legislation to that effect. His bill to create the Montana Department of Transportation emphasizing heavy inter-urban rail (particularly from Hamilton to Kalispell/Glacier National Park to relieve unbelievably commuter-congested highways for the entire region’s commute to western Montana’s largest city, Missoula; light intra-urban rail with bicycle racks; connecting heavy rail south to Amtrak at Salt Lake City and Denver; prioritizing bicycle use in all urban and rural situations; and other common sense community-building transportation, was narrowly defeated; due to emotional opposition from Montana Department of Highways bureaucrats and even powerful resistance from the asphalt lobby.
The Montana Department of Highways’ name was later changed to the Department of Transportation. However, inter-modal emphases (light rail, mass transit, passenger trains, bike paths, bike racks, bike lanes, pedestrians, etc.) have, 40 years later, never received any priority. The Department of Transportation still remains the Montana Department of Asphalt and Only Asphalt, So The Rest Of You Just Go To Hell.
● Ban on Nuclear Power Plants. Alarmed by the Bonneville Power Administration’s covert coordinations, with carefully-integrated "plausible deniability," covert planning and covert land acquisition plans; in order to to build one nuclear power plant near Libby, Montana and another nuclear power plant near Thompson Falls, Montana; both alongside the scenic Clark Fork River of northwestern Montana, Richards introduced legislation prohibiting all nuclear power plants in Montana.
To uncover the Truth, Richards had to pierce a "double false flag" con. "Double false flags were just starting to be used in sophisticated military operations," Richards said. "They're incredibly challenging to figure out and they're unaccountable to any."
Organized crime conceived, executed, and perfected successful "false flag" operations in the early 20th Century, primarily for enormous profits of circumventing the U.S.A.'s Alcohol Prohibition. It was possible to figure out smart false flags, but it took hundreds of "prohees" (federal agents) to do so. Double false flags are a significant evolution in intelligent organized crime. This could have been the first double false flags in our region, although it's possible the oil industry had begun, in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Interior, utilizing them against Indigenous Peoples to steal oil and coal from Reservations dotting the West.
The U.S. Department of Interior, through its Bonneville Power Administration (B.P.A.), aggressively saought to deceive the public. This was the first double false flag I had uncovered. I was shamed such massive organized crime operations has established thesmelves in the Department of Interior. Organized criminal operatoions coordinated by the federal agency entrusted with the public's natural resources!
My read was organized crime infested federal power and land agencies, such as the Department of Interior and, soon thereafter, the Forest Service and National Forests, after accurately determining oil theft, coal theft, timber theft, natural gas theft, and nuclear power plant construction to be the best sources for the most graft/ The willing and grateful federal employees who made it all possible hadn't a clue as to bribe pittances; when compared to ill-gained billions of dollars thefts they facilitated for the oil, gas, and nuclear industries, all at public expense.
Rep. Richards' legislation garnered surprising support from unexpected allies and, fighting against utility lobbyists used to winning cake-walk styles, Richards almost passed it. "The only safe nuclear power plant is the one 93 million miles away," Rep. Richards said at hearings. Richards’ nuke ban served as the impetus for three successful ballot initiatives: One curtailing radioactive waste, one restricting uranium mining, and one entirely barring any further construction of the two nuclear plants on the Clark Fork River or elsewhere.
● Rights of Participation. This legislation would have allowed public employees to participate in election campaigns and protected them from undue influence by their superiors. Although it narrowly failed, it was enacted by a subsequent legislature. State employees are now allowed, for the first time, to contribute to campaigns and to run for office themselves.
● Historical Preservation of the Montana State Capitol. Richards sponsored two pieces of legislation to preserve and protect deteriorating historical murals and infrastructure throughout the Capitol complex. Although defeated, subsequent legislatures followed Rep. Richards’ lead and funded preservation and restoration of historical murals and even the crumbling Montana State Capitol building itself.
● Highway Construction's Destruction of Rivers and Fisheries. Montana’s sole reliance on conventional highway construction (cut and fill, cut and fill, and cut and fill) and forced channelization of all rivers and streams results in excessive environmental disruption, weed infestations, and near-total demolition of all rivers and fisheries within western Montana's confined valleys and mountains.
Rep. Richards' legislation made the Montana Department of Highways consider alternative construction techniques such as full structure and reinforced earth that make environmental sense. The asphalt industry, concrete lobby, and Department of Highways fought fiercely and defeated the Richards' resolution, stating environmentally-sensitive highway construction was impossible in Montana.
Behind the scenes, Rep. Richards presented his research to Department of Highways’ engineers. By the 1980s, the Highway Department began utilizing reinforced earth construction. Stream sedimentation was significantly reduced and some rivers began their long journey back to life.
Full structure methods that generate no river sedimentation and minimal surface disruption are the only highways built in mountainous European countries. In Europe, land can't be demolished without Citizen uprisings. Full structure highway construction is mandated, to allow communities to remain intact and to allow Europeans continued easily-accessible agriculture production of the massive acreage underneath the highways.
Yet, in Montana, Highway department engineers look you straight in the eye and say full structure highways are impossible. Bike paths (which would be an enormous factor, helping attract tourists, establishing networks of bed-and-breakfast "homes," and restaurants and coffee houses to and bring funds into rural Montana) are, too.
The Montana Department did but one of my mandates: Solely for cosmetic reasons, the department officially changed its name to the "Montana Department of Transportation."
Of course, the department remains the Highways Department, with no sane alternatives considered, even when legally mandated by the National Environmental Policy Act (N.E.P.A.) and the Montana Environmental Policy Act (M.E.P.A.). The Highway Department has dealt with N.E.P.A. AND M.E.P.A. by hiring plenty of the best lawyers it can find, to ensure the department will never consider environmental reality or real peoples' needs. The lawyers' huge salaries, when combined with continued madness of bulldozed cut-and-fill and cut-and-fill-ONLY. consume far more money than sane transportation alternatives.
To date (2018), the Highways Department has ignored all light rail (intra-urban) and heavy rail (inter-urban) mass transit. Commercially-viable applications, such as the north/south Hamilton to Missoula to Glacier National Park/Kalispell/AMTRAK corridor were immediately rejected by minds limited to same ol' same ol' massive destruction of bulldozed four-lane freeways.
However, the Flathead Reservation, primarily Salish Nation and Kootenai Nation, forbade the Department of Highway's proposed four-lane and demanded two lanes, with turn-offs' expansion, and many wildlife crossings. The Highway Department, having never installed any wildlife crossings in a state famous for its wildlife, had to be sued by the Tribes to install both overhead and underground wildlife crossings.
The Tribes have national sovereignty. Up to now, both Montana and the Federal government simply all Treaties, a successful strategy for 125 years.
Thankfully, the Tribes brought in good attorneys of their own. The Highway Department has never before lost. Imagine having to install goddamned wildlife crossings, when you could have multiple fatal vehicle/wildlife collisions!
Although fatalities for humans and wildlife are now nil in this section of western Montana, the Highway Department remains so angry about losing for the first time, it steadfastly refuses any other further proposals for two lane, with turn-offs' expansion, accompanied by many above-ground and below-ground wildlife crossings; no matter how many folks support them and no matter where Montanans propose them. Does the department take pride in large numbers of fatal collisions it creates?
To this date, 2018 - 43 after my legislation, the Montana Highway Department refuses to consider economical, efficient, minimally-polluting intra-urban light rail mass transit that helps poor, elderly, and environmentally-conscious Citizens access their communities.
Intra-urban light rail mass transit is viable for every Montana city. Yet, the Highway Department opts for more asphalt for their mass transit alternative: Heavily-polluting obnoxious mass transit (buses) that no one will use.
Requests from Montana's two largest metropolitan areas, Missoula and Billings, each containing 50,000, with another 25,000-to-35,000 people immediately adjacent, have been flatly ignored. After their stinky buses inevitably fail, asphalt-addicted Highway Department engineers conclude mass transit will never be a factor in Montana.
Legislation Successfully Co-Sponsored by Rep Richards:
● Implement Constitutional provisions for citizen participation, open doocuments, and open meetings in the operations of all governmental agencies within Montana, including county commissions and school boards;
● Set minimum returns for oil and gas leasing of state lands;
● Investigate beef pricing in Montana;
● Allow local planning boards to establish joint planning boards;
● Prohibit changing certain water rights from agricultural to industrial usage:
●Broaden unemployment benefits;
●Provide funding for a workers’ compensation grand jury investigation of disappearing funds;
●Recodify all laws from the Revised Code of Montana (R.C.M.) to the Montana Code Annotated (M.C.A.) currently in use;
● Pay prisoners prevailing pay rates; and
● Provide tax incentives for alternative energy and energy conservation.
Unsuccessful Legislation Co-Sponsored by Rep. Richards Would Have:
● Established a legislative code of ethics and prohibited conflicts of interest;
● Protected prime agricultural land;
● Addressed high prices of certain prescription drugs;
● Taxed new subdivisions for their large increases of local fire protection costs;
● Given Montana counties more power to review subdivisions;
● Allow local public utilities districts. Due to extremely well-funded opposition from investor-owned utilities (“I.O.U.s”) , Montana is the only state in the Union specifically outlawing public utility districts;
● Held registered lobbyists accountable for unprofessional conduct; and
● Assured transferability of credits between units of the Montana university system.
● Recognition. For his legislative leadership, Rep. Paul Thomas Richards was cited by National Geographic (Magazine).
● Lobbyist Disclosure Initiative. Rep. Richards voluntarily retired from the Montana legislature to coordinate the Montana Lobbyist Disclosure Initiative; which allows media, reporters, and all Montana Citizens to learn exactly how much money professional lobbyists spend to influence public officials.
Unlike all of his other bills, Rep. Richards was unable to recruit co-sponsors for meaningful lobbyist disclosure in the Montana legislature. Professional lobbyists held legislators securely in check.
Rep. Richards sent his lobbyist disclosure draft to every professional lobbyist in Montana to involve them in this process.
Rep. Richards also visited every newspaper editor (dailies, weeklies, bi-weeklies, monthlies, and quarterlies) in Montana to explain the initiative and answer editors’, reporters’, and staffs’ questions. As a result, the lobbyist disclosure received overwhelming editorial support across the state.
At this point, Rep. Richards burned out. An amazingly dedicated crew of a half dozen Independents, Republicans, and Democrats, previously recruited by Richards, finished the job by hurling lobbyist disclosure over the finish line. Montana owes a debt of gratitude to the extremely talented and savvy Art K., Mark M., Andrea W., Mark N., Kelly J., and Rose M.
When lobbyist disclosure was presented to all voters instead of only-Capitol-based politicians and lobbyists, Citizens of Montana passed the initiative by an overwhelming four-to-one majority.
● Public Lands:
Rep. Richards halted the privitization of the sacred Gates of the Mountains on the Missouri River.
Rep. Richards co-created the Congressionally-designated Elkhorn Mountains Secluded Wildlife Refuge, with Clif Merritt, and Dr. Rupert Cutler.
Rep. Richards protected a million acres of unprotected National Forest roadless wildlands in southwestern Montana.