By CHRIS ARNESON Montana’s House District 98 is wide open this election and Republican Will Deschamps is running hard

on the argument that legislators should live in the districts they represent. “Voters should have a choice for someone who would have a stake for something that happens in HD 98,” said the 62-year-old small-business owner. “You’ve got to have a direct relationship with the people you represent.” Deschamps’ Democratic opponent, Susan Malek, doesn’t live in the district – neither does its current representative, Holly Raser. According to Montana state law, a legislator does not have to live in the district they represent as long as they live in the county that contains the district. Deschamps said he spends a lot of time telling voters about the law. “When I tell people about it, they say ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’” he said. Deschamps said he never has and never would run out of district. And if elected, he said he would sponsor a bill requiring legislators to reside in the district they represent. “I’d sponsor the bill, but it would never pass,” he said. Too many legislators from both major parties live outside of their districts, he added. Deschamps is a self-proclaimed fiscal conservative who said he will work hard to eliminate wasteful state spending. Governments are inherently wasteful, he said, adding that he would support an agency-by-agency audit to uncover waste and eliminate it. “If you study things you can find waste,” he said. Deschamps, who sits on the Hellgate Elementary School Board, said that job has allowed him to see the need for reform in the way Montana funds education. In 2005, Montana’s Supreme Court ruled that the state’s school funding was inadequate. Although schools received a financial boost from the 2007 Legislature, educators are back in court, arguing the case again. Deschamps said the state never effectively dealt with the problem in 2005. He said Montana needs to come up with an effective, long-term solution to the financial problems facing public schools today. During his tenure on his local school board, Deschamps said he also dealt with teachers unions and managed educators’ pay. He said that Montana’s teachers need a raise. “They have been underpaid for years in this state,” he said. “We need to get teachers’ pay up.” He said that as a board member, he gave Hellgate Elementary teachers a 5 percent raise – the biggest in the school’s history. “You’ve got to pay people what they’re worth when you can afford it,” he said. “There are certain things that you need to finance and you need to pay for: roads, police and teachers.” The best way to keep good teachers is to follow Republican gubernatorial candidate Roy Brown’s proposal, he said. That plan would give financial and tax incentives to Montana schools and businesses that help pay off employees’ student loans. Montana also needs to find an effective, single stream of income to fund educators’ pay, Deschamps said. He said the best place to get the money is to capitalize on

Montana’s natural resources by mining more coal and building more coal-fired power plants. He said he doesn’t have the scientific background to understand what scientists are talking about when it comes to global climate change, but he thinks it is something that Montana’s politicians should keep in mind when talking about energy policy. Still, Deschamps said he isn’t convinced that climate change is entirely man-made, and said that he’s not sure how much humans can do to stop it anyway. He added Montana does need to be careful in it manages its natural resources and the environment. “I think we’re getting to a point in time when the environmental concerns can be dealt with in a responsible way,” he said. He said that as a state legislator, he would work to provide more funding toward research and development in the university system. He cited the University of Florida and the popular sports drink Gatorade, saying that if Montana State University or the University of Montana develops a useful product, the university should receive royalties from it. He said that would help solve funding problems for higher education. Deschamps also said that funding more research in Montana’s universities could help develop alternative energy. He agreed with Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s argument that Montana could, and should be a global center for alternative energy. -30-

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