Nothing is more important to the future of our state than our children. As a former public school teacher, I have experienced firsthand the spark for learning that can ignite between a teacher and a student. It is what drives every teacher to connect with his or her students. I also know the hardships that educators face, from crowded classrooms to lack of technology to the contrast in socioeconomic status. I will fight to ensure Montana's schools are adequately funded, that we provide a vehicle for every student's brilliance to shine, and that we meet and exceed achievement standards in the process.

Early Childhood Education

We must invest in early childhood education programs like Head Start. I had the opportunity to teach at Ellie and Finn's preschool. Giving these little people the tools and confidence they need for a successful k-12 education is possible. Every child should have this opportunity. Montana is one of 10 states that does not publicly fund early childhood education. We need to change that. Investing now pays off later.

K-12 Public Schools

I am a firm believer in the power of public education. My mother and father-in-law were career high school teachers. I taught in public schools for nearly 10 years. Every community across Montana—large or small—deserves the promise of a good school. Montana can be a national leader in math, science and the liberal arts, but it starts with all parties coming together to support public education. We must continue to invest in Montana's future through education.

Higher Education

Whether running a herd of cattle on a Montana ranch or pioneering new advancements in molecular technology, a college degree is critical to our children's future. The Montana University System must be affordable to attract the best and brightest students from Montana and across the world. Montana and Montana State are two incredible universities that shine on different levels, from the liberal arts to science, math and technology. Our two-year colleges, while still vital for training Montanans to enter the work force,  have grown into much more than just trade schools. They are viable options for all aspiring students at a lower cost. We must continue to invest in the synergies amongst university system schools to provide access to quality higher education at a more affordable cost.

Business and Job Creation

As a small business owner in Helena, I understand the importance of a thriving Main Street. It's part of the fabric of every community across Montana. But I also know how tough it is for the Mom and Pop shops, which make up more than 95 percent of all businesses in the Big Sky State, to thrive. It's hard work. Small business owners like me understand what it means to count every penny. I will use my hard-earned experiences to scrutinize the state budget and find ways to make state government more efficient. Bigger isn't always better. Montana sits in sound fiscal shape, but we aren't without our looming problems, such as a permanent solution to our pension system that protects the investments of current state employees.

Last legislative session I worked across party lines to help reduce taxes for most Montana businesses. The bill I helped pass exempted the first $100,000 worth of business equipment from taxes—a fivefold increase. It also reduced the tax rate to 1.5 percent on the first $6 million worth of equipment. For most of Main Street Montana, this means as much as $2,000 or more back in their pockets every year. This bill was a compromise between small and large businesses that benefitted both. It was a significant tax break that will help small businesses like mine reinvest and expand their businesses. It will also help large businesses continue to recruit and hire talented employees, spurring job growth in Montana.

Social Services

The most vulnerable citizens are the people who need our help the most. I will do everything in my power to improve Montana's mental health treatment system, particularly for children and adults suffering from mental illnesses. One in 20 people suffer from a biological brain disorder and that affects one-fifth of our population. Serious mental illness is extremely pervasive.

Right now in Montana, our system is reeling from a lack of mental health providers and limited crisis beds throughout the state. We have a limited amount of crisis beds throughout the state. The de facto crisis center has become our jails and the state hospital in Warm Springs. The current entry to access medical care is through law enforcement. That doesn't make sense. This takes people in crisis out of their communities and drives up the cost to successfully treat them. While Montana has made strides in recent years, we need more geographically dispersed crisis centers.

I applaud the lifelong advocacy of people like Curt Chisholm, Gary Mihelish and Matt Kuntz, who have all experienced the most tragic outcome as a result of underlying mental illness. I will join them and others to fight for improvement in our system. My hope is that perhaps someday, mental illness will be seen as a disease like diabetes or cancer, chronic perhaps but not terminal, and that one day soon help will be available in every community, big and small, throughout the continuum of care across Big Sky Country.

Clean and Healthy Environment

Montana is a special place. I was raised in Missoula with the Rattlesnake Wilderness as my backyard. I now live in Helena, where conservation efforts have resulted in one of the finest trail systems anywhere in the country. I use the trail system almost every day, all year long. Protecting Montanans' right to access our wonderful open spaces is a priority. I am active with the Prickly Pear Land Trust and the Western Environmental Law Center and support their efforts to protect and conserve Montana's open spaces so that future generations of Montanans can enjoy the spectacular environment.

Here in Montana, we can also lead the way for American energy independence. We can do it in a way that results in a cleaner future by responsibly developing Montana's natural resources and investing in new technology.

Individual Rights

I am pro-choice because:
I believe in a woman's right to choose and make her own decisions about her reproductive health care. The government should not interfere with this process and, in doing so, is only endangering the health of Montana women and families.
Limiting access to reproductive health care does not stop women and families from obtaining an abortion, but rather it will deter them from safe and legal options.
A woman's decision on her reproductive health care services is an incredibly intimate and personal decision. It should remain between a woman, her physician and spiritual leaders. This is no place for politicians or the state Legislature.
I believe in personal autonomy and human dignity. Every person should have the right to make their own decisions about their body and their health.
I am pro-equality because:
All Montanans, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, deserve equal protection under the law.
All individuals deserve to live safe and happy lives, free from the fear of discrimination of losing their jobs, being evicted from their homes, or being asked to leave a public establishment.
Our youth are some of the most vulnerable in our community. They are facing challenges in school that must be faced head on. Montana is the only state in our country without anti-bullying laws. As your next representative, I will fight to change this.