Montana Public Radio is gathering information on all statewide general election candidates to publish as a resource for our audience. We asked all the statewide candidates to respond to the following questions via email, limiting their answers to 150 words per question. These are their unedited responses.
Shane Morigeau is the 2020 Democratic candidate for state auditor.
What makes you the best candidate for state auditor and how do you stand out from your opponent(s)?
My background in forestry and law, including working as a criminal prosecutor, coupled with my legislative background of working with Republicans and Democrats shows I’ll be a strong advocate for Montanans. The Auditor is a consumer protection office, and I have a proven record protecting Montanans: I worked across the aisle to make healthcare more affordable, protect children, and provide vocational opportunities for students. I’m ready to hit the ground running to work with the upcoming legislative session. I’m from Montana, and grew up in a low income family on the Flathead Reservation. Growing up, hunting was a means of survival and sustenance for my family-- I know the importance of public lands. I’ll always defend our public lands on the state Land Bard.
What experience do you have in regulating, or being a part of, the insurance and securities industries?
I’m proud not to come from the industry or be an insurance industry insider. This is a consumer protection office, and Montanans deserve to be protected. I’ll look out for Montanans’ best interests. I have nearly a decade of legal experience in transactions, civil litigation, insurance, criminal law, employment law, and healthcare law. My legislative background includes work on legislation regarding insurance and securities, including a bill on clarifying blockchain cryptocurrencies within securities law. Growing up here, I’ve seen too many people fall through the cracks, unable to access affordable insurance. I’m running to keep insurance rates fair, improve access to affordable healthcare, and protect Montanans from fraud. My legal background and legislative experiences, as well as my experiences growing up in this state, prepare me to fight for Montanans as Auditor.
What are your three top goals to accomplish as state auditor and how would you achieve them?
I’ll enter office with numerous priorities, so this question is a tough choice. My top three goals are: Keeping rates fair and protecting Montanans; fighting for parity in healthcare, especially mental and behavioral health care across Montana communities; and protecting our public lands on the Land Board. The first two are vital consumer protection roles for the office. I’ll staff the office with Montana’s best experts in insurance and securities, regardless of political party. I’ll work hand in hand with insurance whenever needed, but I won’t hesitate to defend Montanans and demand fair, affordable rates. The latter goal regards the state Land Board. I’ll work with landowners to protect their property rights and increase and improve access to Montana’s state public lands. The Land Board makes vital decisions on management of our state public lands, and I’ll be a champion for our wildlife, for conservation, and recreation.
State Auditor is one of five statewide elected officials that sits on the state Land Board, which manages state trust lands. What are your priorities for managing these lands?
The constitutionally mandated role of the state trust lands is to provide funds for our trust institutions, including Montana’s public schools. I’m a proud product of Montana schools, and I take that role extremely seriously. I’ll approach management questions on a case by case basis and always seek local input. Our public lands are what make Montana the Last Best Place, and our strong recreation economy must be taken into consideration. I’ll oppose any land transfers or out of state deals that threaten our public lands. I’ll work with landowners to respect property rights and improve access. I’ll strongly support successful programs such as Habitat Montana, and I’ll work hard to unlock Montana’s landlocked public lands acreage. As a candidate with forestry education, experience fighting fire, and deep respect for our wildlife and outdoors, I’ll be a true champion for our public lands.
Do you have ideas of specific policies you want to bring to the 2021 legislative session that would play a role in the regulation of insurance and securities in the state? Please provide specifics on those policies.
Montanans deserve better transparency in healthcare. I’ll work with hospitals and insurers to determine a package of proposals that will improve transparency so Montanans can get better clarity in what they owe for a medical procedure, on both the provider and the insurance end.
Montanans deserve strong consumer protection. I’ll propose legislation giving the office stronger teeth to enforce our laws on mental and behavioral health insurance. We can save lives by ensuring that this vital coverage, already enshrined in law, is accessible in a fair and affordable way, and that communities across Montana can work towards mental and behavioral healthcare parity.
I’ll work with insurance experts and legislators on policies to protect insurance consumers in the event of severe storms, hail, or events such as fires, especially at the wildland-urban interface.
What authorities as state auditor do you believe need to be used more or less than previous administrations in this role?
This is a consumer protection office. The authority of licensing insurance and financial firms could be used strongly, to make sure insurance companies are treating Montanans fairly, and rates are fairly priced. I’d use the office’s research and investigation capacities to go over rate change proposals with a fine-toothed comb, to make sure they are justified and fair. This office is about protecting Montanans, and I won’t hesitate using the authorities of the office to pursue bad actors and fly-by-night operations to ensure fair, affordable coverage. I believe the authority of the office to allow junk insurance plans back into the state has been grossly overused by the incumbent -- Montanans deserve insurance that covers what it purports to cover, and which is fair and affordable. I wouldn’t allow
junk insurance plans to take advantage of Montanans. I would also defend Montanans from fraud, taking on cases myself if needed.
What other issues are important to your campaign? (300 word limit)
I think representation matters. Montanans deserve elected officials who are connected to their communities, who listen, and who don’t just show up to win political office or treat any office like a stepping stone to the next election. I’ll be an independent voice that puts Montanans ahead of any political party, and I’m ready to work with Republicans and Democrats to get things done. I was proud to work on Montana’s Medicaid expansion, and to be on the committee that voted to reauthorize it in 2019. Around 100,000 Montanans are covered today who otherwise wouldn’t be. These protections are vital to our economy, and to our rural hospitals. I’ll work tirelessly to protect Montanans with preexisting conditions, and I’ll defend them from any politician who seeks to take that coverage away. Nearly every Montanan interacts with insurance and securities in some way, whether through car insurance, renters insurance, their homeowners policy, their retirement, workers compensation, or numerous other products and services. These industries play a deep role in our lives. Montanans deserve to be protected -- I’m running to ensure we’ll be treated fairly