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Montana news focused on the western side of the state. Montana politics, healthcare, wildlands, wildlife and wildfire.

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State Minimum Wage Set To Increase Next Year

13 hours ago
Getty Images/iStock Photo

Montana’s minimum wage will increase by 10 cents starting next year.

A little over one percent of Montana’s workforce receives minimum wage, which is currently $8.05 an hour.

Dr. Phil Kinsey, director of the Montana State Crime Lab, explains rape kit testing protocols to the task force.
Mara Silvers

Montana is getting a $2 million federal grant to help clear its backlog of so-called rape kits.

Attorney General Tim Fox made the announcement today. He says it will allow the state crime lab to process 1,100 boxes of evidence in sexual assault cases dating back to 1995.

Testing the kits could result in suspects being identified in some unsolved rape cases.

First Of Its Kind Veteran's Resource Opens In Missoula

14 hours ago
Denise Juneau, right, cuts the ribbon Ed Lesofski holds up at the grand opening ceremony for the Rural Institute for Veterans Education and Research in Missoula Thursday, Sept. 29. RIVER is considered a first-of-its kind program for veterans.
Edward O'Brien

A first-of-its-kind training and intervention program for veterans celebrated its grand opening in Missoula Thursday, Sept. 29.

The Rural Institute for Veterans Education and Research – “RIVER” for short – helps vets reintegrate back into civilian life after their military service ends.

Executive Director Ed Lesofski says, “just like when they went into the military it took a while to learn how to become a military person, they have to relearn what society is all about and that’s part of what we do.”

Courtesy Two Rivers Authority

An unanticipated surge in prisoner numbers means Montana’s Department of Corrections has gone over budget, and will likely have to ask state lawmakers for more money in the 2017 legislative session.

The Legislative Finance Committee heard that in Thursday's budget update.

The budget lawmakers passed last year projected that the state would need to pay county jails to house 250 prisoners whom there’s no room for in the state prison system.

Courtesy Jon Tester's office

Senator Jon Tester is asking Montanans who think they’ve been caught up in problems with Wells Fargo to get in touch with his office.

Click here for a link to do that. 

Earlier this month the bank acknowledged opening more than two million customer accounts without their consent, incurring fees and other negative financial consequences.

Montana House Speaker Austin Knudsen (R)
Montana Legislature

Just hours after The Missoula City Council passed a new ordinance requiring background checks on gun sales, a Republican state lawmaker challenged it.

House Speaker Austin Knudsen is asking State Attorney General Tim Fox to review the law. 

Lewis & Clark National Forest
Corin Cates-Carney

This week the U.S. Department of the Interior asked a federal judge to give them more time to respond to a lawsuit over canceled oil and gas leases in the Lewis and Clark National Forest. 

The former lease owner is suing. Earlier this month, lawyers for Louisiana based Solenex LLC asked the court to find that the Secretary of the Interior acted outside the law when canceling their 33-year old lease. 

President Barack Obama
Pete Souza, The Obama-Biden Transition Project (CC-BY-3.0)

All three members of Montana’s congressional delegation voted in favor of the first-ever override of a veto by President Obama.

Last week the President vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act.

Wednesday, Democratic Senator Jon Tester joined Congressman Ryan Zinke and Senator Steve Daines, both Republicans, in voting to overturn that veto.

Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ Dam, formerly Kerr Dam
Bill Barrett (CC-BY-SA-3)


Death and taxes are supposedly two certainties in life. But at the moment, in Lake County, property taxes aren’t so certain.

 

The county is suing the state Department of Revenue over one property -- the Seli’š Ksanka Qlispe’ (say-LISH kuh-ZAHN-kuh kud-LEE-speh) Dam, formerly known as the Kerr Dam, which the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes bought from NorthWestern Energy last year.

 

The sale was negotiated in 1985 by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

 

William Marcus

A new budget analysis projects that the state’s general fund balance will fall by more than half by the end of 2017. That’s because state revenues are expected to continue declining into the next fiscal year.

State Financial Division staff will discuss the expected drop of around $140 million in the general fund balance at a Legislative Finance Committee hearing Thursday. 

The last fiscal year ended with a $255 million balance. By end of fiscal year 2017 that amount is projected to drop to around $109 million.

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