Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

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Montana Lawmakers are considering a resolution asking Congress and the President to approve the Keystone XL pipeline, which President Obama has already vetoed once. Malta Republican Representative Mike Lang told the Senate Energy Committee the pipeline promises benefits for the state and the nation as a whole.

"Pipelines are the safest, most reliable, economical, and environmentally favorable way to transport oil and other petroleum products. Presently, a lot of people don’t know but in Montana, 88 percent of the oil that’s in our refineries comes from Canada, right now, today."

State Budget Hearings Begin Wednesday At The Montana Legislature

Mar 17, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Wednesday, the debate at the Montana Legislature begins over the state-wide budget in House Bill 2. The bill gained only Republican support out of committee because it was more than $100 million less than the governor asked for.

Josh Burnham

The city of Missoula’s attempt to seize ownership of its water from its current owner will begin in district court tomorrow. The city is suing The Carlyle Group, a global private firm, for ownership of Mountain Water Company.

Gathered in front of the county courthouse Tuesday afternoon, nearly 70 Missoulians sang, spoke and chanted in support of the city's effort.

City Councilman Jason Wiener was quite clear about where he stood on the issue.

Another Medicaid Expansion Plan Introduced At The Montana Legislature

Mar 17, 2015
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

The latest proposal to expand health insurance coverage for the working poor is scheduled for a legislative hearing Friday.

Supporters Pack Hearing On Gov's Infrastructure Plan

Mar 17, 2015
Eric Whitney

Supporters for infrastructure projects across Montana packed the House Appropriations Committee Monday afternoon to speak in favor of the governor's funding plan. The hearing was a stark contrast to last week's hearings on the GOP's alternate infrastructure bills.

The GOP proposals for infrastructure is found in House Bills 6, 7, 8, 11, 15, and 403. These bills were heard last week. There were few proponents; all were opposed by the Bullock Administration.

Former Montana Senator, and current Ambassador to China, Max Baucus returned to his home state for the first time in over a year Monday night.

Baucus addressed a Montana Chamber of Commerce gathering in Helena. He said China's economic output is on track to surpass the U.S. in about 10 years, but that means increased opportunities for some Montana industries, such as energy. Montana can supply China with coal, and with technology to burn that coal cleanly, now that China has agreed to slow its growth in carbon emissions.

New Montana Crime Lab On Tuesday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 16, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Tuesday, Montana legislators hear a bill that would set aside money to build a crime lab in Eastern Montana.

Republican Representative Dale Mortensen is sponsoring House Bill 512, and is a former police officer who now works as a private investigator in Billings.

Flathead National Forest

The Flathead National Forest is revising its forest plan for the first time since 1986. The plan lays out what is and isn’t possible on 2.4 million acres of federal land from Seeley Lake to the Canadian border.

Montana Lawmakers Hear State Employee Pay Plan

Mar 16, 2015
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

A standing room only crowd packed into the hearing room for the state employee pay plan. Members of the House Appropriations Committee are considering whether to implement the pay plan agreement reached between the Bullock administration and the various public employee unions.

Sheila Hogan heads the Department of Administration. She was one of several agency administrators who spoke in favor of the pay plan.

Courtesy Bridger Pipeline LLC

Glendive's water supply was shut down briefly this weekend due to contamination from the January 17 oil spill into the Yellowstone River.

Equipment installed near Glendive's water intake system detected elevated levels of volatile organic compounds early Saturday morning.

That prompted city officials to issue an advisory to conserve water. That forced residents to rely on bottle water through the weekend.

That advisory has since been lifted.

Montana lawmakers are moving closer to giving cities the power to deal with the problem of public intoxication.

Current state law treats alcoholism as a disease to be treated rather than a crime to be punished, but Billings city officials say that hampers their efforts to deal with public drunkenness, a problem that costs the city over eight million dollars a year.

State Budget On Next Week's Legislative Agenda

Mar 13, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Next week, the Montana House of Representatives will hear House Bill 2, the state budget bill. It arrives smaller than Gov. Steve Bullock requested, including a proposal to take away his plane, which he says is about party politics.

Gun safety advocates have begun a push to defeat several bills that expand gun rights in Montana.

The Montana chapter of “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense” is taking aim at two bills that would loosen the state’s concealed-carry laws, and another bill that would allow guns on college campuses.

They kicked off their drive with a capitol news conference, where one speaker was retired Lewistown educator John Moffatt, who was shot and nearly killed by a Junior High student in 1986. He doesn’t want guns on campus, and says students don’t them either.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on "Capitol Talk", Sally, Mike and Chuck cover pre-school education's tough reception at the legislature, the infrastructure funding debate, Medicaid expansion passions, and concealed carry on campus.

"Capitol Talk," our weekly legislative news and analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the legislative session. MTPR's Sally Mauk is joined by Lee Newspapers reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

Tune in to "Capitol Talk" on your radio every Friday during the session at 6:35 p.m. and again on Sunday at 11:00 a.m.
 

Legislators Weigh Lawsuit Over Out Of State Coal Ports

Mar 13, 2015

Montana legislators are considering giving $1 million to the Montana Department of Justice for a potential lawsuit against states hindering Montana’s coal trains from getting to larger markets. Namely, markets like China.

Tax Cuts Advance Even As Ending Fund Balance Remains Unknown

Mar 13, 2015
William Marcus

The Republican-controlled legislature is closer to sending another tax cut proposal to Democratic Governor Steve Bullock’s desk. The governor has already vetoed one tax cut measure.

Senate Bill 200 would reduce the income tax rates and broaden the tax brackets. The bill also reduces the capital gains tax credit rate.

A pair of bills intended to increase privacy in the digital age are making their way through the Montana legislature. They were each heard today in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which will vote on them later.

Eric Whitney

About 80 climate change activists rallied in Missoula this morning.

Led by Jeff Smith of the group 350Missoula, they gathered in front of Senator Steve Daines’ office here. There were there to, they said, “protest the senator’s denial of climate change science and his support for fossil fuel projects like coal exports, the Otter Creek Coal Mine, and the Keystone XL pipeline."

'Catastrophic Health Care Costs' Bill On Friday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 12, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Expanding healthcare is on the agenda yet again at the Montana Legislature Friday.

Republican Representative Art Wittich of Bozeman is carrying House Bill 582, and says it’s a part of the Republicans' alternative plans to the governor’s Medicaid expansion.

The Montana House has narrowly approved an updated list of mandatory vaccinations for Montana school students; even though the Senate rejected the House’s attempt to add an exemption for "personal beliefs."

Billings Representative Kathy Kelker, a Democrat, said states that allow children to go unvaccinated because of their parents’ "personal beliefs" have seen tragic results.

"The states who have had it, particularly California, are the ones where we now see outbreaks of epidemics of childhood diseases, the most recent being measles."

Every day millions of us create Facebook posts, Tweets, and other digital records of our lives. But what happens to all this content you’ve created, when you die? Montana could become one of the first states to answer that question as a matter of law. A bill heard Thursday morning in the House Judiciary Committee would give your survivors access to your data, unless you leave specific instructions to the contrary.

Missoula attorney Dirk Williams has a client whose son died suddenly, leaving behind important information that was locked inside password-protected computers.

House Votes To Criminalize Physician-Assisted Suicide

Mar 12, 2015
Michael Wright - Community News Service

UPDATE - 03/13/15: On third reading today, House Bill 477 criminalizing physician-assisted suicide failed on a 50 to 50 vote in the House.

Lawmakers Begin Debate On Infrastructure Bills

Mar 12, 2015
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

One of the biggest disagreements at the state capitol this year is how Montana should fund roads, bridges and other infrastructure. Governor Steve Bullock’s “Build Montana” proposal is one big bill that would fund lots of different projects. It would pull funding from several different sources, including the state coal tax trust fund. Legislative Legal Services says, that means his bill would need to win votes from 75% of lawmakers. 

The House Appropriations Committee has begun examining funding for the various infrastructure projects proposed this legislative session.

Limits On Drone Use On Thursday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 11, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Thursday at the Montana legislature brings a bill that would limit the use of drones. House Bill 586 would ground these unmanned aerial vehicles if flown within about 3 miles of airports, areas of an emergency, or places where planes or helicopters are spraying.

The bill’s sponsor, Willis Curdy of Missoula, says he’s a commercial pilot himself, and has seen planes grounded because of drone use.

“Some operations had to have been terminated because drones have been in the area and aviators have not been able to continue with their mission.”

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The Montana Senate Wednesday passed two gun-rights bills that are virtual copies of bills the Governor vetoed in the last session.

Libby Republican Chas Vincent presented his bill to eliminate the need for gun owners to obtain a concealed-carry permit. Vincent says it’s a minor change, since permits have not been needed outside city limits in Montana for over two decades.

"Since 1991, everybody’s been able to carry concealed outside of city limits. So for 24 years, and there hasn’t been any data to suggest that that has been a bad policy," said Vincent.

Christopher B. Allen

Montana politicians and activists are starting to reach out to the public in new ways, trying to appeal to a younger audience.

In a small apartment, a few blocks from the University of Montana campus, two students prepare to record a video for their YouTube channel. It’s about the latest from the Montana legislature, not exactly a mouse-click magnet for younger viewers. But co-host Lucy Peraino thinks their "Daily Show" style can get their attention.

Bridger Pipeline Company

Oil could soon start flowing again through a pipeline that was shut down in January after spilling 30,000 gallons of crude into Montana's Yellowstone River near Glendive.

Crews and federal inspectors are testing the integrity of a fifty-mile section of that pipeline. Bridger Pipeline spokesman Bill Salvin describes the re-starting process as, "slow, methodical, safe and designed to ensure that everything along the pipeline is working exactly as it needs to work."

The spill temporarily contaminated Glendive's water supply.

At least six Montana police departments, including Billings, Bozeman, and Missoula, are using armored vehicles similar to those used by the military in Iraq and Afghanistan. Most of them are military surplus. 

Now the legislature is considering a bill that would ban local police from acquiring surplus “MRAPS” or “BEARCATS”, which have been criticized as a symptom of the militarization of police forces across the country. 

Republican Nick Schwaderer from Superior wrote the original bill to stop police from using military surplus combat gear.

Bill Requiring Anesthesia For Fetuses On Wednesday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 10, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Wednesday at the Montana Legislature brings a bill that would require anesthesia for fetuses before operations in the womb. House Bill 479 would also mandate testing on a fetus’ age and and if that fetus is at least 20 weeks old, anesthesia would be required.

State Income Tax Cut Advances To Full House

Mar 10, 2015
Sen. Duane Ankney (R) SD20
Montana Legislature

Today at the Montana Legislature, the House tax committee sent a tax-cut bill to the full House.

Duane Ankney of Colstrip is carrying Senate Bill 200, which would essentially cut one tenth of a percent off state income taxes, with lower-income Montanans getting a slightly bigger break.

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