Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

Medicaid Expansion Bill Survives Another Day

Apr 8, 2015

Democrats won their fight to bring a Medicaid expansion bill to the House floor for debate.  It came with help from 11 Republicans Representatives.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

The lone bill barely alive at the Montana Legislature that expand Medicaid coverage to the working poor is now tangled in a procedural fight over the House rules.

It will be an interpretation of those rules that will determine whether the full House gets to debate this bill on the floor.

This fight over Medicaid Expansion began long before the Republican-controlled House Human Services Committee held yesterday’s hearing on Senate Bill 405.

But it came to a head during executive action held after the four and a half hour hearing on this bill.

William Marcus

One of the biggest bills in this year’s Montana Legislature remains in limbo. Wednesday at noon, the House rules committee will meet to decide whether a committee had the right to kill a Medicaid expansion proposal with a “do not pass” recommendation.

Montana Lawmakers To Consider Boxing Regulation

Apr 7, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Wednesday at the Montana legislature, lawmakers hear a bill aimed at getting pro boxing back in Montana.

Former Governor Tim Babcock died Tuesday morning at the age of 95.

Babcock was elected Montana's lieutenant Governor in 1960. He became the state's chief executive when a plane crash killed Governor Don Nutter, who was also Babcock's close friend, two years later.

Babcock would go on to lose a U.S. Senate race and another bid to serve in the Governor's office, but he and his late wife, Betty, remained active in state politics for the rest of their lives.

Swans at Freezeout Lake Wildlife Management Area
Montana FWP

Some state lawmakers want to call a halt to any new purchases of wildlife habitat by the state’s Department of Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. It’s a debate about priorities, but some people say it’s also a case of political payback.

Mountain Water Company, Missoula, MT.
Cheri Trusler

Closing arguments were heard Monday in the condemnation trail for the City of Missoula’s water system.

The city has been trying to buy the privately-owned Mountain Water Company since 2011.

Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Tuesday brings a crucial test for Medicaid expansion in Montana. Republican Senator Ed Buttrey’s bill to offer the government-funded health coverage to about 70,000 more Montanans faces a hearing before the same committee that killed a similar proposal by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock.

Flickr User Ian Sane CC-BY-2.0

Last week, a citizen’s advisory group to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks started fundraising to produce an education campaign in direct response to controversial "crowd-shooting" incidents last November.

U.S. National Interagency Fire Center

Montana's active wildfire season is just around the corner. Every single federal, state and local wildland firefighter assigned to fire duty is required to carry a fire shelter. They’re thin, silica-impregnated tents laminated with aluminum foil, and are proven lifesavers. Now, the Forest Service is working on making them even better.

William Marcus

The Montana Legislature is taking a spring break through Monday as it prepares for its final four weeks of work. MTPR Capitol Reporter Steve Jess has a look at what lawmakers have done so far.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks released their latest wolf count on Thursday. Fewer wolf deaths were reported in Montana in 2014 than in the previous year, but the population is trending downward.

Eliza Wiley

This week's "Capitol Talk" covers the Senate changes to the state budget, the competing infrastructure bills, the upcoming effort to keep a compromise Medicaid expansion bill alive, the surprise defeat of the bill to allow concealed carry on campus and the narrow defeat of the so-called religious freedom bill.

Senate Committee Restores Some Funding Cut By House

Apr 3, 2015
William Marcus

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee added about $55 million of general fund dollars back into the state budget. That’s according to preliminary figures from the Legislative Fiscal Division.

Not quite half of that amount was to cover cost over-runs in the current biennium.

This year’s cost overruns total about $31 million.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Democrats in the Montana House are fighting to keep a Medicaid expansion bill alive. Tuesday morning the bill goes before the same committee that killed a previous Medicaid bill.

Catherine Cain

A state veterinarian says that a strain of bird flu found in a captive falcon in Columbia Falls has the potential to significantly impact poultry farmers in the state. So far, this is the only case of the H5N2 bird flu strain in Montana.

Eric Whitney

We’re continuing our series of interviews with people involved in writing new Flathead Forest plan. One of those people is Amy Robinson, a staffer for the Montana Wilderness Association. Robinson talks about her organization's vision for the Flathead National Forest.

Eric Whitney

Backcountry skier Ryan Swantner is willing to work hard to get in his turns, but lately he’s had to work harder than usual.

Tax Breaks For Private School Tuition On Next Week's Legislative Agenda

Apr 1, 2015
William Marcus

Legislators head into an early spring break April 2, but will be back next week to hear some of the most contentious bills including the Salish Kootenai Water Compact, Medicaid expansion and tax breaks.

Rep. Art Wittich (R) HD68
Montana Legislature

The only Medicaid expansion plan that’s still alive in the Montana Legislature has been assigned to a House Committee; the same committee that killed Governor Bullock’s original Medicaid expansion plan last month.

Montana hunters won a victory in the state House Wednesday as lawmakers and the Governor came together over a bill to let sportsmen used sound suppressors on their rifles.

Sound suppressors quiet the noise of a rifle to reduce ear damage to the hunter. Many hunters like them, but game wardens oppose them, because they say suppressors help poachers get away with breaking the law. 

Denise Dowling

College-bound high school seniors are hearing back from their chosen schools this week and they’re finding out which universities want them and how much they’re willing to offer in scholarships and financial aid.

U.S. Senator Jon Tester and Veteran’s Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald are on a two-day tour of the state, visiting VA facilities in Helena, Missoula, and Billings.

Tuesday morning they were at Fort Harrison in Helena. McDonald says it’s the 120th VA facility he’s toured since taking over the troubled agency last July. 

McDonald and Tester sat down with about one hundred veterans and active service members, along with representatives of a range of interest groups, for a round-table discussion.

Veterans' Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald is hearing a range of concerns about his agency’s performance on a two-day tour of VA facilities in Montana.

With Senator Jon Tester at his side, VA secretary McDonald listened to representatives of various groups, from mental health advocates to the American Legion, spell out what the VA needs to do to better serve the thousands of veterans across the state. He said the fact that Montana’s VA Health Care System went without a permanent director for eight months is a symptom of the problems his agency is facing.

Campus Concealed-Carry Bill Fails In The House

Mar 31, 2015
Webmaster 102 (CC-BY-3.0)

Today at the Montana Legislature, the House of Representatives voted down a bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses. After passing the Senate 26-23, House Democrats and a few Republicans succeeded in defeating Senate Bill 143.

Montana has the most tribal colleges in the country, and it’s the only state with one on every reservation. But together, all seven tribal colleges educate hundreds of non-tribal students as well, many of them white students.

Laura John, a tribal analyst with the Montana Budget and Policy Center says non-Tribal student enrollment in tribal colleges is growing.

"The tribal colleges have seen, overall, a 25 percent increase between 2009 and what’s projected for 2016-2017," according to John.

Neptune Aviation air tanker on the Mountain Fire
Steve Whitby/Neptune Aviation

A Missoula aviation company is anxiously waiting to find out how many more of its air tankers will be dumping slurry on wildfires.

Lawmakers Debate Cuts To Office Of Political Practices

Mar 30, 2015
State of Montana

Today at the Montana Legislature, state Senators discussed taking away a full-time attorney for the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices.

As written, the commissioner, Jonathan Motl, says the state budget would force him to contract out for an attorney, potentially costing more money for less experience.

Motl says his office may have more complaints due to the increased use of corporate money under the Citizens United ruling.

Governor's Plane Cut From State Budget

Mar 30, 2015
Montana Legislature

Governor Steve Bullock could be forced to rent a plane after Republican Representatives stripped his from the statewide budget earlier this month.

Today in the Senate, Republican Jim Keane of Butte argued that this is a bad, politically-driven decision.

“Why, you talk about fiscal responsibility, don’t you think that not allowing the chief executive of the state of Montana to have a plane is appropriate?”

Health insurance plans in Montana would have to offer some policies that didn’t cover abortion services, under a bill heard today in a House Committee.

The bill would guarantee that customers who didn’t want their premiums going to pay for abortions could choose a policy from any provider on the insurance exchange that was abortion-free, except for cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the mother’s life, cases where the law requires all policies to cover abortion. That drew objections from several advocacy groups.

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