Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

Montana Legislature

Missoula representative Kimberly Dudik wants to do something about bullying in Montana Schools.

"Bullying is a big problem. There's been almost 3,000 Montana students that were suspended or expelled for bullying and harassment between 2012 and 2014."

Montana’s governor has made good on a promise contained in last week’s State of the State Address, introducing a package of four bills designed to increase transparency in campaign financing. The centerpiece of the package is called the Disclose Montana Act, and it broadens the range of groups that must disclose their election-related finances.

It’s film festival season in Montana. And during the next 10 days more than 150 films will be shown in venues scattered around Missoula during the Big Sky Documentary Film Festival (BSDFF). MTPR's Cherie Newman talked with Gita Saedi Keily, Executive Director of BSDFF and Doug Hawes-Davis, Director of Programming, about this year’s festival.

Bill Would Stop Employers From Requesting Applicants' Online Account Info

Feb 4, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Thursday, Montana legislators will hear a bill that would stop employers from requiring job applicants to give online passwords and usernames. Democratic Representative Bryce Bennett of Missoula says people want to keep their privacy, even if it is posted in the public sphere.

“It’s about protecting the privacy of workers and keeping employers out of your personal business.”

 And yet, companies want to know who they’re hiring.

Legislator Wants To Ban The Militarization Of Police In Montana

Feb 4, 2015
Rep. Nicholas Schwaderer (R) HD 14
Montana Legislature

Wednesday, Montana legislators heard a bill that would ban the militarization of police forces in the state. The bill comes after police in Ferguson, Missouri were scrutinized for using armored vehicles and heavy weaponry bought from the federal surplus.

Montana’s new Senator, Republican Steve Daines, is asking Montanans for their input on how to better manage public lands in the state, but some conservation groups are wondering if he really wants to hear from them.

Rick Potts, who’s on the Montana Wilderness Association’s state council, is troubled by some recent Daines votes.

"I know my colleagues in the Montana Wilderness Association and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as well, feel like they’ve been sucker punched. They didn’t see this coming."

Courtesy Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers moved a step closer Wednesday to making sure that mentally ill people have somewhere to go before they’re discharged from the state hospital.

Missoula Democrat Ellie Boldman Hill thinks a homeless shelter is not the place to send a person who’s just been released from psychiatric treatment, but that’s what often happens in Montana.

“In 2014, 23 of those folks that were admitted to Warm Springs, Warm Springs discharged into our communities directly into homelessness,” according to Hill.

'Round It Up' To Help Fight Hunger

Feb 4, 2015

Spare change can make the difference in the lives of children.

That’s the message from the Montana Retail and Restaurant Associations as they joined Governor Steve Bullock to launch a new program called “Round It Up Montana.”

It allows customers at participating restaurants and retailers to round up their bill to the nearest dollar. The proceeds go to charity.

The first 15 participating restaurants are all owned by Glacier Restaurant Group: Mackenzie River Pizza Company, Ciao Mambo, Latitude 48, and Craggy Ranger Bar and Grill.

Coal-Impacted Counties Seek Increased Infrastructure Funding

Feb 4, 2015
Montana Coal Council

Coal-impacted counties say they are desperate for funds to fix roads, water systems, and to pay for  schools, but the grant source for those projects is short of money.

They’re asking lawmakers to temporarily bump up funding for the coal board.

The security detail at the White House aren’t the only people worrying about encounters with small aerial drones. Some of Montana’s sportsmen want limits placed on the popular flying machines.

Todd Eames from Billings says he and his brothers were fishing when he realized that someone, possibly from a nearby ranch, was watching him.

Bill Would Abolish Montana's Death Penalty

Feb 3, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

A bill draft that would ban the death penalty in Montana is now on the table. Republican Representative David Moore of Missoula is sponsoring House Bill 370 and says the death penalty costs too much, and perhaps life in prison is a harsh enough penalty.

Legislators Hear Resolution Supporting Balanced Budget Amendment To U.S. Constitution

Feb 3, 2015

Today, Montana legislators heard a resolution that would add Montana to a list of 24 other states wanting to amend the U.S. Constitution to require Congress to pass a balanced budget.

Proponents say Montana’s constitution requires a balanced state budget, and the national debt of over $18 trillion is too much.

Opponents like Robert Brown, one of many John Birch Society members who came, say this would open a door for Congress to take advantage of the system.

“Congress has historically decided that they have tremendous power over the convention process.”

Courtesy Bridger Pipeline LLC

Bridger Pipeline Company Tuesday opened a claims center in Glendive for people affected by the January 17 break of their pipeline that spilled an estimated 28,000 gallons of crude oil into the Yellowstone river.

"That’s why we have the claim center set up, so businesses, residents and even local governments that have incurred added expense, because of this incident, which we’ve taken responsibility for, that we can reimburse them for those expenses," said Bridger Pipeline spokesman Bill Salvin.

Flickr user CleverCat (CC-BY-2.0)

Canadians like to shop, recreate and do business in Northwest Montana.

The Associated press estimates over 900,000 Canadians visit Montana annually. That's why the Flathead Valley is paying close attention to the sagging value of the Canadian dollar. Last year an American dollar cost $1.10 Canadian. Now that same U.S. dollar costs $1.25 and was as high as $1.31 recently. Kalispell Chamber of Commerce President, Joe Unterreiner, says there's a lot at stake.

Montana Legislature

Kelsen Young, director of the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence says Montana law treats someone who hurts their dog more harshly than someone who hurts their spouse.

“If you look at abuse toward animals, first offense misdemeanor, second offense felony. Here in current law you have to be convicted of partner/family member assault three times for it to be a felony.”

Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers are considering a bill that would deal with one of the worst side effects of the oil boom in Eastern Montana: the trafficking of women and underage girls for prostitution.

Stephanie Anderson, who describes herself as a sex trafficking victim told the House Judiciary Committee about her introduction to the sex trade.

News Roundup, Week 4 At The Montana Legislature

Feb 2, 2015
William Marcus

In the middle of the fourth week of the 64th Montana Legislature, Gov. Steve Bullock took the rostrum in the House of Representatives with a big smile.

“The state of our state is strong,” Bullock said, beginning his State of the State address.

Bullock touted his fiscal discipline and pushed his big legislative priorities, getting multiple standing ovations from Democrats and occasional claps from a few Republicans.

Legislature's Education Debate Centers On Funding, Choice, Control

Feb 1, 2015
Michael Wright

Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, sat in his office recently and talked about why he supports school choice, a nationwide movement to increase access to charter and private schools.

“I’m of the belief that the child’s education isn’t the responsibility of the state,” he said. “It’s the parent.”

Increased Penalties For Defrauding Elderly, Disabled On Monday's Legislative Agenda

Jan 30, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Monday, the Montana Legislature will see a bill to protect the elderly and those with developmental disabilities from scams.

Democratic Representative Moffie Funk of Helena is carrying House Bill 57, which would increase possible fines and jail time for offenses such as fraud and embezzlement.

Senate Committe Kills LGBT Equality Bill On Party Line Vote

Jan 30, 2015
Montana Legislature

Today, the Montana Legislature grappled with the topic of discrimination.

One bill, brought by Democratic Senator Christine Kaufmann was intended to end discrimination for members of Montana’s gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community. Opponents argued it infringed upon their freedom of religion.

 That bill died 7 to 5 along party lines with Republicans voting it down.

FBI agents and other federal officers would have to ask permission from a local sheriff before making an arrest or conducting a search, under a bill heard today in a House Committee.

Gary Marbut, with the Montana Shooting Sports Association, told the Judiciary Committee that while different police agencies usually get along, the “feds” sometimes run roughshod over local deputies, as they did in the 1996 raid that netted ‘Unabomber’ Ted Kazynski.

Josh Burnham (CC-BY-2.0)

Regional sheep producers are concerned that fears about their herds transmitting disease to wild bighorn sheep might jeopardize their livelihood.

Last spring, the Forest Service banned domestic sheep grazing on about 70 percent of the Payette National Forest in West Central Idaho to prevent domestic sheep from infecting bighorns.

"We feel it's just a way for environmental groups to try to try and remove livestock from public grounds."

Josh Burnham

This morning the Montana Legislature hosted another round of the seemingly endless debate over legalizing same-sex marriage.

MUS Officials Say They're Meeting Benchmarks Set By 2013 Legislature

Jan 30, 2015
Josh Burnham

Montana University System officials told lawmakers they are meeting the benchmarks the 2013 Montana Legislature set toward increasing student retention and graduation.

Commissioner of Higher Education Clayton Christian says performance based funding is driving change at Montana’s colleges and universities.

"You know what it’s done is its creating focus for us," said Christian. "And that’s the good thing. We’re talking about things that will affect student success. That’s the bottom line of what it’s creating."

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on Capitol talk, Sally, Chuck and Mike deconstruct the State of the State address and discuss how different philosophies on the role of government are affecting policy discussions at the Montana Legislature. From Medicaid expansion to bonding for infrastructure, to the debate over tax cuts vs. a surplus, these philosophical differences are behind many conflicts at the legislature.

State Of The State Highlights Division Between Parties In Helena

Jan 29, 2015
William Marcus

In his State of the State address Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock mentioned a number of issues dividing the Democrats and Republicans this session. Those include funding infrastructure, funding pre-K education, and keeping a budget surplus of $300 million in case of emergency.

Jim Keane of Butte is one of the many Democrats who stood and cheered as the Governor talked about his proposals.

Bill Addresses Appearance Of Impropriety Between Lawyers, Judges

Jan 29, 2015
Rep. Matthew Monforton
Montana Legislature

This morning at the Montana Legislature, a bill came forward that would allow judges to be removed from cases if an attorney involved has contributed to the judge’s campaign.

Republican Representative Matthew Monforton says judges may not always be biased by contributions, but people need to trust that their lawyers or their opponent’s lawyers do not appear to have an advantage by contributing.

“It isn’t just that there is actual impropriety taking place. It is the appearance of impropriety.”

Human safety is the top priority as the oil spill recovery effort continues on the Yellowstone River.
Bridger Pipeline spokesman Bill Salvin says  temperatures are warming and that's making the river ice more unstable.

"So for every person that's standing on the ice, they have a person that's on an airboat holding the line they're connected to and that line's tied off to the boat as well. We want to make sure that we keep everyone who's responding to this safe. That's driving everything we do in terms of oil recovery on the ice."

Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

It's been eight months since the Montana VA had a permanent director and Senator Jon Tester says he's fed up with the delay.

Tester fired-off a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald this week calling it "completely unacceptable".

The Democrat says he only recently found out that a hire was imminent about three months ago. However,  the Office of Management and Budget found a "screw-up" that scuttled the process.

shannonpatrick17 (CC-BY-2.0)

Both of Montana’s Senators voted today for the bill to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Democrat Jon Tester says he looks forward to the day when clean, renewable resources provide most of America's energy needs:

"But until we get to a point when that's affordable and available, it appears to me that I'd rather do business with Canada than I would the Middle East."

Tester says the recent Bridger Pipeline oil spill on the Yellowstone River was not only a catastrophe, but entirely preventable.