Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

Eliza Wiley

On this episode of "Capitol Talk": The House passed a budget on a party-line vote after shutting down every Democratic amendment. "It was very acrimonious and quite a contrast from two years ago when the budget bill passed the House by a 100 to nothing margin," Chuck Johnson says.

Public Intoxication Bill Dies In House Committee

Mar 20, 2015
Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez
Montana Legislature

A bill intended to deal with public intoxication appears to have died in a House committee. It was brought on behalf of the City of Billings. The bill was killed despite unanimous support for several amendments that sought to clarify its intent.

Hacking Rural Medicine

Most of Montana’s hospitals are small and rural. And these are hard times for small town hospitals. The National Rural Health Association says about 300 rural hospitals are in danger of having to close in the next few years.

Monica Bourgeau is an executive with a federally funded project to help Montana hospitals adapt to the rapid changes in healthcare and survive.

"Rural healthcare is really facing a lot of kind of new and unique challenges right now."

William Marcus

For the past two days, the Montana House was locked into something that resembled a scene out of the movie Groundhog Day. First, a member would stand up and introduce an amendment to the state budget.

For example, an amendment to add some money for the board of pardons and parole. Then there would be a short debate about the amendment. This would take anywhere from two minutes to an hour or more. And finally the amendment would be rejected on a party line vote.

And, back to square one.

And so on, and so on, a total of 73 times.

Lawmakers Will Consider Body Cameras For Police Friday

Mar 19, 2015
William Marcus

Friday at the Montana Legislature, lawmakers will discuss body cameras for cops. Democrat Rep. Bridget Smith of Wolf Point is carrying a resolution to study the effects of requiring Montana police officers to wear so-called body cams.

“And we will look into ... the compelling reasons why, this would be good for Montanans.”

But the cost may be too high. A 2014 Department of Justice study says the average price of cameras police stations buy is between $800 and $1,200 each.

GOP Medicaid Expansion Bill On Friday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 19, 2015

A new bill to expand Medicaid in Montana gets its first hearing in the state legislature tomorrow. Republican Ed Buttrey of Great Falls’ bill would expand the health program for the poor, elderly and disabled to an estimated 45,000 Montanans.

House Republicans Block Funding Increases For Correctional System

Mar 19, 2015

Today at the Montana Legislature, Democrats pleaded for more money for people working within the Montana correctional system. They asked for raises for public defenders, more parole officers, and raises for officers in the state prison. Democrat Mitch Tropila says the wages are too low for state prison guards, making overtime mandatory and a hard job harder.

“Whenever they have to open one of the gate, they’re subject to having the inmates’ bodily fluids thrown at them, in their face, on their body. But they’re down there every day, they’re down there 24/7, 365.”

Courtesy Photo

Among the dozens of amendments that Democrats sponsored to add spending to the $10 billion state budget, was one to enact the Governor’s $37 million pre-school plan.

The Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee stripped it out of the budget bill over a week ago, but the Democratic minority tried to convince the whole House to put it back in.

Missoula Democrat Nancy Wilson says as the world gets more complicated, kids need to start learning earlier.

Budget Hearings Continue Thursday At The Montana Legislature

Mar 18, 2015
William Marcus

Thursday, the Montana House of Representatives continue hearings for the statewide budget. It’s unlikely to change, even though it faces more than 100 Democratic amendments, because of strong Republican support of the current bill.

Michael Wright - Community News Service

The Montana House set aside its usual schedule Wednesday for a marathon floor session devoted to the state budget.

Democrats brought up 40 amendments to increase funding for a wide range of state departments, restoring money that the House Appropriations Committee cut from the governor’s budget proposal. The Republican majority rejected most of them on party-line votes.

One amendment that came close to passing was Butte Democrat Ryan Lynch’s proposal to restore $700,000 cut from the Governor’s office, including $330,000 for the executive airplane.

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