Montana News

News from the state of Montana.

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.

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.

Medicaid Expansion Compromise Clears Montana Senate

Mar 30, 2015
William Marcus

Senator Ed Buttrey says he's pleased his bill to extend Medicaid coverage to the state's working poor won final approval in the Senate.

BLM (CC-BY-2.0)

A total of 35 wildfires ignited this weekend in south-central and southeastern Montana. Firefighters are battling the largest of them, a 3,000 acre wildfire, and preparing for more unfavorable conditions.

Bill Prohibits Drivers License Revocation For Student Loan Default

Mar 30, 2015
Montana Legislature

A Montana law that allows the state to revoke peoples’ drivers licenses for defaulting on their student loans appears headed for the scrap heap.

On Friday a bill to take away the state’s revocation authority passed the Senate and is now headed to Governor Steve Bullock’s desk.

The revocation law was passed in 1997, and gives the state the right to revoke professional licenses, too, like ones needed to work as a nurse or engineer.

Republican Infrastructure Bills Advance Through Montana Legislature

Mar 30, 2015
William Marcus

Several infrastructure bills are working their way through the Montana Legislature, but not the one proposed by the Bullock Administration.

Budget Director: House Budget Inadequate

Mar 30, 2015
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

The state budget director criticized the work of the House on the state's budget for the coming biennium.

The comments came as the Senate Finance and Claims Committee started its review this morning.

State Budget Director Dan Villa didn't pull any punches in describing the work of the House on the budget.

During this week's Capitol Talk, Sally, Chuck and Mike look forward to what's sure to be a heated debate in the House over Republican Sen. Edward Buttrey's Medicaid bill to expand coverage to the working poor.

They also discuss Republican Rep. Duane Ankney's dark money bill as it takes a step closer the Gov. Bullock's desk.

"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.

Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez
Montana Legislature

Montana House members have defeated a “religious freedom” bill, after impassioned testimony from those who felt it would enable discrimination.  

The bill is similar to ones that have drawn protests and boycotts in other states.  While supporters saw it as a way to ensure that government would not interfere in the free expression of religion, opponents saw another agenda: enabling businesses to refuse service to customers because of their race or sexual orientation. 

Public Domain

Two mass elk shootings in November and December that angered many in Montana have prompted a hunting group to launch an ethical hunting campaign.

Mike England is with the Bozeman-based Citizens’ Advisory Committee, a public group that gives feedback to Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks. His says the irresponsible behavior of the hunters who surrounded and shot into elk herds last last year near Helena motivated his group to move from advice to action.

Rep. Matthew Monforton
Montana Legislature

The Montana House Thursday approved a measure to ask voters if they want to define “personhood” from the moment of conception – a move that could outlaw abortion and even some birth-control methods. However, the constitutional amendment is still unlikely to appear on a state ballot.

Eric Whitney

The Montana Senate today gave preliminary approval to a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to the state's working poor on a 28 to 22 vote.

House Passes Dark Money Bill

Mar 26, 2015
Courtesy Photo

Ten Republican Representatives joined all 41 Democrats and gave preliminary approval to a bill aimed at shining light on so-called "dark money" campaign contributions Thursday.

During the two hour long House Floor debate there were moments of testy remarks among Republicans.

Basically Senate Bill 289 seeks to require candidates to provide more detailed campaign expenditure reports and do so more often.

Republican Medicaid Expansion Plan Blasted To Senate Floor

Mar 26, 2015
Courtesy Photo

A Senator from Great Falls successfully blasted his bill to provide health insurance for the working poor to the full Senate for debate Thursday.

Senate Bill 405 already has had two committee hearings, but  the sponsor is worried a deadline could kill his bill.

That's because there is a Tuesday deadline to transmit appropriation and revenue bills from one chamber to the other.

poplarresponse.com

Two and a half months after a pipeline ruptured, spilling 30,000 gallons of oil into the Yellowstone River at Glendive, The federal Environmental Protection Agency has handed over the management of the cleanup effort. Jeni Flatow with Montana DEQ says federal law allows the EPA to take charge of “emergency responses," and the Montana spill no longer qualifies.

Rep. Carl Glimm (R) HD6
Montana Legislature

A wide array of interest groups and state officials lined up to testify against a bill that purports to give Montanans more religious freedom, because they say it would only guarantee the freedom to discriminate.

Carl Glimm, a Republican Representative from Ashley Lake, is sponsoring a bill that, he says, would ensure that the government could not infringe on a person’s religious rights unless it had a “compelling interest” in doing so.

For Senator Buttrey, Medicaid Expansion Is A Riddle And A Risk

Mar 25, 2015
Sen. Ed Buttrey (R) SD13
Montana Legislature

Middle ground on Medicaid expansion eluded the Montana Legislature in 2013, and since then Senator Ed Buttrey, R-Great Falls, has studied the issue, talked to hospitals and members of the other party and others to get to where he was last week: standing in front of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

Criminalizing Physician Assisted Suicide On Thursday's Legislative Agenda

Mar 25, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Thursday at the Montana Legislature will bring round two for a bill that would make it a crime for doctors to help someone die, making them face up to 10 years in jail and/or a $50,000 fine.

Dems Promise 'Silver Bullet' To Keep Governor's Infrastructure Bill Alive

Mar 25, 2015
Rep. Nancy Ballance (R) HD87
Montana Legislature

The fight over how to fund infrastructure projects in Montana continues in the state legislature.

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