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Public lands advocates flooded the state capitol this week and won a victory against privatization in Congress. What's fueling their increased intensity of late? With Ryan Zinke as Interior secretary, is development on public lands a bigger threat than privatization?

Faced with a revenue shortfall and an unwillingness to raise taxes, Montana's University System and other state agencies are preparing for some painful funding cuts.

And the Legislature spent time this week debating a ban on Sharia law in Montana courts. Find out why in this episode of "Capitol Talk".

Sen. Jon Tester.
PD

Montana's senior senator has introduced three bills that he says would increase transparency and accountability in elections.

Democrat Jon Tester says all three would "shine a light on dark money that tries to influence our elections and restore the right of citizens of this country – not to corporations."

Montana's bitterly cold winter is hitting Northwestern Energy customers in the pocketbook.

Spokesman Butch Larcombe says its entire service territory is much colder than normal. Of course that means customers are using a lot more natural gas or electricity to stay warm:

Shards of methamphetamine hydrochloride, also known as crystal meth.
Radspunk (GFDL)

Lawmakers in Helena are calling for what’s being billed as the “Montana Meth Summit”, a gathering of lawmakers and government officials to talk about the impacts of meth in Montana. Senator Eric Moore, a Republican from Miles City, and Senator Diane Sands, a Missoula Democrat, stood in the Capitol Tuesday afternoon, as they announced a listening session to discuss the trends of meth use across the state.

Bill Would Eliminate Montana Office Of Commissioner Of Political Practices

Feb 2, 2017
The sign outside the Montana Commissioner of Political Practices Office.
Steve Jess

HELENA - A bill in the Montana House would get rid of the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices and split the duties between two elected officials — the Attorney General and Secretary of State — rather than one appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate.

House Bill 340’s sponsor, Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, said the office wields too much power for one person.

According to a report by the Legislative Fiscal Division, Public Defender workload of abuse and neglect cases has increased 50 percent since fiscal year 2014.
(PD)

A bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed today to fund new judges for Montana’s burdened court system. But, as lawmakers focus on cutting spending statewide, the future of other services in courts are uncertain.

Deep Cuts Proposed for University Service Agencies

Feb 2, 2017

Agricultural producers and fire chiefs say they will be among those harmed by the deep cuts proposed for the service agencies that are tied to the Montana university system.


The Montana University System used the $15 million dollars it received from the 2015 Legislative session to solve Montana problems with Montana based solutions, add jobs, and grow the economy.

The funding was for the Montana Research & Economic Development Initiative, or MREDI.


Bullock used what's called an amendatory veto Thursday to recommend reducing a nearly 15 percent increase in the amount of money it approved for itself to operate this session.
Freddy Monares - UM Legislative News Service

Montana Gov. Steve Bullock is using his veto power to recommend that the state Legislature reduce the amount of money it approved for itself to operate this session.

Bullock used what's called an amendatory veto Thursday to recommend reducing a nearly 15 percent increase in the so-called "feed bill" (HB-1) to 1.46 percent. That is the same level of growth as Bullock's overall two-year budget proposal.

Montana Artesian Water Company is seeking permits for a facility that would produce 1.2 billion bottles of water each year.
Nicky Ouellet

Opponents of a proposed water bottling plant outside of Kalispell held a meeting Wednesday night to update local residents on the status of permits relating to the plant.

The Montana Artesian Water Company’s plant would bottle, ship and sell nearly 192 million gallons - about 1.2 billion 12-ounce water bottles - of treated groundwater per year.

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