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Montana Lawmakers Confront Tight Budget

Mar 9, 2017
State Capitol, Helena
Jacob Baynham, Community News Service, UM School of Journalism

Democratic Governor Steve Bullock says the number one concern he has with the Legislature’s proposed budget is the lack of funding for essential services.

Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Republican and Democratic leadership in the state legislature failed to come to an agreement today on a list of candidates to take over the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices. If the disagreement continues, the top lawmakers will forfeit their right to limit who the governor can select as the state’s top political cop.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledges that the agency he now oversees, "unfortunately, has not always stood shoulder to shoulder with the tribes and communities it represents." 

But Zinke met with the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee this week to help identify Native American-related priorities for the new Trump administration. It's a job that will likely pull him and his staff in many different directions, because as Zinke puts it, "Tribes are not monolithic":

If you happened to be looking at the Whitefish Lake web cam last night, you may have seen a patch of red in the fading sunlight from the Whitefish Big Sky Rising First International Women’s Day celebration.

Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines held what he called a “tele-town hall meeting” Wednesday night. His political opponents have been strongly criticizing him for not holding any face to face meetings where he takes questions from the public.

Senator Daines says telephone conference calls like last night's allow him to interact with more Montanans because people don't have to travel to participate in them. He said that 10,000 to 25,000 people typically participate in his calls.

Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services
PD

Leaders of the state health department say the budget state lawmakers are crafting for them is, at this point, dangerously under-funded.

Sheila Hogan, Director of Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services warned legislators during a budget committee hearing Wednesday, that cutting funding from the health department could impact care for seniors and people with disabilities.

Montana Bill Proposes Tax On Vacation Rentals

Mar 8, 2017
State Senator Dee Brown (R) SD-2
Montana Legislature

A bill to include modern-day bed-and-breakfasts in the state’s collection of bed taxes has passed the Montana Senate and will now make its way to the House.

Bed tax, or lodging facility sales and use tax, is collected by hotels, motels and campgrounds. A portion of the money is deposited into the state’s general fund, as well as a state special revenue fund used to promote the state.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke may not be able to provide the slam dunk for Montana’s Little Shell Tribe that some had hoped he would. At least not right away.

Montana’s Little Shell Tribe has spent nearly four decades fighting for federal recognition. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke indicated Wednesday they might have to wait just a bit longer than they hoped.

Flu, Stomach Bug Outbreaks Hit Five Flathead Health Facilities
(PD)

Health officials in the Flathead Valley are reporting that in January, five long-term care and assisted living facilities experienced an outbreak of influenza or norovirus. The Flathead City-County Health Department worked with all five facilities following the outbreaks, and says none broke any health regulations.

Joining us now is Katheryn Houghton, the local newspaper reporter who broke the story.

Montana Standard Editor David McCumber.
Mike Albans

In 2009 Montana Senator Max Baucus helped write special provisions into the Affordable Care act that ensure extra help and healthcare are available to residents in Libby who are suffering from asbestos-related disease. But some Montana residents are concerned that if Obamacare is repealed and replaced, these provisions will disappear.

MTPR's Nora Saks speaks with David McCumber, editor of the Montana Standard to learn more.

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