Jon Tester

Josh Burnham

Bozeman's Stacey Haugland never thought she'd live to see the day when gay marriage would be legalized nationwide. The Supreme Court today guaranteed that right.

U.S. Supreme Court
Flickr user: Marty Stone (CC-BY-NC-2)

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies for people to buy health insurance means nothing really changes in Montana’s health insurance market. And that’s pretty big news.

Elsie Arntzen, a Republican from Billings and former teacher, is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Montana Legislature

Two Montana teachers want to be the state’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Term limiting prevents current Superintendent, Democrat Denise Juneau, from running again. Republican state lawmaker Elsie Arntzen recently filed paperwork to replace her.

(PD)

Montana farmers will have to take the changing climate into account, even planting different species to accommodate warmer temperatures. That was part of the message delivered at a gathering in Great Falls Friday, sponsored by The Montana Farmers Union. 

A powerful Senate committee Thursday increased funding for a public lands access program, but Montana's senators disagreed on the amount.

East Rosebud Trail map.
U.S. Forest Service, Custer-Gallatin National Forest

Montana’s Congressional delegation today introduced a bill to give Wild and Scenic River status to East Rosebud Creek, which drains the Absaroka-Beartooth range northwest of Red Lodge, Montana.

F.H. Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

Montana's congressional delegation agrees on at least one issue; too many of our timber stands are sickly, overgrown, and fire-prone. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines, and Congressman Ryan Zinke say it's time to reform how we manage our National Forests.

Michael Garrity of the Helena-based environmental group, Alliance for the Wild Rockies, doesn't trust any of them to lead that charge.

Montana Sen. Steve Daines signs the USA Freedom Act on behalf of the Senate
Courtesy photo

Both of Montana’s U.S. Senators today voted in favor of reviving several anti-terrorism government surveillance programs, two days after many expired with the Patriot act of 2001.

Sen. Tester Talks Infrastructure In Eastern Montana

May 28, 2015
Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

Senator Jon Tester met with local officials in Sidney Thursday to talk about the Bakken-area boom town’s strained roads, water and sewer systems.

Tester has made numerous trips to and held field hearings in Bakken-impacted communities. He’s wanted a first-hand look at how these communities are coping with what was rapid growth. The most recent field hearing was last fall.

A revised federal water pollution rule issued today is earning praise from Montana conservationists and condemnation from the agriculture and building sectors.

Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

Senator Jon Tester says the Veterans Administration’s new Choice Card program got off to a  “shaky” start. The Choice Card is a new program that lets veterans use private medical care if their nearest VA facility is too busy or too far away.

Montana Senator Jon Tester hopes Wednesday’s 10-hour filibuster over the Patriot Act will convince his colleagues that the controversial law needs a full Senate debate.

Tester says Patriot Act supporters usually bring up the re-authorization vote just before the law expires, forcing the Senate to rush through the process, instead of taking the time for a full discussion.

Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

Senator Jon Tester wants to reduce the number of student tests required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Montana school superintendent, Denise Juneau, supports the proposal.

Former Governor Tim Babcock died Tuesday morning at the age of 95.

Babcock was elected Montana's lieutenant Governor in 1960. He became the state's chief executive when a plane crash killed Governor Don Nutter, who was also Babcock's close friend, two years later.

Babcock would go on to lose a U.S. Senate race and another bid to serve in the Governor's office, but he and his late wife, Betty, remained active in state politics for the rest of their lives.

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.

Courtesy Columbia Falls Aluminum Company

To many Columbia Falls residents the full closure of the local aluminum smelter was more a matter of when than if.

That question was answered with certainty this week when Columbia Falls Aluminum Company announced that it's permanently shuttering the plant.

Local real estate agent Bill Dakin say this development was a long time coming.

"This announcement, finally, an honest announcement that this plant will never refine aluminum again, is kind of a new day here."

Courtesy photo

Today in Missoula, Senator Steve Daines held the second of three meetings he’s called to talk timber issues. He’ll do the same in Bozeman tomorrow.

The Republican Freshman Senator is calling the meetings “Timber Management Reform Roundtables,” and he’s invited mostly timber industry representatives to give him input on what they need to maintain or grow their operations.

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Yesterday, in a story about attempts to boost revenue for Montana counties that are mostly federal land, Montana Senator Jon Tester made the following statement: 

"Unfortunately, every logging sale in Montana right now is under litigation. Every one of them."

Several listeners questioned that statement, so we asked Senator Tester to respond. 

His communications director Marnee Banks said he is unavailable this week.

Eric Whitney

Montana's U.S. senators are getting behind a new bill they say will help Montana's most rural counties round-out their budgets.

Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons says communities like his are reeling after Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act last fall.

FH Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

Tuesday in Columbia Falls, Senator Steve Daines kicked off a series of three meetings in western Montana that he’s calling “Forest Management Reform Roundtables.”

Around the table were executives from three timber mills, county commissioners from Sanders, Lincoln and Mineral counties, and Montana leaders of The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy,  and the National Parks Conservation Organization.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester has signed-on to a new bill that he says would bring badly-needed financial security to Montana's most rural and timber-dependent counties.

Senator Tester says the "Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes Repair Act" would annually reauthorize Montana's SRS payments for three years at $23 million, the level provided in 2011.

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Montana’s Senators are back from Washington and gathering input on transportation and timber issues.

Friday Democrat Jon Tester convened several panels in Helena to prepare for when the federal highway bill expires in May. He invited representatives from transportation, Chamber of Commerce and agriculture and construction companies to talk about the importance of good highways and bridges in Montana.

CC-BY-2.0

The acting director of veterans health care in Montana is on the defensive after Senator Jon Tester said the VA health center in Helena is temporarily closing its inpatient mental health unit.

In a letter to VA Secretary Robert McDonald in Washington, Tester said, “staffing levels at the VA in Montana are at the point where it can no longer safely staff the eight bed acute inpatient section of the mental health facility at Ft. Harrison” in Helena.

Johnny Ginnity, acting director at Ft. Harrison says, that doesn’t mean the mental health ward is being closed.

Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana's timber counties recently lost lots of federal revenue. Local officials say public services are going to suffer as a result.

"It's very scary. We're pretty bare bones out here the way it is," said Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons.

"What do we do? We've got a four-man road crew. Do you lay four guys off? Do you lay three guys off? We've got some real difficult choices ahead of us here."

He's talking about the loss of federal "Secure Rural Schools" funds. The program expired this fall and wasn't reauthorized by Congress.

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.

The 114th Congress opens Tuesday. One of its first orders of business will be to vote on construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester says he’s voting for it.
 

Courtesy Photo

People who worked to pass the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act celebrated on a ranch outside of Choteau today.

The Heritage Act was first introduced in Congress in 2011. Speaking to people celebrating on Dusty Crary’s ranch Thursday, Senator Jon Tester praised the hard work over many years before and since then that it took to put it together. It passed as part of a package of bills that were attached to a Defense spending bill.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

The U.S. Senate has approved an expansive bill that adds new wilderness lands in Montana and blocks mining and drilling near Glacier National Park.

The measures were in a defense bill that passed 89 to 11 today.

The bill adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It also allows for a complex coal swap involving the Northern Cheyenne Indians. The tribe will get back 5,000 acres of coal deposits it was wrongly stripped of more than a century ago.

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