Jon Tester

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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.

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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.

Jon Tester

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.

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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.
 

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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.

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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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Montana's Senators and Senator-elect today announced what they're calling a “landmark” package of public lands legislation. It's being tacked on to a Defense authorization bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on this week and next.

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BREAKING NEWS: We're following up on this story and will have more on the air starting at 5 p.m. Below is the press release announcing the legislation issued this morning.

In a joint press conference today, Senators Jon Tester, John Walsh and Senator-elect Steve Daines announced a landmark legislative package that includes eight Montana-based lands and resources bills.

Political science professor David Parker, at Montana State University has a new book out. It’s called Battle for the Big Sky. In it, he says, “Much of the existing scholarship suggests that campaigns don’t matter much at all.”

Interviewed at his office recently, Parker acknowledged, “It does seem kind of weird, right? You look at the cost of presidential campaigns, and, wait a minute, political scientists say they don’t matter. They basically take the view of MacBeth, right? It’s all ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

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