MTPR

Montana politics

In a debate that seemed as late as Friday not likely to happen, Republican Ryan Zinke met Democrat John Lewis in a statewide debate that focused on experience and education Monday night in Billings.

Montana PBS had already cancelled broadcast coverage after Zinke cited a scheduling conflict, but the Monday evening debate was available across the state on radio. You can listen to the debate from Yellowstone Public Radio.

Neither candidate has widespread name recognition – Zinke having served in the state legislature and Lewis as state director for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus – so the debates are a vital piece of both men’s campaigns, according to University of Montana political science professor Christopher Muste.

I think Zinke will attack Lewis for being inexperienced and Lewis will attack Zinke for being out of touch and having extreme views on a number of issues,” Muste said in the pre-debate analysis with Montana Public Radio.

The debate, in the end, was largely a civil and substantive affair. Zinke stuck hard to the issues of education and energy independence, claiming that Montana “had enough coal to support the nation at peak consumption for the next 100 years.”

Lewis countered that Zinke would pursue oil and gas exploration at all times and criticized him for not support limits on energy exploration near Glacier National Park, a position supported by current U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

On education, Zinke stated he rejected the increasingly controversial learning standards known as Common Core and wanted to boost more training for skilled labor.

Lewis focused his efforts in staking out support for higher education and reducing student loans. He said by financing student loans “much like you would a house” and ensuring continued access to Pell Grants, he could cut the amount of debt many Montana students have. He added that Zinke would cut support for higher education, making it more expensive for students.

The two meet again on Saturday for a debate in Bozeman.

Gov. Steve Bullock in his office in Helena, MT.
Corin Cates-Carney

As Governor Steve Bullock begins his final term, the Democrat is starting to raise money with ambitions of stepping onto the national political stage. 

Jeff Mangan is Montana's new commissioner of political practices.
Corin Cates-Carney

The chair of Montana’s utility regulators violated state ethics during the 2016 election, according to a decision released today by Montana’s Commissioner of Political Practices.

(PD)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says he’ll have an updated health care bill ready Thursday for the legislative body to work on.

In a press call with reporters, Montana’s Democratic  Senator Jon Tester said he’s willing to work with Republicans on compromise health care legislation.

Rosendale Uncommitted On 2018 Senate Race

Jul 12, 2017
Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matthew Rosendale.
Montana Legislature

Montana’s Republican commissioner of securities and insurance won't say he’s going to challenge Democrat Jon Tester for Montana’s Senate seat that's up for grabs in 2018 – but Matt Rosendale also isn’t saying he won't run.

On Monday the Washington, D.C. news source Roll Call reported that the GOP is, "waiting on Rosendale in Montana’s Senate Race."

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox in Missoula Monday
Eric Whitney

Montana’s backlogged sexual assault evidence kits will undergo lab testing beginning this month. Last fall, the state got a $2 million federal grant to fund cataloging and testing of the unsubmitted so-called rape kits. 

In Missoula Monday, Montana Attorney General Tim Fox, left, joined Sen. Diane Sands, Gov. Steve Bullock and people who helped lawmakers update state sexual assault laws
Eric Whitney

Attorney General Tim Fox joined Governor Steve Bullock in Missoula today for a ceremony to sign six bills updating Montana’s sexual assault laws.

They posed with Missoula Democratic Senator Diane Sands, who carried two of the bills, the most prominent of which removes force from the definition of sexual assault.

On Sunday President Donald Trump sent out a tweet that some interpreted as encouraging violence against reporters. In a short video clip from Trump’s 2007 appearance in a pro wrestling match, he can be seen bodyslamming a man with the CNN logo superimposed over his face.

The Montana Artesian Water Company is seeking permits to develop a water bottling facility in Creston, MT, near Kalispell. Opponents are trying to block it by changing the property's zoning regulations.
Nicky Ouellet

For almost two years, a neighborhood outside of Kalispell has been fighting over whether one neighbor can build a water bottling plant on his private property. Now, some of them are asking Flathead County voters to weigh in, in the form of a county ballot initiative that would change their neighborhood’s zoning regulations and prevent the plant’s development.

The gas tax increase is expected to bring in an additional $29 million this year, more than half of which will go to cities and counties for local road-related construction.
Rusty Clark (CC-BY-NC-2)

Gas and diesel prices ticked up over the weekend as a new state tax went into effect. The new tax will increase every July 1 for the next six years, to fund maintenance on bridges and roads across the state.

Montana Supreme Court Temporarily Halts 'Marsy's Law'
(PD)

The Montana Supreme Court has ordered a temporary stop to Marsy’s Law, the constitutional amendment approved by voters last fall.

The court halted Marsy’s Law, which increases the rights of crime victims, until another legal case challenging the constitutionality of new law is resolved. The constitutional amendment was scheduled to go into effect July 1.

Montana Insurers Propose Rate Increases From 2 - 23 Percent
(PD)

Montana lawmakers are making plans to research statewide health concerns ahead of the next legislative session. But those plans could be upended this summer depending on actions in Washington D.C. amid the Trump administration’s push to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Sen. Steve Daines during a June 28 telephone town hall meeting on healthcare.
Courtesy Steve Daines.

Senator Steve Daines says he wants to hear from Montanans before deciding how he’ll vote on the Republican health care proposal currently stalled in the U.S. Senate.

And hear from them, Daines did Wednesday night during his 17th live healthcare tele-town hall meeting.

Daines faced an earnest and sometimes feisty series of questions from Montanans trying to make sense of the complicated healthcare debate:

Lawmakers will study prisoner solitary confinement and meth and opioid abuse during the legislative interim as they begin to shape new policy proposals for the 2019 session.
Eric Norris (CC-BY-2)

Lawmakers will study prisoner solitary confinement and meth and opioid abuse during the legislative interim as they begin to shape new policy proposals for the 2019 session.

New terms for small solar projects across Montana might have been knowingly set to discourage development. That's based on a conversation caught on a hot mic last week during a mid-session break for a Public Service Commission meeting.


Blackfeet Nation

Blackfeet tribal members rejected a measure to reform their constitution Tuesday.

The proposed reform constitution would have drastically revamped the structure of the tribe’s government by establishing a three-branch system with built-in checks and balances. But that change was rejected by tribal members. Instead, the tribe will retain its current nine-member, single branch governing body, called the Tribal Business Council, which has been in place for the past 82 years.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester held a digital town hall Tuesday night to answer questions about the Republican health care proposal awaiting action in the U.S. Senate.

The hour long Facebook live event came hours after Senate Republican leaders announced a delay on the vote for their long-awaited plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare”. 

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited his hometown in Whitefish June, 27, 2017 to address the Western Governors Association.
Nicky Ouellet

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke visited his hometown in Whitefish today to address the Western Governors Association.

Secretary Zinke is currently running a review of more than two dozen of the country’s largest National Monuments, including Montana’s Upper Missouri River Breaks, to determine whether the Monument designations should be revoked or reduced in size.

Senate Republicans issued a revised version of their health care bill Monday.

The U.S. Senate’s original health care bill released last week did not penalize anyone who let their insurance lapse. Under the new package introduced Monday, anyone lacking coverage for at least 63 days in the past year and who then buys a policy would face a six-month delay before it takes effect. 

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines says the Senate’s draft bill needed that kind of incentive:

Governors from the western U.S. converge on Whitefish this week for the annual Western Governors Association.
Corin Cates-Carney

Governors from the western U.S. converge on Whitefish this week for the annual Western Governors Association. Monday, they talked about international trade agreements between the U.S. and Canada. 

The round table discussion between 10 western governors, a Canadian ambassador, and the premier of Saskatchewan, began with a question about the ongoing softwood lumber trade dispute between the two countries.

Josh Burnham

Both of Montana’s senators will host virtual town halls this week ahead of the U.S. Senate vote on its version of a bill to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Will Marlow (CC-BY-NC-2)

“Repeal and replace” is not just a mantra for Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate, it’s also a rallying cry for constitutional reform on the Blackfeet Reservation.

"We've been at this for 82 years," says  Joe McKay, a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

For the past three years, McKay’s spearheaded an effort to reform the Blackfeet Nation’s current constitution, written in 1935.

PD

The governors of Montana and other western states are meeting Monday with Canadian leaders to talk about economic development between the two countries.

The meeting between state and provincial leaders comes as the U.S. and Canada are battling over softwood lumber trade.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A fourth Montana Republican has filed to run for U.S. Senate in 2018. Ron Murray of Belgrade filed his paperwork with the Federal Election Commission on June 17.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports that Kalispell state Sen. Albert Olszewski, Scott Roy McLean of Missoula and Troy Downing of Big Sky are also running for the Republican nomination.

Greg Gianforte during his swearing in to the U.S. House, Wednesday, June 21, 2017.
CSPAN

Greg Gianforte was officially sworn in as Montana's sole representative in the U.S. House Wednesday.
 
The Republican entrepreneur from Bozeman takes office less than two weeks after pleading guilty to misdemeanor assault for attacking Guardian Reporter Ben Jacobs the evening before in-person voting began in Montana’s special election May 25.

In an interview with MTPR after being sworn in, Gianforte said again that he wants to put the assault behind him.

The public may get a look at a draft of the Senate healthcare bill for the first time this week. What’s it mean for Montana? Here's what the CEO of one health insurance company based in Helena says about it:

"I don't think that their plan is going to improve health care in the state of Montana. I think just the opposite is going to happen. And I think, I really do think a lot of people are going to get hurt."

Montana Supreme Court Temporarily Halts 'Marsy's Law'
(PD)

A group of Montana individuals and organizations is suing to stop a list of rights for crime victims, known as Marcy’s Law, from going into effect in the state on July 1.

Montana voters passed Marcy’s Law last November.

Montana Republican Party buttons
Flickr user, llP Photo Archive (CC-by-2.0)

Montana’s Republican party meets Friday and Saturday to select new leadership. It’s trying to expand on big gains it made in 2016 and this year, and rebound from recent damage to its public image.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox was considered a possible contender in the 2018 senate race, after Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke accepted the position of Interior Secretary.
Courtesy Montana DOJ

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox today confirmed reports that he will not run for a U.S. Senate seat in 2018. Despite courtship from national Republican leaders, Fox says he will not campaign for the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Jon Tester.

U.S. Congressman-Elect Greg Gianforte
Bree Zender

Greg Gianforte will probably be given more time to appear in court on his misdemeanor assault charge. That’s according Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert.

"I don’t think it’s going to happen Monday or Wednesday of next week," Lambert says.

A second ride-sharing company is hoping to set up shop in Montana. Officials with Lyft Inc. will testify before state regulators Monday, trying to prove they’re ready to join Uber in a Montana’s mobile app ride-hailing industry.
SDOT photos (CC-BY-NC-2)

A second ride-sharing company is hoping to set up shop in Montana. Officials with Lyft Inc. will testify before state regulators Monday, trying to prove they’re ready to join Uber in a Montana’s mobile app ride-hailing industry.

Pages