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.

Montana Lawmakers and state agency officials convened a 'meth summit' in Helena Saturday
Cal Reynolds

Montana’s ballooning meth epidemic is overwhelming state law enforcement, addiction treatment centers, and the criminal justice system.

That was the theme of the Montana Meth Summit - a bipartisan gathering of state lawmakers, agency officials, and members of the public held at the capitol on Saturday.

Montana Bill Would Prohibit Commissioner Of Political Practices From Working Beyond Term

Feb 17, 2017
Jonathan Motl, current Commissioner of Political Practices, provides testimony against House Bill 406 Friday, Feb. 17. The bill is one of many introduced by Republicans in an effort to dismantle the office.
Freddy Monares

Montana Republicans furthered their efforts to dismantle the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices by introducing a bill today that would prohibit past, present and future commissioners from doing any work for the office.

On this episode of "Capitol Talk": The Legislature debates a bill to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination law; should teachers carry guns in schools; proposed university cuts and how they could raise tuition; the delay in Zinke's confirmation hearing; and a new poll shows Rob Quist and Amanda Curtis are the front-runners on the Democratic side to replace Zinke in Congress.

Congressman Ryan Zinke testifying before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee January 17.
CSPAN

If the Senate votes to confirm Representative Ryan Zinke as the next Interior Secretary, he will become the first Montanan to hold a cabinet level position. This first has many Montanans wondering, how does this work?

Rep. Derek Skees.
Freddy Monares - UM Legislative News Service

In a late vote Monday evening, a Republican-backed bill to eliminate the state’s office of political practices took another step forward, passing in the Montana House of Representatives.

The bill to dismantle the state's Office of Political Practices passed largely on party lines as Republicans muscled House Bill 340 through its first key vote on the House floor.

Senator Jennifer Fielder (R) SD-7.
Mike Albans

A national government watchdog organization filed a lawsuit this morning against Montana. Campaign for Accountability is suing Sen. Jennifer Fielder, a Republican from Thompson Falls, and the State Legislative Services Division for allegedly failing to comply with a public records request.

Matt Powell-Palm was notified the Senator was going to arrive in Bozeman last Friday afternoon on Facebook through a group called The Gallatin Progressive Action Network.

He wanted face to face time with Senator Daines, something he says the Senator has not given his Montanan constituents enough of lately.

Sen. Jon Tester.
PD

A proposed constitutional amendment declaring that corporations are not people faces extremely long odds, according to one Montana political scientist. Senator Jon Tester announced earlier this month that he plans to introduce three campaign finance-related bills.

Montana Capitol, Helena.
Mike Albans

A group of Republican-led lawmakers has pushed forward an effort to eliminate Montana’s office of Political Practices. The bill introduced by Derek Skees, a Republican from Kalispell, passed out of a judiciary committee of state representatives today, on a party-line vote.

Sen. Daines shuts down Sen. Warren and votes to confirm Betsy DeVos. Will the special congressional election be a mail-only affair? A death penalty repeal bill narrowly fails at the Montana Legislature. Join MTPR's Sally Mauk and UM Political Science Professor Rob Saldin for analysis of these stories on "Capitol Talk," your weekly legislative analysis program.

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