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.

Matthew Rosendale Enters State Auditor Race

Feb 5, 2016
Matthew Rosendale
Montana Legislature

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Senate Majority Leader Matthew Rosendale said Friday he will run for the open seat of state auditor in an election where he will face a Republican primary opponent and a well-funded Democratic candidate if he wins the nomination.

New Judge Assigned To Political Corruption Lawsuit

Feb 5, 2016
Chief Justice Mike McGrath, left, swears in Mike Cooney as Montana’s 32nd lieutenant governor with Cooney’s wife, Helena District Judge DeeAnn Cooney, at his side.
Courtesy Governor's Office

The Helena district court judge Gov. Steve Bullock recently appointed to the bench has recused herself from presiding over a high-profile political corruption case involving one of Bullock’s staunchest critics.

Montana capitol
William Marcus

Montana Legislators are sending a letter to their U.S. congressional delegation urging for changes in federal aviation laws. Montana’s Economic Affairs Interim Committee voted today to send a letter asking Senators Tester and Daines and Congressman Zinke to revise the federal Airline Deregulation Act in order to protect patients from crippling air ambulance bills.

How will Denise Juneau's 'candidacy of firsts' affect the U.S. House race? What presidential candidates are Montanans donating to so far? And will the presidential nominations be sewn up by the time Montana's primaries roll around in June? Sally Mauk, Chuck Johnson, and Rob Saldin discuss these things and more on this episode of "Campaign Beat".

Blackfeet Water Settlement Clears U.S. Senate Committee

Feb 3, 2016
U.S. Capitol
flickr user Tim Evanson (CC-BY-SA-2)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee approved a $420 million water rights settlement with Montana's Blackfeet American Indian tribe on Wednesday, sending the measure to the full Senate with how to pay for it still unresolved.

Montana District Court caseloads.
Montana Legislative Fiscal Division

The number of child abuse and neglect cases in Montana is weighing down the state’s already burdened court system.

“It’s significant. It’s actually startling.”

Republican candidate for governor, Greg Gianforte.
Jackie Yamanaka - Yellowstone Public Radio

Republican Gubernatorial Candidate Greg Gianforte launches a month-long statewide tour Thursday focusing on what he calls over-regulation of small business. The Bozeman entrepreneur says he’ll host 60 roundtable meetings to talk to business owners and ranchers to, "round up regulations" and "put the worst ones out to pasture."

Governor's Race Expected To Be The Most Expensive In Montana History

Feb 2, 2016
In his first stump speech in the state capitol since announcing a bid for Governor, Greg Gianforte said he would not take special interest PAC money in his campaign.
Corin Cates-Carney

Montana's copper barons bought and sold public office like any commodity a century ago, and that legacy looms large in what could become the most expensive governor's race in state history.

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

Legislative audits released today of the Montana University System came up clean and without criticism. After reviewing data for the fiscal year ending in June 2015, auditors saw no need for adjustments in how the universities handle their cash flow.

Montana judicial need by district
Montana Legislative Services Division

Montana needs more district court judges, according to members of an interim judicial committee that met today.

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