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.

The federal government released rules today designed to help states improve schools and narrow achievement gaps. The ‘Every Student Succeeds Act’ provides states a broad framework to support troubled public schools and struggling students.

The first draft of Montana’s plan to comply with the new federal law was released earlier this month.

Montana's most recent driver's license design incorporates changes for security and durability.
Montana DOJ

The federal government this week rejected Montana’s request to further delay implementation of the Real ID Act.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox once said the Real ID act threatened to create an Orwellian national ID system.

More than 60,000 Montanans now have health insurance because of the HELP Act, the Medicaid expansion program narrowly passed by state lawmakers in 2015. The oversight committee in charge of reviewing that program met in Helena on Tuesday to check in on the Medicaid expansion. 

John Goodnow, chair of the oversight committee, says because of the HELP Act, a lot of uninsured Montanans now have coverage: 

Katie Mehrens
Edward O'Brien

Donald Trump won Montana by a 20-point margin, but Missoula was Clinton country. Hillary Clinton got almost 52 percent of the vote in Missoula County. We recently sent reporters to hear from Montana counties where Trump won big. Today, we hear from Clinton’s supporters.

Every Hillary Clinton voter I spoke with had a theory on why she lost.

A 92-year-old man casting one of Montana's electoral votes has been criticized for his comments about gay people.

Sen. Fred Thomas (R) SD-44 is chairman of the Revenue and Transportation Committee.
Corin Cates-Carney

On Thursday, lawmakers got their first look at how much money is likely to be in the state’s checking account as they head into the upcoming legislative session.

It turns out that, even after a year of economic downturn and declining sales of coal, oil and gas, the state’s revenue picture is actually looking up.

Montana Senator Jon Tester
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

Montana’s senior senator says he’s willing to give President-elect Donald Trump the benefit of the doubt.

Governor Bullock, with Budget Director Dan Villa. Governor Bullock released his revenue and spending plan Nov. 15 at the Capitol in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney

The Bullock administration’s new budget released Tuesday outlines an increase in state spending of just over one percent over the next two years. This despite declining state revenue from the sales of coal, oil and gas.

Drummond resident Maretta McGowan voted for Donald Trump because he's a businessman
Courtesy Zachariah Bryan

Nationwide there was great surprise at the result of the presidential election, but in Montana Republican candidates for the White House are widely expected to win the state. And that happened. Donald Trump got just over 56 percent of the vote here, to Hillary Clinton's 36 percent.

Montana Republicans say their victories are a mandate from voters, speculation about Democratic Senator Jon Tester’s future, and does Ryan Zinke have a place in the new Trump administration now? Sally Mauk, Chuck Johnson and Rob Saldin dig in to these issues and more in the final "Campaign Beat" episode of 2016.

Pages