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.

Emigrant Peak in Montana's Paradise Valley north of Yellowstone Park.
Eric Whitney / Montana Public Radio

A proposal to ban mining near Yellowstone National Park got its first hearing in the U.S. House today. It has the unconditional support of Montana’s lone representative, Republican Greg Gianforte.

Congressman Gianforte is an ardent supporter of the natural resources extraction industries. Even so, he testified against mining before a House Natural Resources subcommittee Thursday.

People gather in Missoula to protest the Trump administration's policy of separating families attempting to enter the country illegally at the southern border, June 20, 2018.
Clare Menahan

  

Several hundred people rallied in Missoula and Kalispell Wednesday to protest the Trump administration’s policy of separating families attempting to enter the country illegally at the southern border.

Though President Trump overturned that policy through an executive order Wednesday afternoon, many in Missoula remained skeptical.

Montana's Flathead Valley from above.
Nicky Ouellet

The Flathead Basin Commission is redefining its role protecting water quality in northwest Montana, after legislators gutted its funding last November and its executive director was fired in February.

The Commission spent much of Wednesday reinventing itself.

Mining industry advocates went on the offensive Wednesday against a proposed ballot initiative they say would effectively ban future mining in the state.

The opposition group to ballot initiative 186 announced its launch a day after the Montana Supreme Court ruled against the mining industry’s request to void the initiative.

The Montana Supreme Court today unanimously denied a request by the Montana Mining Association to toss out a proposed ballot initiative for being legally insufficient to put before voters.

Sponsors are collecting signatures for the initiative to require future mines to submit reclamation plans that don't require the perpetual cleanup of polluted water after the mines close.

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