Steve Daines

Eric Whitney

More than two hundred people gathered at the Western Montana State Veterans Cemetery in Missoula to mark Memorial day. It was one of dozens of ceremonies across the state.

Sen. Jon Tester (D) Montana
Courtesy photo

Senator Jon Tester says the Veterans Administration’s new Choice Card program got off to a  “shaky” start. The Choice Card is a new program that lets veterans use private medical care if their nearest VA facility is too busy or too far away.

Montana Senator Jon Tester hopes Wednesday’s 10-hour filibuster over the Patriot Act will convince his colleagues that the controversial law needs a full Senate debate.

Tester says Patriot Act supporters usually bring up the re-authorization vote just before the law expires, forcing the Senate to rush through the process, instead of taking the time for a full discussion.

Former Governor Tim Babcock died Tuesday morning at the age of 95.

Babcock was elected Montana's lieutenant Governor in 1960. He became the state's chief executive when a plane crash killed Governor Don Nutter, who was also Babcock's close friend, two years later.

Babcock would go on to lose a U.S. Senate race and another bid to serve in the Governor's office, but he and his late wife, Betty, remained active in state politics for the rest of their lives.

The Federal Aviation Administration today approved expansion of the Powder River Training Complex, a huge new airspace for military bombers to practice. It covers portions of Montana, Wyoming and North and South Dakota.

Montana’s congressional delegation fought the expansion, saying it will disrupt agriculture and interfere with operations at rural airports.

Eric Whitney

About 80 climate change activists rallied in Missoula this morning.

Led by Jeff Smith of the group 350Missoula, they gathered in front of Senator Steve Daines’ office here. There were there to, they said, “protest the senator’s denial of climate change science and his support for fossil fuel projects like coal exports, the Otter Creek Coal Mine, and the Keystone XL pipeline."

Gun rights advocates are declaring victory over what they call the latest federal attempt at gun control.

A federal proposal to ban the general public's access to a specific kind of rifle ammunition is now, at least temporarily, off the table.

The Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, or ATF, is backing-down from a plan that would have banned ammunition the agency says is particularly dangerous to police.

Courtesy photo

Today in Missoula, Senator Steve Daines held the second of three meetings he’s called to talk timber issues. He’ll do the same in Bozeman tomorrow.

The Republican Freshman Senator is calling the meetings “Timber Management Reform Roundtables,” and he’s invited mostly timber industry representatives to give him input on what they need to maintain or grow their operations.

Eric Whitney

Montana's U.S. senators are getting behind a new bill they say will help Montana's most rural counties round-out their budgets.

Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons says communities like his are reeling after Congress failed to renew the Secure Rural Schools Act last fall.

FH Stoltze Land and Lumber in Columbia Falls, MT
Eric Whitney

Tuesday in Columbia Falls, Senator Steve Daines kicked off a series of three meetings in western Montana that he’s calling “Forest Management Reform Roundtables.”

Around the table were executives from three timber mills, county commissioners from Sanders, Lincoln and Mineral counties, and Montana leaders of The Wilderness Society, The Nature Conservancy,  and the National Parks Conservation Organization.

Democratic Senator Jon Tester has signed-on to a new bill that he says would bring badly-needed financial security to Montana's most rural and timber-dependent counties.

Senator Tester says the "Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes Repair Act" would annually reauthorize Montana's SRS payments for three years at $23 million, the level provided in 2011.

Courtesy photo

Montana’s Senators are back from Washington and gathering input on transportation and timber issues.

Friday Democrat Jon Tester convened several panels in Helena to prepare for when the federal highway bill expires in May. He invited representatives from transportation, Chamber of Commerce and agriculture and construction companies to talk about the importance of good highways and bridges in Montana.

This is the last week for Montanans to shop for health insurance on HealthCare.gov. The deadline is Sunday, February 15. And it’s a hard deadline, says Jeff Hinson, with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"They will not be able to enroll after the 15th, unless they have a life-changing event."

A life-changing event is something like leaving a job with insurance benefits, getting married or divorced, or having child.

Bell & Jeff (CC-BY-2.0)

Montana's timber counties recently lost lots of federal revenue. Local officials say public services are going to suffer as a result.

"It's very scary. We're pretty bare bones out here the way it is," said Mineral County Commissioner Duane Simons.

"What do we do? We've got a four-man road crew. Do you lay four guys off? Do you lay three guys off? We've got some real difficult choices ahead of us here."

He's talking about the loss of federal "Secure Rural Schools" funds. The program expired this fall and wasn't reauthorized by Congress.

Montana’s new Senator, Republican Steve Daines, is asking Montanans for their input on how to better manage public lands in the state, but some conservation groups are wondering if he really wants to hear from them.

Rick Potts, who’s on the Montana Wilderness Association’s state council, is troubled by some recent Daines votes.

"I know my colleagues in the Montana Wilderness Association and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers as well, feel like they’ve been sucker punched. They didn’t see this coming."

shannonpatrick17 (CC-BY-2.0)

Both of Montana’s Senators voted today for the bill to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

Democrat Jon Tester says he looks forward to the day when clean, renewable resources provide most of America's energy needs:

"But until we get to a point when that's affordable and available, it appears to me that I'd rather do business with Canada than I would the Middle East."

Tester says the recent Bridger Pipeline oil spill on the Yellowstone River was not only a catastrophe, but entirely preventable.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

Rules debates, the home-schooled chair of the House Education committee, Medicaid expansion, and two new murals honoring Montana women at the state capitol; Sally Mauk, Chuck Johnson, and Mike Dennison talk about all this and more in this episode of "Capitol Talk".

"Capitol Talk," our weekly legislative news and analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the legislative session. MTPR's Sally Mauk is joined by Lee Newspapers reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

Montana Senator Steve Daines sits on the Senate Energy and Commerce Committee, which today passed a bill to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. He told the committee it’s important for Montana’s economy.

"Not everybody has a fly rod in their hand and is on the ski hill," said Daines.

Daines said the pipeline will move 100,000 barrels a day of oil produced in Montana and North Dakota.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

Sometimes the best things in life come from unexpected places. This was the case for Missoulian Dick Rothermel and his wife about 13 years ago when they stumbled across a modest cabin for sale on Seeley Lake-area Forest Service land.

Edward O'Brien

A group of Montanans who own cabins on Forest Service land thanked Republican Senator-elect Steve Daines today for a measure they say will allow them to keep those cherished cabins in their families.

Some cabin fees spiked from $5,000 to $20,000 within just a few years.

The Cabin Fee Act establishes a predictable fee-setting system for at least 700 Montana cabin owners.

The bill was included in the lands and resources legislation recently approved by Congress as a rider on a Defense spending bill.

U.S. Forest Service Northern Region (CC-BY-2.0)

The U.S. Senate has approved an expansive bill that adds new wilderness lands in Montana and blocks mining and drilling near Glacier National Park.

The measures were in a defense bill that passed 89 to 11 today.

The bill adds 67,000 acres to the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. It also allows for a complex coal swap involving the Northern Cheyenne Indians. The tribe will get back 5,000 acres of coal deposits it was wrongly stripped of more than a century ago.

Reynermedia.com (CC-BY-2.0)

Officials in 33 Montana counties are keenly aware of what's not in the trillion dollar federal spending bill to keep government open: an extension of the Secure Rural Schools, or SRS program, that Montana counties have relied on since 2000.

SRS funding is stripped out of the spending bill the House has been considering this week.

The SRS program was helps pay down school bonds and also funds road maintenance projects.

Mineral County Commissioner Laurie Johnston has a blunt assessment of the situation.

Flickr user Bitterroot (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Montana's Senators and Senator-elect today announced what they're calling a “landmark” package of public lands legislation. It's being tacked on to a Defense authorization bill that the House and Senate are expected to vote on this week and next.

Flickr user SBebee

BREAKING NEWS: We're following up on this story and will have more on the air starting at 5 p.m. Below is the press release announcing the legislation issued this morning.

In a joint press conference today, Senators Jon Tester, John Walsh and Senator-elect Steve Daines announced a landmark legislative package that includes eight Montana-based lands and resources bills.

Political science professor David Parker, at Montana State University has a new book out. It’s called Battle for the Big Sky. In it, he says, “Much of the existing scholarship suggests that campaigns don’t matter much at all.”

Interviewed at his office recently, Parker acknowledged, “It does seem kind of weird, right? You look at the cost of presidential campaigns, and, wait a minute, political scientists say they don’t matter. They basically take the view of MacBeth, right? It’s all ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

Montanans who buy their own health insurance, or who want to, can start buying policies for next year starting on Saturday. It’s the beginning of the Affordable Care Act’s second so-called “open enrollment” period.

The process will be similar to last year, but significantly different, says Adam Schafer, at the Montana insurance commissioner’s office.

"Folks should not experience the same problems that came up last year," he says.

Eliza Wiley

Do Montana Democrats have a messaging problem? Will post-election talk of bi-partisanship translate into action? Sally, Chuck and Mike talk about these things and more on the final election season episode of "Campaign Beat."

Former MTPR news director and now Senior News Analyst Sally Mauk hosts the program. She's  joined by Lee newspapers Capitol reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

U.S. Senate candidate Amanda Curtis remained upbeat in defeat tonight. She thanked her supporters and said "I'm incredibly proud of the work we've done over the last 80 days."

Curtis spoke with MTPR News Director Eric Whitney late Tuesday night.

Eric Whitney

Steve Daines was declared the winner of Montana's U.S. Senate race just minutes after the polls closed.

MTPR News Director Eric Whitney spoke with Daines at his victory celebration in Bozeman tonight.

Daines talked about some of the things he hopes to achieve in the Senate.

Steve Daines Scores Historic Win In U.S. Senate Race

Nov 4, 2014

In a historic GOP win Tuesday evening, first-term U.S. Congressman Steve Daines scored a decisive victory over Democratic opponent Amanda Curtis to for one of Montana’s Senate seats.

The Associated Press called the race just after the polls closed.

In the wake of his win, he told MTPR that he would focus on "moving legislation."

"We need to look at what is possible to pass through the Congress and that can be implemented," he said Tuesday night. " We need to make sure we're not just passing symbolic votes."

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