Steve Daines

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 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. (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."

General Election Results 2014

Nov 4, 2014

Election results for 2014 Montana and national races.

Eric Whitney

MTPR News Director Eric Whitney is covering the Steve Daines election night watch party at the Hilton Garden Inn in Bozeman tonight.

Earlier today he spoke briefly with the Republican Congressman at a press conference, after Daines and his wife Cindy voted at the county election office on Main street. 

"It's bringing back a lot of memories today," Daines said, pointing to the building across the street. "That's where I went to fifth and sixth grade right there, back when it used to be Wilson Middle School."

Homegrown Candidates Tout Their Roots; Do Voters Care?

Nov 4, 2014

 Native-born Montanans have a deep sense of pride. But if you’re one of the 54 percent of Montana residents born elsewhere, you might wonder why that seems to be such a big deal in the state’s election campaigns.

Montana candidates are eager to show voters that they and their families have deep roots in the Big Sky Country. Most TV ads feature the candidate telling viewers how long his or her family has been here.

Eric Whitney

Our national election coverage will begin at 6:00 p.m. with NPR’s election night special coverage.

Coverage of local races starts at 8:00 p.m., and we’ll have local reports and analysis every thirty minutes until at least 10:00 p.m.

We’ll have reporters in Helena and Bozeman. Here in Missoula, Edward O’Brien will host our coverage. Joining him in the studio will be our Senior News Analyst Sally Mauk.

"Campaign Beat" recaps the recent House and Senate debates, looks at another outside funded ad in a Montana Supreme Court race, and talks about the mailer that's spawned outrage among many Montanans.

"Campaign Beat," our weekly political analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the fall election season. 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.

Courtesy photo

Tonight we have the fourth in a series of in-depth interviews with the four major party candidates for Montana’s U.S. House and Senate seats.

In this extended interview, we hear from Republican Steve Daines, who’s running for Montana’s seat in the U.S. Senate. He spoke with Montana Public Radio News Director Eric Whitney.

Listen to the extended version below. Due to technical problems, the extended interview did not go the full 30 minutes like the interviews with other candidates.

Republican Congressman Steve Daines didn't respond to Democrat Amanda Curtis's jabs during last night’s U.S. Senate debate in Billings.

Curtis said several times that Daines is too extreme for Montana and represents corporate interests over average Montanans. She says it's time to send a working-class Montanan to represent the state in Washington D.C.

Curtis also said Daines' vote last year to shut down the federal government during a budget stalemate hurt Montanans.

Listen To The Oct. 20 U.S. Senate Debate

Oct 19, 2014

U.S. Senate candidates Amanda Curtis and Steve Daines met to debate in Billings on Monday, Oct. 20. 

Video of the Senate debate is available on the MontanaPBS website.

The debate is followed by analysis and fact checking with former Montana Secretary of State Bob Brown, MontanaPBS analyst Gary Stein and MSU Political Science Professor David Parker.

"Campaign Beat" looks at recent campaign finance reports, dueling gun ads in the U.S. House race, the first TV ad from the Curtis campaign, and LR-126, the initiative seeking to repeal election day voter registration.

"Campaign Beat," our weekly political analysis program, appears on Fridays throughout the fall election season. Sally Mauk, former MTPR news director and now senior news analyst, hosts the program. She's  joined by Lee newspapers Capitol Reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison.

LR-126 ad from Montanans for Free and Fair Elections: