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Montana Politics & Legislature

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Montana's Firefighting Fund Running On Empty

Aug 16, 2017
Montana is spending over a million dollars a day fighting wildfires. These are Goat Creek and Sliderock fires, July 23, 2017.
Inciweb

Montana's firefighting fund will run dry by the end of the week, forcing state officials to begin drawing money from emergency reserves to keep crews and equipment on the front lines of the country's worst collection of wildland fires.

As of today, more than $168 million of mostly federal money has gone into battling about 80 large fires that have charred more than 400,000 acres statewide.

All three members of Montana’s congressional delegation have now commented on the events in Charlottesville.

Confederate memorial in Helena, MT.
Courtesy Tom Kilmer in Helena, MT

Native American lawmakers in Montana are calling for the removal of a memorial to Confederate soldiers in the state's capitol city.

The granite fountain in Helena's Hill Park has been the subject of debate in recent years, as other cities across the country decide the fate of monuments erected to honor the legacy of the Confederacy.

Montana Department of Labor and Industry Commissioner Pam Bucy
Courtesy

After almost five years on the job, Montana’s Commissioner of Labor and Industry, Pam Bucy, is moving into the private sector.

“I’m going to stay in Helena. I’m going to join a law firm, The Taylor Luther Group. We’ll be focusing primarily on business and employment law and government relations,” Bucy says.

More than $97 million in state budget reductions are scheduled to kick in August 15, and, across the state,, school districts are preparing to adapt to their share of the cut.

Funding for public education in Montana will decrease by about $19 million over the next two years as declines in state revenues mean across-the-board budget reductions to state agencies.

County election officials criticized Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton Thursday morning for his repeated allegations of voter fraud, and for poor communication with them since taking office.
Corin Cates-Carney

County election officials criticized Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton Thursday morning for his repeated allegations of voter fraud, and for poor communication with them since taking office. County officials aired their grievances during a speech by Stapleton at a training session at the Montana Clerk and Recorder Convention in Fairmont.

The Secretary of State and county election officials have butted heads ever since Stapleton took office.

Overview of tourist spending in Montana.
University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research

Montana’s budget to entice tourists to the state is about to take a multimillion dollar hit. Next week, budget reductions triggered by lower than expected state revenue will make Montana less competitive, officials say.

Last year, tourists spent about $3.5 billion in Montana, according to the University of Montana’s Institute for Tourism and Recreation.

Montana’s Supreme Court has ordered Attorney General Tim Fox to respond to the American Civil Liberties Union’s complaint about the language of a so-called "bathroom privacy" ballot initiative.

On Monday the court gave Fox 20 days to explain why the ballot language his office wrote for the initiative being promoted by the Montana Family Foundation is fair and accurate.

1st Montana Democrat Announces Bid Against US Rep. Gianforte

Aug 7, 2017
John Heenan of Billings Monday announced a bid to unseat newly elected U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte in next year's midterm race.
Courtesy

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An attorney on Monday announced a bid to unseat newly elected U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte in next year's midterm race, becoming the first Democrat to establish a campaign committee to take on the Republican who attacked a reporter the day before a special election.

John Heenan of Billings said he would use his experience as a consumer protection lawyer to advocate for Montana residents, including working to increase access to "quality, affordable health care."

Montana is spending over a million dollars a day fighting wildfires. These are Goat Creek and Sliderock fires, July 23, 2017.
Inciweb

The money set aside to fight wildfires in Montana is rapidly dwindling as portions of the state are in extreme drought conditions. But John Tubbs, Director of the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, says there’s more money available to keep up the firefighting efforts, in other pockets of state government.

“We don’t run out,” Tubbs says.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Wednesday he won’t recommend any changes to the Upper Missouri River Breaks. It’s one of 27 national monuments under review by the secretary, who is now the target of a new ad campaign launched by a Montana-based sportsmen’s group.

The GOP leadership in the U.S. Senate may have put the health care issue on the back burner, but it is a campaign issue in Montana’s upcoming U.S. Senate race.

The latest Republican to enter U.S. Senate race has run aggressive statewide political campaigns in the past. So it comes as no surprise he didn’t pull any punches against incumbent U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, right out of the gate during his campaign announcement Monday.

“He was the one that cast the deciding vote that forced Obamacare on each and every person on the state of Montana originally,” said Rosendale. “So that’s sort of like the Arsonist trying to blame the fire department because they’re not doing a good enough job.”

MT Senators Say Work Should Continue On Health Care

Aug 2, 2017

Montana’s two U.S. Senators disagree with the decision to abandon work on health care to focus on other legislative priorities. 

Tuesday’s announcement comes after yet another failure by the Republican majority to scrap the Affordable Care Act, more commonly known as Obamacare.

Auditor Matt Rosendale Enters 2018 Race for U.S. Senate

Aug 1, 2017

State Auditor Matt Rosendale is the most prominent Republican to enter the race to challenge U.S. Senator Jon Tester, D-MT, in 2018.

Rosendale, a former state legislator from Glendive, was elected last November to be Montana’s state Insurance and Securities Commissioner.

“I have always said I will serve where Montanans feel I can be the most effective,” he says.

Matthew Rosendale, Montana's Commissioner of Securities and Insurance.
Eric Whitney

State Auditor Matt Rosendale ended months of speculation Monday by announcing his intent to seek the Republican nomination to run against incumbent U.S. Senator Jon Tester.

Hundreds showed up to testify in Helena against cuts to Medicaid, July 27, 2017.
Eric Whitney

"These are no doubt difficult times."

That’s Sheila Hogan, the head of Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services Thursday. She was kicking off a hearing on a planned cut to how much the department will pay doctors, hospitals and other health workers who take care of people on Medicaid.

William Buck, who owns Shepherd's Way assisted living facility in Lewistown says planned cuts to Medicaid would be "devastating."
Eric Whitney

Hundreds of people packed an auditorium in Helena Thursday to protest planned cuts to Medicaid.

"This 3.47 percent cut is devastating," says William Buck, who owns Shepherd's Way assisted living facility in Lewistown.

Sen. Jon Tester.
PD

Montana’s senators on Tuesday took opposite votes on whether to begin debate on repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act.

A satellite photo showing the Lodgepole complex fires in Montana.
NASA

On Sunday, Governor Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in Montana because of wildfires. MTPR's Eric Whitney spoke to him Monday afternoon about what that means on the ground.

Gov. Steve Bullock.
Freddy Monares - UM Legislative News Service

An automatic state budget cut could pull tens of millions of dollars out of the state firefighting fund as early as Tuesday.

During the legislative session earlier this year state lawmakers approved a bill that triggers budget cuts based on how much revenue is coming in.

Republican Congressman Greg Gianforte came by the YPR studio visit about his first three weeks on the job.  Gianforte was elected in a special May election to fill the vacancy when President Donald Trump tapped then-Congressman Ryan Zinke to become his U.S. Interior Secretary.

In conversation with YPR's Jackie Yamanaka, Gianforte explains he was required to vote on issues immediately.

3,000 people might run out of water this summer on the Rocky Boy’s Reservation, but a bipartisan bill moving through U.S. Congress could bring some much-needed relief.

Montana Commissioner of Securities and Insurance Matthew Rosendale.
Montana Legislature

Later today in Billings State Auditor Matt Rosendale is holding the first of two meetings to get public input on proposed health insurance prices for 2018.

The state has some regulatory authority over health plans sold to individuals and small groups, that’s about 114,000 people in Montana. That authority allows the state auditor to review, but not reject proposed prices by insurance companies.

Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

Montana’s Office of Public Instruction is unsure if its new draft plan to raise student achievement will comply with federal law.

State education leaders are required to submit a plan to the U.S. Department of Education in September, as part of the 2015 Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, which is the federal replacement for No Child Left Behind. 

U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) says the U.S. Senate needs to do its job and pass a bill on health care. This on the news that the Senate Majority Leader plans to hold a vote next week even though it is unclear as of Friday what lawmakers will be voting on.

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