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Bills to expand net-metering killed by Senate panel

HELENA — A state Senate committee Thursday put the kibosh on two bills that would expand “net metering,” which is meant to offset the cost of installing solar-power systems in Montana.

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More GOP income tax bills tossed into the mix

More GOP income tax bills tossed into the mix

HELENA — Republican lawmakers added two more bills to their tax-cutting mix Thursday: One that chops state income tax rates and another that overhauls and simplifies the income tax, with fewer brackets and lower rates.

January 29, 2015 11:15 am Photos

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Bullock’s State of State: A Montana where we help others, while we succeed

Bullock’s State of State: A Montana where we help others, while we succeed

Gov. Steve Bullock, in his second State of the State address, said Montana is prospering overall – but called on the 2015 Legislature Wednesday night to use the tools of government to help fellow citizens who are struggling.

January 28, 2015 8:00 pm Photos

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House endorses bill giving governor more power over clemency for convicts

House endorses bill giving governor more power over clemency for convicts

HELENA — The Montana House on Wednesday endorsed a bill giving the governor power to overrule the Board of Pardons and Parole on clemency decisions for felons — a measure spurred in part by the case of convicted murderer Barry Beach.

January 28, 2015 2:22 pm Photos

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Bullock fundraising for nonprofit formed to promote his early-education plan

Bullock fundraising for nonprofit formed to promote his early-education plan

HELENA — As Gov. Steve Bullock pushes his proposal to publicly fund preschool, he’s getting help from a new nonprofit group that has hired a public-relations firm — and he’s helping the group raise money.

January 27, 2015 5:50 pmLoading…
Top GOP legislator pitches modest property tax cut

Top GOP legislator pitches modest property tax cut

HELENA — A top Republican legislator pitched another tax-cut bill Tuesday, for a modest, across-the-board cut in state property taxes.

January 27, 2015 11:55 amLoading…
Bill requiring legislative approval to expand Affordable Care Act prompts health care debate

Bill requiring legislative approval to expand Affordable Care Act prompts health care debate

HELENA — A Republican’s proposal to block any expansion of the Affordable Care Act in Montana without legislative approval prompted a miniature debate on health care reform Monday, as Democrats attacked the measure for blocking health care solutions.

January 26, 2015 5:29 pmLoading…
Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

Legitimate questions and politics collide with welfare whistleblowers

HELENA — In an unusual turn at the Legislature last week, three “whistleblower” state workers showed up in Helena to allege serious problems with the state’s processes to verify and approve welfare benefits.

January 25, 2015 6:00 am Photos

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Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

Plan would help small business pay for health insurance

HELENA — Business owners, including a Republican state senator, turned out Friday to support a plan by Democratic state Auditor Monica Lindeen to extend and possibly expand a program helping more than 1,100 small businesses pay for employee health coverage.

January 23, 2015 3:38 pmLoading…
Bill giving governor more power over clemency for inmates advances easily

Bill giving governor more power over clemency for inmates advances easily

HELENA — A bill giving the governor power to overrule the Board of Pardons and Parole on clemency decisions — spurred in part by the case of convicted murderer Barry Beach — easily advanced to the House floor Friday.

January 23, 2015 11:06 am Related Loading…
Ohio governor talks about Medicaid expansion, federal budget

Ohio governor talks about Medicaid expansion, federal budget

HELENA — Ohio Gov. John Kasich visited the Montana Legislature Wednesday to promote a federal balanced-budget amendment — but also got into why he supported expanding Medicaid in Ohio.

January 21, 2015 8:45 pmLoading…
GOP bill: Hire outside vendor to check for welfare fraud

GOP bill: Hire outside vendor to check for welfare fraud

HELENA — A Republican state senator from Billings Wednesday presented a key piece of GOP plans to reform Medicaid and public-assistance programs in Montana: A bill to hire an outside contractor to verify the eligibility of welfare applicants.

January 21, 2015 8:30 pmLoading…
Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee

Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee

Former Board of Pardons and Parole chairman Mike McKee testifies Tuesday against a bill that would give the governor more power over the executive clemency process. Under current law, the board can prevent the governor from ruling on clemency in any non-capital case.

January 20, 2015 1:19 pm
Margie McDonald

Margie McDonald

Rep. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, speaks in favor of her bill, House Bill 43, which would give the governor more power to consider or grant executive clemency to convicted felons in Montana. MacDonald said HB43 will restore checks and balances between the governor and the Parole Board, whic…

January 20, 2015 1:17 pm
Bill to restrict parole board’s power over clemency gets wide support at hearing

Bill to restrict parole board’s power over clemency gets wide support at hearing

HELENA — Amber Foster told a legislative panel Tuesday when she tried to get her husband’s rape conviction pardoned, the state Board of Pardons and Parole all but ignored her — and she’s the “victim” of the crime.

January 20, 2015 1:10 pm Photos

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Richard Opper

Richard Opper

Richard Opper, director of the state Department of Public Health and Human Services, tells a legislative budget panel Monday that the agency’s computerized system that verifies welfare benefits is working and being improved. The panel subpoenaed current and former state welfare officers to t…

January 20, 2015 6:58 am
Three state health officials

Three state health officials

Three state health officials Monday spoke to a legislative budget panel about alleged problems with the state computerized system that verifies welfare benefits. From left are Bob Runkel, manager of the economic security services branch for the state Department of Public Health and Human Ser…

January 20, 2015 6:55 am
Kirsten Brown and John Desch

Kirsten Brown and John Desch

Kirsten Brown, left, and John Desch, who work in the Libby office of the agency that determines welfare benefits in Montana, testified Monday before a state budget panel, saying the two-year-old computerized system that helps verify benefits still has major problems. Brown and Desch were sub…

January 20, 2015 6:57 am
Subpoenaed welfare workers criticize verification system

Subpoenaed welfare workers criticize verification system

HELENA — The accuracy of Montana’s welfare system came under the microscope Monday at the Legislature, spotlighted by rare, under-oath testimony from state workers subpoenaed by Republican legislative leaders.

January 19, 2015 8:00 pm Photos

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Huge gap exists between governor, GOP's Medicaid expansion proposals

Huge gap exists between governor, GOP's Medicaid expansion proposals

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock Monday rolled out his administration’s bill to accept federal money to provide health coverage for 70,000 low-income Montanans, saying it’s time to give the proposal “an up-or-down vote.”

January 19, 2015 12:26 pm Photos

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Bills to expand net-metered, renewable-power systems

Bills to expand net-metered, renewable-power systems

HELENA — For firms installing solar-power systems on homes and businesses in Montana, the market is limited — but a coalition of odd political bedfellows at the 2015 Legislature wants to expand it.

January 19, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
GOP House committee chairs subpoena welfare workers

GOP House committee chairs subpoena welfare workers

HELENA — Republican chairmen of two Montana House committees have taken the unusual step of issuing subpoenas to state welfare workers to look into allegations that the Bullock administration is qualifying people for welfare benefits without proper verification.

January 16, 2015 7:30 pm Photos

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GOP throws weight behind community mental health programs

GOP throws weight behind community mental health programs

HELENA — Republican legislative leaders Thursday threw their support behind proposals to increase funding for local mental health programs, saying it’s the right approach to solving the state’s mental health crisis.

January 15, 2015 5:13 pmLoading…
Groups urge legislators to fund local mental health services

Groups urge legislators to fund local mental health services

HELENA — Annette Russ told a legislative budget panel Thursday that when her son was released from Montana State Prison recently, he had a 10-day furlough and no medication for his schizophrenia — and quickly had a “psychotic episode.”

January 15, 2015 4:30 pm Photos

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More people have signed up this year for Obamacare than all of 2014

More people have signed up this year for Obamacare than all of 2014

HELENA — Signups for health insurance policies via Montana’s online marketplace — part of the federal health care overhaul known as Obamacare — are surging past last year’s levels, surpassing 45,000, federal officials said Wednesday.

January 14, 2015 1:40 pmLoading…
Key lawmaker has skeptical view of Bullock admin’s $20M mental health plan

Key lawmaker has skeptical view of Bullock admin’s $20M mental health plan

HELENA — A key lawmaker Tuesday said the Legislature may take a different path than the Bullock administration to address the state’s mental health crisis, saying more preventive, local care is needed.

January 13, 2015 5:16 pmLoading…
Bills revising parole board procedures and clemency begin this week at the Legislature

Bills revising parole board procedures and clemency begin this week at the Legislature

HELENA — Proposals to tweak the state parole board and revise its authority over executive clemency arrive at the Legislature this week — and supporters hope they find bipartisan support.

January 13, 2015 5:02 pm Photos

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Mike Dennison: Legislative week in review: GOP split alive, well and influential

Mike Dennison: Legislative week in review: GOP split alive, well and influential

HELENA — One week into Montana’s 2015 Legislature, one thing is clear: The conservative-moderate split in the Republican Party that determined key outcomes of the 2013 Legislature is alive and well and set to do it again.

January 11, 2015 4:00 pm Related Loading…

Flathead tribal water compact huge issue for 2015 Legislature – and the state

HELENA — One of the biggest issues facing the 2015 Legislature is a mystery to most Montanans, cloaked in the complexities of water law and charged with racial politics: The tribal water rights compact on the Flathead Indian Reservation. 

January 11, 2015 12:00 am Related Loading…
House amends rules to make it easier to bring controversial bills to the floor

House amends rules to make it easier to bring controversial bills to the floor

HELENA — In a surprising move that could influence whether major proposals pass or fail the Montana House at the 2015 Legislature, Republican leaders Thursday agreed to a rules change allowing a simple majority to bring a limited number of bottled-up bills to the House floor for debate and a vote.

January 08, 2015 5:30 pmLoading…
Montana House appears close on deal to resolve dispute over rules

Montana House appears close on deal to resolve dispute over rules

HELENA — Several proposed rules causing a rift in the Montana House may be changed or abandoned, including one giving the House speaker more power to redirect bills to a committee where a bill may be more easily killed, lawmakers said Monday.

January 05, 2015 5:21 pm Photos

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Tester says things can get fixed, if the Republicans play ball

Tester says things can get fixed, if the Republicans play ball

HELENA — Montana’s lone Democrat in Congress, U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, said Monday the new GOP-controlled Congress has the chance to address many problems facing the country — if Republicans are serious about advancing “responsible” proposals.

January 05, 2015 4:29 pmLoading…
Parties pledge cooperation as Montana Legislature convenes

Parties pledge cooperation as Montana Legislature convenes

HELENA — The 2015 Montana Legislature kicked off Monday, with top leaders from both parties pledging to work together for the public good during the 90-day session.

January 05, 2015 3:09 pm Photos

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Youthful House speaker has task of keeping fractious GOP caucus together, fencing with governor

Youthful House speaker has task of keeping fractious GOP caucus together, fencing with governor

HELENA — On a fall bird-hunting trip in northeast Montana in 2009, Austin Knudsen and two close friends spoke frankly about the future of the state and whether they should try to change things for the better.

January 04, 2015 6:00 amLoading…
Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton

Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton

Rep. Pat Connell, R-Hamilton, is seen at his home in the Bitterroot Valley near Hamilton.

January 02, 2015 9:29 am
Legislative Republicans' Medicaid plan would not accept federal cash

Legislative Republicans' Medicaid plan would not accept federal cash

HELENA — Legislative Republicans Wednesday unveiled their proposals to expand health coverage for low-income Montanans — but it does not include accepting new federal money that would cover 70,000 additional people.

January 02, 2015 12:00 amLoading…
At least 22,600 Montanans sign up for health coverage

At least 22,600 Montanans sign up for health coverage

HELENA — At least 22,600 Montanans have signed up for health insurance policies this year through the federal online marketplace — and that number will only increase by the time enrollment ends next February, insurance industry and federal officials said Tuesday.

December 30, 2014 2:20 pmLoading…
There's a lot to like in Bullock's record, but GOP leaders say he doesn’t deserve all the credit

There's a lot to like in Bullock's record, but GOP leaders say he doesn’t deserve all the credit

HELENA — Two years into his first term as governor, Democrat Steve Bullock has no shortage of positives he can point to when talking about his record.

December 29, 2014 12:00 am Photos

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Bullock’s agenda facing tough sledding at GOP-controlled Legislature

Bullock’s agenda facing tough sledding at GOP-controlled Legislature

HELENA — As Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock eyes his second Legislature, which begins next week, he knows he’ll need some Republican help to move any part of his agenda through the GOP-controlled body.

December 28, 2014 6:00 am Photos

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Departed parole board chair says he resigned to avoid reappointment controversy

Departed parole board chair says he resigned to avoid reappointment controversy

HELENA — Mike McKee, who resigned last week as chairman of the state Board of Pardons and Parole, says he stepped down to avoid any controversy over his reappointment, as the 2015 Legislature considers proposed changes to board procedure.

December 22, 2014 3:03 pm Related Loading…
How will EPA rules on carbon work, and what's next for coal?

How will EPA rules on carbon work, and what's next for coal?

HELENA — Proposed federal rules to reduce carbon emissions from existing power plants won’t take effect until 2016 — and won’t fall entirely on the back of coal-fired power plants.

December 21, 2014 6:40 amLoading…
Coal-industry studies say EPA carbon regs will jack electric bills

Coal-industry studies say EPA carbon regs will jack electric bills

HELENA — In their fight against federal rules to cut carbon emissions, the coal industry and its allies are producing studies saying the rules mean big price increases for electricity consumers in Montana and elsewhere.

December 21, 2014 6:40 am Related Loading…

Split PSC shoots down agreement for wind power project

HELENA — A divided state Public Service Commission this week rejected NorthWestern Energy’s agreement to buy power from a new wind project at a cost lower than the utility is paying for power from hydroelectric dams purchased earlier this year.

December 18, 2014 7:00 pmLoading…

Foundation funded by Blue Cross sale issuing first grants, for local health assessments

HELENA — The foundation funded by the 2013 sale of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana announced its first grants Wednesday for local health departments around the state to identify local health needs.

December 17, 2014 10:37 amLoading…
Bullock, critic of big corporate money, now in charge of raising it for DGA

Bullock, critic of big corporate money, now in charge of raising it for DGA

HELENA — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a vocal critic of corporate money in politics, now heads up the Democratic Governors Association, which raises millions in corporate dollars to help elect Democratic governors — but says that doesn’t make him a hypocrite.

December 16, 2014 6:22 pmLoading…
Daines lays out ambitious GOP agenda for Congress – but says he’s a `pragmatic conservative’

Daines lays out ambitious GOP agenda for Congress – but says he’s a `pragmatic conservative’

HELENA — Montana’s next U.S. senator, Republican Steve Daines, says the new GOP-controlled Congress will have an active agenda next year, such as taking on “Obamacare,” passing a balanced budget, blocking costly federal regulations and approving the Keystone XL oil pipeline.

December 15, 2014 7:50 pm Photos

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Steve Daines

Steve Daines

U.S. Sen.-elect Steve Daines, R-Mont., says the Republican-controlled Congress will challenge the Affordable Care Act and likely vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, a balanced budget and less regulation.

December 15, 2014 11:54 am
Steve Daines

Steve Daines

U.S. Sen.-elect Steve Daines, R-Mont., says the Republican-controlled Congress will challenge the Affordable Care Act and likely vote to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, a balanced budget and less regulation.

December 15, 2014 11:54 am
Bullock ready to roll dice on giant $300 million infrastructure bill

Bullock ready to roll dice on giant $300 million infrastructure bill

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock is sending a massive $300 million Christmas tree of building projects to the 2015 Legislature, hoping lawmakers won’t chop it into pieces and throw some into the fireplace.

December 14, 2014 7:00 amLoading…
Oil may boom, but infrastructure is busting Montana oil, gas counties

Oil may boom, but infrastructure is busting Montana oil, gas counties

SIDNEY — Out in the epicenter of the oil and gas boom, communities are growing so quickly they can’t keep up with their basic infrastructure needs such as water and sewage treatment facilities, housing and roads and bridges.

December 14, 2014 12:30 am Photos

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