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News from around the state in brief

Lawmakers oppose special session HELENA - A special session to address cuts in social services would turn into a budget free-for-all and lead to increased taxes, a trio of key Republican legislators said Tuesday in a letter to legislators.

Senate Finance Chairman Bob Keenan, of Bigfork; House Appropriations Chairman Steve Vick, of Belgrade; and Rep. Dave Lewis, of Helena, sent the letter in response to Monday's filing of a request for special session by Sen. John Cobb, R-Augusta. Cobb's request was signed by 11 other legislators, all Democrats.

Cobb said he simply wants the Legislature, not the governor's budget office, to decide if $40 million in cuts to Medicaid, welfare and child-support enforcement are acceptable.

Lewis, chairman of the Legislature's panel that decides the health department's budget and a former state budget director, said the Legislature gave the executive branch instructions to make the cuts if necessary.Beaverhead County sheriff resigns DILLON - Beaverhead County Sheriff Keith Reeder resigned unexpectedly Tuesday, effective at noon.

He said he also plans to withdraw as a candidate in the upcoming election.

"I have enjoyed serving the citizens of Beaverhead County and after deep consideration I have decided to devote my energies to other pursuits," Reeder said in his four-paragraph letter, hand-delivered to the office of the Beaverhead County Commission.

He did not elaborate and could not be reached later for comment.

Reeder had returned from security duty at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City on Monday.

Beaverhead County Attorney Tom Scott said Undersheriff Jay Hanson will serve as acting sheriff until the commission appoints a replacement for Reeder.

Reeder was elected sheriff in 1998. He worked his way up through the department, beginning as a relief dispatcher in 1976 to full-time jailer in 1980, and then to undersheriff before his election to sheriff.

He was also Beaverhead County's coroner for 10 years, a licensed Montana emergency medical technician 23 years and was with the Dillon volunteer fire department for many years.Judge revokes woman's driving priviliges MISSOULA - District Judge John Larson says a Seattle-woman won't be able to legally drive for 40 years under terms of a sentence for killing four people in a fiery two-vehicle crash near Potomac in December 2000.

"I want a permanent restriction on her ability to drive," Larson said Monday in sentencing Michelle Lee Herd, 27.

He also ordered the woman to spend up to nine months in a prerelease center in Missoula or Great Falls, perform 2,000 hours of community service and pay a fine of $200 a month for 20 years to the two favorite charities of the Good family in the Seeley Lake area.

Herd was driving a pickup truck traveling on the wrong side of Montana 200 near Potomac. Her truck collided with a Volkswagen Beetle that was carrying four members of the Good family to a ski outing near Missoula, killing Stacy Good, 53; her daughters Kilty, 22; and Arundel, 18; and son Tully, 13.

At the time of the collision, Herd told investigators that she was emotionally distraught and on her way to see her dying mother in a Great Falls hospital. Herd's mother died in April 2001.

Herd also told investigators she thought Montana 200 was a four-lane roadway and that she did not realize she had traveled about 15 miles on the wrong side of the highway.

She apologized to Kerry Good and his four surviving sons, all of whom were at the hearing.Enrollment decreases at MSU BOZEMAN - A drop in spring enrollment will cost Montana State University about $175,000.

"We're still on safe ground," Craig Roloff, acting vice president for financial affairs, recently told MSU's budget committee. He said MSU has a contingency fund set aside to cover such shortfalls.

However, the continuing drop in out-of-state students is kind of alarming, said Sue Leigland, a travel agency owner who's the community representative on the 21-member University Planning, Budget and Analysis Committee.

That hurts because out-of-state students pay slightly more than 100 percent of the cost of their education.

MSU had 2,104 out-of-state undergraduates in the spring semester of 1999, compared with 1,643 for this spring.

MSU's total spring enrollment of 10,989 students was down by 119 from last year's spring term, despite ongoing efforts to increase recruitment.

The drop in out-of-state student numbers might be happening because more nonresident students are taking six or fewer class credits in order to establish Montana residency and get the chance to pay lower tuition, Roloff said. Or it may be that out-of-state students are more likely to quit when they run into difficulties at school because they're paying three times higher tuition, he said.

Allen Yarnell, vice president for student affairs, said an outside firm has been hired to help with luring out-of-state students to MSU.

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