Republicans come up with separate infrastructure bills
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana House and Senate Republicans are introducing separate bills to pay for state infrastructure projects through bonds.
Both measures being introduced Wednesday reduce Gov. Steve Bullock’s original $150 million bonding plan.
The Senate measure would authorize between $80 million and $90 million to pay for water, sewer, roads and most of the capital projects that were in the governor’s plan.
The House version would authorize only $33 million in water, sewer, roads and school repair projects in mostly rural areas of the state.
Any bonding bill that passes the Legislature will require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, meaning support is needed by the Democratic minority.
House Minority Leader Jenny Eck says Democrats won’t support the House bill, which eliminates projects in urban areas and pits communities against each other. She says she supports the Senate bill.
More than 1,200 Yellowstone bison killed this winter
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Operations to kill bison in Yellowstone National Park for slaughter have come to an end, with more than 1,200 bison culled this winter.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the park released figures Wednesday showing 748 bison were consigned to slaughter this year. Another 453 were killed by hunters from Native American tribes and the state of Montana.
The total winter death toll marks the highest number of bison killed in the Yellowstone area since 2008. It also falls just short of the removal goal bison managers set in the fall.
Bison are taken from the area each year because of a management plan established in 2000 that calls for a population of 3,000 bison in the region. Park biologists estimate there are 5,500 bison there now.
Attorney faces censure for buying client’s property
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Kalispell attorney faces censure for buying the properties of two clients that he filed liens against for failure to pay attorney’s fees.
David G. Tennant must appear before the Montana Supreme Court on April 18 for a public censure over his debt collection practices. The court also ordered him to return to a former client the title to one of two residential lots that he purchased at a sheriff’s sale along and any money from the sale of the other lot that exceeds the $34,000 default judgment.
The other clients were able to redeem their property.
In the future, Tennant must provide clients with copies of any attorney’s liens filed against them by him or his firm. He also must notify the Office of Disciplinary Counsel of any liens he files in the next three years.
GOP looks to wrest public access issue from Democrats
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Legislative Republicans in Montana are seeking to retake control of the narrative on the issue of access to public lands.
Republicans highlighted a package of legislation Wednesday that they hope will better position themselves with hunters, outdoor enthusiasts and voters concerned about public access.
Democrats say they welcome the Republicans’ embrace of the issue that their own party has long championed.
Public access is particularly important in a state with some of the country’s most expansive wildlands and most pristine rivers and lakes.
The subject is already a key talking point in the special congressional election underway, as it was last fall in the governor’s race.
Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas says the five legislative proposals his caucus is highlighting show the party’s support for expanding access.
Education advocates turn to Senate to fix budget reductions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Education officials and advocates are pressing Montana senators to add money to the next state budget where the House wouldn’t.
Nearly two dozen people testified Wednesday in support of more money for the state university system, special education and specialty schools like the Montana School for the Deaf and Blind and the Montana Digital Academy.
The Senate Finance and Claims Committee took up the 2018-2019 budget by starting with the largest state spending area, education.
Many of the same requests were turned down by the House when it passed the $10.2 billion spending plan last week. Since then, a new forecast predicted the state could see $106 million in additional revenue over the next two years.
Lawmakers on from both parties say they will not assume all of that extra money will actually be available.
Woman reported missing west of Missoula has been found dead
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A woman who called 911 to report that she was lost has been found dead in the Fish Creek area west of Missoula.
Mineral County authorities say 56-year-old Debra Ann Koziel’s phone went dead during Friday’s 911 call. Her body of was found Tuesday near where her abandoned vehicle had been located a day earlier.
Sheriff Tom Bauer says he believes Koziel died of exposure to the elements.
KOAA-TV reports the woman was from Colorado Springs, Colorado.