Rush for gay couples to marry in Montana declines
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The initial rush for gay couples to marry in Montana has declined after 436 couples married during the first year since the state’s marriage ban ended.
The rush began after U.S. District Judge Brian Morris ruled Montana’s constitutional amendment limiting marriage to between a man and a woman violated the U.S. Constitution.
According to the Great Falls Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/qgseq65 ), state Attorney General Tim Fox said he would appeal the ruling to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but put his appeal on hold.
Several same sex couples say the rulings have made their lives easier, helping them deal with issues involving children and writing up wills.
Voter initiatives seek higher use of renewable electricity
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A retired clergyman and an attorney want voters to pass a law requiring power companies to purchase and sell more renewable energy.
Former minister John Soderberg and Russ Doty have submitted a ballot measure that would require investor-owned utilities in Montana to gradually increase the amount of renewable electricity they purchase, reaching a requirement of 80 percent by 2050.
They also propose taxing electricity production to replace deposits that would be lost to the Coal Tax Trust Fund and add a temporary tax to ensure displaced fossil fuel workers’ pensions are fully funded.
If the language is approved, organizers would need the signatures of about 25,000 registered voters to put the issues on the November 2016 ballot.
Proposed livestock inspection fee has dairy farmers worried
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A proposed inspection fee increase has dairy farmers and processors worried.
Under current Montana Department of Livestock rules, farms that produce raw milk are charged about 15 cents per 100 pounds of milk to pay for health and safety inspections.
A proposed increase would nearly double the charge to more than 27 cents and raise the minimum fee for producers to $225 per month.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle says (http://tinyurl.com/o8x5zu4 ) officials are blaming the increase on the rising cost of inspections.
The fee increase was approved by the Board of Livestock and could go into effect Jan. 1.
Amid move to end Montana cleanup, some asbestos left behind
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal officials say their final analysis of a Montana community wracked by deadly asbestos contamination shows a costly and much-criticized cleanup is working — even though about 700 properties have yet to be investigated.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has spent more than $540 million removing asbestos in and around the town of Libby.
Health workers say as many as 400 people have died and almost 3,000 have been sickened from exposure. The material was left behind from a W.R. Grace and Co. vermiculite mine.
After a lengthy review of the health risks, the EPA said Friday that people could continue to live in Libby and neighboring Troy without excessive exposure.
Some worried residents point out that the agency plans to leave asbestos in the walls of houses, underground and elsewhere.
Montana Republican Party names new executive director
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Republican Party has named as its new executive director a man who has worked on election campaigns in four other states.
Party officials said in a statement that Timothy Gould will begin his duties on Dec. 1.
Party Chairman Jeff Essmann says he believes Gould’s experience will be an asset in Montana’s 2016 elections.
Gould has worked on local, gubernatorial, congressional and presidential campaigns in Minnesota, Ohio, Michigan and New Jersey.
He will replace Chris Shipp, who resigned on Sept. 30.
The GOP in 2016 will be trying to unseat Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, re-elect Attorney General Tim Fox, win three open statewide offices and hold on to its majority in the Legislature.
Nevada releases Common Core test results; all weren’t tested
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada was confident enough in the partial student results from its Common Core-aligned state test that it released them Wednesday, even though 7 of 10 students weren’t tested because of computer glitches.
But Montana says it won’t decide what to do with its test results until it can be sure the scores are valid.
The varying actions are part of the ongoing fallout from the meltdown last spring of the federally mandated annual testing process that is linked to funding.
And it isn’t the first time states have had to deal with compromised test results from a standardized system that is supposed to allow for easy comparison across years and states.
Neither Kansas nor Wyoming released statewide numbers when they had incomplete data previously.
Yellowstone County hotel owners protecting guest registers
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone County hotel owners are fighting an ordinance that requires them to turn over guest registers to any city employee, including police officers and parking attendants.
The Yellowstone County Lodging Association, which has about 40 hotels in its membership, says it will work with Billings City Attorney Brent Brooks to consider a new ordinance that would clarify the rules for turning over their records. The association calls the current law an invasion of privacy.
The Billings Gazette reports a local ordinance requires hotels to turn over their records or be faced with a possible crime. Officials say it was originally designed to give the city control over zoning regulations.
Police still have access if they are responding to an emergency or hear a cry for help.