Bureau of Indian Affairs working on lease for Montana prison
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Bureau of Indian Affairs says it could secure a lease in coming months to operate a vacant Montana prison, which closed after the agency dropped its previous contract with the detention facility.
The Billings Gazette reported Monday that BIA spokeswoman Nedra Darling says in an email the agency expects to take over the Two Rivers Detention Facility in Hardin in April.
The announcement comes after the BIA posted help wanted ads in November for cooks and correctional officers.
The agency has not provided details as to why it ended its contract with Emerald Correctional Management in 2015 and pulled out as many as 250 inmates.
The prison has mostly sat empty since it opened in 2007. The facility’s only contract came from the BIA in 2014.
Bill to cut political practices office gets initial OK
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A measure to eliminate Montana’s Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices has passed a key vote on the House floor.
The House on Monday endorsed the bill by Republican Rep. Derek Skees of Kalispell on a 54-46 vote.
Five Republicans voted with Democrats to oppose the proposal to split oversight of the state’s campaign, ethics and lobbying laws between the secretary of state and the attorney general.
Skees argues the commissioner has grown too powerful and too partisan in recent years.
Democratic representatives say the office is independent and transparent. Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman says if the problem is the perception of partisanship, the solution is not to turn the duties over to two offices that are inherently partisan.
The measure must pass a final vote in the House before it goes to the Senate.
Montana lawmaker sued for records related to land group
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A political advocacy group is suing Montana and state Sen. Jennifer Fielder for documents related to her work for a group that wants to transfer federal lands to states.
Washington D.C.-based Campaign For Accountability filed its lawsuit Monday in Helena. The group says it requested Fielder’s emails in February 2016, after the Thompson Falls Republican assumed leadership of the American Lands Council.
The advocacy group also sought records that include travel expenses and even furniture and decorating receipts. The lawsuit says the group received some records last March, but the full request was never filled.
The organization seeks a judge’s order for copies of all the records.
Fielder says the last of the documents requested was turned over Monday. She blasted the group as being formed by a “Democrat hit squad.”
House endorses bill meant to resolve water well dispute
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House has endorsed a measure that aims to settle a long-running dispute over the amount of water new residential developments may draw from areas with limited supplies.
The House voted 66-34 Monday in favor of a measure that would reverse a 2016 Montana Supreme Court ruling and allow multiple small wells to draw from the same water source without a permit.
The measure would set spacing requirements between those exempt wells. The bill aims to reduce the density of exempt wells in closed basins, which are areas where restrictions are in place to protect the water and its existing users.
Wells still would be exempt from permitting as long as they each draw less than 35 gallons of water per minute and 10 acre-feet per year. The bill still faces a third-reading vote.
Montana House supports restricting governor’s use of plane
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House has given initial approval to a measure that would require the governor to pay for use of the state airplane to travel to campaign events.
Monday’s 58-42 vote mostly followed party lines, with one Republican joining Democrats in voting no. The bill must pass a final vote before it goes to the Senate.
Rep. Brad Tschida (SHE’-duh) is one of several GOP lawmakers who complained last year that Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock used the state plane for a combination of campaign events and official business during his re-election bid.
The Missoula Republican’s bill would require the governor’s campaign to reimburse the state for the cost of a charter aircraft if it’s used for campaign events. The governor would not be able to use the plane for campaign activity within 60 days of an election.
The Latest: Prosecution shows aerial view of Bundy standoff
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jurors are getting a 2-mile overview of an armed standoff near Nevada cattleman Cliven Bundy’s ranch in April 2014 as trial gets underway for six defendants accused of wielding weapons against federal agents.
An FBI agent told a U.S. District Court jury Monday that people on the ground probably didn’t know he was shooting video from a small plane circling at nearly 12,000 feet above.
The images show people in on foot and on horseback approach armed federal agents and Bureau of Land Management employees near cattle in corals in a dry river wash beneath an Interstate 15 overpass.
Defense attorneys are portraying the defendants as law-abiding citizens spurred by reports of scuffles between federal agents and Bundy family members to protest a government roundup of Bundy cattle.