Farm Rescue nonprofit expanding into Nebraska, its 6th state
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A Plains farm aid nonprofit that has steadily grown since being launched in North Dakota a dozen years ago is expanding into its sixth state.
Farm Rescue will provide free haying and hay-hauling help to Nebraska farmers in need this year, as it continues providing services to farmers in both Dakotas, Montana, Minnesota and Iowa.
In those states, the organization has provided crop planting and harvesting assistance and hay help for more than 400 farm families since 2005.
Farm Rescue doesn’t dole out cash. It has about 1,100 volunteers from around the country who do the actual physical work for farmers who have suffered a major injury, illness or natural disaster. The organization is currently taking applications for spring assistance in all of the states in which it works.
Convicted wife killer gets 40 years for girlfriend’s assault
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man who served two decades in prison for killing his wife has been sentenced to 40 years in prison for assaulting his girlfriend.
The Billings Gazette reports a judge went above the prosecutor’s recommendation of 15 years in sentencing Frank Joe Belmarez Thursday. The judge said Belmarez had a lack of remorse and cited his history of violence.
Belmarez had been on probation when he assaulted a woman in July. The victim testified during trial that Belmarez assaulted and choked her and she feared she would die. Officers said she had a broken nose and a concussion.
Belmarez had claimed self-defense. He was acquitted of aggravated assault but convicted of partner or family member assault.
Belmarez was sent to prison in 1990 for his wife’s stabbing death and was released in 2013.
Arizona man admits role in Montana meth trafficking case
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An Arizona man has pleaded guilty to supplying methamphetamine to a southern Montana man who admitted his role in a large drug conspiracy, which brought 178 pounds of meth to Montana for distribution.
The Billings Gazette reports 41-year-old Juan Carlos Dorado of Tucson, Arizona, pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to possess meth for distribution and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors say Dorado supplied drugs to Merrill Clark Gardner of Fishtail, who used couriers to transport meth and send an estimated $1.4 million in proceeds back to his supplier.
The conspiracy went on from 2012 to 2015.
Gardner is serving a 15-year prison term.
Dorado disputed the quantity of meth he was accused of supplying but admitted it was more than 500 grams, or a little more than a pound.
Republicans move to kill Montana tobacco tax increase
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Republican lawmakers are taking steps to kill a proposed increase in Montana’s tobacco tax.
The tax increase would raise tens of millions of dollars a year that would go, in part, to increase the wages of elderly and disabled Medicaid patients’ caregivers.
The House Taxation Committee on Thursday approved in a 12-8 party line vote a procedural motion that will make it extremely difficult to pass the bill.
The committee’s action means 60 of the 100 representatives will have to vote to bring the bill to the House floor for debate and a vote.
Republican Rep. Kerry White of Bozeman says he has concerns about the impact of the tax on poor people.
Democratic Sen. Mary Caferro of Helena is says it appears the Republicans on the committee are turning their backs on senior citizens and the disabled.
Montana governor rejects bill banning Shariah law in courts
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has vetoed a bill that would have banned Shariah and other foreign laws from being used in Montana courtrooms.
In his veto message Thursday, Bullock said the measure would “upend our legal system and debase what we stand for as Montanans and Americans.”
Montana was one of the 13 states considering legislation seeking to prevent the use of foreign law in state court. While the bill’s focus was not on Shariah law, some supporters openly specifically spoke out against the religious law used in some parts of the Islamic world.
Some Republicans sided with Democrats in opposing the measure, but could not block it from going to the governor.
Bullock said in his veto message “there is absolutely no need for this bill.”
Montana House rejects infrastructure bill again
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House revived an infrastructure bill that previously failed, only to reject it again by a wider margin.
The bill would pay for public works and capital building projects by issuing $78 million in bonds.
Gov. Steve Bullock and lawmakers say infrastructure is a top priority of this legislative session, but Republican lawmakers disagree about going into debt to pay for it. Many also oppose using debt to pay for large building projects, such as Montana State University’s Romney Hall and a veterans’ home in Butte.
Last week, the House rejected the $78 million bill on a 65-35 vote. It needed 67 votes to pass. On Thursday it failed again with just 41 votes in favor.
The $98 million Senate bill will be heard Friday in the House Appropriations Committee.