Wyoming minimum wage bill rolled back to federal minimum
CHEYENN E, Wyo. (AP) — A proposal to raise the minimum wage in Wyoming has been ratcheted back to match the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour.
The amended wage change cleared its first hurdle at the state Legislature on Friday.
The Wyoming Tribune Eagle reports that the bill would not change much for most Wyoming employees, but would no longer make Wyoming tied for the lowest minimum wage in the country among the states that have minimum wages.
Originally, the measure would have raised Wyoming’s minimum wage to $9.50 an hour.
But the increase was not palatable to members of the House Labor, Health and Social Services Committee, which amended the bill.
Wyoming’s current minimum wage is $5.15 an hour, which can be paid by employers not covered by the federal minimum wage.
Falcons owner Arthur Blank buys 2nd Montana ranch
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The owner of the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons has bought a second ranch in Montana.
The Great Falls Tribune reports that Arthur Blank bought the 6,300-acre West Creek Ranch in Montana’s Paradise Valley.
It is the second Montana ranch for the co-founder of Home Depot. He also owns an adjoining ranch, the Mountain Sky Guest Ranch, which he bought in 2001.
The West Creek Ranch is a working ranch and will serve as an additional platform for The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation’s philanthropic work in the West. That’s according to a news release from the Arthur M. Blank Family of Businesses, the entity that operates Blank’s business interests.
The philanthropic work is focused on conservation of natural resources and wildlife habitat.
State proposes purchase of 425 acres along Bighorn River
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana wildlife officials are looking to acquire 425 acres of land along the Bighorn River, a purchase that could help create the largest section of land along the waterway for public outdoor recreational opportunities.
The Billings Gazette reports that the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks is planning to purchase the land south of the Grant Marsh Wildlife Management Area. The land is also adjacent to a 50-acre area being developed by the state as a wetland.
According to a draft environmental assessment, the land eyed for acquisition is important for maintaining stable populations of deer, pheasant, wild turkey and other wildlife.
The addition of the property would expand hunting and allow for fishing and other recreational opportunities.
The proposed $1.6 million acquisition is up for public comment.
Lawmakers consider adding 5 judges to handle increased cases
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — State lawmakers are considering adding more judges to the most populated districts in Montana’s court system to handle increased caseloads.
A bill sponsored by state Rep. Jeff Essman of Billings would add two judges in Yellowstone County and one each in Cascade, Missoula and Flathead counties.
The Great Falls Tribune reports that judges, attorneys, county commissioners and the Montana Chamber of Commerce testified in favor of it in the House Judiciary Committee Friday.
One reason caseloads have risen in an increase in the number of crimes against children. The Montana Supreme Court says they more than doubled in many populated areas of the state between 2009 and 2015.
It would cost $2.5 million to add the judges along with support staff and technology. Counties would have to pay for the additional court rooms.
New data will help update Billings homeless count
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Data collected recently by volunteers will help update the homeless count in Billings.
The Billings Gazette reports about 50 people volunteered in the city Thursday and Friday to survey people in an effort tied to the national 2017 Point in Time Homeless Survey.
Results are typically released in April and will help determine federal and local funding.
Last year’s count put the population at around 500 people in Billings.
Feds: Hospital put patients at risk, but problems ‘abated’
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s publicly run psychiatric hospital in Warm Springs was close to losing an agreement with Medicare and Medicaid because of serious staff shortages and the facility’s physical environment, but federal officials changed their mind after the problems were “abated.”
The Independent Record reports the hospital’s noncompliance with federal regulations was deemed serious enough to risk death or injury to patients, and the agreement was set to be terminated Feb. 8.
Jon Ebelt, a spokesman for Montana’s Department of Public Health and Human Services, said Friday that surveyors found a shortage of nurses and direct care staff. The hospital has hired temporary staff and approved overtime for existing staff until a long-term solution is found.
Surveyors also found problems with the facility’s building, including sink faucets, mirrors, doors and door handles that aren’t designed for the safety needs of patients.