Montana governor says state economy strong
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock says the state’s economy is strong, as the Democrat makes his case for re-election.
The economy is expected to play a central role in this year’s governor’s race. Republican challenger Greg Gianforte has made Montana’s low wages his campaign’s central theme.
During a news conference in the Capitol, Bullock cited the state’s 4 percent unemployment rate as a key indicator of Montana’s economy. The state’s jobless rate is one point below the national rate.
The governor’s report, which was not made available prior to his briefing, was compiled by his economic advisers. The report is a compilation of mostly glowing information about the economy, including rising wages and the state’s business climate.
Campaign complaint docket clear for first time in 18 years
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana commissioner of political practices says his office’s docket of campaign complaints is clear for the first time in 18 years.
Commissioner Jonathan Motl said Thursday that his office has issued 286 decisions since 1998, with about half of those made since 2013.
The commissioner’s office has been plagued by a backlog of complaints filed over the years by individuals or committees alleging campaign violations.
Motl says any complaints filed in the 2016 election cycle will be dealt with immediately, with the goal of resolving them before Election Day.
The cleared docket does not include four complaints related to alleged violations of the state’s campaign contribution limits in 2012. Motl says those cases are on hold while a federal lawsuit challenging the limits is pending.
Montana Supreme Court to hear Missoula water company case
(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The case brought by the city of Missoula against the former owner of the city’s water system is set to go before the Montana Supreme Court.
The Missoulian reports Mayor John Engen announced Wednesday that the state’s high court will hear oral arguments in the lawsuit suit against Mountain Water Co. and The Carlyle Group. The arguments will take place at the University of Montana in April.
The city sued Carlyle in April 2014 after years of negotiations over the right to purchase Mountain Water. The city won the case in district court in June 2015, and Carlyle appealed to the Supreme Court.
Engen says the city’s legal fees in the case have reached more than $5 million.
Carlyle sold Mountain Water to Liberty Utilities earlier this month.
Exxon sues NorthWestern Energy over power outages
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — ExxonMobil is suing NorthWestern Energy, saying power outages at the energy giant’s Billings refinery have cost the company millions of dollars.
The Billings Gazette reports that in the lawsuit Friday in U.S. District Court in Billings, Exxon accuses NorthWestern of being negligent in preventing the outages.
The Exxon refinery gets electricity from two NorthWestern Energy substations and has no alternative power supply. According to the lawsuit, NorthWestern also diverted power away from the refinery, forcing it to shut down.
Exxon has requested payment for damages but did not specify an amount.
Representatives from Exxon and NorthWestern declined to comment further on the lawsuit.
Montana man shot in face pleads guilty to trespassing
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A man who was shot in the face after entering a Montana residence has pleaded guilty to trespassing and obstructing an officer.
The Missoulian reports that 40-year-old Casey Heavyrunner was originally charged with felony burglary and evidence tampering, but the charges were reduced when he made a plea agreement with prosecutors.
According to court documents, Heavyrunner and a woman entered the home of William “J.R.” Hanson at about 4 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day and refused to leave. The documents say Hanson shot Heavyrunner with a rifle when Heavy runner advanced toward him with a knife.
Heavyrunner’s attorney says the time he’s already spent in jail satisfies his short jail sentence. Heavyrunner was also given $750 in fines and told not to have contact with the victims.
State police: Santa Fe police officer fatally shoots suspect
SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Authorities say a Santa Fe police officer fatally shot an armed robbery suspect at a motel, and a Montana man says he feels blessed he wasn’t caught in the crossfire..
New Mexico State Police said no officers were hurt during the Wednesday night shooting. No details were released about the suspect or circumstances of the shooting.
However, Tim Quigg of Billings, Montana, said he was talking to a man staying in the motel room next to his when two police officers arrived and got into a shootout with the other man.
Quigg told the Albuquerque Journal that the other man began shooting at the officers who returned fire before the man ran around a corner of the building. He said the shooting ended when officers fired four more shots.