Montana House candidates set limits on taking PAC money
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Democratic and Republican candidates for Montana’s U.S. House election are setting self-imposed limits to the outside money their campaigns will accept.
Democratic candidate Rob Quist’s campaign released a statement Wednesday that says the musician won’t accept any money from political action committees that are funded by corporations.
Spokeswoman Tina Olechowski clarified that Quist will take money from labor and ideological PACs.
Greg Gianforte’s spokesman, Shane Scanlon, says the Republican candidate won’t take money from most PACs, just as he did during last year’s gubernatorial campaign. But Scanlon says Gianforte will accept money from political party and leadership PACs.
The Bozeman businessman self-funded a large portion of that campaign, spending $6 million of his own money.
Quist and Gianforte are campaigning to replace former U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke, who left Congress to become interior secretary. The special election is May 25.
Group urges state to protect itself against Colstrip costs
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An environmental organization is urging Montana officials to protect the state financially and ensure a co-owner of the Colstrip power plant pays its share of cleanup and decommissioning costs.
Montana Environmental Information Center deputy director Anne Hedges asked Gov. Steve Bullock and other state officials Wednesday to require more bonding from Talen Energy than the $7.5 million the Montana Department of Environmental Quality now has for a Colstrip cleanup.
Two of Colstrip’s four units are slated to close by mid-2022.
Another Colstrip owner estimates cleanup and decommissioning could cost between $158 million and $200 million.
DEQ spokeswoman Jeni Flatow says Talen must submit a closure plan with cost estimates by July 30 and provide financial assurance for those costs.
Talen spokesman Todd Martin didn’t return a call for comment.
This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the DEQ spokeswoman’s name to Flatow.
Montana lawmakers tackle health care budget
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The director of Montana’s health department is issuing a plea to state lawmakers trying to rein in spending because of state budget woes.
Director Sheila Hogan warned of human consequences if lawmakers roll back funding requests, especially for seniors and people with disabilities.
Hogan told the House Appropriations Committee that her agency faces a $60 million reduction in requested outlays for seniors and the disabled.
Wednesday’s discussion displayed the rift between Democrats and Republicans over health spending.
Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nancy Ballance admonished Hogan for using scare tactics. Ballance said Republicans were just as concerned about the people being served, but that tough decisions will have to be made to balance the state’s budget.
Hogan urged lawmakers “to reflect on the big picture” and consider the human costs.
GOP courting Montana attorney general to challenge Tester
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Ryan Zinke was the Montana Republican Party’s first choice to take on incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester in 2018 and give Montana an all-GOP congressional delegation.
President Donald Trump dashed those hopes by snatching the former congressman to become his interior secretary.
Republicans in Montana and in Washington, D.C., are now courting Montana Attorney General Tim Fox to run against Tester next year.
Fox was recently U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ guest for Trump’s joint congressional address. Fox says he met Trump, Zinke, Vice President Mike Pence and Attorney General Jeff Sessions, among others, while there.
Fox isn’t ruling out a run against Tester, but he says his main concern is addressing his office’s priorities in the current legislative session.
Tester campaign manager Christie Roberts says she looks forward to stacking Tester’s record against any challenger.
South Dakota opponents take on Keystone XL pipeline in court
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline have asked a South Dakota judge to reverse state regulators’ decision last year to again authorize the portion of the project that would go through the state.
The decision by the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission’s was appealed to state court, which heard arguments Wednesday in the case. It’s not clear when Judge John Brown will rule.
The commission voted last year to accept the company’s guarantee that it can complete the project while meeting the conditions of the 2010 approval.
The project has prompted opposition from Native American tribes, some landowners and environmental groups concerned the pipeline would contaminate water supplies and contribute to pollution.
Attorneys for TransCanada and the Public Utilities Commission have asked the judge to uphold the order.
Name of Great Falls stabbing victim released
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Cascade County authorities have released the name of a 41-year-old Great Falls-area man who was found dead in his residence on Sunday.
Sheriff Bob Edwards said Wednesday that Steven Fletcher was apparently stabbed to death. His death was initially reported as a suicide on Sunday evening, but investigators said the evidence led them to declare it a homicide investigation.
Edwards says a person of interest is jailed on unrelated charges and officials do not believe there is any threat to the community.