Gov. Bullock to give State of the State address
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock is set to deliver his State of the State address to Montana lawmakers in Helena on Wednesday.
Bullock is calling on lawmakers this session to approve his proposals for Medicaid expansion, infrastructure projects and state-sponsored preschool. He also wants to leave $300 million in the bank for unforeseen expenses.
The Democrat from Helena is in his first term as governor and is fundraising for a 2016 re-election campaign.
Bullock has said investments in such things as broadband and education infrastructure will pay off for generations of Montanans.
The Republican-controlled legislature has indicated they are most willing to work with the governor on infrastructure needs. But they’ve given a chilly reception to Medicaid expansion and state-funded preschool for four-year-olds.
Oil and gas lease sale brings in $4.3 million
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Federal land managers say an auction of oil and gas leases in North Dakota brought in almost $4.3 million.
The Bureau of Land Management said seven leases were sold totaling 1,742 acres.
Herco LLC of Billings submitted the highest per-acre bid, offering $13,750 for a 233-acre parcel in Dunn County.
BLM oil and gas leases are awarded for 10 years and remain in effect as long as oil or gas production continues. Revenues from lease sales and royalties are shared between the federal government and states.
The next sale for of leases in Montana and the Dakotas is scheduled for May 6 in Billings, Montana.
SD congressional delegation urges training airspace approval
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — The South Dakota congressional delegation is urging federal aviation and transportation officials to approve an enormous bomber training area over the Northern Plains.
U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem and Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds on Wednesday urged the officials to expand the Powder River Training Complex over the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. They met with Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Michael Huerta, administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.
The Air Force approved the expansion on Jan. 16, which put final approval to the FAA.
The authorization would make the training airspace the largest over the continental United States.
It would be used by B-1 bombers at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota and B-52 bombers at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota.
Troy woman denies elder abuse charges
HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A Lincoln County woman has denied charges that she defrauded an elderly Hill County man out of $50,000 in cash and property.
The Havre Daily News reports 42-year-old Lisa L. Cole of Troy pleaded not guilty to elder abuse on Jan. 22 during a hearing in District Court in Havre.
The man reported the thefts in October and Cole was charged in December.
Prosecutors say Cole was the man’s power of attorney and that she withdrew $28,000 from his bank account without his permission and borrowed $10,000 on which she had not made any payments. The victim also reported $10,500 in cash was missing from his house and a safe in his car. He also reported some tools missing.
Cole’s next court date is Feb. 23.
Jury rules against victims’ families in lawsuit against bar
FORSYTH, Mont. (AP) — A Rosebud County jury has found the owners of a Colstrip bar could not have foreseen the fact that a Lame Deer man who was kicked out of the bar in 2009 would return with a gun and shoot and kill two patrons.
Yellowstone Newspapers reports the jurors made the 11-1 ruling Friday after a weeklong trial in a wrongful death lawsuit filed by the families of Heath Becker and Spenser Benson. James Ronald Wilson is serving 220 years in prison for shooting the men at the Whiskey Gulch Saloon in December 2009.
David Gallick, attorney for the families, argued employees didn’t call police when an intoxicated Wilson assaulted another patron and was kicked out of the bar, and that such a call could have prevented the shooting.
Defense attorney Brad Arndorfer questioned how anyone could have foreseen what happened.
Man who assaulted bartender duct-taped by patrons
HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A Stevensville man suspected of assaulting a bartender was duct-taped by fellow patrons and held for police.
The Ravalli Republic reports 27-year-old Jeremy A. Estep was arrested in front of the Rustic Hut in Florence on Saturday.
Court records allege Estep returned after being kicked out of the bar, began arguing with the bartender and tried to hit him with a glass.
A female bartender told officers she grabbed his arm and other customers took him to the ground and taped his wrists together to hold him until officers arrived.
Estep denied trying to hit the bar owner.
Estep made an initial appearance Tuesday on charges of felony assault, disorderly conduct, trespass and driving with a suspended license. His bail was set at $30,000.
Great Falls middle school locked down after teacher attacked
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A masked student wearing a hooded sweatshirt grabbed a Great Falls middle school teacher from behind, said nothing and then ran out of the room.
Assistant Superintendent Tom Moore says the woman was able to scream and run away and was not injured in Tuesday’s incident.
North Middle School Principal Fred Anderson says the school was locked down at 3:45 p.m. and the student was eventually located in an after-school program for students who have fallen behind on their work.
The Great Falls Tribune reports the student was taken to the Juvenile Detention Center.
Anderson says he doesn’t know what prompted the attack.
The lockdown — which also affected people at a volleyball game and students at wrestling practice — was lifted at 4:30 p.m.
Idaho Police: Drug traffickers dial 911 to report marijuana
REXBURG, Idaho (AP) — Eastern Idaho police say two men transporting marijuana from California to Montana called 911 while in Idaho after mistakenly believing undercover officers had discovered their secret.
But police in Rexburg say they weren’t aware of the drugs until the two men called on Friday to report their location and the 20 pounds of pot worth $16,000.
The Idaho State Journal reports that police arrested 21-year-old Leland Ryan Kaimipono Ayala-Doliente and 22-year-old Craig Sward Holland. Hometowns weren’t available.
The men are being held in the Madison County Jail and face charges of drug trafficking.
Police Capt. Randy Lewis says police had no idea the two men had any marijuana until they alerted authorities.