Bullock urges campaign finance reform in speech to lawmakers
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock says he and Republican Sen. Duane Ankney are partnering to reform campaign finance in Montana.
Nearing the end of his biennial State of the State speech, Bullock is addressing both chambers and a captive audience Wednesday from the floor of the Montana House of Representatives in Helena.
Bullock says the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision was “anti-democracy.”
He denounced “unlimited, secret money” that elections have raised since the 2010 decision.
The Democrat-Republican duo’s proposal would disclose “every penny” spent in Montana elections.
Bullock calls on Legislature to close pay gap
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock is calling on the Montana Legislature to close Montana’s gender wage gap.
Bullock is presenting the biennial State of the State address from the floor of the Montana House of Representatives at the Capitol in Helena.
He says women in Montana earn 74 cents to every dollar a man makes. That is at least three cents less than the national average.
The governor has coordinated an equal pay for equal work task force that is preparing women at college campuses and job centers for interviews and negotiating pay.
In one measure, Bullock is asking the Republican-controlled Legislature to address a law that cuts short the unemployment insurance available to people who leave their jobs to flee domestic violence.
Bullock calls on lawmakers to back preschool initiative
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock is urging the Montana Legislature to join 44 other states in funding preschool programs.
Bullock is giving the biennial State of the State address at the Capitol in Helena Wednesday evening.
The Democratic governor is calling on the Republican-led Legislature to back his $37 million plan to provide funding for 4-year-olds to attend preschool.
Bullock says “too many” kids don’t have parents who can afford private pre-K programs and also don’t qualify for income-based programs.
His plan would make $30,000 grants available to school districts for every 10 preschool-age students. The money for the initiative could be used by school districts to create preschool programs, partner with an existing one, or a combination of the two. Participation would be voluntary for school districts and parents.
Montana oil spill cleanup to slow as river gets dangerous
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say the struggle to recover 30,000 gallons of oil from a pipeline spill into Montana’s Yellowstone River could grind to a near-halt in coming days.
Warmer weather has made the ice on the river increasingly dangerous. That means crews trying to recover oil trapped beneath the ice will soon be pulled off.
Bridger Pipeline LLC spokesman Bill Salvin said Wednesday that any oil that washes up along the riverbank still could be cleaned up.
The 12-inch pipeline broke Jan. 17 near Glendive after a section of the line became exposed beneath the river for undetermined reasons.
It was the second oil spill into the Yellowstone since 2011.
Montana Department of Environmental Quality Director Tom Livers says the latest accident shows periodic company surveys of pipeline river crossings remain inadequate.
Judge dismisses media complaint against Republican caucus
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A state judge has dismissed an effort by media groups that sought to have the House Republican Caucus held in contempt of court for holding an unpublicized meeting in apparent violation of state open-meetings law.
On Nov. 13, a Great Falls Tribune reporter discovered a Republican caucus being held in the basement of a Helena motel. Republicans did not give public notice of the meeting. Twenty media groups, including The Associated Press, sought to have the caucus held in contempt of a 1998 court ruling on closed caucuses.
District Judge Kathy Seeley on Tuesday noted the 1998 court ruling said such meetings should be open, but it did not specifically require public notice. She did say the 1998 ruling could be used as a basis to seek an order that requires parties to give public notice of caucuses.
The media groups have yet to determine how to respond to Seeley’s ruling.
Feds issue new policy for snowmobiles in national forests
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service has issued a new policy requiring forest managers to limit where snowmobiles can go by specifically designating what areas are open.
The federal agency on Wednesday published the final federal register notice for the new rules that take effect Feb. 27.
The change follows a 2013 federal court ruling in Boise that found the Forest Service incorrectly exempted snowmobiles from a 2005 Forest Service plan restricting wheeled cross-country travel to designated routes.
An Idaho-based backcountry skier group called Winter Wildlands Alliance filed the lawsuit amid concerns new and more powerful snowmobiles were chewing up remote and pristine powder previously reachable only by skiers.
The new policy requires forests to publish over-snow vehicle maps using existing designations or maps to be worked out through a public process.
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.
St. Ignatius man pleads guilty to killing young boy
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A 26-year-old St. Ignatius man has pleaded guilty to negligent homicide for shooting a 3-year-old boy with a gun he believed was not loaded.
Galen Hawk entered his plea Wednesday in the Oct. 22 death of Lonato Moran-Allen. The boy was just weeks shy of his fourth birthday.
Hawk has said he had been drinking when he saw the boy playing with his gun. He took the gun away and the boy turned and fired a toy gun at Hawk. Hawk lifted his own gun, which he thought was empty, and fired a shot, hitting the boy in the back. Lonato died a short time later at a Ronan hospital.
Hawk also pleaded guilty to driving drunk in St. Ignatius in December 2012.
District Judge James Manley scheduled sentencing for March 25. Hawk does not have a plea agreement.
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.
Autopsy confirms Yellowstone skier died of hypothermia
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — An autopsy confirmed a Belgrade man who was found dead along a cross-country ski trail in Yellowstone National Park died of hypothermia.
Park spokesman Al Nash told The Billings Gazette on Wednesday that there was no indication of foul play in the death of 52-year-old Merik Morgan.
Snowshoers spotted his body around noon on Saturday near a trail in the northwestern corner of the park.
Morgan had worked as a hiking, backpacking and skiing guide for the Arizona based-Wildland Trekking Co. since 2012, leading tours in Yellowstone in the summer and winter and Grand Canyon trips in the spring and fall. His biography on the company website said he also had worked as a ski patroller and at Montana ski hills.
Officials identify Bozeman man killed in crash near Belgrade
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Gallatin County officials have released the name of a 62-year-old man who died earlier this week in a two-vehicle crash on the Frontage Road west of Belgrade.
Sheriff Brian Gootkin says Ralph Giamanco of Bozeman died Monday evening when his pickup pulled into the path of another pickup at an intersection. He died at the scene.
The man driving the other pickup and his 4-year-old daughter were uninjured.
Montana hires volleyball coach Brian Doyon
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A week after Montana State hired a Utah volleyball assistant as its head coach, the Montana volleyball program did the same.
The Grizzlies named Brian Doyon as the team’s coach on Wednesday. He takes over for Jerry Wagner, who resigned after nine seasons and a 102-147 record.
Doyon is charged with bringing success back to the program which posted a 6-23 record in two of the last three seasons.
He says that was one of the draws of the job, along with the investments UM is making in its student-athletes.
Doyon spent the last six years as Utah’s recruiting coordinator. The team won 41 matches over the past two years and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament both seasons.
Another Utah assistant, J.J. Riley, was named Montana State’s volleyball coach last week.
Utah coach Beth Launiere says both Doyon and Riley are ready to be head coaches.