Tech issues delay remote control boat launch at toxic pit
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — An attempt to launch a remote-controlled boat to test toxic water in a former Montana open-pit mine where thousands of snow geese died last fall has failed.
The Montana Standard reports the boat to sample the Berkeley Pit water in Butte was built by Montana Tech student Abdullah Alangari. Montana Resources and Atlantic Richfield Co. donated $50,000 last year to support the effort.
A Montana Tech team helped prepare the boat to go out on the water Wednesday but the launch failed due to mechanical errors with the remote-controlled devices.
The team will work to fix the problem for a second launch attempt.
The Environmental Protection Agency requires the water be sampled twice a year under an agreement reached over the Berkeley Pit cleanup.
Last November, between 3,000 and 4,000 migrating snow geese died after landing in the pit.
Montana Senate approves infrastructure package in close vote
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate has mustered the minimum number of votes it needed to pass its version of a massive infrastructure package.
The House will consider its own bill on Friday, but it could be derailed because of concerns over cost and funding formulas.
The Senate on Thursday moved to send its proposal to the House on a 34-16 vote, the minimum two-thirds margin required.
It remains to be seen if the lawmakers can reach a long-elusive compromise to address the state’s crumbling roads and bridges, antiquated sewer and water systems and a host of other infrastructure needs.
A key issue of debate focuses on whether to use bonds — and how much — to finance the projects.
The Senate is proposing nearly $100 million in bonds, while the House version would finance $33 million in projects.
Senate endorses bill to increase tobacco taxes
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate has endorsed a bill that would increase taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products and, for the first time, impose a tax on e-cigarettes.
The money would be used to help pay for raises for home health care workers for the elderly and disabled who are covered by Medicaid.
Senators endorsed the bill 28-22 on second reading Thursday. It faces a third reading before being moved to the House.
The bill would increase the tax on a pack of cigarettes from $1.70 to $3.20 and increase the tax on a can of moist snuff from 85 cents an ounce to at least $3.20. The tax on all other tobacco products would increase from 50 percent of the wholesale price to 74 percent. The change would take effect on May 1.
Montana House advances ballot measure defining ‘person’
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House voted along party lines to advance a measure seeking to let voters to define a “person” as a fertilized egg at the moment of conception.
The proposed referendum won endorsement 59-41 on Thursday and still faces a third-reading vote. It needs the support of two-thirds of lawmakers to be placed on the ballot.
House Democrats said the bill authored by Republican Rep. Derek Skees of Kalispell represented an assault on a women’s access to abortion.
Skees said the measure was about faith and morality.
The proposal is one of three abortion-related measures being considered by the Montana Legislature during the current session.
One bill would effectively outlaw all abortions by requiring doctors to save fetuses or face criminal charges. Another would ban abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy of so-called “pain-capable” fetuses.
Idaho State announces retirement of head football coach
POCATELLO, Idaho (AP) — Idaho State University says football coach Mike Kramer has retired and a former assistant will take over head coaching duties.
The school on Thursday said Kramer’s retirement goes into effect immediately and that Rob Phenicie is the new head coach.
The Bengals went 18-50 under Kramer with the team’s best year in 2014 when it went 8-4 and nearly made the FCS playoffs.
Kramer had one more year on a three-year contract extension.
His retirement comes one week before spring football practice starts.
Kramer previously coached at Eastern Washington and Montana State.
Man denies vehicular homicide charge after fatal crash
LIBBY, Mont. (AP) — A 26-year-old man has pleaded not guilty to vehicular homicide while under the influence for a head-on crash in northwestern Montana that killed a 45-year-old woman.
The Flathead Beacon reports (bit.ly/2no2oAY) Richard Davidson of Libby also denied an alternative charge of negligent homicide as well as a drug possession charge when he appeared in District Court on Monday.
Prosecutors allege Davidson was southbound on Montana Highway 56 on March 14 when his vehicle crossed the center line and struck a vehicle being driven by Laura Cooper of Troy. She died. Two 7-year-old boys, including Cooper’s son, were injured.
Court records say officers found methamphetamine in Davidson’s vehicle and they believe he was under the influence of drugs at the time of the crash.