MTPR

Montana politics

In a debate that seemed as late as Friday not likely to happen, Republican Ryan Zinke met Democrat John Lewis in a statewide debate that focused on experience and education Monday night in Billings.

Montana PBS had already cancelled broadcast coverage after Zinke cited a scheduling conflict, but the Monday evening debate was available across the state on radio. You can listen to the debate from Yellowstone Public Radio.

Neither candidate has widespread name recognition – Zinke having served in the state legislature and Lewis as state director for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus – so the debates are a vital piece of both men’s campaigns, according to University of Montana political science professor Christopher Muste.

I think Zinke will attack Lewis for being inexperienced and Lewis will attack Zinke for being out of touch and having extreme views on a number of issues,” Muste said in the pre-debate analysis with Montana Public Radio.

The debate, in the end, was largely a civil and substantive affair. Zinke stuck hard to the issues of education and energy independence, claiming that Montana “had enough coal to support the nation at peak consumption for the next 100 years.”

Lewis countered that Zinke would pursue oil and gas exploration at all times and criticized him for not support limits on energy exploration near Glacier National Park, a position supported by current U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

On education, Zinke stated he rejected the increasingly controversial learning standards known as Common Core and wanted to boost more training for skilled labor.

Lewis focused his efforts in staking out support for higher education and reducing student loans. He said by financing student loans “much like you would a house” and ensuring continued access to Pell Grants, he could cut the amount of debt many Montana students have. He added that Zinke would cut support for higher education, making it more expensive for students.

The two meet again on Saturday for a debate in Bozeman.

Senator Jon Tester.
Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester

Senator Jon Tester says he’s concerned about Congress’ ability to pass numerous spending bills necessary to keep the federal government operating by the end of this month’s deadline.

Last year a similar time crunch led to Congress passing a so-called omnibus bill. Critics say omnibus bills lack the transparency of passing multiple appropriation bills under so-called “regular order.”

(PD)

Governor Steve Bullock is creating a bipartisan working-group to develop a plan to reduce premiums for people who buy health insurance on the federal marketplace.

A Montana Healthcare Foundation study found that reinsurance programs insulate insurers from very high claims and save consumers money.

Voters at the Missoula County ballot drop-off center, May 23, 2017.
Eric Whitney

Montana is preparing to replace its more than decade-old voter registration system as part of a federal grant program to improve election security.

However, Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says not all those improvements will be in place ahead of the 2018 midterms.

Election sign in a Montana polling place
Josh Burnham

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton says the state will replace its aging voter registration system and upgrade election security with a $3 million federal grant.

Governor Steve Bullock speaks at a Montana Association of Counties meeting in Missoula, September 19, 2018.
Edward O'Brien / MTPR

Governor Steve Bullock told county government leaders Wednesday that a ballot initiative to increase Montana’s tobacco tax is the right thing to do for basic health-related reasons.

On Wednesday, Bullock warned a Montana Association of Counties meeting in Missoula of dire consequences if voters don’t approve Initiative-185.

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