Montana Public Radio

Chuck Johnson

Veteran journalist Chuck Johnson joins Sally and Gwen to talk about the good and bad changes and challenges in Montana journalism over his over 40-year career — including decreased access and increased distrust.

Listen now on Parsing The Press, with Sally Mauk and Gwen Florio

This week, Montana lawmakers gaveled into the second half of the legislative session. Republicans are advancing major conservative priorities, including a tax cut package. It harkens back to the last time the GOP controlled both the Legislature and governor’s office.

“During the session people will put out buttons for their bills sometimes," says retired 43-year government reporter Chuck Johnson as he rummages through drawers and drawers of political buttons in his Helena home.

“This was a button that came out memorializing the passage of deregulation in a bad way.”

Talking about Montana's environment, our public lands and waterways, is one of the fastest ways for politicians to gain credibility here. After all, about a third of the land in this state belongs to you and me. Big, sprawling swaths of natural beauty are a defining feature of Montana. So much so, the preamble to the Constitution goes on at length about the state's landscape. The quiet beauty of our state. The grandeur of our mountains. The vastness of our rolling plains.

But when politicians talk about protecting our outdoor heritage in Montana, what exactly are they protecting and whose interests are they serving?

Congressman Greg Gianforte announces his bid for Montana governor on June 14, 2019 at the Montana Republican Party convention in Helena
Thom Bridge, Helena Independent Record

Montana Republicans held their state party convention over the weekend in Helena.

Most of the attention was on the race to win the GOP nomination for governor, which Montana’s Congressman Greg Gianforte is seeking.

Current Montana Legislative Districts
Montana State Library

Four people sat around a table in Helena Friday to start debating how to draw lines of political power on the Montana map.

And they decided to ask for the public’s help in picking a fifth member who could cast tie-breaking votes over the lines that will shape election districts for the next 10 years. Districts for both state legislative races, and, depending on the outcome of the 2020 Census, how Montanans will elect a second Representative to the U.S. House.

Montana Capitol, Helena, MT.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

State lawmakers will formally vote on a proposal for the Legislature to come back to Helena for a July 16 special session.

Secretary of State Corey Stapleton tweeted just before five Wednesday afternoon that his office will send out ballots to legislators as soon as possible.

The effort to convene a special session comes at the request of Republicans concerned about a pair of citizens initiatives that will likely appear on ballots this November.

Judy Martz, Montana’s 22nd governor, died today after a lengthy battle with pancreatic cancer. Edward O’Brien has this look back at her life and career.

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox.
Montana DOJ

The news source Politico is reporting that Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has decided not to run for Senate next year. Veteran reporter Chuck Johnson speaks with MTPR's Corin Cates-Carney.

Greg Gianforte and his wife, Susan, celebrate victory in the U.S. House race May 25, 2017 in Bozeman, MT.
Corin Cates-Carney

U.S. congressman-elect Greg Gianforte could appear in court as early as Wednesday to face the misdemeanor assault charge police gave him last Wednesday. Gianforte missed his first opportunity to appear in court last Friday.

Mike Fellows speaking at a candidate forum in Seeley Lake Sept. 19, 2016. Fellows died in a car crash shortly after the event.
Corin Cates-Carney

At a small community hall in Seeley Lake Monday night, Libertarian candidate for the U.S. House Mike Fellows shared his views at a sparsely-attended candidates forum.

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