Montana Public Radio


The U.S. government Sunday started distributing nearly 4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson single shot COVID-19 vaccine to states, tribes and territories. Montana is expected to receive 8,700 doses later this week.

In a Tweet Monday, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte said, “counties will begin distributing this safe, effective vaccine next week.”

The Capitol dome in Helena, MT.
William Marcus / Montana Public Radio

Montana lawmakers are considering limiting local public health and executive powers during a declared state of emergency — authorities highlighted during the COVID-19 pandemic. Two of those proposals are advancing ahead of a Wednesday deadline

The Montana House Thursday voted down two bills that propose loosening vaccine requirements and endorsed a third.

House Bill 415 would’ve prevented state agencies from refusing service to those who are unvaccinated and would’ve banned employers from requiring vaccination as a job requirement. Sponsor and Manhattan Republican Rep. Jennifer Carlson said the proposal addresses a constitutional rights issue.

A VA nurse gives one of 400 veterans their COVID-19 vaccine at the Flathead County Fairgrounds Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Aaron Bolton

The Veterans Administration’s handling of the COVID-19 vaccine rollout took center stage at two separate events this week, one in Montana the other on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing Wednesday to update Congress on the massive effort to vaccinate the nation’s veterans

Legislators Hear Testimony On Bill Expanding Workers’ Compensation

Feb 24, 2021
Rep. Andrea Olsen (D) - HD 100.
Montana Legislature

Lawmakers on the House Business and Labor Committee heard testimony Wednesday on several bills that would change workers’ compensation, including one that would allow essential workers to receive benefits if they contract COVID-19.

To Vaccinate Veterans, Health Care Workers Must Cross Mountains, Plains And Tundra

Feb 22, 2021
A vaccination team bound for Havre, Montana, loads supplies for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine into a Learjet 31 at Helena Regional Airport. Also on board were six Veterans Affairs providers tasked with inoculating rural veterans with the covid-19 vaccine.
David Hicks / Kaiser Health News

A Learjet 31 took off before daybreak from Helena Regional Airport in Montana, carrying six Veterans Affairs medical providers and 250 doses of historic cargo cradled in a plug-in cooler designed to minimize breakage.

Even in a state where 80-mph speed limits are normal, ground transportation across long distances is risky for the Moderna mRNA-1273 vaccine, which must be used within 12 hours of thawing.

Spurred by Pandemic, Little Shell Tribe Fast-Tracks Its Health Service Debut

Feb 22, 2021
Linda Watson, enrollment officer for the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians of Montana, was the first person to receive a dose from the tribe’s covid-19 vaccine supply.
Kevin Trevellyan / Yellowstone Public Radio

Linda Watson draped a sweater with the words “Little Shell Chippewa Tribe” over her as she received the newly recognized tribal nation’s first dose of covid-19 vaccine.

“I wanted to show my pride in being a Little Shell member,” Watson, 72, said. “The Little Shell are doing very good things for the people.”

Rep. Bill Mercer (R) - HD46
Montana Legislature

Montana lawmakers have advanced a second bill aimed at protecting entities from civil liability related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawmakers gave initial approval to the policy, which would protect government organizations, including public school systems and private health care providers from coronavirus-related lawsuits unless they exhibit gross negligence in preventing the spread of the virus.


Federal agencies are figuring out how to treat masks on public land in the wake of Gov. Greg Gianforte’s repeal of Montana’s statewide mask mandate.

President Biden issued a national mandate for masks on federal lands and in federal buildings on January 20. Just over three weeks later, Gov. Gianforte lifted Montana’s mask mandate — although masks are still required in some counties and cities, and in state-owned buildings. 

Capitol Talk: Antifa; 'Religious Freedom', And Limits On Local Control

Feb 19, 2021

Bills heard this week at the Capitol seek to: limit the ability of local governments and health departments to require restrictions during a public health emergency; limit services to LGBTQ people in the name of religious freedom; make Montana a right-to-work state; declare antifa a domestic terrorist organization — even though there isn't such an organization.

And after years of criticizing dark money groups, former Gov. Steve Bullock raises eyebrows by taking a position with a PAC tied to dark money.

Listen now on Capitol Talk with Sally Mauk, Holly Michels and Rob Saldin.