MTPR

Jeff Essmann

The Montana Supreme Court has selected Sheila Stearns to lead Montana Redistricting Commission.
Courtesy the University of Montana

The Montana Supreme Court Tuesday named former state Commissioner of Higher Education Sheila Stearns to lead the committee in charge of re-drawing the boundaries of Montana’s legislative districts.

Stearns was picked by the state high court after the two Democrats and two Republicans on the Montana 2020 Redistricting Commission deadlocked on who should be their fifth and final member.

The two Democrats and two Republicans in charge of redrawing Montana’s political map failed Monday to agree on the fifth and final member of their group. The state Supreme Court will now step in to pick the tie-breaking member of Montana’s 2020 redistricting commission.

Current Montana Legislative Districts
Montana Secretary of State's Office

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.

The fact Montana lawmakers were going into this week's special legislative session with no pre-negotiated "deal" in place gave many at the Capitol heartburn. The session wrapped up shortly after 1 a.m. Thursday morning. Governor Steve Bullock called legislators back to the Capitol to help address a projected $227 million dollar budget shortfall and backfill the state's depleted wildfire fighting fund. 

Courtesy Bill Cole

Billings has a new mayor.

Bill Cole won nearly double the votes of his opponent, former Republican state lawmaker Jeff Essman. Cole has focused on drawing young people to Billings and turning it into the kind of city where people want to stay. 

"I was a little afraid that my message would scare off the voters, but i think it resonated powerfully," Cole said.

Cole has called for more parks and trails and more downtown revitalization. Essman had criticized the costs associated with those proposals and possible tax increases to pay for them.

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