Montana Public Radio

Montana Politics

The candidates in Montana’s hotly contested Senate race are divided over how to handle the Supreme Court vacancy left by the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In a written statement, Republican Sen. Steve Daines said the Senate should move forward with confirming President Donald Trump’s nominee, expected to be announced at week’s end.

A new report released Tuesday says around 60 percent of Montana businesses last year had at least one worker enrolled in Medicaid expansion. Enrollment in the health care program for low income adults has been on the rise for the last four months.

At a meeting in Bozeman, Barbara Wagner, chief economist of the Montana Department of Labor & Industry, said nearly 20 percent of the state’s entire workforce was enrolled in Medicaid at one point or another last year.

Bozeman’s mayor resigned on Sept. 9 after allegations of bullying city staff and interfering with city administration.

In a press release from the city, Chris Mehl thanked voters for the opportunity to serve Bozeman and said he had tried to be “proactive and prepared” in his role as mayor but other city commissioners didn’t see it that way.

Congressman Greg Gianforte on Sept. 1 toured Montana State University’s new COVID-19 testing site for students, as well as a lab that tests hundreds of samples from around the state in a day.

Next to a big white tent at Bobcat Stadium, Director of Emergency Management Haylee Gerow says students with COVID-19 symptoms can walk or drive up for a nasal swab and be on their way in about three minutes.

She says they’ve swabbed around 10 students per day since it opened Aug. 27 at noon. On Aug. 31 this week, that number bumped up to around 30.

Montana state regulators will consider NorthWestern Energy’s proposed purchase in a greater share of the Colstrip coal fired power plant in mid December.

The Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) set a hearing date of Dec. 14 at its meeting on Aug. 25.

NorthWestern filed a motion on Aug. 14 to expedite the first hearing on its proposed 92-MGW acquisition in Colstrip unit 4 to November. Intervenors said that’s not enough time for discovery.

PSC staff’s suggested mid December hearing is before newly elected commissioners take their seats.

Editor’s Note 08/20/20: The original version of this story misattributed the included quote and it has since been corrected.

Montana electric utility regulators are investigating the effect of the novel coronavirus on a rate structuring pilot program from the state’s largest utility.

This week, the Montana Public Service Commission (PSC) ordered NorthWestern Energy to submit a report factoring in financial impacts from the novel coronavirus on the utility’s decoupling program.

Montana’s firefighting fund is full for the first time in state history amid what Gov. Steve Bullock is calling strong overall budget reserves.

Bullock said during a press call on Aug. 17 that his office transferred about $46 million to the fire suppression fund on Aug. 15, hitting the statutory cap of more than $101 million.

“A fire fund filled to the brim is an important cushion to have at this time,” Bullock said.

Plans to remove some 60 United States Postal Service collection boxes in Montana are on pause following pushback from the state’s delegation in Washington, D.C. and others’ complaints.

A spokesperson for the USPS tells YPR News a total of 13 boxes were removed in Montana after two years of data analysis showed they were of “low use.” The spokesperson confirmed the pause in further removals is due to public concerns.

U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines cheered the pause but say questions remain about why boxes were removed.

Elsie Arntzen is Montana's superintendent of public instruction.
Montana Legislature

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The ongoing dispute between Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and the state’s schools chief deepened Thursday when Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen blasted Bullock for announcing a school mask requirement without consulting her.

Arntzen is a Republican running for reelection in November, while Bullock, a Democrat, is running for U.S. Senate.

Montana Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Elsie Arntzen says Gov. Steve Bullock has not included her office in discussions about the state’s coronavirus response involving education.

Hours after Gov. Bullock announced an update on relief dollars for K-12 schools, Superintendent Arntzen, who is running for reelection, criticized the governor in a tweet.

Pages