A heavy snowfall this winter in the Pacific Northwest and other parts of the West has caused travel delays and other problems for people. But wildlife are also suffering, from deer and elk whose food sources are buried under snow and ice to cougars that had to forage in an Oregon town.
In eastern Oregon, state wildlife officials are feeding elk, but the weather makes accessing them difficult. When highways and the Interstate are closed because of the snow, the workers must still get to the rural feeding stations where they feed the elk alfalfa hay.
And heavy snow has forced Idaho’s fish and game department to begin emergency feeding of big game animals in southern Idaho.
Montana House votes to reduce awards for punitive damages
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana House has given initial approval to a measure that would reduce the amount a court can award in punitive damages.
The cap on those awards meant to punish a company or individual for fraud or malice is now the lesser of $10 million or 3 percent of the defendant’s net worth.
Representatives on Thursday voted 60-40 to add to the cap that punitive damages can’t be more than three times what a plaintiff receives in actual, or compensatory, damages.
Business groups back the bill, saying it could attract companies to the state. House Minority Leader Jenny Eck opposed it, saying there is no problem with the current cap and the change would only help those who want to cause harm.
The bill is up for a final vote on Friday.
Senate passes bill admonishing judge over ballot measure
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate has rebuffed an attempt to strip a bill of language admonishing a judge for allegedly overstepping his authority.
Senate Bill 131 would correct a mistake in a voter-approved medical marijuana ballot initiative that delayed the re-opening of marijuana dispensaries. It also says that District Judge James Reynolds of Helena violated the constitutional separation of powers when he fixed the mistake in a ruling in December.
Democratic Sen. Sue Malek of Missoula attempted to remove that admonishment from the bill Thursday. She says the Senate itself is overreaching by determining what is and isn’t constitutional, which is the job of the courts.
Her amendment failed after Senate Majority Leader Fred Thomas said it is important for the Legislature to stand up for the Constitution.
The bill passed the Senate 28-21 and now goes to the House.
Montana considers gun bills shot down in previous sessions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Proposals to loosen gun restrictions in Montana are being revived by Republican lawmakers who are undeterred that similar bills were shot down in past legislative sessions.
Rep. Randy Brodehl of Kalispell presented his plan Thursday to allow legislators to carry guns in the Capitol and on other state property. The Montana Senate killed a similar bill in 2013, and a third measure in 2011 was stripped down to allow only security personnel to carry weapons.
Likewise, Rep. Bill Harris of Winnett has resubmitted a bill vetoed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock last session that would allow anyone who is eligible to carry a weapon to conceal it without the need for a permit.
Brodehl and Harris both say they don’t know whether their measures stand any better chance of passing this session.
AG: Missoula can’t enforce background check for gun sales
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The attorney general says the city of Missoula cannot enforce an ordinance requiring a background check for most gun sales or transfers within the city limits.
Attorney General Tim Fox issued an opinion Thursday saying state law does not allow cities to exercise any power that affects the right to bear arms. Cities can, however, prohibit the discharge of weapons within city limits and prohibit carrying weapons during public assemblies or at public buildings, parks or schools.
The Missoula City Council passed its ordinance in September.
House Speaker Austin Knudsen of Culbertson asked for Fox’s legal opinion.
Missoula City Attorney Jim Nugent told the Missoulian he expected Fox to interpret the law the way he did.
Fox’s opinion has the force of law unless it is overturned by a court.
Siblings charged in man’s beating death, dismemberment
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Two Billings siblings are charged in the beating death and dismemberment of the woman’s boyfriend two years ago.
The Billings Gazette reports 40-year-old Carri Standsoverbull pleaded not guilty Thursday to deliberate homicide in the March 2015 death of 38-year-old Jeffery Hewitt. She also denied an alternative charge of negligent homicide along with assault by accountability and tampering with evidence.
Patrick Standsoverbull pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and evidence tampering.
Prosecutors allege several people beat Hewitt in March 2015 in Carri Standsoverbull’s apartment and that he was left — badly injured — in a back room until he died. Charging documents say his body was taken to the Crow Indian Reservation, where he was dismembered and his remains were burned. His head was found in a separate location.