Session ends early with typical number of bills passed
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana lawmakers went home this week having secured a budget proposal and passing a typical amount of legislation.
The Republican-led Legislature passed 565 bills this year, almost exactly the average number of each of the last five sessions.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has outright vetoed 29 of 486 bills he’s received so far and signed 320 bills into law. He hasn’t yet acted on the main budget bill, but approved other new laws including a requirement for chicken pox vaccinations in public schools, a go-ahead for sound suppressors in hunting and a ban on bullying.
Bullock vetoed 71 of 523 bills that reached his desk last session, a count second only to Gov. Schweitzer’s 78 vetoes in 2011. Schweitzer received 482 bills that year.
Montana Gov. signs Medicaid expansion into law
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The governor has signed a bill to expand Medicaid eligibility to thousands of low-income Montanans.
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock signed the Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act into law Wednesday in the Capitol rotunda as hundreds of people cheered.
The bill was introduced by Republican Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls after lawmakers defeated the governor’s expansion proposal.
Buttrey calls the plan the most conservative in the nation due to copays, premiums and other provisions. Because of those items, the state must seek a waiver from the federal government to put the program in place.
The new law accepts federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to people with incomes at or below 138 percent of the federal poverty level — or about $16,200 per year for an individual and $33,460 for a family of four.
Tester, Daines seek approval of Blackfeet water agreement
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are asking Congress to approve a water rights settlement with the Blackfeet tribe that’s been in the works for more than three decades.
The Montana senators said in a joint statement on Wednesday that it was time for lawmakers to act on a settlement first brought to Congress in 2010.
The proposed Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act would establish the tribe’s right to water within its northwestern Montana reservation and rehabilitate the Four Horns Dam and Blackfeet Irrigation Project.
Negotiations on the agreement began more than 30 years ago. It was approved by the state Legislature in 2009.
Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock signed a separate water rights settlement with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. That agreement also will need Congressional approval.
Prosecutors: Father left dying girl on floor for 2 hours
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a Hardin man left his fatally-injured, 6-year-old daughter lying on the floor for two hours before seeking medical attention that would have saved her life.
Big Horn County prosecutors have charged Clint Vance Hogan with negligent homicide and obstructing justice in the death of Kiomora “Kiki” Hogan.
His girlfriend, Kerstyn Old Bull, has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide. Prosecutors said Old Bull struck the girl with a fatal blow March 2.
An affidavit from prosecutors says that after Hogan returned home to find the girl unconscious, he waited two hours before he and Old Bull took the girl to Big Horn County Hospital. The victim later died at a hospital in Denver.
Hogan pleaded not guilty Tuesday and was released after posting a $50,000 bond. He could not be located for comment and his attorney was unavailable.
Homicide victim found on Crow reservation identified
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities have identified a homicide victim whose body was found on the Crow Indian Reservation.
Police Lt. Jeremy House on Wednesday identified the victim as 38-year-old Jeffrey Christopher Hewitt of Billings.
Hewitt’s body was found on April 15 in a remote part of the Crow tribe’s southeastern Montana reservation. Investigators have been looking into whether he was killed in a Billings apartment.
No other information has been released in the case.
Ronan man missing in mountains near Arlee
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — Search and rescue teams from Lake and Sanders counties are looking for a 20-year-old Ronan man who went missing over the weekend.
Sanders County officials say Troy Akers was one of four men who were driving the backroads on the Flathead Indian Reservation on Sunday when their vehicle broke down.
Akers somehow became separated from the rest of the men, who called 911 to report they were lost. A search helicopter located them Sunday night. They were taken to a hospital in Missoula for treatment of hypothermia.
Officials searched Monday, Tuesday and Sheriff Tom Rummell tells KERR-AM that 25 people from four agencies continued searching Wednesday.
Bell says the search is centered on a mountain top that straddles the Lake and Sanders county line northwest of Arlee.
Grizzly group to meet in Cody, discuss endangered status
CODY, Wyo. (AP) — A grizzly bear committee will discuss the possibility of removing the Yellowstone region animals from the endangered species list at an upcoming meeting in Cody.
The Cody Enterprise reports that the Yellowstone Ecosystem Subcommittee of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee will take up the issue on Thursday and Friday.
The 23-agency consortium of local, state and federal governments and regional Indian tribes says the Yellowstone grizzlies have recovered.
During the two-day conference, the committee will take public comments and hold presentations about population health and interaction within the 28,000-square-mile Yellowstone ecosystem.
The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1975. Representatives from that agency are expected to attend the Cody meetings.