HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Democrat’s proposal to establish a statewide charter school system faces an uncertain future in Montana, even as Republicans hailed it as an opportunity to lift struggling schools.
Democratic Rep. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder wants to establish a seven-member charter school commission to oversee the new program. Democrats have generally been opposed to charter schools, and a policy adviser for Gov. Steve Bullock spoke against the proposal during a hearing before the House Education Committee on Wednesday.
Republican leaders say Windy Boy’s proposal could provide the necessary flexibility to help struggling students, particularly those in Montana’s native country.
The proposal could also face legal challenges. A legislative legal review raised concerns about whether the Legislature has the constitutional authority to establish a charter school commission.
Montana woman pleads guilty in fatal DUI crash
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 38-year-old woman has pleaded guilty to driving drunk and causing a crash that killed a man in southeastern Montana.
The Billings Gazette reports that Ethel Marie Brady, from the Lame Deer area, pleaded guilty Wednesday to involuntary manslaughter for the September crash on U.S. Highway 212. A plea deal calls for a charge of assault resulting in serious injury to be dropped at sentencing.
Federal prosecutors allege Brady’s car crossed the center line and collided with another car, killing the passenger, who was identified by the initials K.K. Rosebud County officials have said Kenneth Kania of Ashland died in the crash on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.
Brady was accused of driving with a blood alcohol level over three times the legal limit.
Victim who died in highway rollover ID’d as Anaconda man
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Officials have released the name of a man who died in a rollover crash on Interstate 90 in southwestern Montana.
The Montana Standard reports that 86-year-old Carl Mayer of Anaconda died Tuesday.
The Montana Highway Patrol says Mayer was a passenger in a vehicle that over-corrected and flipped near Ramsay.
The driver had to be extricated from the vehicle, but his name and condition were not immediately available.
Both the driver and Mayer had been wearing seat belts.
Authorities determined speed was a factor in the crash.
Montana legislator says hospital prices are out of control
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana legislator is seeking to impose price controls on hospitals and place them under the authority of the state’s Public Service Commission.
Democratic Rep. Tom Woods of Bozeman told the House Human Services Committee on Wednesday that hospitals now have a virtual monopoly. He wants the PSC to review any increases in pricing.
Montana Hospital Association Vice President Bob Olsen pointedly denied hospitals were “ripping off consumers.” He says Montana hospital prices rank among the lowest in the country.
Woods is seeking to fix hospital prices according to reimbursements set by the federal Medicare program. Nonprofit hospitals could charge 138 percent of the Medicare reimbursement rate for medical procedures and other services. For-profits hospitals would be allowed to charge 150 percent.
Bid to extend protections to gays, lesbians stirs emotions
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Advocates have launched a new bid to extend non-discrimination protections for gays, lesbians and transgender people across Montana.
Despite an already long string of prior defeats, proponents this time argue that extending protections would be good for business.
They cited last year’s controversy in North Carolina as an example of the business ramifications. The Tar Heel state found itself under fire when it passed a law prohibiting legal protections for LGBT people. PayPal decided not to expand its business in the state and several sporting events were canceled.
Montana’s House Judiciary Committee heard impassioned testimony from both sides of the debate on Wednesday. Some recounted incidents of discrimination because of their sexual orientation.
Some opponents countered with testimony that the proposed law would impinge on their religious expression.
Busby man pleads guilty in fatal crash
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Busby man has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter for driving drunk last May, causing a rollover crash on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation that killed his cousin.
The Billings Gazette reports 20-year-old Torren Jon Russell entered his plea Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Susan Watters. He told the judge he had about a dozen beers before the May 21 crash near Busby.
Prosecutors said a blood test showed Russell’s blood-alcohol level was 0.138 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Court records identified the victim by the initials P.F. The Gazette has reported that 16-year-old Paul Foote, a student at Northern Cheyenne Tribal School, died in a crash on May 21.
Russell faces up to eight years in prison when Watters sentences him on June 14.