​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​              A daily digest of Montana news

March 31, 2020


A motorist fills up at a Missoula Town Pump on Monday. Prices for regular have dipped below $2 a gallon for the first time since April of 2016. (Missoulian)



HAVE ANY idea how much the top one percent of Montanans earn on average? It is $304,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

​The state with the wealthiest one percenters is Connecticut, with an average income of $678K. The lowest is Arkansas at $228K.

Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Montana ranks No. 37.

How about our neighboring states? North Dakota does pretty well, coming in at No. 6 with the top one percent averaging $502K, probably due to all that oil and gas income. South Dakota is at $404K, Wyoming at $388K, and Idaho at $280K.

ARE MONTANANS some of the smartest folks in the country? Those who like to think so now have some ammunition to back them up.

An analysis by a web site called says Montana is the fifth smartest state in the country. It follows only New Jersey, Utah, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. You can find the study at

So how did the site determine just how "smart" a state is? It used such measures as this (Montana scores included): The percent of adults 25+ with bachelor’s degrees: 21.7%; public high school graduation rate (2016-17): 86%; median SAT score (2018-19): 1,199; and average composite ACT score (2017-18): 20.

Surprisingly, the state with with the lowest score was Idaho, right next door to Montana. That doesn't seem to add up, does it? Others at the bottom of the heap were Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona.

GOV. Steve Bullock got some valuable air time recently for his presidential campaign. Only trouble is, the exposure was on CNN, which has lost a large portion of its audience in recent years.

CNN's town hall featuring Bullock and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio lured just 402,000 viewers -- the lowest number of the year for all the network's town hall events.

Viewership was down 25 percent overall, and 38 percent for the coveted 25-54 age bracket, compared to the average Sunday numbers for CNN from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.

MONTANA has jumped into the top 10 of's annual ranking of best retirement states. More specifically, the Big Sky state finished No. 9 -- ahead of states such as retirement havens Arizona and Nevada.

Montana gots its best mark -- No. 2 -- in the culture category, and a ranking of No. 16 in affordability. Its worst ranking -- no surprise here -- was No. 45 for weather. The state also received a 20 in the well category and a 31 for crime.

The top five states in this year's rankings were Nebraska, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota and Florida. The bottom five were Maryland, New York, Alaska, Illinois, and Washington.

DESPITE making several campaign trips to Iowa, Gov. Steve Bullock didn't win any support in the latest Iowa Poll of who leads in that state among the Democratic presidential contenders.

The poll shows Joe BIden with the lead, with Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Pete Buttigieg in a close race for second. 

Bullock, who got into the Democratic presidential race late because of Montana's legislative session, didn't garner a single vote. In another part of the poll, 9 percent of those polled said they were actively considering Bullock. But there were 16 other candidates ahead of the Montana Democrat in that category.

Bullock's lack of support so far for his presidential ambitions is threatening his chances of getting on the stage for the first debate. Bullock and Montana Democrats said the rules that may keep him out of the debate are unfair.

MONTANANS enjoy seeing the state at the top of many national rankings, but there's one that doesn't justify much pride: Deaths from drunk driving.

“Montana is actually tied for first place in the entire nation for DUI fatalities,” says Kelley Parker-Wathne, Gallatin County DUI Task Force coordinator. “The alarm bells that go off is just a sad statistic.”

Montana also has a reputation for some of the nation's weakest DUI laws, and the recent legislative session tried to stiffen them. But time ran out on efforts to strengthen the DUI laws at the session's end.




Montana motorists enjoying gas prices under $2 a gallon

Governor asks tourists to stay away from MT during stay-at-home order

Bullock says MT is 'one day away' from running out of COVID-19 tests

Man who abandoned baby at Lolo Hot Springs gets 3-year sentence

Man involved in 2018 Missoula shooting arrested for attempted murder

Suspect in triple homicide in Wyoming arrested in Montana

2 more deaths reported in Montana from coronavirus

TIny Belfry's only grocery store closing soon if owner can't find buyer

Browning man shot and killed during confrontation with law officers

As daycares close, effort grows to find stop-gap solutions for workers

State now has over 150 COVID-19 cases

Libby-area man, 77, first in Montana to die from coronavirus

Are we in a zombie apocalypse or just seeing the flu from hell?

Bozeman hospital worker diagnosed with coronavirus

Vacation rental data indicates some seeking shelter in MT from virus

How the federal stimulus bill will help Montana tribes

Helena copes as best it can with COVID-19

Billings closes playgrounds, tennis, volley, basketball courts

Glacier Park shutting down to help curb spread of disease

Recreation sites, campgrounds also closed

Man who left baby in woods near Lolo Hot Springs sentenced to 3 years

Small, early-season wildfires flare up on Crow Reservation

Governor tells Montana residents to stay at home

What you can do and can't do under the shelter-in-place order

State has its first death caused by COVID-19

Former Blackfeet tribal chairman seeks probation in fraud due to virus

MT hospitals face financial crunch as coronavirus crisis unfolds

House candidate Williams to self-quarantine

Homicide charge dropped against man accused of killing son-in-law

Tester, Daines both back $2 trillion aid legislation


Montana hotels hammered by coronavirus crisis

Major Colstrip owner buying hydropower from Flathead tribes

Bozeman distillers starting to crank out hand sanitizers

Spike in unemployment claims slows system, with more on way

Gun and ammo dealers see surge in sales due to coronavirus concerns

Fairmont Hot Springs lays off 148 workers

Western Montana Clinic in Missoula lays off scores of staffers

Ronan CBD makes new hand sanitizer that quickly becomes popular



Missoula Sentinel's Alex Germer commits to MSU

Harrington latest Lady Griz player to leave program

MSU must test its 3 veteran QBs virtually, for now

Hellgate's Rollie Worster repeats as Gatorade Player of the Year

MSU lands commitment from Alaska wing player

High-flying UM softball team disappointed to see season end early

MT's Jessie Royer led for half the Iditarod -- she just didn't at the end


PSC right to take time to review NorthWestern's Colstrip proposal

Thanks to those who are helping us get through this crisis

Montana's about to be drowned by dark-money spending

Lots of questions must be answered on utility's Colstrip proposal

Will Montanans remember Bullock's move to left in presidential race?

Daines deserves a lot of the credit for passage of LWCF

Regents have duty to speak up for University System


Wood ducks: The Bitterroot Valley's most beautiful migratory waterfowl

Former forester gives $2M to Missoula's Forest Service history museum

Grinnell bio wins top Montana Book Award honor

'Village network' concept for elderly comes to Montana

Montana was shut down by pandemic before

Historical Society launches site showing historic sites in Montana

Butte's Pekin Noodle Parlor is semifinalist for James Beard award


'The Daily Show' host Trevor Noah coming to Bozeman April 25

Country star Toby Keith to perform in Billings June 19

Kenny Chesney to play at MSU's Bobcat Stadium on July 5

Emmylou Harris, Jason Isbell among artists at Whitefish festival in July

Sheryl Crow to headline Big Sky music festival in early August

Big Sky festival adds Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Fred Armisen

Guns N' Roses plan Missoula concert Aug. 26

Foreigner concert in Butte rescheduled for Oct. 25

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