A daily digest of Montana news

Dec. 22, 2014






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Government News for MT


IS MONTANA a well-run state? According to a new study, it's a lot higher than average.

A group called 24/7 Wall St., which surveys the financial, social and economic outcomes of every state annually, says that Montana ranks 11th among the 50 states in terms of how its residents are faring. 

With an average annual household income of $47,000, Montanans score below the national average of $52,250. But on the plus side, they enjoy low crime rates, rising home values, and an economy that's growing faster-than-average.

The study noted that a number of the states that did best in the study enjoy an abundance of natural resources. North Dakota got the top ranking, while Illinois finished last.

ONE OF the world's best-known actresses, Scarlett Johansson, wanted a lot of privacy for her wedding, so what better spot to do it than Montana?

Indeed, word is only now leaking out that she tied the knot with French journalist Romain Dauriac two months ago in Mineral County. The nuptials took place at the ultra-ritzy Ranch at Rock Creek, where rooms run a thousand dollars and more.

The couple welcomed a new baby girl just a few weeks before their marriage. Johansson and her beau got their marriage license at the Granite County Courthouse in Philipsburg, where the clerks found her pleasant and personable. They've been fielding calls about the incident from around the world since word leaked out about the news. 

Johansson is familiar with Montana, being one of the stars of the 1998 film "The Horse Whisperer," which was largely filmed in Big Sky country. Wranglers working on the film reported that, in the beginning, young Johansson was "pretty scared" of the horses, but by the end was riding like an expert.

SEN. JON Tester’s appointment to head up the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is a feather in his cap, and should help Montana by boosting his influence in the Senate.

But the assignment, a two-year gig, also poses some dangers. One of his key tasks will be raising – and doling out – big bucks, which primarily come from wealthy donors.

Tester’s been outspoken about the influence of money, particularly “dark money,” the type that comes from undisclosed donors. He’s sponsoring a constitutional amendment to get the big money out of politics, as well as legislation to require more transparency by “dark-money” groups.

Because of Tester’s work with the campaign committee, his critics may accuse him of hypocrisy – a possibility that seems to make even some backers nervous. It could also draw attention to his 2012 campaign, in which dark money played a key role in helping him get elected, as explained by this in-depth Pro Publica report.

BUZZ was watching Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill being interviewed on "Face the Nation" Sunday when she was asked if her party's recent appointment of "fiery populist" Sen. Elizabeth Warren into the Senate leadership wouldn't signal a turn to the left when voters wanted more centrism.

McCaskill, one of the few senators to oppose Harry Reid's election as Democratic leader,  responded that the party wasn't turning its back on more moderate leaders. She noted that Reid named Montana Sen. Jon Tester to head up the party's Senate campaign efforts the same day he named Warren to a leadership post.

She described Tester as a "flat-top farmer from Montana who is about as salt of the earth as you can get, and who is a moderate through and through and so his voice is going to be in that room along with Elizabeth Warren's."

Indeed, Tester's views on issues such as gun control and the Keystone pipeline may cause hard-core liberals some angst. But they also recognize that he knows how to win elections on turf that's traditionally tough ground for liberals.

Meanwhile, Huffington Post reported that Tester got the job because the other finalist, Sen. Chris Coons of Connecticut, bowed out due to family considerations. 


FEDERAL prosecutors have opened a money-laundering investigation into the US financial activities of a member of Russian President Vladimir Putin's inner circle. The probe is looking at billionaire Gennady Timchenko's dealings with the Swiss-based Gunvor trading house, in which Putin also is believed to have investments.

You wouldn't think that could have anything to do with Montana, but you'd be wrong. Why? Because of reports that Gunvor became an investor in Montana's Signal Peak Mine in 2011.

Critics argue the mine is buying federal coal at below-market prices and selling it at a hefty profit overseas. And now, they say, it appears some of that profit may be going to into Vladimir Putin's pockets.

Federal regulators recently declared that there wouldn't any significant environmental impact from the expansion of the mine onto nearby federal lands, thus eliminating the need for a time-consuming environmental impact statement.

Gulcin and Celal Deden of Germany say they'll now began the process of putting back together their lives after sitting through a three-week trial in Missoula for the killer of their son, Diren, who was an exchange student in Missoula when he was shot and killed last April. (Missoulian) 

Legislators to take 2nd look at oil and gas trust fund

Feds tell Chippewa Cree to reinstate St. Marks as chairman

Bill aims to slow meth manufacturing with medicine database 

Missoula boy, 7, dies in Idaho hotel swimming pool accident

Lawmakers expected to battle over education proposals

Helena has 136 homeless students, officials say

Police shoot, kill Deer Lodge man

Parents of exchange student say Missoula will remember son

Industry shooting for reforms in forestry management

Montana: Still the Treasure State with its bounty of resources

Bakken oil towns struggle to keep up with infrastructure needs

Industry studies: EPA carbon rules to boost consumer costs

Forest Service enlists elite trees in fight against blister rust

Ground broken for 120-turbine wind farm in Carbon County

Obama OKs bill creating Front wilderness, protecting Flathead

Judge drops vehicular homicide charge against Belgrade man

Billings rallies behind teen who had gay slur painted on door

3 Montana hospitals penalized with loss of Medicare funds

Lawyer seeks release of ex-billionaire Blixseth from jail

Columbia Falls Aluminum Co rejects idea of Superfund site

Survey: Montana has low obesity rate, but high binge drinking

Feds change how coal from federal leases is valued

Obama belittles benefits of Keystone pipeline

North Dakota may lose billions in taxes if low oil prices stay

Parents of exchange student tell of grief; Kaarma apologizes

Judge sending Yellowstone Club founder Blixseth to jail

Rob O'Neill took out bin Laden, but not a gang of Crips

Gianforte donates $500K for scholarships at 2-year colleges

Study: Growing use of de-icers boosts chloride in MT water

Livestock Department cuts 5 jobs, furloughs others

Split PSC rejects NorthWestern plan to buy wind power

Advocates want to reintroduce grizzlies in Selway-Bitterroot

Abused kids, including Butte infant, die as system fails them


Butte businessmen express concerns about summer festivals

Safeway sells Missoula stores to local businessmen

Former employees reach settlement with Vann's

Charter expanding its Billings operations

State's minimum wage jumps to $8.05 in January

Charter says it is working to fix problems for email customers

New ND rules require crude be less volatile before transport


Last-minute surge carries South Dakota over Grizzlies

UM wins Lady Griz Classic with victory over Austin Peay

Bigfork's Morley wins 3rd at US cross-country championship

Portland thumps Bobcats, 87-60

Washington State whips Lady Cat, 82-61

UM thumps Utah Valley, advances to tourney's title game

Bobcat star Shawn Johnson didn't have easy path to football


Wilderness legislation shows benefits of collaboration

The attention-grabbing headline no one took credit for

Nothing's ever easy in Flathead water compact negotiations 

Legislators opposing Medicaid expansion get health insurance

House leaders should drop foolish dress code

Drop the dress-code silliness and get on to important things

Public-land plan isn't ideal, but it is a compromise worth doing


Quite a Christmas: Candlelight tours in Lewis & Clark Caverns

New James Patterson novel set in Bakken oil fields

She runs with the bison on a Montana glamp/ranch

Mysteries of Great Falls Masonic temple unveiled

Elite winter warriors helped liberate a nation 70 years ago

Book explains how Montana became a US territory

Rarely seen Russell drawings go on display at state museum


Country star Kip Moore returning to Missoula Jan. 27

Country star Clint Black to headline Headwaters Jam in June

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