Bella Butler, 20, sat down recently for an interview in her Missoula home to talk about a settlement she made with the Big Sky School District over its handling of the high school basketball coach's sexual assault of her. (Helena IR)

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

Feb. 25, 2020




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 safehome.org 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 www.safehome.org/smartest-americans/

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 Bankrate.com'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.



MT Supreme Court declines to hear appeal from author John Krakauer

Daines presses IHS to release records on doctor's sexual assualts

Former Big Sky student talks about her abuse by a former coach

Montana could see light snow flurries early in week

Kootenai Forest officials put hold on logging project near Troy

Billings man found guilty of bringing hundreds of pounds of meth into MT

Fox calls for more funding of treatment courts

PSC members are spying on each other, investigation indicates

Democratic Senate candidates square off in first debate

CM Russell Museum in Great Falls plans expansion

Lakeside woman 1st twice-paralyzed person to climb Kilimanjaro

Health officials say flu is widespread in Montana

Montana attorneys say Scouts try to hide assets in bankruptcy suit

Crash of small plane near Red Lodge injures Red Lodge

Report claims NorthWestern energy plans slanted toward fossil fuels

2 Iraqi natives who helped US soldiers become US citizens in Billings

Montana Lottery sets ground rules for sports betting

Federal court ruling could jeopardize Montana's Medicaid reforms

Democrats running for governor disagree on Bullock's legacy

Hamilton man gets 100 years for sexual assault of 2 girls

Rare Western memorabilia goes on auction block in Billings

Coroner says man who died in Billings garbage truck died accidentally

Bainville man charged with killing his girlfriend


Popular Helena ramen restaurant expanding to Great Falls

Suspect in jewelry, REI heist ring charged in Bozeman court

Billings Gazette eliminates 2 of its top newsroom managers

Butte movie theater will reopen with new owners

Washington state officials want to inspect Colstrip coal contract

Kalispell firm serving insurance industry 'hiring like crazy'

New owners take over Great Divide Ski Area

Pier 1 will close Missoula, Kalispell and Great Falls stores

State OKs plan to clean up coal ash pounds near Colstrip plants


Lady Cats clinch share of Big Sky title with win over Lady Griz

Grizzlies win 19th of last 20 against Bobcats, 57-54

Lady Cats continue winning ways, beating Portland State 98-67

Frey injures ankle as Bobcats lose 87-77 to Portland State

UM's Pridgett named Big Sky player of the week

Trump pardons former 49ers owner, who owns property in Montana

Harlem senior sets state record with 68 points in game

Pridgett almost notches a triple double as Griz down Idaho State


Regents have duty to speak up for University System

Montana, Wyoming are right to fight for a coal port on the coast

Water Rights Protection Act isn't about fairness and equity

Why doesn't the state try to buy the land Weyerhaeuser is unloading?

PSC  must keep a close eye on cost of Colstrip plants to ratepayers

Some context to those legislators' Medicare for All op-eds

State has too many foster kids, too few caseworkers


Hats made from wool of Belgrade sheep fund homeless shelter

MSU Library gets materials from filmmaker, writer John Heminway

Seventy years ago, a devastating hotel fire in Eureka killed 5 people

3 young Bitterroot filmmakers prepare to screen their western

New book highlights Crow's only armed uprising against government

What's Montana's dish? That's hard to say

Researchers check lead levels in Bitterroot eagles


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

Cher plans Billings concert April 26

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

Guns N' Roses plan Missoula concert Aug. 26

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