Send tips to email@example.com
Dead whitefish float in the Yellowstone River near Emigrant -- a scene that contrasts with the picture that state tourism officials like to paint of what Montana has to offer visitors. (AP/Bozeman Chronicle)
FEELING FREE? Maybe you should, if you put any stock in a new study by the Cato Institute, which ranks Montana the 17th freest state in the country.
The libertarian think tank, which supports less government intervention both in the economy and in personal matters like abortion and drug use, ranks Montana as the 7th freest state in terms of fiscal policy (that's taxes, spending and the like.)
Montana ranks 21st nationally for personal freedom -- here Cato considers laws on such issues as drugs and gun control -- while it gets it lowest score in regulatory freedom: 30.
Among the issues the study takes into account in doing its rankings are smoking bans, right-to-work laws, sin taxes as well as rules on everything from happy hours and direct auto sales to land use and occupational licensing.
New Hampshire and Alaska finished atop the rankings, while California and New York came in last.
Montana got its lowest market, 45, in the workforce category, and its highest mark, an 8, for the cost of business that firms face. The workforce score is based on such factors as education level of workers, numbers of available workers, and the state's ability to retain workers.
Montana managed to improve its place in the CNBC ratings while other states such as North Dakota that are heavily dependent on the energy industry saw their ratings drop significantly.
Utah finished first in the ratings while Texas was second. Rhode Island was last.
JIM MESSINA, who graduated from the University of Montana's journalism school, won plenty of plaudits for overseeing President Obama's 2012 re-election campaign.
But now his reputation will suffer a setback with Great Britain's shocking 52-48 vote to leave the European Union.
Why's that? Because Messina was the Remain campaign's key strategist. He also played a role in arranging the visit of President Obama, his former boss, to visit Great Britain in April to oppose the "Brexit" plan. Some analysts now think Obama's visit may have backfired.
Most pundits and polls had predicted Messina's Remain campaign would prevail.
Matthew Elliott, the head of the Leave campaign, said his side knew it would be over-matched in many ways, and it didn't have the resources to bring in strategists from outside the country. "It was formidable (Remain campaign), but we felt with the right team, and the right strategy, we could do it," Elliott said.
A NEW national survey has some surprising results: Montana Sen. Steve Daines is one of the most popular senators in the country, while Sen. Jon Tester is among the least popular.
The analysis by Morning Consult was based on interviews of 62,000 Americans, but results for each senator were calculated based on responses from their constituents.
Tester, a second-term Democrat, ranked No. 8 as the least popular senator, with a disapproval rating of 40 percent and an approval rating of 48 percent.
Daines, who was first elected to the Senate in 2014, ranked No. 17 on the list of the most popular senators. Daines had an approval rating of 59 percent; a disapproval rating of just 23.
The senator picked as most popular overall? Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Least popular? Senate leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
WHEN it comes to fiscal condition, Montana measures up pretty well. A new study by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University ranks Montana No. 10 in the country based on debt and other fiscal obligations. That was the same ranking the state had the prior year.
The study's authors said it was important for state officials to understand debt issues because growing long-term obligations for pension and health-care benefits are straining state finances so much.
The states in the best shape to deal with their debt are Alaska, Nebraska, Wyoming and North and South Dakota. Those in the worst condition, say the study's authors, are Kentucky, Illinois, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut.
WHO'DA thunk it?
Billings is the winner of Outside Magazine's "America's Best Town of 2016."
Billings was a surprise winner, coming out on top after starting as the lowest seed among the 16 teams that started the competition. It beat No. 1 seed Jackson Hole, Wyo, in the final round.
Outside Magazine, which picked the winner with weekly online voting, said on its website: “We looked for places with great access to trails and public lands, thriving restaurants and neighborhoods, and, of course, a good beer scene — all while excluding the winners and runners-up from the past three years to make room for hidden gems, underdogs, and towns on the rise.”
A daily digest of Montana news
Aug. 24, 2016