A daily digest of Montana news

March 31, 2015


AS MONTANANS, it often seems as if we have to drive long distances to go where we want to go. After all, we're the fourth largest state, with just over 147,000 square miles. 

But ironically, we have some of the shortest commutes to work. Montanans have the fourth shortest travel times to work, with a mean travel time of 18 minutes, according to the American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau.

​Our neighbors in South Dakota, Wyoming and North Dakota have the nation's fastest commute times at 17, 17.5, and 17.9 minutes, respectively. The longest commutes are in Maryland, where it takes 32.5 minutes to get to work.

"AN ARMY ​marches on its stomach," Napoleon  Bonaparte once declared.

So does a Legislature, it appears. And the nice thing for the legislators, and the folks who work around them, is that much of the food is free.

If you want to get in on the action -- or you just want to read a glib account of who is providing the latest free snacks at the Capitol -- you can look up the Twitter account called "MT Capitol Free Food."

One recent tweet noted that advocates for a new Historical Society museum had set up a spread in the Rotunda and, as they were 'looking for a $40M building--you gotta think the free food will be nothing less than historic."

Another noted that the Montana Trappers Association was hosting a free lunch. "No word if beaver mink or gopher on menu," quipped Free Food.

MONTANA'S long been home to a lot of celebrities. And it looks as though it may soon make room for two more. Or rather, make that three.

Actor and singer Justin Timberlake and his wife, Jessica Biel, who is expecting a baby later this month or in early April, are said to be planning to move into a vacation home they own at the Yellowstone Club at Big Sky.

The couple reportedly wants to spend more time in Montana so their child can "experience as much mountain life as possible."

WANT TO know how your legislator voted on this issue or that? Here's an easy way to find out.

Just visit this new web site sponsored by the Secretary of State's office: "See How They Voted."

"At the end of the day its important to elect representatives to make decisions based on reason and issues facing their communities," said Secretary of state Linda McCulloch. "Its important for voters to see if they are following through on their commitments."

​IS HE or isn't he? For a long time now, Montanans -- as well as pundits and other Americans -- have speculated on whether former Gov. Brian Schweitzer would run for president in 2016.

Schweitzer seems to have been happy to have encouraged the speculation. In recent years he's made a number of trips to Iowa, where the leadoff caucuses would take place. And he's been plenty complimentary of the voters there, as well as in New Hampshire, another early primary state.

But while Schweitzer has always been coy about his future political plans, he told the Great Falls Tribune last week that he won't be running for president. His decision likely is related to getting into hot water last year for several gaffes that included comments about former GOP leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Diane Feinstein. 

 MONTANANS feel pretty good overall about their situation. At least when compared to residents of other states.

How do we know? That's what the Gallup polling organization has determined in its annual survey of the well-being of residents of all 50 states. Montana ranked 5th.

Topping the list was Alaska, followed by Hawaii, South Dakota, and Wyoming. At the bottom of the list: Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.

​The ratings are based on five factors: Sense of purpose, having satisfactory personal relationships, personal health, lack of financial stress, and enjoyment and safety in the community.

Montana's best ranking (No. 2) was in the last category. Its lowest (No. 33) was in personal relationships. This is how it did in the other categories: Purpose (No. 10), finances (8), and health (9).


A helicopter picks up water from the Yellowstone River to douse on a 3,000-acre fire burning near Columbus Sunday. Pine Crest fire leveled two homes and was only 10 percent contained Sunday evening. (Billings Gazette)


Evacuation order lifted for wildfire west of Billings

Wildfire west of Billings claims 2 homes; 10 percent contained

Red Lodge ski resort reopens after evacuation forced by wildfire

Threatening wildfire forces evacuation of Red Lodge ski resort

Authorities ID Bitterroot drowning victim

Fort Peck tribe balks at moving ahead with $34M casino project

High winds bowl over 2 semi trucks on I-15 north of Dillon

Freshman Kalispell lawmaker leads fight against dark money

Fortine vet, 99, awarded French Legion of Honour

Fire rips through collapsed building in Uptown Butte

Senate votes to close Boulder center for disabled

Helena lawmaker: I've no conflict in sponsoring Boulder closure bill

Plan for a new crime lab in eastern Montana advances

MSU hopes book on UM rape allegations won't tarnish it

Tester joins Blackfeet in seeking protections for Blackfeet-Two Medicine

GOP lawmakers table proposed pay hike for state workers

Glacier official cited for failing to control dog that tangled with cougar

Governor vetoes 2 Republican-sponsored gun-rights bills

Expanding training airspace could help South Dakota, but hurt Montana

Senate endorses measure that would expand Medicaid program

House defeats 'religious-freedom' bill on a tie vote

Jury convicts Bozeman woman of helping fugitive from justice

House panel endorses bill to restrict filming on private property

Senate keeps alive bill that aims to protect Colstrip plants

Army vet convicted of slashing throat, killing man in Laurel

Proposal for new Historical Society museum remains alive

Collapsed Butte building catches fire

'Personhood' measure passes House, but unlikely to make ballot

Former Butte band director charged with assaulting student at tourney

Prairie Reserve asks BLM to allow bison to graze on public lands


Victor log-home maker builds massive project for Missouri golf resort

Hecla to take over Revett, and close Troy Mine permanently

State's jobless rate slips to 4.3 percent

This time of year, Montana Valley Hams has long lines at the door

Tester wants to cut taxes for state's small brewers

Stillwater Mining moving its corporate office from Billings to Denver

Timber execs hope Forest Service serious about more cutting

New owner of Missoula's Wilma Theatre sees it as national destination


Bobcats get in 1st scrimmage despite lack of depth in secondary

First-year coach DeCuire happy with how his team 'over-achieved'

Billings' Gustafson has inside track on starting QB job at UM

Former NFL lineman helping Flathead families stay fit

4 Bobcats won't be returning to mens' hoops team

Big Sky officials visiting Billings to check on tournament potential


A list of bills that deserved better treatment from lawmakers

What should happen to the Columbia Falls aluminum plant site

State needs more disclosure of campaign donations

Bipartisan effort needed to come up with good state budget

GOP legislators hurting those least able to fend for themselves

Shame on senator for discouraging kids on soil project

Legislators should sign on to governor's preschool plan


Tracing the Montana roots of the founder of Scientology

Newest generation of von Trapps -- with MT ties -- exciting music fans

One of last Iwo Jima vets -- a Missoula man -- tells of experiences

Did Frank and Jesse James spend time in Montana?

Helena native produces fascinating film on Russian hockey team

Montana's monstrous Ross Creek cedars amaze

Famous -- and infamous -- folks who have called Montana home


Jason Aldean playing 2 shows at MSU April 22 & 23

Eagles plan concert in Billings June 2

Willie Nelson, Alison Krauss to perform in Missoula June 17

Country star Clint Black to headline Headwaters Jam in June

Hank Williams Jr. to play at Billings music fest July 11

Martina McBride coming to Helena stage on July 22

Motley Crue, Alice Cooper take stage in Billings July 26

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Ryan Bingham headline Red Ants Pants Festival

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