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 was one of the big movers in CNBC's annual ratings of Top States for Business. The Big Sky State rose six spots to No. 22 in the ratings announced on Tuesday.

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.”​​



Yellowstone River closed to recreational activities due to parasite

Gianforte: Tribal governments a roadblock to economic development

First refugees from Congo arrive in Missoula

Gianforte condemns refugee resettlement in Montana

Attorney general Fox adopted into Crow Tribe

Blackfeet tribe wants more hours for voting office in Heart Butte

Rocky Boy teen dies of seizure while playing basketball

Gianforte says he'll match all contributions to his campaign

Helena man admits he killed 2 neighbors during argument

Park High fires football coach after boxing, texting incidents

Missoula resident, 20, dead after accidental shooting

Fox says juries need to be better educated on sex assault crimes

State board signs lease to keep Ackley Lake in parks system longer

Bozeman man charged with stealing 39 watches from Macy's

Body found buried in yard of man accused of murdering veteran

4 vets call on Zinke to disavow Trump at Democratic-organized event

Critics say too few involved in Blackeet tribal constitutional reform effort

Supreme Court denies request to block medical research proposal

Former worker says Fort Benton hospital lied about scabies outbreak

Tyrannosaurus rex skull from MT arrives at Seattle museum

FedEx trailer catches fire, explodes, east of Billings on I-94

Montana Tech boots summer school students for cheating

Crews make progress on Yellowstone's Boundary fire; Maple fire grows

Canadian front could bring snow to upper elevations in parts of MT

Judge denies request to delay limits on medical marijuana

MSU gets $5.7M Koch grant to create new economics research center

Fires in Yellowstone Park continue to grow

AG ends oversight of county attorney's handling of sex assault cases

Russell Museum to reopen Tuesday after flood damage cleaned up

Cascade Co zoning board OKs two $5M solar farms on edge of GTF

Motl takes aim at Montana Shooting Sports Association

MSU, partners get $20M grant to study Native American health issues

Police: Great Falls man admits fatally shooting, then burying veteran

Legislators want to require Colstrip plant owners to pay to shutter plants

Green PAC plans to spend $500K on mail campaign for Bullock

MSU research shows bacteria can plug oil and gas leaks in pipes

Panel votes against redrawing redrawing judicial districts

Advocates for anti-medical marijuana plan continue fight to get on ballot

PSC votes 3-2 to deny NorthWestern $8.2M rate hike for Colstrip outage

Authorities ID Butte couple in murder-suicide

2 new wildfires flare up in Yellowstone Park

Bullock pushes initiative he says will improve forest health

$120 million downtown Billings project includes 25-story skyscraper


West Yellowstone News to stop publishing

Land Board OKs lease of 450 acres near Billings airport for solar farm

Bozeman father/son duo creates unique camping meals

Construction starts on $1M solar project near Bozeman

MT coal mines continue to struggle as natural gas grows in popularity

Flathead firm thinks it has answer to world's battery problem




Offense methodical, defense stout Cats' final scrimmage

North Dakota ponders leaving Big Sky Conference

Griz kickers, punters gain traction in fall camp

Nicklaus making return visit to Anaconda's Old Works course Sept. 28

Lady Griz coach Schweyen hires Mike Petrino as assistant

Former Griz Kroy Biermann signs with Buffalo

Southern Miss guard Blevins transfers to MSU


State won't be scuttling any parks, just giving them new monikers

A journalist gets burned when he's on the receiving end of the news

Time for legislators to crack down on puppy mills

State's foster care system must be improved to protect kids

Bullock needs new policy on use of state airplane

State's justice system is too overloaded

Never let a serious crisis -- like a forest fire -- go to waste

Gianforte's efforts to stop opponents' commercials won't work



'Blood on the Marias' recounts 1870 massacre of Blackfeet village

Lakeside studio providing design services to charities around the world

Even in early days, Glacier Park was popular destination for vacationers

Kenneth Scott and his ill-fated battle with a 750-pound grizzly

New book tells story of 1959 Yellowstone-area earthquake

Helena hospital takes a different approach to dialysis care

New book takes long look at Montana's Americana music



Emmy Lou Harris, John Prine performing in Gardiner Aug. 25

Former Eagles member to headline GTF's Harvest Howl Sept. 9

Def Leppard, REO Speedwagon, Tesla in Billings Sept. 14


Send tips to editor@montanabuzz.com


State officials have closed the Yellowstone River to fishing and other forms of recreation from the northern border of Yellowstone Park to Laurel due to a parasite that has killed thousands of whitefish in the river. (Bozeman Chronicle)

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

Aug. 26, 2016