A group stops to view wildlife in Yellowstone Park in early March. On Tuesday, Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks were closed to visitors in an effort to help stop the spread of coronavirus. (Bozeman Chronicle)


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

March 31, 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.




State pushes its school and restaurant closures to April 10

Billings dental practice shares its face mask windfall with area hospitals

State jobless site back up after crashing due to large number of claims

Yellowstone, Grand Teton close to visitors

Montana hospitality industry on his heels due to health closures

State employees told to work at home when possible

Bozeman travel students stuck in Peru due to travel restrictions

West Yellowstone woman pleads not guilty in death of grandson

Montana GOP spent $100K to get Green Party on 2020 ballots

Staffer notches $20K in charges on BLM credit card, court records show

Police chase at Bigfork ends with shots fired at sheriff's deputy

MT Supreme Court asks judges to consider releasing inmates

MSU may have to pay $7M in refunds to students forced out by virus

Governor, county officials urge closure of Yellowstone Park

State now has 45 COVID-19 cases, with most in Gallatin County

Rural doctor expresses concern over ability to handle virus cases

State finances strong as coronavirus crisis hits, lawmakers say

FBI agent in Helena charged with stalking former girlfriend

Felon gets year in prison after posing with gun on Facebook

Gianforte raises $1.8 million for campaign, kicks in $550K as a loan

Daines proposes $10B plan to pay for early manufacture of virus drugs

As of Sunday, state has 34 cases of coronavirus

Billings men design reusable face masks to battle coronavirus

Havre man charged with 15 hit-and-runs, arson

Landowners put together land swap plan for Crazy Mountains

MT schools may not have to give standardized tests this year

Nurses ask governor to impose shelter-in-place order

State has about 2,000 virus testing kits available, health official says

State of Montana puts up improved coronavirus website


Gun and ammo dealers see surge in sales due to coronavirus concerns

Fairmont Hot Springs lays off 148 workers

Western Montana Clinic in Missoula lays off scores of staffers

Ronan CBD makes new hand sanitizer that quickly becomes popular

Walmart plans to hire 500 new workers in Montana

Montana's oil industry clobbered by coronavirus, price war

Senators push legislation that aims to support cattle prices

Washington utility customers won't pay for Colstrip's 2-month shutdown



High-flying UM softball team disappointed to see season end early

JUCO shooting guard from Texas commits to MSU

UM's hurling team has evolved into national dynasty

Texas JUCO guard commits to MSU

MSU men feel like they've laid good foundation for the future

This season may have been Travis DeCuire's best coaching job at UM

After season cut short, Lady Cats hope their journey won't be forgotten

49ers release former Bobcat guard Mike Person

Jessie Royer notches another 3rd place finish in Iditarod


Thanks to those who are helping us get through this crisis

Montana's about to be drowned by dark-money spending

Lots of questions must be answered on utility's Colstrip proposal

Will Montanans remember Bullock's move to left in presidential race?

Daines deserves a lot of the credit for passage of LWCF

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


'Village network' concept for elderly comes to Montana

Montana was shut down by pandemic before

Historical Society launches site showing historic sites in Montana

Butte's Pekin Noodle Parlor is semifinalist for James Beard award

Golden Valley Co sheriff's killing in 1920 ended with burning of shooter

MT, Idaho 10th Mountain Division chapter closing after 75 years

Butte editor shares what he loves about mining city and the state


'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

Sheryl Crow to headline Big Sky music festival in early August

Big Sky festival adds Wilco, Sleater-Kinney, Fred Armisen

Guns N' Roses plan Missoula concert Aug. 26

Foreigner concert in Butte rescheduled for Oct. 25

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