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

May 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.

Lila Rambur adjusts her face mask during graduation ceremonies for Billings Senior students on Sunday. (Billings Gazette)




Butte veteran flew 50 bombing missions over Europe in WWII

Masked and separated, graduates make the most of a tough year

Volunteers plant flags at Montana State Veterans Cemetery

Animal-rights activists protest at Hamilton's Rocky Mountain Labs

Religious life gradually returns to normal in southwest Montana

AG objects to judge's order saying ballots sent on election day will count

It's purity vs pragmatism in key GOP legislative primary races

Mail-in ballots postmarked by June 2 will be counted

Hamilton COVID-19 outbreak linked to luxury golf club

Yellowstone's closed entrances take toll on gateway businesses

Little Shell leaders to use $25M to create urgent care clinic in GTF

Yellowstone's north entrance opened for travel to Cooke City

Broadwater County commissioner charged with theft, misconduct

College officials fear they'll see a steep drop in enrollments this fall

Helena man sentenced to 60 years for rape of group home resident

Montana judge rejects renewed bid to block federal coal leases

Helena man proposes to his girlfriend on billboard -- and gets a yes

Eastern MT storms produce high winds, large hail, possible tornado

Rising Clark Fork River floods west Missoula neighborhood

MT Supreme Court rules fossils worth millions aren't minerals

Supreme Court upholds jury's award of $1.7M in stolen valor case

State sets initial bond for Meagher County copper mine at $4.6M

Bullock outraises Daines by 2-to-1 margin in past 6 weeks

Rock slide closes highway near Craig

Judge blocks law that restricts collection of absentee ballots

Man admits killing 2 in Ravalli County

Glacier Park to open in early June

Debate continues over state's budget response to pandemic

Officials assess failure at St. Mary Diversion project

Montana has nation's 7th fewest coronavirus restrictions

Ideological battles play out in Republican legislative primaries

Police say Box Elder woman, 19, missing since May 14

GOP files ethics complaint over Cooney campaign meeting at Capitol


Whitefish ministry owes workers $150,000 in back wages

COVID-19 hammers MT's wedding industry, but phase 2 offers hope

Whitefish's 4-screen movie theater is closing

Democratic lawmakers accuse PSC of abandoning consumers

Great Falls Tribune laying off 21 as it moves print production to Helena

Red Ants Pants pivots to making PPE for healthcare facilities

First piece of Keystone XL pipeline completed across US border

Florence woman buys Minnesota hogs to sell to Montana families




Tourney sites and dates announced for 2020-21 high school season

Fairfield native to play hoops overseas before getting her law degree

Big Sky Conference drops 4 games for men and women hoopsters

Ryan Leaf, former GTF CMR and NFL QB, arrested for domestic battery

Laurel QB Eli Aby plans to play for MSU

Nebraska offensive lineman transferring to Montana

MSU hoops team has to deal w/ lots of turnover as it faces new season

Pandemic puts early end to Badlands Bowl


How Democrats win in a red state like Montana

Time to ditch the Public Service Commission

State must be careful in how it spends federal COVID funds

Don't rush reopening the economy. But don't delay either

We're now in the end of the beginning

Montana companies are stepping up with large donations

Right now, we're stuck in 1918

PSC right to take time to review NorthWestern's Colstrip proposal


Music cheers up isolated Bigfork assisted living facility residents

Swan Valley craftsman's home and furnishings honored

Bigfork students win presidential award for cave research

Whitefish guitarist loses gigs, but finds another way to pay the bills

The first car traveled over the Big Hole Road in 1914

MSU researcher examines origins of COVID-19 in bats

Penned in by pandemic, Montanans try to get well by getting out

Lolo Ranch's Awesome Osprey Project gives glimpse of birds worldwide


Three Forks country music festival postponed until August

Under the Big Sky Music Festival postponed until 2021

Guns N' Roses cancel Missoula concert slated for Aug. 26

Toby Keith concert in Billings rescheduled for Sept. 17

Foreigner concert in Butte rescheduled for Oct. 25

MSU's Kenny Chesney rescheduled for 2021

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