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  • Republican proposes to end pension system

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — The Republican chairman of a special committee charged with fixing the beleaguered state pension systems said Tuesday that elements of his proposal to end the plan for new employees will be part of final negotiations on the complicated issue. Gov. Steve Bullock's office opposed the plan in favor of the Democrat's proposal to fix the current system — setting up protracted negotiations over a tough political issue that has seen lots of talk and little action in recent years. AP Photo/Matt Gouras Republican sta... Full story

  • Critics says bill allows creationism in schools

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — A lawmaker's proposal protecting "alternative viewpoints" during the teaching of evolution and science in schools came under fire Friday from opponents who argued it would pave the way for teaching of creationism. Rep. Clayton Fiscus, R-Billings, said evolution isn't settled science and called it a "monumental leap" to believe it is true. His bill would allow teachers — if they want — to address perceived weaknesses in evolution studies in the classroom. "This is just a bill to instruct what we have prese...

  • Tragedy, Obama proposal spark state gun proposals

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — As new gun laws are considered in the wake of recent mass shootings, the debate over such proposals in Montana is ramping up. One state senator has claimed that gangs of thieves are stalking gun owners, and a state representative is moving to resist any attempt to ban assault rifles. AP Photo/Matt Gouras David Phillip, left, and Kelly Phillip of Missoula pose at a pro-gun rally at the state Capitol on Saturday, Jin Helena. Rallies were held across the country this weekend to raise concerns about possible new gun l...

  • Montana Senate Republicans meet for pep talk

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — Montana Senate Republicans held a pep talk Thursday for their members after documents detailing an internal power struggle publicly exposed a widening rift within the caucus — but the message was met with skepticism by at least one ousted leader. Senate President Jeff Essmann, appearing to offer a concession, told the caucus he will let the group decide policy goals collectively — including whether to back those coming from moderates. Essmann said his only personal goal is a conservative and balanced budget. AP Ph... Full story

  • Abortion foes say voters may trump Constitution

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — Abortion foes seeking to expand the state's parental notification law say voter-backed laws can trump the Montana Constitution. The debate played significantly in a Friday debate over plans to rewrite and expand a recently-passed ballot measure requiring minors under 16 years old to receive parental permission for an abortion. House Bill 391 increases the age requiring consent to all minors under 18 years old. It also requires both parent and teen to receive and sign a notification form about the dangers of t...

  • City enforcement of immigration laws before panel

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — Montana lawmakers on Monday looked at a proposal that would require cities to help enforce anti-immigration laws, which supporters argue is necessary to prevent what has happened in other states. The measure from Republican David Howard of Park City would prohibit cities from establishing policies that they won't enforce illegal immigration. He told the House Judiciary Committee on Monday that House Bill 50 ensures local governments will enforce federal law. Howard said that cities elsewhere have made it a p...

  • Gun advocates push bill expanding rights

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — Gun advocates are advancing several measures aimed at expanding gun rights. The House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday took a second day of testimony on six bills backed by gun advocates. One of the measures allows concealed carry of weapons by anyone who would otherwise qualify for a permit. Supporters say concealed carry is currently allowed by anyone outside of city limits, a policy they argued has worked. They also want to allow concealed guns in currently prohibited places like bars. Opponents argued it w...

  • Judge releases edited Barkus boat crash report

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — A state judge has released a heavily redacted investigative report in the 2009 boat crash that injured U.S. Senate candidate Denny Rehberg. The 155-page document released Wednesday is a 2011 presentencing investigation report compiled after the boat's driver, state Sen. Greg Barkus, pleaded guilty to felony criminal endangerment. The report details many facts already known. Barkus piloted the boat into the rocky shore of Flathead Lake at a high rate of speed and with a blood alcohol content that was at least twice t...

  • Gov.-elect Bullock brings back former FWP director

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — Gov.-elect Steve Bullock announced Friday that he was bringing back a former Fish, Wildlife and Parks director to run the agency, a move welcomed by some critics and employees alike. Jeff Hagener led the department for four years under former Gov. Judy Martz. He also held the same post during Gov. Brian Schweitzer's first term before he was replaced at the end of 2008 by current director Joe Maurier. Bullock, a Democrat who is preparing to leave his post as attorney general to take over the governor's office, also n...

  • Baucus and Tester take cautious approach on guns

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA (AP) — Two Montana Democrats who could play a big role in the U.S. Senate's debate on gun control are not immediately closing the door on new restrictions. But U.S. Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester are taking a more cautious approach than some other pro-gun members of Congress who have expressed a willingness to bend on the issue. The two Democrats led a push in 2009 against early Obama administration discussions about reinstating the ban on what it considered to be assault-style weapons. Tester, who last month just won...

  • Schweitzer helping down-ticket Democrats

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — Gov. Brian Schweitzer has so far been a bystander in the state's big U.S. Senate race showdown — and says he thinks he is most effective helping down-ticket Democrats. Polling shows that Schweitzer remains the most popular politician in the state. But U.S. Sen. Jon Tester has not brought Schweitzer in as a surrogate on the campaign trail. Schweitzer says he expects to do more rallies next week touting state Democratic candidates like Steve Bullock for governor, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch, state schools Sup...

  • Bullock, Hill advance to general election battle

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — Attorney General Steve Bullock easily won Montana's Democratic nomination for governor Tuesday night and looked ahead to a general election battle with former U.S. Rep. Rick Hill, who topped a crowded Republican field. Hill was always considered the front-runner on the GOP side but had to fight hard to seal the win over state Sens. Corey Stapleton of Billings and Ken Miller of Laurel. AP Photo/Dylan Brown, Independant Record Steve Bullock and John Walsh supporters cheer, after Bullock gives a speech Tuesday nigh i... Full story

  • Ethics complaint against Gov. Schweitzer dismissed

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — The commissioner of political practices dismissed the ethics case against Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Thursday, prompting a strong reaction from the Montana Republican Party, which promised to continue pursuing the case. Schweitzer, a Democrat, was accused of improperly using state resources to appear in a public service radio advertisement at the same time he was running for re-election in 2008. Last summer, a hearings officer recommended that Schweitzer pay a $4,100 fine for violating state laws that ban e... Full story

  • Warburton sponsors constitutional changes to restrict abortion

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press HELENA — House Republicans are pushing longshot constitutional changes aimed at restricting abortion, with the sponsor backing the measures arguing they will help the party at the polls. Both proposed amendments would go to voters in 2012 if they clear the Legislature, which appears unlikely. Proposed constitutional changes require support from a total of 100 of 150 House and Senate lawmakers — and Republicans fall four votes shy of being able to get it done on their own. In House votes on Mon... Full story

  • Lawmaker resigns leadership post after citation

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    MT lawmaker resigns leadership post after citation MATT GOURAS,Associated Press HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State Sen. Jim Shockley resigned Thursday as Judiciary Committee chairman after he was cited for driving with an open beer in his vehicle, but said he will continue his run for state attorney general. The Republican from Victor told The Associated Press he will not let the incident derail his plans to run for higher office in 2012. But, he added, he broke the law and it is not possible to continue running the Senate J...

  • Senate endorses monitoring of repeat DUI offenders

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    Senate endorses monitoring of repeat DUI offenders MATT GOURAS, Associated Press HELENA — Attorney General Steve Bullock's proposal to crack down on repeat drunk-driving offenders was endorsed Monday by the Montana Senate, paving the way for the measure to clear the Legislature. The chamber moved the plan ahead on a 40-9 vote, with just a few opponents arguing the measure goes too far by stringently treating every repeat DUI offender as an alcoholic. Under the plan, repeat DUI offenders are required to take to a breath t... Full story

  • Tester ready for Rehberg challenge

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press

    HELENA — Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Tester and longtime Republican stalwart U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg have been sparring for more than a year, but it appears they really have something to fight about. Tester's campaign says they have been preparing a long time for a 2012 challenge by Rehberg. The populist farmer's spokesman calls Rehberg's candidacy "the worst kept secret in Montana." Rehberg's campaign would not confirm his plans on Tuesday. Campaign spokesman Brian Barrett says Rehberg plans to make an announcement on S... Full story

  • Fed judge dismisses states' gun suit

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    Fed judge dismisses states' gun suit MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge in Missoula has dismissed a lawsuit by gun rights advocates and states seeking freedom from federal gun laws, a move that the advocates promised to appeal. The decision Wednesday from U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy was expected since his magistrate a month ago recommended tossing out the lawsuit because Congress has the authority to regulate firearms with its constitutional power to regulate interstate commerce. M...

  • Breaking news: Montana allows conservative group in charity program

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    Mont. allows conservative group in charity program MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A conservative group that claimed it was unfairly banned from a state employee charity campaign will be allowed to participate after a settlement with the state. The state Department of Administration said it was glad to remove its ban on sectarian-based groups in the program — which dates back to the mid-1990s — after looking into the issue. The program allows state employees to automatically donate to their favor... Full story

  • Board won't pay Dennison's higher pension

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    ntana board won't pay Dennison's higher pension MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A state retirement board on Friday shot down a request from outgoing University of Montana President George Dennison to increase his pension based on his recent 35 percent pay increase. State rules prevent big salary increases near retirement from causing a similar increase in pension payments. But Dennison was asking the Teacher's Retirement Board to grant an exception to the 10 percent cap on such last-minute pay h...

  • Montana tea party gets mired in attacks on gays

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    Jim Ravndal, former president of the Big Sky Tea Party Association, said he's wasn't nervous about attending the rally after being ousted over an anti-gay exchange on Facebook. Behind him stand student counter-protesters. Montna tea party gets mired in attacks on gays MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Tea party leaders stung by turmoil over anti-gay rhetoric from their ranks acknowledge the publicity over the issue hurts the movement but hope the rancor will be short-lived. The Big Sky Tea Party A...

  • Schweitzer corners Travelocity over tax dispute

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    Schweitzer corners Travelocity over tax dispute MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Brian Schweitzer publicly hammered Travelocity leaders Tuesday over a growing tax dispute — the same day the online travel reservation company announced a program aimed at promoting the state. The Internet travel giant rolled out sponsorship of Montana festivals and highlighted its promotion of the state at the Montana Economic Development Summit in Butte on Tuesday. Schweitzer took some of the wind out of the ann... Full story

  • Breaking news — Panel sends tougher DUI measures to Legislature

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    Panel sends tougher DUI measures to Legislature MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Lawmakers hoping to change Montana's drinking and driving culture agreed Friday to send a series of tougher proposed laws to the full Legislature. Montana has long ranked among the worst states in drunken driving statistics. Lawmakers and policy leaders are increasingly deciding the time has come to crack down. Proposals approved Friday by the Law and Justice Interim Committee include efforts to reduce the number of m... Full story

  • AP Interview: Ousted tea party leader seeks return

    MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer

    AP Interview: Ousted tea party leader seeks return MATT GOURAS,Associated Press Writer HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana tea party association leader ousted over an anti-gay exchange on Facebook says he wants his leadership post back. The Big Sky Tea Party Association fired Tim Ravndal Sunday after learning of his online comments about same-sex couples made in July. The post spurred an exchange that appeared to joke about the 1998 beating death of a gay college student in Wyoming. Ravndal denies he was making a connection t...