Last Best Blog

This is the weblog page of Last Best News. Here you will find some news, perhaps, but also lots of commentary, opinion and satire. Just so you know.

Recent Posts

Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 26

Eric

Infrastructure-funding bill tweaked
By Cole Grant
The House Appropriations Committee voted Wednesday to revive and tighten up a bill that would borrow money to pay for some infrastructure projects, like improvements to parks and public schools. Senate Bill 367, carried by Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, originally authorized for bonding up to $98 million, but that was whittled down to around $80 million. Among other things, the new amendments cut a little less than half of the funding for the quality-schools grant program. That would fund things like building repairs and fire system upgrades for public schools throughout the state. Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, whose infrastructure bill failed earlier this month, supported the bill. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Tuesday, April 25

JC

Legislature passes compromise bill on ‘Real ID’
By Freddy Monares
The Legislature passed a bill Tuesday that offers a compromise on the 2005 federal “Real ID Act,” which standardizes state identification cards. At the end of this year, a Montana driver’s license would not meet the federal standards to be used for air travel or access to federal facilities. Senate Bill 366 would give Montanans the option of paying a fee for a special license that complies with the federal guidelines. The bill was amended in a free conference committee to draw funds from a state special revenue account and borrow money for implementation. Some of the borrowing could be pushed back if the state receives an extension from the federal government to comply. Continue Reading →

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Dates set for 2 House candidate Facebook town halls

Forward Montana is still waiting to hear from Greg Gianforte, but the other two candidates for the state’s sole U.S. House seat have scheduled Facebook Live town halls. As we reported earlier this month, Forward Montana has teamed up with Last Best News and the Missoula Independent to sponsor the town halls. Democratic candidate Rob Quist and Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks will be featured in hour-long town halls moderated by Alex Sakariassen of the Missoula Independent, who will be asking questions submitted by readers. Some questions have been submitted already, but we could use some more, so please go to https://goo.gl/forms/Y3CN9ZJXPVhf66zm1 and submit yours. Forward Montana, a youth-advocacy group whose slogan is “Not right, not left, but forward,” has not yet been able to schedule a town hall with Gianforte, the Republican candidate for the House seat vacated by Ryan Zinke when he became secretary of the Interior. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, April 24

TR

Senate rejects changes to political practices bill
By Freddy Monares
The Senate rejected amendments to a bill Monday that would require the now-independent commissioner of political practices to report to the state’s attorney general and issue warnings to candidates before fining them for not complying with campaign laws. Senate Bill 368 would increase the money candidates could raise, but when the House passed it last week, it also added the amendments the Senate rejected Monday. Sen. Tom Richmond, R-Billings,is the sponsor of the bill. Richmond especially opposed the amendment about the shift of supervision. “Which I think is a matter of policy that we didn’t choose to go down that path,” Richmond said. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, April 21

Budget bill on the way to governor
By Cole Grant
It’s been a long, hard trek, but the $10.3 billion Montana state budget is now on its way to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, chairs the House Appropriations Committee and is sponsoring House Bill 2. She said the budget cuts as deeply as it could without impacting essential services like education, healthcare and corrections. “Now, some say we didn’t spend enough, others are saying we didn’t cut enough,” she said. Bullock said he thinks there have been constructive conversations with both Democrats and Republicans about how to make a budget that funds essential services, doesn’t spend more than it brings in, “and leaves me with a degree of flexibility so I’m not picking up the pieces and calling them back into session.”

Bullock now has 10 days to review the bill. Continue Reading →

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Independent staff weighs in on sale to Lee

Lee

As promised, the staff of the Missoula Independent has written extensively about the sale of the newspaper to Lee Enterprises, the national chain that owns the Missoulian and the Billings Gazette. The coverage includes news stories, a Q&A section with some damned hilarious segments, an editorial from publisher Matt Gibson and a damned hilarious column from Dan Brooks. (His column also highlights the chief danger of satire: I’m not absolutely sure he was joking about this being his last column.)

It’s all good stuff, even if a faint air of whistling in the graveyard hangs over the issue. Everyone involved wants desperately to believe that Lee will live up to its promise of hands-off ownership, wants to believe its assurances that the Indy’s tradition of hard-nosed reporting on the Missoulian is something that has to continue. There were more than a few signs of writers pushing the boundaries right out of the gate, to see what will be tolerated in the new era. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Thursday, April 20

NB

House OKs Senate budget amendments
By Cole Grant
The Montana budget needs just one more vote to get to Gov. Steve Bullock’s desk. On Thursday, the Montana House of Representatives voted to agree with the Senate’s amendments to House Bill 2, or the state’s two-year budget. Rep. Nancy Ballance, R-Hamilton, said communication with the Senate was key. “We met with the Senate prior to them taking up any amendments,” she said. “Made sure they understood that we believe that budget was as complete as we could get it, and asked them to keep it within the bounds that we had set in filling the major holes, and that is exactly what they did.”

Minority Leader Jenny Eck, D-Helena, voted against the amendments. Continue Reading →

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Library hosts panel discussion of Montana literature

Liberry

Montana has become known for its rich history of books and writers, but how did that happen? Neighboring states like Wyoming and the Dakotas boast a handful of well-known writers, but with books and stories like “The Big Sky,” “A River Runs Through It” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance,” Montana established itself early on as a place that produces quality writers. Thursday night, the Billings Public Library will host a panel discussion about some of these writers and books, and panelists will bat around a few ideas of what it is about Montana that inspires such incredible literature. The discussion will start at 6:30 p.m. in the library’s Royal Johnson Community Room, led by local author Russell Rowland. The panel will also feature, High Plains Book Festival founder Corby Skinner, former Montana Poet Laureate Tami Haaland, Last Best News founder Ed Kemmick and MSU-Billings literature professor Rachel Schaffer. Continue Reading →

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Ulvestad to run for City Council again in Ward 5

DU

Dennis Ulvestad says he’s ready to make his fifth run for the Billings City Council. In a press release from Lori Johnson, described as his campaign and public relations manager, Ulvestad said he will be running again in Ward 5. He ran for the same seat unsuccessfully every two years between 2009 and 2015. Filing for city elections opens Thursday, with the mayoralty and five City Council seats up for grabs this year. Ulvestad was born in Glasgow and moved to Billings with his family in 1957, graduating from Billings West High School in 1968. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Tuesday, April 18

Keith

Senate nixes House change to tax bill
Freddy Monares
The Senate on Tuesday rejected a House amendment to a bill that would provide a tax exemption for property owners whose land value is at least double the value of the house or other property on the land. The House passed Senate Bill 94 earlier this month, but amended it to include income caps for a taxpayer to quality for the exemption. Sen. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, is the sponsor of the bill. He asked the Senate to reject the amendment because of the impact on the state’s general fund. “The House amendment raised the fiscal note 28 percent over the version that left this chamber,” Regier said. Continue Reading →

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