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Saturday, September 24th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
NEW WEST INSURANCE

Montana insurer to shut down in 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Officials for a Montana health insurance company say the company will shut down next year.

Ryan O'Connell of New West Health Services said Friday the company will cease operations after it fulfills its requirements for this year's insurance plans.

Company CEO Angela Huschka says the company is not able to be financially successful with health insurance industry's increasing complexity and new challenges.

The company will continue to process claims from this year in 2017.

New West has 15,000 customers, including 14,000 with Medicare Advantage coverage. It employs 84 people in Helena, Kalispell and Billings.

Policyholders can choose another health plan beginning next month.

In 2012, New West sold its 10,600 hospital employee policies to Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Montana and its commercial health insurance business to PacificSource.

MONTANA ELECTIONS-GOVERNOR

Bullock opponent questions 'most fiscally prudent' claim

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Gov. Steve Bullock has repeatedly claimed Montana is the most fiscally prudent state in the nation in his re-election campaign.

But the 2014 report the Democrat cites was updated this year with state data collected under new reporting requirements. Montana now ranks 26th.

The 2014 report by JP Morgan's Michael Cembalest analyzed what percentage of revenue each state pays toward its debt and pension obligations.

Montana fared best among states in that report. Its ranking fell when Cembalest updated the report in May with data submitted by the states under the new reporting requirements.

Bullock budget director Dan Villa said Friday the new requirements skew the results, and Montana's finances have only improved.

Aaron Flint, spokesman for Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, criticized Bullock for trying to discredit the update of the report he had been touting.

UM ENROLLMENT

University of Montana fall enrollment down

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Fall enrollment at the University of Montana's main campus is down 6.1 percent compared to last year, continuing a downward trend since it reported a peak enrollment of 13,198 students in 2010.

Tom Crady, UM's new vice president for enrollment management, said Friday he plans to increase the numbers by marketing the school to more prospective students, contacting them as sophomores instead of when they're juniors and improving the speed with which applications are processed and applicant questions are answered.

The fall headcount at UM is 10,329 students, down from 10,999 last fall and down 22 percent since 2010.

Crady says the university has an extraordinarily positive reputation outside the state and is more affordable than many schools. He plans to focus his initial efforts on increasing freshman enrollment, because that impacts enrollment for four or five years.

He also notes the campus, dorms and classrooms aren't overcrowded.

HOMELESS VETERANS HOME

Housing for homeless veterans opening in Great Falls

(Information from: KFBB-TV, http://www.kfbb.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A grand opening celebration is planned in Great Falls this weekend for a program aimed at helping homeless veterans get off the streets.

KFBB-TV reports the St. Vincent de Paul Grace Home will provide transitional housing for 10 veterans at a time, starting in October. Veterans will get their own room and other support as they look for work and their own housing.

St. Vincent de Paul estimates as many as 50 veterans are homeless on any given night in Great Falls.

Saturday's celebration starts at 2 p.m. There will be a silent auction, barbecue and tours of the home.

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YELLOWSTONE RIVER CLOSURE-IMPACT

Report: Yellowstone River closure cost Park County $360,000

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Though the final 17-mile stretch of the Yellowstone River was reopened Friday, the University of Montana estimates that Park County lost hundreds of thousands of dollars while the river was closed.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that preliminary figures from a University of Montana Institute for Tourism and Recreation report say the closure of the popular stream cost Park County between $360,000 and $524,000, based on past spending data from non-resident visitors.

The report says the loss was the equivalent of between five and eight full-time jobs.

The Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks on Aug. 19 banned all recreation on a 183-mile stretch of the river from Gardiner to Laurel to prevent the spread of a parasite that was killing tens of thousands of mountain whitefish.

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ROBBIE KNIEVEL-BUTTE CRASH

Robbie Knievel gets deferred sentence for DUI crash in Butte

(Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Robbie Knievel, the youngest son of late motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, has received a two-year deferred sentence for a drunken-driving crash in Butte.

The Montana Standard reports Knievel said in court Thursday he was "definitely guilty" of endangering those who were involved in a four-car pileup after he ran a red light in Butte on April 21, 2015. The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, a second offense, and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service.

Knievel, who was overcome with emotion at the hearing, said "I would like to say from the bottom of my heart I thank God nobody got hurt."

He says he has been sober since his arrest.

Friday, September 23rd 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT
MONTANA ELECTIONS-HOUSE-THE LATEST

The Latest: New Libertarian candidate certified for ballot

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Secretary of State Linda McCulloch has accepted the filing of the Libertarian Party's replacement candidate for the U.S. House race.

McCulloch spokeswoman Emily Dean said Thursday that an earlier dispute over Rick Breckenridge's candidacy has been resolved.

The Ravalli County Libertarian Central Committee forwarded Breckenridge's name to replace Mike Fellows in the House race against Republican U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke and Democrat Denise Juneau.

But McCulloch did not immediately accept Breckenridge's filing, saying it was unclear who spoke for the party.

Libertarian gubernatorial candidate Ted Dunlap says a faction within the party had backed a different candidate and told McCulloch the Ravalli County committee did not speak for the entire party.

Fellows died in a car crash Monday night.

The resolution of the dispute allows election ballots to be reprinted with Breckenridge's name.

ROBBIE KNIEVEL-BUTTE CRASH

Robbie Knievel gets deferred sentence for DUI crash in Butte

(Information from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Robbie Knievel, the youngest son of late motorcycle daredevil Evel Knievel, has received a two-year deferred sentence for a drunken-driving crash in Butte.

The Montana Standard reports Knievel said in court Thursday he was "definitely guilty" of endangering those who were involved in a four-car pileup after he ran a red light in Butte on April 21, 2015. The 54-year-old pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, a second offense, and was ordered to complete 40 hours of community service.

Knievel, who was overcome with emotion at the hearing, said "I would like to say from the bottom of my heart I thank God nobody got hurt."

He says he has been sober since his arrest.

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FRACKING CHEMICALS-THE LATEST

The Latest: Montana board rejects more fracking disclosures

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana regulators have turned back an effort to make energy companies divulge more information about fracking chemicals that are used to produce oil and gas.

Thursday's action leaves in place a 2011 state rule that allows companies to conceal the ingredients of some chemicals that are considered trade secrets.

The Montana Oil and Gas Conservation Board voted unanimously against a petition that would have made companies either disclose details on the chemicals or else justify withholding them.

During fracking, companies pump large volumes of industrial fluids underground to release oil and gas trapped in rock formations.

A group of landowners, environmentalists and health advocates say harmful chemicals in those fluids can threaten water supplies. They argued the current state rule violates the public's right to know about matters that can threaten public health.

SECURITIES FRAUD

Bigfork man being investigated for securities fraud

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Bigfork man is being investigated in a case alleging he defrauded 36 investors.

The state Securities Department alleges John "Kevin" Moore and his business, Big Sky Mineral Resources, sold $2.7 million in investments in oil leases without registering the securities with the state.

Securities officials allege the leases don't exist and Moore was operating a Ponzi scheme. Moore said Thursday that he has oil leases registered in Lewis and Clark County.

An affidavit filed with the District Court in Kalispell alleges Moore withdrew nearly $800,000 in cash from investor's money and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on mortgages, vehicles and other personal expenses.

District Judge Robert Allison on Tuesday granted a temporary order restraining Moore from selling investments and disposing of any assets. He set a Sept. 30 hearing for Moore to argue why his assets shouldn't be frozen.

FATAL STABBING-SENTENCE

Billings man gets 45 years in prison for fatal stabbing

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 56-year-old Billings man has been sentenced to 45 years in prison for stabbing a man to death during an argument over money.

The Billings Gazette reports Robert Lee Bauer was sentenced Thursday. He had earlier pleaded guilty to mitigated deliberate homicide in the December 2015 death of 40-year-old Joseph Broken Rope, a father of eight.

The details of the fatal stabbing were revealed during the sentencing hearing.

Prosecutors said Broken Rope had often purchased Bauer's state assistance food card from him, and Bauer believed Broken Rope still owed him $150. Late on Dec. 10, Bauer called Broken Rope and asked him to meet him downtown with the money.

Witnesses say Broken Rope hit Bauer, who then stabbed Broken Rope, piercing his heart. Bauer ran away and Broken Rope bled to death in the street.

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ARLEE HOMICIDE-PLEA

Woman pleads guilty to her role in nephew's death

(Information from: KERR-AM, http://www.750kerr.com/)

POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A 24-year-old Arlee woman has pleaded guilty to her role in the beating death of her 18-year-old nephew.

KERR-AM reports Kassandra Seese pleaded guilty Wednesday to accountability to negligent homicide in the Feb. 17 death of Richard Warner. Warner's body was discovered in June covered with clothes and furniture in the shower of a trailer where Seese and her family had been living.

Prosecutors say Seese told investigators that she and two children were present when Stephen Seese struck Warner in the head with a hammer.

The family continued to live in the trailer until early May. Two people moving the trailer in June noticed a rancid odor and found Warner's remains.

Lake County Attorney Steve Eschenbacher says he is working on a plea agreement with Stephen Seese. For now, his trial is scheduled to start on Nov. 14.

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