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Associated Press Montana News Summary
Wednesday, April 1st 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Reps defeat bill for concealed carry on college campuses

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Ten Republicans have joined House Democrats in narrowly defeating a proposal to permit concealed weapons on college campuses.

The Montana House failed Senate Bill 143 on a vote of 49-51 Tuesday.

Supporters say the U.S. Constitution's right to keep and bear arms guarantees that Montana's permit holders should be allowed to carry their concealed guns on public campuses. They also say that shootings at college campuses could be deescalated by a person with a concealed gun who can fight back.

Opponents say only seven states allow concealed carry on campuses because drugs and firearms don't mix.

Republican Rep. Jeffrey Welborn said he voted against the proposal at the request of the parents of a Montana Tech student who was shot and killed by another student in 1982.

The House could reconsider the measure Wednesday.


Montana lawmakers consider referendum revising term limits

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana representatives are considering a proposed referendum to allow legislators to remain in office for up to 16 years in one chamber.

Members of the House State Administration Committee took no immediate action after hearing House Bill 639 Tuesday.

The measure, as amended, would allow lawmakers to serve 16 years in the Legislature in one or between both legislative chambers in any 20-year period. Currently, Montana's constitution states lawmakers can serve eight years in the House in any 16-year period and eight years in the Senate, meaning they have to be elected to another chamber to serve 16 years.

Democratic Rep. Ellie Hill says her proposal would allow lawmakers to move more naturally between the House and the Senate.

If two-thirds of the Legislature approves it, the measure would go to voters in November 2016.


VA Secretary tells Montana veterans: We need to do more

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told veterans in Helena the VA needs to do more to make sure Montana veterans get the health care they need in a timely fashion.

McDonald says the VA has made hires in Billings and Helena and is working to hire primary care doctors and those specializing in mental health particularly in rural areas of the state.

McDonald spoke Tuesday along with U.S. Sen. Jon Tester at the Montana National Guard headquarters near Helena's Fort Harrison VA hospital.

Montana is the 20th state McDonald has visited since replacing Eric Shinseki in July. Shinseki resigned last year in a scandal in which employees throughout the VA's massive hospital system conspired to hide months-long wait times that veterans faced when seeking care.

McDonald and Tester are also meeting with veterans in Missoula and Billings.


Former student gets 5 years with DOC for school fires

(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) A former student at Heritage Christian School in Bozeman who acknowledged twice setting fire to the school has been sentenced to five years with the Montana Department of Corrections.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports 24-year-old Zachary Silflow was sentenced Tuesday on two counts of felony arson. He also was ordered to pay $4.6 million in restitution along with a $467,800 restitution fee, and his sentence will be followed by 15 years of probation.

Silflow was arrested Oct. 24 for a fire early that morning that damaged the school gym. The damage was minimized by a sprinkler system installed when the gym was rebuilt after an August 2012 fire, which Silflow also acknowledged setting.

Silflow said he was upset about how he was treated at the school by students and staff.


Montana firefighters make progress, watch winds

RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) Firefighters in Montana are mopping up but keeping a close eye on the winds.

Mariah Leuschen, spokeswoman for the Custer Gallatin National Forest, says a fire that broke out Saturday in grass and dense timber near Red Lodge was 30 percent contained Tuesday. A plane equipped with infrared sensors went up Tuesday morning, while dozens of firefighters on the ground were painstakingly feeling along the edges of the blaze. The high-tech equipment and the human teams both are seeking lingering embers and hot spots.

Leuschen says firefighters are concerned about strong winds expected to accompany a cold front Tuesday afternoon after a sunny, warm morning.

Meanwhile, the Pine Crest fire 4 miles northeast of Columbus, which also broke out Saturday, was reported 45 percent contained.


Bozeman man charged with arranging sex with 6-year-old

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) A 34-year-old Bozeman man is charged with trying to arrange a sexual encounter with a 6-year-old girl.

Patrick Lee Gonzales was charged with attempted sexual assault during a Justice Court appearance on Monday. He did not enter a plea and posted a $50,000 bond.

Prosecutors say a woman who et Gonzales on a social networking site became suspicious that he was involved in a group that molests children.

The woman allowed a Bozeman police detective to take over her account and contact Gonzales. Court records say the detective found stored conversations in which Gonzales said he sexually molests children.

The detective offered to allow Gonzales to molest a 6-year-old girl.

Gonzales was arrested when he arrived at the meeting place Friday. He told officers his online conversations were just fantasy and he did not intend to assault the child.


Polson man dies of injuries suffered in motorcycle crash

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A Polson man has died of injuries he suffered in a March 20 motorcycle crash on Montana Highway 200, just east of Clearwater Junction.

Missoula County Coroner Rob Taylor tells the Missoulian that 52-year-old Dino Ray Combs suffered a spinal fracture that made him unable to breathe on his own. He died at a Missoula hospital on March 28.

The Montana Highway Patrol says a deer ran out in front of Combs and he was unable to avoid striking it, causing the crash.


Fire continues at collapsed Butte warehouse

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) A fire continued burning Tuesday at a Butte warehouse that partially collapsed last June.

Butte-Silver Bow County and building owner Neil "Joe" Lynch Jr. have been in a dispute over what caused the collapse and what should be done about it. The county wanted to demolish the rest of the five-story building and require Lynch to pay for it.

Firefighters began spraying water on the rubble Friday after seeing smoke. An excavator removed debris on Friday afternoon, but crews were unable to reach the location of the fire.

The fire flared up early Sunday causing other walls to collapse and spill bricks into the street. The building was gutted further, but the fire smoldered Monday and flared up again Tuesday.

Fire Chief Jeff Miller wants to demolish the rest of the building.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Tuesday, March 31st 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Senate passes Medicaid expansion bill touted as compromise

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The Montana Senate has passed a Republican lawmaker's compromise Medicaid expansion bill.

Senators passed the measure 28-21 Monday. It will go next to the House for consideration.

Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls introduced Senate Bill 405 two weeks ago after Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock's proposal to expand Medicaid was defeated earlier in the month.

The Montana Health and Economic Livelihood Partnership (HELP) Act would accept federal funds to expand Medicaid eligibility to low-income people but would require them to pay premiums and co-payments. Enrollees would also be asked to participate in a workplace assessment survey designed to help people obtain better-paying jobs.

Under the measure, adults making up to $16,242 a year and a family of four earning up to $33,465 would become eligible for Medicaid health insurance.


House passes bill to create eastern Montana crime lab

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The Montana House has overwhelmingly passed a bill providing funding for an eastern Montana crime lab.

House members voted to pass the amended bill 97-7 Monday. The bill will go next to the Senate for consideration.

House Bill 512 would fund a satellite crime lab in Billings to help speed up evidence processing and save some officers from having to drive evidence across the state to Missoula to be analyzed.

The funding has been lowered from $5.8 million to $2.05 million with some ideas including a morgue removed from the project.

Supporters say having a lab in Billings would be more efficient because of the increasing numbers of drug and other crimes in eastern Montana, due in part to the increasing number of people working in the Bakken oil fields.


Senate endorses tax credits for private and public schools

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana senators have given initial support to a proposed state income tax credit for donations to both private and public education.

Senators voted 26-23 to endorse Senate Bill 410 on Monday.

Republican Sen. Llew Jones of Conrad says his proposal would help end the continual boycott of either private or public school dollars he's seen over the decade he's been in office.

His bill would establish $150 tax credits for anyone who donates to scholarship programs for K-12 students enrolled in private schools. It would make the same amount available to anyone who donates to innovative educational programs at public schools.

Democratic opponents argue that, given the discrepancy between public and private school enrollment, the $3 million cap on each fund is not as equal as Jones says it is.


Montanans who didn't file 2011 taxes may have missed refunds

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) As this year's tax deadline nears, the IRS is reminding Montana and Wyoming residents who didn't file a 2011 federal tax return that they may be missing out on a refund.

The Billings Gazette reports about 3,700 Montanans are owed a total of $3.3 million for income tax returns they didn't file, while about 2,300 Wyoming taxpayers are owned $2.98 million.

The median amount unclaimed is $676 in Montana and $835 in Wyoming.

IRS spokesman Bill Brunson says the 2011 returns must be mailed and postmarked by April 15. There is no penalty for filing late if a refund is due. If the refunds aren't claimed, the money goes back to the U.S. Treasury.

The IRS says refunds may be owed to low- to moderate-income taxpayers through the Earned Income Tax Credit, which can be worth up to $5,751.


Billings woman gets suspended sentence for arson

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 47-year-old Billings woman was given a three-year suspended sentence for setting fire to her residence.

The Billings Gazette reports District Judge Russell Fagg sentenced Hermalinda Marie Ramirez on Monday. She pleaded guilty to arson in December as part of a plea agreement that called for dismissing two counts of felony assault with a weapon.

Court records alleged Ramirez became angry because she believed someone was stealing her property so she poured gasoline in her bedroom and set a fire in February 2014.

Dispatchers received a report of the fire at about the same time Ramirez's sister called to report Ramirez was threatening her and her son with a pipe wrench.

Public defender Gregory Paskell emphasized the fire took place after Ramirez stopped taking her medication. He says she is back on her medications.


Fire burns 2 Montana homes, forces evacuations

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Stillwater County officials have lifted an evacuation order for a subdivision near a 4.5-square-mile fire in south-central Montana, but roads remain closed to the public and the crews are bracing for strong winds forecast for Tuesday afternoon.

The evacuation order was lifted Monday morning for the more than 50 homes in the Pine Crest subdivision near Columbus, where two homes were burned.

The fire started early Saturday afternoon. The cause is still under investigation.

Fire information officer Crystal Beckman says the fire is 10 percent contained and firefighters completed a burn operation Sunday to reduce available fuel.

Crews planned to work Monday on securing fire lines and cooling down hotspots ahead of winds forecast to gust to 20 mph on Monday afternoon. A fire weather watch forecasts warmer temperatures, lower humidity and wind gusts up to 45 mph on Tuesday.


Victim of Havre motorcycle crash identified

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) Officials have released the name of a 28-year-old Havre man who died in a weekend motorcycle crash.

Hill County Sheriff Don Brostrom said 28-year-old Shane Paul Boucher died shortly after 11 p.m. Friday. The Montana Highway Patrol says the motorcycle he was riding failed to negotiate a turn, slid off the road and hit a concrete barrier.

Patrol Capt. Duane Bowers says the other occupant, 25-year-old Timothy Anderson of Dillon, was taken to the Havre hospital then flown to Great Falls for treatment of serious injuries.

Bowers says officials are still trying to figure out who was driving. Neither was wearing a helmet.


Grizzly bear killed for killing calf

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) State and federal wildlife officials euthanized a male grizzly bear after it killed a calf on a ranch west of Augusta.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks bear management specialist Mike Madel said Monday that the 430-pound bear was caught in a snare on Saturday. Officials determined it was the offending bear after matching its teeth to the bite marks on the calf.

The 6-year-old bear had no previous history of conflicts, but guidelines set by the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee allow for adult male grizzlies to be euthanized after one conflict.

Madel says based on their knowledge of grizzly bears on the Rocky Mountain Front, adult males that kill livestock tend to kill livestock again.

The bear's skull and hide will be used for educational purposes.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Monday, March 30th 2015 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Montana ski area back in operation after Saturday evacuation

RED LODGE, Mont. (AP) A southern Montana ski area resumed normal operations Sunday and weather conditions improved, allowing firefighters to attack wildfires that ignited the previous day in the state and northern Wyoming.

Red Lodge Mountain ski area spokesman Jeff Carroll says the ski mountain was open and the snow was good Sunday morning.

On Saturday, about 650 skiers were evacuated from the ski area because of a wildfire about 3 miles away.

The fire burned about 700 acres. There was no containment as of Sunday morning, but weather conditions were much improved with less wind and cooler temperatures.


Jury finds woman guilty of helping Kevin Briggs

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) A jury has found a 41-year-old Bozeman woman guilty of helping an attempted rape suspect who had escaped custody.

Sherry Michelle Jackson was convicted of a single count of obstructing justice Friday after a two-day trial in Bozeman.

District Court Judge John Brown scheduled sentencing for May 26.

Jackson was accused of helping Kevin Briggs after he escaped from the Gallatin County Law and Justice Center on Feb. 1, 2014.

Briggs was in custody on suspicion that he had drugged, attacked and tried to rape a woman.

Briggs was caught nearly three weeks later in Oregon.


1 dead, 1 injured in Havre motorcycle accident

(Information in the following story is from: KFBB-TV, http://www.kfbb.com)

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) A 28-year-old man has died and another man has been injured in a motorcycle accident in Havre.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the accident occurred about 11:10 p.m. Friday when it failed to negotiate a left turn and hit a concrete barrier.

The patrol says the man who died was from Havre. The injured 25-year-old man is from Dillon.

No names have been released.

Neither man was wearing a helmet.


No changes planned for Yellowstone River paddlefish season

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks has no plans to change its paddlefish season in the Yellowstone River west of Glendive where an oil spill occurred.

About 30,000 gallons of oil spilled into the river on Jan. 17.

The FWP has issued a fish-consumption advisory for any fish caught below the spill site. The advisory will be in effect at least for two more weeks.

Montana's 2015 paddlefish season on the Yellowstone River opens May 15.

The department has no plans to change the season because biologists say paddlefish spend much of the winter in North Dakota and were not exposed to the oil.


Forest Service eyes development of improved fire shelter

BOISE, Idaho (AP) The U.S. Forest Service says it's picking up the pace on developing a new fire shelter after the deaths of 19 firefighters in Arizona where officials say flames and heat went beyond the current shelter's protective capabilities.

National Director of Fire and Aviation Management Tom Harbour says that's one aspect of a plan to help firefighters who are facing increasingly ferocious wildfires complicated by home building in wildland areas.

He says the 2013 fire that killed the Arizona firefighters fit that description.

Harbour says the federal agency is working with the U.S. Marine Corps to learn strategies for coping with stress and making good decisions under pressure.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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