Associated Press Montana News Summary
Friday, November 16th 2012
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
SCHWEITZER-BUDGET

Schweitzer hands off big budget plan to Bullock

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Gov. Brian Schweitzer is packing his final budget proposal with plenty of big ideas, such as accepting federal money for a health care expansion.

But Schweitzer says he is also leaving enough room with a $410 million projected surplus for Gov.-elect Steve Bullock's campaign promises.

The proposal covers the next two years.

Bullock takes office in January and can make his own adjustments before the Republican-led legislature makes changes of its own. Bullock then gets the final say.

Schweitzer says the state only has to pay $5 million under the federal health care law to extend Medicaid coverage to many of the state's uninsured.

Overall, the governor's proposal increases spending 3 percent each of the next two years as it seeks increases in education and other funding.

ELECTION-RECOUNT

Recount costs estimated at $115K in schools race

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Montana officials say Republican Sandy Welch can use money from her party or any other source to cover the $115,000 cost of an anticipated recount in the state schools superintendent race.

Welch came up 2,264 votes short of toppling incumbent Democrat Denise Juneau in the contest for Superintendent of Public Instruction.

That's within the margin needed for a recount. Welch says she wants one, but she will have to put up a bond to cover the costs.

The Secretary of State's office said Thursday a statewide recount would cost about 25 cents per ballot, with more than 468,000 ballots cast in the contest.

The Commissioner of Political Practices Office says there will be no restrictions on how Welch raises the money.

DAINES-LAWSUIT

Democratic Party asks judge to dismiss Daines suit

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

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) The Montana Democratic Party has asked a judge to dismiss a lawsuit by the former boss of U.S. Rep.-elect Steve Daines over anti-Daines campaign ads.

Attorney Peter Meloy says statements in those ads don't rise to the level of libel, as Greg Gianforte alleges.

Gianforte is the founder of RightNow Technologies in Bozeman. Daines was a vice-president of the company until he left to campaign.

Gianforte's lawsuit says the party distributed an ad that says Daines helped build the business with taxpayer money then shipped the jobs overseas.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Gianforte is seeking unspecified damages, attorney's fees and an apology.

Meloy says the claims don't pass the test for defamation. He says the comments may have annoyed Gianforte, but they did not disgrace or degrade him.

LAWMAKER-GOLD PAY

Mont. denies lawmaker's request for pay in gold

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A Montana legislator who wants to be paid in silver and gold will have to be satisfied with bills that fold.

Republican Rep. Jerry O'Neil of Columbia Falls this week asked the Montana Legislative Services Division to pay him in gold and silver coins because he is spooked about the nation's fiscal outlook and the dollar's future.

A legislative attorney responded to the request Wednesday by saying that neither the U.S. Constitution nor Montana state law requires an agency to pay its debts with gold or silver.

Attorney Jaret Coles wrote in his letter to Legislative Services Executive Director Susan Fox that he is unable to conclude the state is allowed to pay legislators in precious metals.

However, Coles writes, a legislator can introduce a bill to require such payments.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA-RAIDS

Judge denies convicted pot provider's release

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A judge has denied the temporary release of a convicted medical marijuana provider who faces a possible 92-year prison sentence.

Chris Williams was convicted of eight drug and weapons counts after refusing to take a plea deal like Montana Cannabis' three other owners.

He is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4.

Williams asked to be released from jail until that date. He planned to live with a friend in Bozeman, where his son attends Montana State University, and work as a financial adviser.

On Thursday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Keith Strong denied the request.

Strong says Williams has few ties to Bozeman and is a flight risk. The judge says Williams is not trained for the job he plans to take, so he could pose a financial danger to the community.

YELLOWSTONE WOLVES-HUNTING

Collared wolves from Yellowstone killed

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Yellowstone National Park's chief scientist says seven gray wolves that were collared for research purposes have been shot by hunters in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming.

Yellowstone Center for Resources Chief Dave Hallac said Thursday there's been no indication any wolves were taken illegally. He says two were from packs that no longer spend most of their time in the park.

Wildlife advocates say the killings underscore the need for a buffer zone around Yellowstone with limits on wolf hunting and trapping. Otherwise, they warn the number of dead park wolves will quickly climb once Montana's trapping season begins next month.

Hallec says the number killed so far does not threaten the park's population of 85-100 wolves.

The animals were removed from the endangered species list last year by Congress.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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