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Montana News - AP

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Senate blasts Medicaid expansion bill to floor for debate

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Senators have voted to blast a Republican lawmaker's Medicaid expansion bill out of committee and to the floor for debate.

The motion passed by a 28-22 vote on Thursday.

Sen. Ed Buttrey of Great Falls introduced Senate Bill 405 last week, touting it as a compromise bill.

The measure would accept money from the federal government for expanding Medicaid eligibility to low-income Montanans, but requires them to pay premiums each month as well as co-payments for certain services.

Those who enroll would also be asked to participate in a workplace assessment survey designed to help people obtain higher-paying jobs.

Buttrey estimates about 45,000 Montanans would enroll in the program in the next four years.

The measure is set for a second reading floor debate and a vote on Friday.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

House endorses dark money bill by narrow vote

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The House has narrowly endorsed a bill that would require more disclosure surrounding campaign donations.

House members voted 51-49 to endorse the measure after passing one of sixteen Republican amendments offered in two hours of debate.

Sponsored by Republican Sen. Duane Ankney of Colstrip and backed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, the measure aims to shed light on anonymous money that began flowing into elections after the U.S. Supreme Court's 2010 decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

Under Senate Bill 289, newly defined groups would be required to publicize reports on political donations and expenditures if they spend money supporting or opposing candidates or ballot issues.

Supporters say the bill shines a light on anonymous donors while opponents say the bill is vague and doesn't go far enough.

ETHICS BOARD

Montana lawmakers kill bill to create campaign ethics board

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State lawmakers have tabled a proposal to create a campaign practices and ethics review board to decide if criminal charges should be pursued in cases of alleged campaign violations.

Members of the House State Administration Committee deadlocked and subsequently tabled House Bill 623 on Thursday, leaving little chance it will be revived before a Tuesday deadline.

The measure would have created a four-member board to decide whether litigation proposed by the Commissioner of Political Practices is necessary. Currently, the governor appoints one commissioner who enforces Montana's campaign laws. That person opposed the proposal.

Republican Rep. Ryan Osmundson said he brought the proposal to infuse bipartisanship in the state's only political watchdog role.

Republican Rep. Art Wittich, who faces trial for a campaign violation, said existing oversight seems skewed.

RANCH TAKEOVER THREAT

73-year-old gets 75 years for trying to reclaim former ranch

(Information in the following story is from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com)

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A 73-year-old man a judge says is unwilling to accept that he lost his western Montana ranch in a 1979 divorce has been sentenced to 75 years in prison for intimidating and stalking the owners.

The Ravalli Republic newspaper in Hamilton reports that District Judge Jeffrey Langton handed down the sentence Wednesday after John Fesler Lance II said that if he were released, he would try again to take back the property near Florence.

Lance spent more than 20 years in prison for felony intimidation tied to his effort to reclaim the ranch. He was released last March and showed up the next day at the owner's workplace.

Lance went to jail from April through July for violating a protection order. He was arrested at the ranch Sept. 15.

BLM FRAUD

Senior BLM official convicted in Montana of fraud, theft

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A senior official in the U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been convicted of covering up for an employee who left his post for a job in Montana but kept drawing a federal salary.

A federal jury in Great Falls on Wednesday convicted John Grimson Lyon of Clifton, Virginia, of wire fraud, false claims and theft of government property.

The 61-year-old former state director for the BLM's Eastern States Region could face 35 years in prison, $750,000 in fines and the forfeiture of $112,000.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris allowed Lyon to remain free pending his June 25 sentencing.

Prosecutors said Lyon knew or should have known that former employee Larry Ray Denny left his post in Springfield, Virginia, to work for Montana's Chippewa Cree Tribe. Denny pleaded guilty to similar charges last week.

FATAL PLANE CRASH

1 killed, 1 hurt in small plane crash in Meagher County

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a pilot was killed and his wife was injured when their small plane crashed into the Big Belt Mountains in central Montana.

Meagher County Sheriff Jon Lopp tells the Great Falls Tribune the woman called authorities at about 1 p.m. Thursday to report the Saratoga Piper Cub she and her husband were in had crashed into a mountain west of White Sulphur Springs. Lopp says the pilot apparently became disoriented in the clouds and didn't see the mountain range in front of him.

A helicopter from Malmstrom Air Force Base responded, and the woman was taken to a hospital in Helena. Her condition hasn't been released.

Lopp says the plane from Canada had stopped in Great Falls and was headed to Helena.

The victims' names have not been released.

EX-GOVERNOR-MINE-CLAIM

Mine dispute involving Montana ex-governor headed for trial

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A dispute over mining claims that involves former Gov. Brian Schweitzer appears headed to trial even as federal officials gave tentative approval to the mine involved.

Schweitzer and a group of investors are seeking $10 million in compensation over mining claims that were condemned to make way for the Montanore silver and copper mine near Libby.

Project sponsor Mines Management Inc. of Spokane, Washignton rejected the group's compensation figure during court-ordered settlement talks on Wednesday.

That sets the stage for a trial next month in which a three-member commission overseen by a federal judge will settle the issue.

The U.S. Forest Service on Thursday issued a final environmental study that would allow the mine to proceed pending final approval. Mines Management chief executive Glenn Dobbs says the agency's announcement marks a huge step forward.

STILLWATER MINING

Execs from Montana's largest mining company moving to Denver

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Top executives from Montana's largest mining company are relocating to Denver and the company plans to close its offices in Billings as part of cost-cutting moves.

Stillwater Mining Co. Chief Executive Officer Michael McMullen told The Associated Press on Thursday that he is among five senior company officials who will make the move to Denver this summer.

That comes just two years after a leadership change at Stillwater in which McMullen's predecessor was sharply criticized for spending too much time out of state.

Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer — now Stillwater's chairman — questioned at the time how its platinum and palladium mines could be managed from outside Montana.

McMullen says the relocation plan has support from Schweitzer and other board members. He says he'll remain a hands-on manager.

PASTOR-INVESTMENT FRAUD

Supreme Court upholds $150K restitution in securities fraud

(Information in the following story is from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com)

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has upheld a $150,000 restitution award in a securities fraud case against a Hamilton pastor, but reversed his conviction for fraudulent practices and sent the case back to District Court for a new trial.

Harris Himes was convicted in September 2013 of failure to register a security, failure to register as a security salesman and fraudulent practices. He was sentenced to three concurrent 10-year commitments with the Department of Corrections.

Prosecutors alleged Himes cheated a church member out of $150,000 by telling the man the money would be invested in a factory in Mexico that didn't exist.

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that District Judge Loren Tucker erred by giving the jury a definition of "fraudulent practices" that was not in effect at the time of Himes' actions and overturned that conviction.


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

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