MTPR

Montana politics

In a debate that seemed as late as Friday not likely to happen, Republican Ryan Zinke met Democrat John Lewis in a statewide debate that focused on experience and education Monday night in Billings.

Montana PBS had already cancelled broadcast coverage after Zinke cited a scheduling conflict, but the Monday evening debate was available across the state on radio. You can listen to the debate from Yellowstone Public Radio.

Neither candidate has widespread name recognition – Zinke having served in the state legislature and Lewis as state director for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus – so the debates are a vital piece of both men’s campaigns, according to University of Montana political science professor Christopher Muste.

I think Zinke will attack Lewis for being inexperienced and Lewis will attack Zinke for being out of touch and having extreme views on a number of issues,” Muste said in the pre-debate analysis with Montana Public Radio.

The debate, in the end, was largely a civil and substantive affair. Zinke stuck hard to the issues of education and energy independence, claiming that Montana “had enough coal to support the nation at peak consumption for the next 100 years.”

Lewis countered that Zinke would pursue oil and gas exploration at all times and criticized him for not support limits on energy exploration near Glacier National Park, a position supported by current U.S. Rep. Steve Daines.

On education, Zinke stated he rejected the increasingly controversial learning standards known as Common Core and wanted to boost more training for skilled labor.

Lewis focused his efforts in staking out support for higher education and reducing student loans. He said by financing student loans “much like you would a house” and ensuring continued access to Pell Grants, he could cut the amount of debt many Montana students have. He added that Zinke would cut support for higher education, making it more expensive for students.

The two meet again on Saturday for a debate in Bozeman.

The Sunburst office in Eureka
sunburstfoundation.org

The state health department is figuring out how to restore funding to health care providers who take Medicaid, but it may be too late for people in Libby and Eureka who need help with mental health.

"I don’t think we’ll be able to keep those offices open," Megan Bailey, a therapist with Sunburst Mental Health told a legislative committee Monday.

State Budget Director Dan Villa and State Health Department Director Sheila Hogan hear input on how to allocate $45 million in restored state funding at a listening session in Helena, MT August 1, 2018.
Eric Whitney / MTPR

"This has been a very difficult year," says Sheila Hogan, director of Montana's state health department.

She was talking to hundreds of people online and in a hotel ballroom in Helena who were not shy about telling her just how tough their year has been. They were people impacted by a nearly three percent cut in payments to people and organizations that help Montanans on Medicaid.

It’s official. The Republican and Democratic candidates for Montana’s U.S. House and Senate seats have confirmed they will debate this fall. Both events are hosted by MontanaPBS. 

Kathleen Williams is the Democratic candidate for Montana's lone U.S. House seat.
Olga Kreimer


We’re going on the road with Kathleen Williams, the Democratic candidate for Montana’s single seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, currently held by Republican Greg Gianforte.

More than 40 people came to the DPHHS hearing on Medicaid cuts Thursday, Feb. 01, 2018 in Helena.
Corin Cates-Carney

Now that improved state revenues mean that more than $45 million is being restored to state agencies, the directors for the state budget and health departments are meeting with health care providers to talk specifics.

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