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Articles written by Austin Amestoy

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 By Austin Amestoy    News    May 6, 2021

Montana Legislature adjourns; Marijuana plans, $12.5 billion budget, federal relief and more roll on to Governor's desk

2021 Montana Legislature Adjourns after Near-Marijuana Meltdown and Bill-Resurrecting Blitz The 67th Montana Legislature adjourned on Thursday, April 29, following a week filled with policies brought back from the dead and capped by a failed... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    May 6, 2021

Montana Legislature adjourns with marijuana, budget and tax plans en route to Governor

The 67th Montana Legislature has adjourned, capping four months of work in an unprecedented hybrid session as the state and the nation struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic. With more than 1,300 bills introduced, 500 passed and 350 signed into law,... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 29, 2021

As mobile home parks see major rent spikes, Montana Legislature has little appetite for affordable housing solutions

Mobile home parks are one of the last strongholds of reliable affordable housing in Montana, helping people of a wide range of income levels become homeowners, even as prices for most other residence types in across the state continue to spike. But... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 29, 2021

Separation of powers crisis, recreational marijuana bill on the move, anti-trans bills split votes

Republican Lawmakers Locked in Battle with State Supreme Court over “Judicial Transparency” As the Montana Legislature nears the close of its biennial business, Republican lawmakers are mounting a case against the judicial branch and the state... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 22, 2021

Sweeping open-cut permitting bill in Montana Legislature creating a gravel pit predicament

HELENA — According to data from the Montana Department of Transportation, the Treasure State is home to more than 1,800 gravel pits. These so-called “open-cut” mining provides material critical to everything from paving roads to building... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 22, 2021

Vaccine Exemption, Anti-Flavored Vape Ban Bills Back from the Dead in Week 15 of Montana Legislature

Montana Legislature Considers Lengthening Driver’s License Renewal Cycle, Raising DUI Penalties Lawmakers in the 67th Montana Legislature are debating and advancing a number of bills seeking to revise the way drivers are licensed and increase... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 15, 2021

As "Compromise" Public Health Regulation Bill Nears Law, Public Health Officer Reflects on a Year of Scrutiny

Butte-Silver Bow County Health Officer Karen Sullivan was enjoying a drink in a Butte brewery after work when she said she got the call. For two months, she and her fellow county health officials across the state had been keeping tabs on reports of... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 15, 2021

Marijuana Bills Advance Largely Unchanged, State Budget Clears Senate in Week 14 of Montana Legislature

Montana Senate Passes State Budget Bill, Rejects Attempt to End Medicaid Expansion The state budget is on the move again in the Montana Legislature after the Senate passed in on a 33-17 vote Thursday, making few changes and defeating an attempt to... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 8, 2021

Lawmakers in tug-of-war over marijuana implementation

Three bills debuted in the Montana Legislature during the week of March 29 with vastly different approaches for regulating voter-approved recreational marijuana in the state, and all of them moved forward after a week of whirlwind hearings that... Full story


Money Moves and Health Care Transparency Blues in Week 13 of the Montana Legislature

Montana House Approves Draft of Bill to Spend $3 Billion in Federal COVID-19 Relief; Senate Panel Advances Budget Ahead of a key deadline on April 8, the Montana Legislature is quickly advancing a bill to spend billions in federal COVID-19 dollars as... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 1, 2021

Montana State Budget Clears House of Representatives, Lawmakers Consider Criminal Justice and Ag Bills in Week 12 of Legislative Session

Montana House of Representatives Advances State Budget in Partisan Vote The state budget cleared another major hurdle in the Montana Legislature after lawmakers in the House of Representatives passed it down party lines on Wednesday, March 24, with... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    April 1, 2021

As GOP Lawmakers Drift Further Right, Custer Holds To Being 'A Reagan Republican'

Republican Rep. Geraldine Custer is not one to mince words. When a bill came up in February that would make it harder to vote by absentee ballot, the former Rosebud County clerk and recorder spoke up, and firmly. “This bill is probably the worst... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 25, 2021

Gravel Pit Permitting, Mental Health Bills, Cigar Bars and More

“Open Cut 2.0” Bill would Ease Regulations on Gravel Pit Permit Applications A bill seeking to ease permitting requirements for gravel pits in rural areas and make it harder to call a public hearing on new facilities is drawing clear battle... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 25, 2021

Montana's Proposed "Pollinator Protection Act" Seeks to Help Save the Bees

Patty Sundberg remembers a time early in her 40-year career in beekeeping when a 5% annual colony loss felt like a big deal. Now, she said it’s all her company can do to hold that rate at 20% -- though, on bad years, it can swing even higher. In... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 18, 2021

Montana Legislature Kicks Off Second Half With Bills Combating Drug Trafficking, Limiting Gov.'s Emergency Powers and Expanding Prison Education in Week 10

Lawmakers Hear Bill to Combat Drug, Sex Trafficking in Montana A bill drafted with the help of former Republican state Senator Dr. Al Olszewski would add a new set of signs to Montana’s highways and airports greeting visitors with notice of a... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 18, 2021

"Hard Times, Hard Choices:" What you need to know about Montana's budget-building process

Hot off its first 45 days filled with contentious policies and partisan clashes, the 67th Montana Legislature is buckling down to the task of building the state’s budget for the next two years. While the budget is arguably the most critical bill... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 11, 2021

As 2021 Legislature Wraps First Half, Here's What's Moving Forward

Despite all the challenges brought by the pandemic, lawmakers in the 67th Montana Legislative Session are wasting no time in pushing through a deluge of bills -- some new and untested, some vetoed numerous times before, but all being considered in a... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 11, 2021

Lawmakers Debate a Barrage of Bills, Key Deadlines Arrive, Right-to-Work Bills Go Down and the Judiciary Stays Nonpartisan

Montana House and Senate Adjourn for Mid-Session Break After Breakneck Floor Sessions After days of marathon sessions, the Montana House of Representatives and Senate adjourned for a nearly week-long break, having advanced more than 200 bills... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 4, 2021

Week 8 of the Montana Legislature brings vaccine exemption and broadband expansion bills as lawmakers rush to meet key deadline

Lawmakers Race to Introduce Bills Before Key Deadline; House Committee Holds Marathon Hearings As the Legislature approaches the halfway point of the session -- and a key deadline for general bills -- one House committee heard more than 50 bills in... Full story

 By Austin Amestoy    News    March 4, 2021

Montana Lawmakers Focus in on Capturing Film Industry Dollars

For two whole days in October, the sounds of shattering glass and blood-scrubbing brushes rocked Ruby’s Cafe in Missoula -- a charming, 40s-style diner owned by Brenda Hallas. She spent the days in her basement office, listening to the chaos...


Privacy Protections, Voting Restrictions, Bison Bills and Pandemic Preparedness

Montana Constitutional Amendment would Establish Protections for Electronic Messages The Montana Legislature is considering a bill proponents say will offer increased clarity and protections for privacy in the digital age. Senate Bill 203, sponsored... Full story


"No One Can Stop Them:" Meet the Families Behind the Push for Insurance Coverage for Montana's Deaf Children

Nine years ago, doctors diagnosed Caden Shrauger with stage-four neuroblastoma, a rare cancer that developed in his nerve cells and spread throughout his body. At the time, doctors told his family he had a 50% chance of survival. Caden underwent... Full story


Gov. Signs COVID-19 Liability Bill, Legislature considers family medical leave, wolf hunting, income tax and Indigenous Peoples Day in Week 6 of the Montana Legislature

Look What’s Law: Governor Signs Bill Reducing COVID-19 Liability, Rolls Back Mask Mandate Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte has signed into law a major COVID-19 liability bill, which soared through the Montana Legislature during its first month. Senate... Full story


Lawmakers popose Education Tax Credits to help boost skilled labor force

Casey Olson has been on a drill rig since 1991. Back then, Olson worked at a mineral exploration company, and though the work was “break-back,” learning the equipment wasn’t too difficult. Fast forward 30 years later, he’s now running Rabco... Full story


Lawmakers Grapple with Solutions to Montana's Youth Mental Health Crisis

The bell rang once to signal members of the Montana House of Representatives to punch in their votes, and the result was a dead heat: 50 for “yes,” 50 for “no.” That was enough to kill House Bill 27, the first in a stream of bills working to...


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