Corin Cates-Carney

Corin Cates-Carney is the Flathead Valley reporter for MTPR.

Corin has worked for NPR, and is a UM Journalism School Graduate.

The state’s budget passed a final vote in the Montana House this morning and is now moving to the Senate. Democrats there are continuing efforts to increase taxes that they say would bring in more money to help currently underfunded state programs.

The latest tax increase proposal introduced in the Senate today could raise the cost of beer, wine and hard alcohol.

When Governor Steve Bullock released his budget late last year, he called for a 50 percent bump in the state’s wine tax to help make up for revenue shortfalls.

A meeting to come up with a list of candidates to nominate the state’s next Commissioner of Political Practices was canceled  this week, after Montana’s top legislative leaders couldn’t come to agreement. The meeting originally scheduled for Monday afternoon was postponed indefinitely.

Resort taxes in Montana could go up a bit under a new bill at the state legislature. Senate Bill 343 had its first hearing today. The bill’s sponsor argued resort towns need it to help fund more affordable housing for locals.

Dillon Republican Jeffrey Welborn’s bill would give resort communities the option of increasing the tax on luxury items and non-essential goods.

A bill designed to save county governments half a million dollars or more is facing a time crunch in the state legislature. It would allow them to conduct mail-in only balloting. If it’s going to have any impact on how voters select the state’s next U.S. congressman, it must pass out of what one lawmaker is calling a kill committee.

Republican and Democratic leadership in the state legislature failed to come to an agreement today on a list of candidates to take over the office of the Commissioner of Political Practices. If the disagreement continues, the top lawmakers will forfeit their right to limit who the governor can select as the state’s top political cop.

Leaders of the state health department say the budget state lawmakers are crafting for them is, at this point, dangerously under-funded.

Sheila Hogan, Director of Montana’s Department of Health and Human Services warned legislators during a budget committee hearing Wednesday, that cutting funding from the health department could impact care for seniors and people with disabilities.

In less than three months, counties across the state will hold a special election to select a replacement for Montana’s now vacant U.S. House Seat.

After Ryan Zinke was confirmed as Interior secretary in the Trump administration Wednesday, Governor Steve Bullock called a special election on May 25 — 85 days away. County election officials expect that election to cost about $2 million, split among Montana’s 56 counties. And most counties haven't planned or budgeted for that.

After supporters of the so-called Solar Jobs and Energy Freedom Act rallied in the state Capitol yesterday in support of more solar energy development, legislation to do so stalled in committee today on a tie vote.

House Bill 504 failed to get enough votes to move out of the House Energy Technology and Federal Relations committee.

State legislative leaders are no longer taking applications for the job of Montana's top political cop. They've now started the process of selecting the next commissioner of political practices.

In a meeting this morning, four Montana House and Senate leaders discussed  how to move forward in replacing current Political Practices Commissioner Jonathan Motl, whose term ended in January.

In a close vote this morning, lawmakers rejected a bill aiming to reform how state prisons put people with mental illnesses in solitary confinement. The bill introduced by Roger Webb, a Billings Republican, would have outlawed the use of solitary confinement for prisoners with mental illness, except in a few situations.

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