Eric Whitney

Eric Whitney is the news director for Montana Public Radio.

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The national website coordinating school walkouts Friday to demonstrate against gun violence shows four events in Montana. They’ll be held in Helena, Butte, Bozeman and Missoula.

Friday is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado, where 15 people died.

Governor Steve Bullock launched a statewide tour today to, in his words, "highlight the health and economic benefits of Medicaid" in Montana.

At Missoula’s Providence Hospital, Bullock cited a University of Montana economic analysis released last week that says the Medicaid expansion Montana launched in 2015 will pay for itself. It found that expansion offsets other state agency costs, and yields economic benefits that exceed state spending on Medicaid expansion.

Faculty at the University of Montana had their first opportunity to give feedback on the new preliminary plan University administrators released this morning that suggests cutting more than 50 faculty positions.

Montana Republican Senator Steve Daines says he’s encouraged that President Trump appears interested in the US returning to negotiations to become part of Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal. And Daines said he told the President farmers and ranchers prefer access to international markets to subsidies that would protect them from tariffs.

There are two forums for the candidates in Montana’s primary races coming up. 

On Wednesday night, the Democrats running for their party’s nomination in Montana’s U.S. House race meet in Seeley Lake. The Democrats will be joined at the forum by the Libertarian and Green Party candidates for the House seat. 

The Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest is hosting their annual open house next week in White Sulphur Springs.

"It’s mainly just to invite the public in to talk about projects that we’ve been working on over the years, but also projects that we have planned field work going on this upcoming summer," Kathy Bushnell, a spokesperson for the Forest says. 

How might the trade sanctions President Donald Trump is proposing for China affect Montanans? We put that question to former Montana Senator Max Baucus, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to China in the Obama administration. In October, Baucus joined former Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana to form an advocacy group called Farmers For Free Trade, which represents the National Wheat and Corn Growers Associations, the National Pork Producers Council and the American Farm Bureau Federation, among others. 

Like the rest of the country, Montana is struggling with an epidemic of abuse of opioid drugs, both prescription painkillers and illegal narcotics like heroin and fentanyl. At the end of this week, physicians and other health care providers and counselors are getting together in Missoula to learn about potential solutions.

Before it passed, all three members of Montana’s congressional delegation praised at least some aspects of the federal omnibus spending bill. But in the end, only Democrat Jon Tester voted for the bill, which President Trump signed into law earlier today.

Today the U.S. House passed the $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill with strong bipartisan support. It funds the federal government through September. The bill now heads to the Senate where NPR says it is also likely to pass with bipartisan support.

Wednesday, Montana's Republican Senator Steve Daines said there's good news for the Treasure State in the spending bill.

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