Wednesday: Legislature Preview, Crosstown Talkdown, Gambling Revenues Drop

By Beacon Staff

Good morning; on the Beacon today, Montana’s 62nd Legislature, commencing this week, has more lawmakers from Northwest Montana in leadership positions than any session in recent memory. A 36-year-old man who was arrested after a six-hour standoff at a Kalispell hotel in which he is accused of barricading himself in a bathroom with a 17-year-old boy has been charged with kidnapping and criminal endangerment. The “Crosstown Talkdown,” scheduled for Jan. 7 at Glacier High School, is an exhibition speech and debate showdown between the two Kalispell high schools aimed at showcasing two of Montana’s premier programs. Lake County commissioners were unable to reach an agreement on a replacement for a state senator serving the Polson area and are asking the Lake and Flathead County Republican central committees for three more names. Whether it’s the cold weather or a sudden pursuit of a healthier lifestyle, the beginning of the year is generally the busiest time for most fitness clubs in the Flathead.

A fractured Republican majority at the Public Service Commission on Tuesday reluctantly coalesced around firebrand Brad Molnar as the body’s vice chairman — preventing a prolonged deadlock over leadership choices amid charges of backroom deals and undue influence of lobbyists and legislators. Freshman Republican commissioner Bill Gallagher of Helena was picked to lead the body after fellow freshman Travis Kavulla of Great Falls refused to vote for the veteran Molnar. Montana’s governor is heading to Washington state to discuss a new Columbia River coal port being challenged by environmentalists over greenhouse-gas concerns. Montana wildlife officials are seeking approval to create a bison management plan and scope out sites that would be suitable to relocate dozens of bison from the genetically pure Yellowstone National Park herd. Buffeted by the recession and later the indoor smoking ban in taverns and casinos, video gambling revenues in Montana dropped 2 percent in fiscal 2009 over the previous year and then plunged by 16 percent in fiscal 2010, the state Gambling Control Division reported. It’s been below zero, and the weather will likely dip down there a few more times this winter, but that won’t freeze out western Montana’s mountain pine beetle epidemic. And winter bicycling in Yellowstone is, apparently, not allowed.

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