Wednesday: Response Fees, House Fire, Spear Hunting Bill

By Beacon Staff

Good morning; on the Beacon today, fire chiefs throughout the Flathead Valley – at least those interviewed for this story – expressed nearly universal puzzlement that the proposed Polson accident response fees have garnered so much attention: especially since such fees are relatively common throughout Montana and the nation. Two people died in an early morning fire Wednesday in Kalispell. Authorities have identified a 68-year-old man who died while skiing at the Whitefish Mountain Resort over the weekend: Richard T. Swope. It’s cold and flu season in the Flathead, and so far county health officials have confirmed influenza and a higher-than-usual rate of whooping cough cases throughout the valley. Flathead County commissioners are expected to decide on a permit for the Glacier Guides Lodge in West Glacier before the end of the month after the they voted to delay their decision on Jan. 4, citing concerns about the lodge’s water supply, septic system and capacity rates. The sponsor of a bill making it illegal to kill an unborn child says the proposal has nothing to do with abortion — even though abortion foes and supporters lined up to take different positions on the measure.

Republicans started scaling back budget expectations Tuesday with proposed cuts across state government — from schools to nursing homes — in a move aimed at making it easier to reduce state spending as lawmakers hash out spending plans. State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for utilities to meet the standard for renewable energy production, a proposal that conservationists say would make the standard meaningless. The U.S. teen birth rate in 2009 fell to its lowest level in nearly seven decades of record-keeping — a trend that is mirrored in Montana — according to a recently released government report. The Republicans running the Montana Legislature are being told that one of their main ideas for undermining the federal health care law may itself be unconstitutional. Montanans may soon be able to add a hand-thrown spear to their arsenal for big game hunting. The Senate Fish and Game Committee on Tuesday discussed, and then nearly voted to approve, a bill to legalize the practice. Missoula attorney James Park Taylor has resigned from his position on the Montana Public Defender Commission, citing various inadequacies within the institution and expressing little hope for change under its current leadership. The Montana Public Service Commission, in its first major action with a new Republican majority, said Tuesday it will decide Feb. 1 whether to re-examine portions of a NorthWestern Energy rate case decided last month. GOP members made it clear they want it revisited. The new Congress may have pledged to just say no to earmarks, but Montana’s universities have their multi-million dollar wish lists ready, just in case “no” turns into “yes.”

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