In The News


Is Amtrak leveraging the pandemic to permanently cut train service?

Amtrak is set to celebrate its 50th anniversary in 2021. The celebration may be muted, however, due to the animosity Amtrak faces and, indeed, has faced throughout the 49 years since the agency took over most of the privately operated U.S. passenger train operation on May 1, 1971. Essentially, Amtrak was formed to relieve ailing railroads from the burden of operating unprofitable passenger trains. Sadly, Amtrak has been funded by annual Congressional appropriations since the beginning. No trust… Continue Reading


Senator Steve Daines meets with Billings health leaders after surge of COVID-19 cases in Yellowstone County

BILLINGS, Mont. - The number of active cases in Yellowstone County prompted Senator Steve Daines to host a virtual roundtable with county medical leaders. According to Mayor Bill Cole, Yellowstone County is the epicenter for coronavirus, with 16 out of the 45 new cases reported Sunday coming out of Yellowstone County. City health leaders met with Senator Steve Daines using Zoom, to discuss what this surge means for the county and hospitals. CEO for RiverStone Health, John Felton, says an incr… Continue Reading


Local governments receive over $514M for 'critical services'

U.S. Secretary of the Interior David L. Bernhardt announced more than 1,900 local governments around the country will receive more than $514 million in Payments in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funding for 2020. "This year's distribution of $514.7 million to more than 1,900 counties will help small towns pay for critical needs like emergency response, public safety, public schools, housing, social services, and infrastructure," said Secretary Bernhardt. Bernhardt in a separate press release announced t… Continue Reading


‘Lost and found’ 401(k) bill resurfaces

Sen. Elizabeth Warren is again pressing for a retirement account "lost and found" system that would help workers keep track of their savings in plans sponsored by former employers. Last week the Democratic senator from Massachusetts introduced the bill, the Bipartisan Retirement Savings Lost and Found Act of 2020, which is similar to legislation she and other members of Congress have co-sponsored in the past. The bill tasks the Treasury Department with building an online system to track account… Continue Reading


Bipartisan Senate Bill Would Provide $25 Billion to Postal Service

A bipartisan group of senators is pushing for emergency funding for the financially-strapped U.S. Postal Service, which has cautioned the economic impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic has deeply exacerbated its ongoing fiscal crisis. The Postal Service Emergency Assistance Act (S. 4174), introduced by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and cosponsored by Sens. Diane Fienstein, D-Calif., Steve Daines, R-Mt., Doug Jones, D-Ala., and Jon Tester, D-Mt., would provide $25 billion to the mailing agency… Continue Reading


Montana wheat receives modest gains in USMCA trade deal

Montana farmers selling grain into Canada made small gains in the U.S., Mexico, Canada trade agreement launched Wednesday. Canadian elevators starting Wednesday were to fairly grade a handful of U.S. wheat varieties planted in Montana. For years, U.S. wheat varieties unrecognized in Canada were downgraded to animal feed status and discounted in price, regardless of whether the grain was of high milling quality. "It allows Montana grains to be treated on an equal basis with Canadian grains when… Continue Reading


Washington Briefs

The following are condensed from press releases and compiled by Sidney Herald staff: U.S. Sen. Steve Daines announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is distributing additional relief funds to assist vulnerable Montanans. Specifically, HHS will distribute approximately $15 billion to eligible providers that participate in state Medicaid and CHIP programs. HHS is also distributing $10 billion in Provider Relief Funds for safety net hospitals. "I'm glad to have helped secur… Continue Reading


Kalispell Moms Win Lawsuit Settled by U.S. Supreme Court

A legal challenge that began in Northwest Montana was resolved in the country's highest court on Tuesday, June 30, when a 5-4 decision restored a state law that allows donors to a private school scholarship fund to receive a tax credit even if those scholarships are awarded to students at religious schools. The ruling in Espinoza vs. Montana Department of Revenue had been highly anticipated by proponents of religious education and the decision, with the U.S. Supreme Court's five conservative ju… Continue Reading


Senate committee reviews water compact

The Montana Water Rights Protection Act received a favorable review from Interior officials last week as the Senate Indian Affairs Committee took a first look at the proposed legislation. Introduced last year by U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., the act offers the framework for a settlement between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the federal government on water-rights claims in Western Montana. It has received bipartisan support, including a favorable nod from Sen. Jon Tester, D-… Continue Reading


Critics Fear Amtrak Is Using Pandemic to Cut Service That Won’t Return

Amtrak has long wanted to cut back on long-distance train routes that span America's heartland, but political pressure from Congress made it next to impossible. Then came the coronavirus. Since March, the pandemic has killed over 128,000 Americans and exacted a higher financial toll on the transportation industry than the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Amtrak has not been spared, with an internal analysis showing a 95 percent drop in ridership, and revenue projected to fall by 50 percent in 2021. … Continue Reading


Montana Water Protection Act creates jobs, protects farmers and ranchers from $1.3B in costs

At a hearing Wednesday Sen. Steve Daines presented his Montana Water Rights Protection Act to the members of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee. The legislation, which is co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester, will define the federally reserved water rights of the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribes and settle the legal claims of the Tribes against the federal government. The Montana Water Rights Protection Act marks a historic move towards settling the century-long dispute by providing protec… Continue Reading


Great Falls Transit District receives $3M in COVID-19 aid

GREAT FALLS - The Great Falls Transit District received $3 million from the Federal Transit Administration to cover transit operations and preventative repair costs amid the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Sen. Steve Daines said the following statement in a release: "This critical funding will help support the transportation infrastructure needs of the Great Falls community and ensure our transit system in the city has the resources needed to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak," Daines said. "I … Continue Reading


Bert Mooney Airport receives $1 million federal grant

Bert Mooney Airport received a much-needed lift on Wednesday. A grant of over $1 million from the CARES Act and Airport Improvement Program was earmarked for the Butte airport, one of five Montana airports cleared to receive a total of over $5.5 million in federal funding as COVID-19 continues to hamper the airline industry. Jim Kambich, Bert Mooney's assistant manager, said that the airport has seen a precipitous drop in revenue since the coronavirus outbreak, with April being particularly da… Continue Reading


Montana senators push for Benevento nomination

Doug Benevento's nomination as EPA's deputy administrator, imperiled by Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst's anger with the agency over ethanol standards, is receiving a quiet boost from Montana's Senate delegation. Both Republican Sen. Steve Daines and Democratic Sen. Jon Tester say they have lobbied their colleagues who sit on the Environment and Public Works Committee to support Benevento's nomination. "Senator Tester supports Benevento's confirmation and is hopeful his fellow senators will support him,"… Continue Reading


Montana reacts to U.S. Supreme Court decision

The U.S. Supreme Court was split as it declared Tuesday private religious schools can receive money from a Montana tax credit program, and people in the state were no less divided on hearing the news. The country's high court said a rule written by the state Department of Revenue to implement a 2015 law was unconstitutional because it prohibited students from using a scholarship funded through a tax credit program for attending religious private schools. The department had argued if the money w… Continue Reading


Montanans praise, blast Supreme Court's Espinoza decision

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a major victory Tuesday to parents seeking state aid for their children's religious school education in a case that put Montana center stage. The court ruled 5-4 on Espinoza vs. the Montana Department of Revenue, in an opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that states offering scholarships to students in private schools cannot exclude religious schools from such programs. The court stopped short of requiring states to fund religious education, ruling on… Continue Reading


U.S. Supreme Court Ruling: Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue

BILLINGS, Mont. -- A divided U.S. Supreme Court rules that religious schools in Montana can be eligible for a state scholarship program funded by tax credits. The court's 5-4 decision ruled in favor of three Montana mothers in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. The three mothers, the plaintiffs in this case, applied for the state-funded scholarships to keep their children enrolled at Stillwater Christian School in Kalispell. Today's U.S. Supreme Court ruling strikes down the Montana Con… Continue Reading


Daines asking postal service inspector general for 'full investigation' after Billings vet's remains go missing

BILLINGS - U.S. Sen. Steve Daines of Montana is calling on the U.S. Postal Service to review and correct policy after a Billings veteran's remains were lost in the mail. Daines recently sent a letter to the USPS inspector general asking for an in-depth investigation into the matter, which took place during the COVID-19 pandemic. Billings veteran Donald Tyler died from COVID-19 while traveling with his wife Christine Tyler overseas in March. Don was a U.S. Air Force veteran who served in Vietna… Continue Reading


Daines announces over $35 million in PILT funds for Montana small and rural counties

U.S. Senator Steve Daines has announced that the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) will be directing $35,166,221 in Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) funds to Montana's small and rural counties. Ravalli County will receive $2,671,717. "PILT payments provide critical support to Montana's rural counties," Daines said. "I've worked hard to support the PILT program which provides critical resources for essential services like emergency response efforts and transportation in Montana's rural counti… Continue Reading


Montana AG Network: Buffalo Gals

Consistency is important especially when running a business but circumstances brought about by the pandemic have shifted the way people do business across our state. That holds true for the Sullivan family in Dixon. Right alongside the National Bison Range near Dixon sits the Sullivan family ranch. From the beginning, it's been a family business. "When I met Chris, he had always wanted to do bison, and that sounded exciting to me. We started with just 20 young ones and built it into what we h… Continue Reading

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