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Middle-aged white guy who believes in justice and equality for all. Math and computer analyst with additional 21st century jack-of-all-trades skills. I'm a stud, not a dud!

Journal Archives

Montana governor proposes tax waivers, credits for businesses

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock is proposing a tax-relief program for businesses that includes waivers and credits that he will present to the 2017 Montana Legislature if he is re-elected.

The tax plan is meant to encourage companies to grow and to create higher-wage jobs in Montana, an issue that his Republican opponent, Greg Gianforte, has hammered on in his campaign to unseat the Democratic incumbent.

Bullock was in Billings to promote the plan Wednesday, after stopping at businesses in Great Falls and Bozeman on Tuesday.

The plan will "make it easier for businesses all across the state to grow and expand and create good-paying jobs, putting more hard-working Montanans to work and further strengthen an already strong economy," Bullock said.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/montana-governor-proposes-tax-waivers-credits-for-businesses/article_131a84e4-5612-53c9-88dc-fbc7fbe438a9.html

Judge dismisses lawsuit seeking to block logging project

HELENA — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit seeking to stop a logging project in the Kootenai National Forest in northwestern Montana.

The Alliance for the Wild Rockies had argued in its lawsuit filed in May 2015 that logging on more than 92,000 acres on the east side of Lake Koocanusa violates environmental laws and could harm bull trout, grizzly bear and lynx habitat.

U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen on Tuesday granted the U.S. Forest Service's request to dismiss the lawsuit.

Christensen says in his order that none of the environmental organization's claims warrants blocking the project.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/news/state-and-regional/montana/judge-dismisses-lawsuit-seeking-to-block-logging-project/article_d8d02097-4c2b-5c40-a512-770ee39db02f.html

Billionaire brothers settle fence trespass with BLM

A landowner’s fence that illegally encroached on public land in Fergus and Musselshell counties resulting in a lengthy federal investigation has been moved and altered, and remediation has been paid, according to a ranch representative.

Under the terms of the settlement agreements, Wilks Ranch Montana Ltd. will perform rehabilitation and stabilization work valued at about $150,000 and will reimburse the Bureau of Land Management a little more than $71,000 to cover costs associated with the inquiry and survey, according to a BLM news release.

The nine miles of new fence built in 2014 by a local contractor was meant to separate 2,700 acres of landlocked Bureau of Land Management and state property, known locally as the Durfee Hills, from the surrounding NBar and Pronghorn ranches, which are owned by billionaire brothers Farris and Dan Wilks.

The Durfee Hills have become a popular spot for some elk hunters who can reach the property only by plane or helicopter. The land, located southeast of Lewistown, was also at the center of a controversial land exchange proposed by the Wilkses, who wanted the Durfee Hills in trade for portions of a ranch they own north of the Missouri River Breaks that would provide road access to 50,000 acres of BLM land. The BLM declined to consider the land exchange after initially indicating an interest.

Read more: http://billingsgazette.com/lifestyles/recreation/billionaire-brothers-settle-fence-trespass-with-blm/article_8d192afc-6623-5fca-91b7-871ef681d4d3.html

70-year-old Anchorage woman accused of illegally obtaining more than $330K in Medicaid funds

Federal prosecutors announced Thursday a 70-year-old Anchorage woman has been charged with illegally obtaining $337,149 in Medicaid funds over four years.

Mee Chong Collins submitted numerous fraudulent timesheets from February 2009 to June 2013, claiming her family members provided personal health care attendant services to four Medicaid recipients, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Alaska. She faces a single count of health care fraud.

The grand jury indictment against Collins says the services were never provided.

An initial court date for Collins has not yet been set by the court, prosecutors said.


Walker vetoes bill to put lawmakers on Alaska gas line board

JUNEAU — Gov. Bill Walker has vetoed legislation that would have put lawmakers on the board of the state-sanctioned Alaska Gasline Development Corp., citing constitutional concerns.

The bill, from Sen. Mia Costello, would have put three lawmakers on the board in non-voting, unpaid roles. The idea was to give lawmakers a better understanding of the board’s decisions and to bring lawmakers’ own experience to the board.

In issuing the veto, Walker cited a constitutional provision barring legislators from holding dual offices.

Walker said legislators, even in non-voting roles, would still be influencing board decisions while having the power legislatively to determine funding for the corporation and change its laws.

Read more: http://juneauempire.com/state/2016-07-22/walker-vetoes-bill-put-lawmakers-alaska-gas-line-board

Governor Ige Announces Allocation of $12M for Homelessness Effort

News Release from Office of the Governor Jul 21, 2016
[font color=330099]Copyright rules do not apply.[/font]

HONOLULU – Gov. David Ige has announced that $12M in funding will be focused on the most visible and chronically homeless people in Hawai‘i. The appropriation, provided by the Hawai‘i State Legislature during the regular session, was appropriated to the Department of Human Services (DHS) with the flexibility for DHS to allocate. “We know that addressing homelessness is a priority for Hawai‘i,” said Gov. Ige. “We wanted people to understand the framework that guides both DHS and our homelessness efforts.”

DHS Director Rachael Wong outlined the DHS multi-generation philosophy, entitled ‘Ohana Nui, which focuses on families and children. The Governor’s Coordinator on Homelessness, Scott Morishige, unveiled the state’s framework to address homelessness which is based on three levers of change: affordable housing, health and human services and public safety. “The $12M allocation is a natural extension of this framework,” he said.


The first lever in the state’s framework is a high priority for legislators and the administration. Funding for this focus area is coming from separate budgets, but the $12M is helping to complement those efforts.


There will be $6M in new funding for Rapid Re-Housing (or rental subsidies) and Housing First (an evidence-based program that houses and supports chronically homeless individuals suffering from severe mental health conditions, substance abuse or other issues). Half of the Housing First resources will go to neighbor islands.

An additional $1.4M in funding will support the state’s Family Assessment Center being constructed in Kaka‘ako. This includes $500k for renovations and $900k for operating costs for two years.


Public safety refers to keeping public places safe and open for everyone. Morishige emphasized that government has an obligation to respond to encampments on public land. Also, the state’s public safety protocol allows the state to properly address areas where it is unsafe for people to live. “This is not to criminalize homelessness,” Morishige said. “We want to connect people with shelter or housing, not just move them from place to place.” The budget sets aside $1.9M in new funding for state departments such as the Department of Transportation, Department of Land and Natural Resources, Public Safety Division and the Hawaii Community Development Authority for enforcement-related activities.


In addition, $325,000 in new funding will be used for data collection and analysis. “We have to be able to measure progress,” Morishige said. There is also $350,000 in new funding for state-owned homeless shelter renovations and upgrades.

The additional funding in service dollars reflects a nearly 60 percent increase. “This will address Hawaii’s most visible and chronic homeless population that we see on the streets and sidewalks,” Morishige said.


Lawmakers override governor’s veto of Maui hospital bill

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii lawmakers voted to override Gov. David Ige’s veto of a bill that would transfer control of three Maui County hospitals to Kaiser Permanente, making it the largest privatization of public facilities in state history.

The legislation provides severance packages and retirement benefits to the hospital workers affected by the move, and Ige says it’s too expensive. He vetoed the bill earlier this month, also citing concerns that it could jeopardize the tax-exempt status of the Employees’ Retirement System.

The Legislature met in special session Wednesday and secured the necessary votes to overturn Ige’s decision.

“We are extremely grateful to the leadership of and members of the Hawaii State Senate and House of Representatives for convening a special session to forward the discussions necessary for our hospitals to transition,” said Wes Lo, Hawaii Health Systems Maui Region CEO.

Read more: http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/state-wire/lawmakers-override-governor-s-veto-maui-hospital-bill

Florida-based NextEra pulls out of Hawaii energy projects

HONOLULU — Florida-based NextEra Energy is further cutting its ties with Hawaii after ending its plans to merge with Hawaiian Electric.

The company pulled out of several projects including a study exploring the possibility of an undersea power cable between Oahu and Maui, which could — if eventually built — help the state meet its renewable energy goals.

They also pulled out of a proposed wind farm on Lanai that has stalled in recent years.

Hawaiian Electric hasn’t pulled out of any of the plans, which are mostly in the conceptual phase, said spokesman Darren Pai. The study of the possible undersea cable is ongoing, he said.

Read more: http://westhawaiitoday.com/news/local-news/florida-based-nextera-pulls-out-hawaii-energy-projects

Picketing continues for Hawaiian Airlines pilots over contract negotiations

Some Hawaiian Airlines pilots returned to the picket lines at Honolulu International Airport Friday.

They’ve been in contract negotiations with the airline for nearly 15 months.

Hawaiian pilots, they argue, are paid substantially less than pilots at other airlines flying similar airplanes on similar routes.

“We’re entering into the end game. It’s time to get serious,” said Capt Tim Canoll with the Air Line Pilots Association. “People have to come to the table with an earnest, real desire to conclude an agreement and we think that’s possible.”

Read more: http://khon2.com/2016/07/22/picketing-continues-for-hawaiian-airlines-pilots-over-contract-negotiations/

Federal Transit Administration extends rail recovery plan deadline to end of 2016

On July 21, 2016, the Federal Transit Administration responded to Mayor Kirk Caldwell’s request in June for an extension on a financial recovery plan for the Honolulu rail project.

Caldwell asked for an extension until June 2017 from the initial deadline of August 7, 2016. The mayor cited uncertainty with elections on the federal, state, and county level. Caldwell said he wanted a recovery plan that included 20 miles of track and 21 stations.

The FTA’s response was that the recovery plan be submitted no later than the end of this calendar year. The FTA also highlighted that HART needs to meet with them in August to discuss milestones and deliverables that should culminate with a plan by the end of Sept. 2016.

The FTA said that HART “must make the fundamental choice to either reduce the scope of the Project, consistent with the financial resources currently available, or seek additional, non-Federal resources to complete the functional scope of work under our Full Funding Grant Agreement of December 2012, or undertake some combination of these.”

Read more: https://newsofhawaii.com/federal-transit-administration-extends-rail-recovery-plan-deadline-to-end-of-2016/
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