Medicinal huckleberries to plans for a new medical school — maybe even two — in Montana. The Montana University System approved two initial proposals this year: one from the nonprofit Touro College and University System to explore a site in Great Falls, and another from the private Rocky Vista medical school to develop a campus in Billings. While we could argue that Missoula would have been a better location for either institution, these new schools promise to help meet the growing need for health care professionals throughout the state and thus should be welcomed by all Montanans.
Commiserative chokecherries to the uphill housing battle facing renters of 23 Bonner mill houses that are going up for sale. The owners of the homes need to sell the properties to pay off debt and are pricing them between $250,000 to $350,000, according to one of the owners of Bonner Property Development. The owners are also giving tenants first choice to decide whether to buy their homes or look for other housing, and two renters are already under contract to purchase their houses. But those who need to find a new place to rent will find it a tough squeeze with the vacancy rate for houses in Missoula below 2%.
An early bouquet of huckleberries to Montana moms who plan to spend their next Mother’s Day casting a line in their favorite lake or stream. Although fishing on Father’s Day has long been free in Montana, the same was not true for Mother’s Day — until this past week, when Gov. Greg Gianforte signed into law Senate Bill 61. The legislation was introduced by Sen. Pat Flowers, D-Bozeman, and almost unanimously approved (Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan, was the only legislator to vote against it), making it a rare point of bipartisan agreement this session.
Huckleberries by another name — perhaps gaylussacia — to the proposal to rename the Higgins Avenue Bridge in honor of a respected Salish figure from the late 1800s. “Bear Tracks Bridge,” a name chosen by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, links to Louis Vanderburg and to the October 1891 crossing of the Clark Fork River by the Vanderburg family and other Indigenous people forced from their Tribal homelands by the U.S. government. The bridge is undergoing a major reconstruction, with the first phase on track for completion in May.
A soothing application of huckleberries to the members of the Montana House State Administration Committee who voted to table a bill that would have taken the state “back 100 years with the election law,” in the words of Rep. Geraldine Custer, a Forsyth Republican and a retired clerk and recorder for Rosebud County. Custer also called House Bill 455 “probably the worst bill I’ve seen all session,” adding, “It just needs to die.” The legislation sponsored by Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, would have made it considerably more difficult for voters to participate in mail-in ballot elections, eliminating absentee lists, prohibiting replacement ballots from being issued within a week of an election, and doing away with special provisions designed for members of the military serving overseas.
There are still several bills in play that seek to change the state’s election laws, including one that would end same-day voter registration and one that would add new ID requirements to register and to vote in person. However, Montanans can breathe a sigh of relief that one of the worst of them appears to have died a well-deserved death.
This editorial represents the views of the Missoulian Editorial Board: Publisher Jim Strauss, Executive Editor Jim Van Nostrand and Opinion Editor Tyler Christensen.