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Huckleberry huckleberries

Safe and sound huckleberries to state lawmakers who helped pass a number of bills to better respond to missing person cases and fight the epidemic of missing and murdered Native American women and children. One of the most significant bills, called Hanna’s Act, creates and funds a Department of Justice position dedicated to coordinating missing person cases across various local, state and federal agencies. Its fate was tied to another bill to create a network of missing persons data and establish a DOJ task force to oversee it. Those two bills now will become law, joining House Bill 54, which requires missing person reports to be accepted by law enforcement agencies immediately unless there are specific extenuating circumstances; and HB 20, which expedites the reporting process in missing child cases regardless of custodial circumstances or agency jurisdiction.

Scattered chokecherries to the slow, quiet death of Landscape Conservation Cooperatives, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that fostered important international collaborations among government agencies and non-government groups with a stake in conservation. Rooted in President Bush-era conservation strategies, the cooperatives counted 22 programs during the Obama administration only to see their budget recommended for elimination by the Trump administration. Congress did appropriate a scant $12 million a year to sustain the cooperatives, but they appear to be languishing nonetheless. The coordinator of the Great Northern LLC that includes the Montana region has been reassigned, for instance, and the cooperative has not held a meeting in two years.

A protective layer of huckleberries to those legislators who supported bills this session to provide long-needed protections for vulnerable youth at residential treatment programs in Montana. Last week, Gov. Steve Bullock signed a bill that would finally make it illegal for staff at these programs to have sex with youth in their care. Next, Bullock will have the opportunity to sign an important bill to provide meaningful oversight of these programs, which have thus far been allowed to essentially regulate themselves. The bill would eliminate a board comprised mostly of program operators and transfer regulation from the Department of Labor to the Department of Public Health and Human Services, which is far better suited to oversee such programs.

Chokecherry cough drops to the recent outbreak of whooping cough in Missoula. This week the Missoula City-County Health Department confirmed six cases of the highly contagious disease also known as pertussis, and said it had identified more than 300 “close contacts” who may have been exposed. Vaccination provides some protection from whooping cough and lessens the severity of symptoms but is not a 100% guarantee against infection, so officials are advising the public to make sure they have received the full pertussis series of vaccinations and to watch out for cold-like symptoms that develop into a persistent cough.

Expertly swaddled huckleberries to Erica Mackey and Elizabeth Szymanski, two Montana moms whose startup business recently earned the largest round of seed funding in state history, attracting nearly $6 million in venture capital. Their company, MyVillage, already boasts franchises in several cities in Montana and Colorado, taking care of licensing, insurance, billing and other small-business management responsibilities for the owners of childcare centers, and providing additional resources to help them build quality preschool and childcare programs.

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