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Entries in Sen. Jon Tester (13)


Tester bill would restore critical federal funding for counties 

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- Senator Jon Tester is taking another crack at passing legislation to continue sharing federal timber revenues, a program that means millions of dollars in critical funding for local counties. 

The Secure Rural Schools and Payment in Lieu of Taxes programs have become key components to county budgets since they were established years ago as an agreement with the federal government to share timber tax revenues. That's been especially critical to counties here in the West where millions of acres are exempt from local property taxes. 

The funds are used for a variety of local items, from roads to school funding and even law enforcement. 

But as competition for dollars has increased, so has federal criticism of the program. The SRS program stopped in 2013. And last fall, Congress refused to reauthorize the money. That has county officials concerned, with 23-million dollars at stake in Western Montana counties alone. 

Now, Tester has introduced a bipartisan bill to fully fund the two programs for the next 3-years at the same amounts last set in 2011. The bill would also establish permanent funding for PILT in an effort to get rid of the uncertainty for county budgets

“Counties across Montana are taking a hit, because some in Congress don’t understand rural America.  My bill will make sure that Montana counties can provide the essential services that keep our local economies strong,” Tester said.  “PILT and SRS help ensure counties can continue to provide safe roads and bridges, law enforcement, and a quality education.”


Tribes talk cooperation, work to implement healthcare changes

CSKT Health Director Kevin Howlett makes a point during Tuesday's summit(NINEPIPES)- Tribal leaders say they're ready for the challenges in implementing the Affordable Care Act on Montana's reservations. 

But at a special healthcare summit in the Mission Valley Tuesday they said it will also take hard work and cooperation to make the transition. 

Speakers pointed out hospitals will have to adjust to providing healthcare to tribal members who previously weren't treatable because of their lack of health insurance. 

Representatives of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, as well as tribes from Eastern Montana attended the conference with Senator Jon Tester. 


Tester wants more details on plans to counter ISIS

KPAX TV photo(MISSOULA)- Senator Jon Tester says he isn't sure ISIS is the greatest threat since Nazi Germany, as some conservatives have claimed. But he is positive it will take a "true coalition" with a "long term plan" to counter the latest terrorist outbreak in the Middle East.

While some conservatives are warning ISIS could be the most serious threat since Nazi Germany, Tester said "only time will tell" if that's the case. But he believes its critical for the U.S. to develop a plan for success with other members of the coalition so that the country doesn't have to "dedicate lives, and money, to this again."

Tester made the comments during a visit to KPAX TV in Missoula Monday.


Forest Service delays action on controversial photo permits

Dennis Bragg photo(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- Montana Senators Jon Tester and John Walsh are blasting the U.S. Forest Service for its proposal to impose stringent rules requiring expensive permits for photography in backcountry wilderness areas. 

The proposal by the Forest Service would have expanded the agency's recent policy of requiring the permits, especially for commercial videography on public lands. That rule came in response to the growing number of outdoor reality shows which are often filmed on BLM and Forest Service lands. 

However, the latest proposal would add a specific layer of restrictions applicable to wilderness areas. The rules were up for public comment now, but had gained little attention outside of professional photographers. Objections began to spread this week through social media. 

Thursday, Walsh and Tester sharply criticized the Forest Service, noting in particular that the permits, which could cost upwards of $1,500 with $1,000 fines could infringe on First Amendment rights for news and media outlets. 

“We have grave concerns and are deeply skeptical of the government putting limits on activity protected under the First Amendment,” Tester and Walsh said.  “We urge you to withdraw and redraft the directive in a way that addresses these concerns by not subjecting the press to this proposed permitting process.”

The Forest Service said late Thursday it would delay finalizing the draft rules until the proposal could be reviewed with "stakeholders". 

The National Park Service has had similar permit policies on the books for years, but enforcement of the requirements has varied among the park units, with the exception of obviously commercial videography, such as film and commercial production. Still photography has traditionally been exempt from such federal permit requirements. 


Tester hopeful budget stalemate will be resolved

(WASHINGTON, D.C.)- Senator Jon Tester says the on-going confrontation over the federal budget is "very frustrating". But he remains hopeful Congressional leaders will be able to work out a way to get government operations re-opened, and soon. 

Tester, like the rest of his Democratic colleagues in the Senate, hopes House Republicans will approve a new "clean" continuing resolution to re-start government operations, now in the 9th day of the shutdown.

He calls the shutdown "just another boat anchor on the economy" and is worried about impacts on individuals and families in Montana, as well as the businesses and communities that depend on late season tourist traffic from Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.