In the past year, Montana VA Health Care System (MTVAHCS) has embraced planned and unplanned changes. From the ground breaking of a new clinic, to opening new state-of-the-art clinics, to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, MTVAHCS has responded with adaptability and innovation. The organization was recently recognized by Forbes in naming the VA as one of Montana’s top ten best employers.

Between 2009 to March 2019, four different Executive Directors led MTVAHCS. In June 2019, Dr. Judy Hayman became the MTVAHCS’s Executive Director and established a core leadership team committed to identifying and cultivating leaders at each level of the organization. Focusing on the provision of safe, high qualityVeteran centric care, transparency in communications, ensuring high reliability, and identifying continuous process improvement opportunities defines the culture under Dr. Hayman’s leadership.

“We have 1,400 staff who serve over 47,000 Veterans at 17 sites across Montana. When the pandemic began this spring, our staff immediately began planning and taking charge to respond. As guidance changed, our staff took the lead to ensure that Veterans were receiving the safest care possible. It is through constant communication and employee engagement that we have been able to overcome many of the challenges related to COVID-19” said Dr. Hayman. In May, MTVAHCS was selected as the lead site within its VA region to increase face-to-face visits for Veterans in the first phase of expanded care during the pandemic. “We have been able to continue serving Veterans during COVID-19 and were selected to lead our region in expanding face-to-face care because of the hard work and dedication of our staff.”  

 In June, a new partnership was announced between MTVAHCS and Billings Clinic and St. Vincent Healthcare to serve rural Veterans and create integrated care between the VA and private healthcare systems. At the beginning of July, MTVAHCS broke ground on a new Veteran clinic in Missoula. At the end of July, MTVAHCS welcomed Veterans into their new state-of-the-art outpatient clinic in Great Falls. MTVAHCS has eight new clinics scheduled to open, across the state, by the end of next year.

MTVAHCS’s overall trust scores—which derive from Veteran rankings of their health care experiences—are at a historic high. MTVAHCS provides healthcare to Veterans across Montana through a series of community-based clinics, the Miles City Community Living Center (Montana VA’s only nursing home), an acute care medical center, a nationally acclaimed sleep center, and robust telehealth services.  One third of Montana VA employees are Veterans.

The Montana Public Service Commission issued the following statement on the Montana Supreme Court’s decision in Vote Solar v. Montana Department of Public Service Regulation (2020 MT 213).

The federal law at issue in this case, PURPA, strikes a balance between the interests of qualifying small energy producers and ratepayers. It gives qualifying small energy producers the right to sell to utilities, but it also protects utilities and their ratepayers from paying extra for that energy.  Under federal regulations, the prices paid by utilities and their ratepayers should not be greater than the prices they would have paid to get energy from other sources. The Commission carefully designed its order according to both the spirit and letter of these federal regulations.

 The Court’s opinion faults the Commission for what the Court perceived was an insufficient record to explain elements of the Commission’s order. The Commission disagrees with the Court’s assessment of the record and believes the opinion misstates key facts from the exhaustive record. At its core, however, the Court’s opinion is about the sufficiency of the record—it is not a judgment on the lawfulness of any given policy decision.

 The Commission and its staff have always carefully scrutinized each case within the Commission’s jurisdiction. The Commission will redouble its efforts to demand complete, detailed evidence from the parties appearing before it, so that its orders can include exacting explanations of its decisions.

The Commission decided today to ask the Montana Supreme Court to reconsider several statements and conclusions in its opinion that the Commission believes were based on misstatements and misunderstandings of the law and the record. The Commission will elaborate on these issues in a petition for rehearing, which will be filed on or before September 8, 2020.

The Commission regulates private investor-owned natural gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewer companies, certain motor carriers, and oversees natural gas pipeline safety and intrastate railroad safety. The Commission works to ensure that Montanans receive safe and reliable service from regulated public utilities while paying reasonable rates. For more information, visit or contact the Commission at 1-800-646-6150.  Follow the Commission at MT_PSC or visit

Bethany Blankley, The Center Square

The overwhelming majority of reported coronavirus-related deaths – 94 percent – involved patients who had at least one other underlying health condition, such as a respiratory illness, diabetes, heart disease or another, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says.

“COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned” for 6 percent of the coronavirus deaths reported to the CDC, according to its most recently published weekly index. Its index for the provisional coronavirus death counts are based on death certificate data received and coded by the National Center for Health Statistics as of Aug. 26, 2020.

Of the 94 percent who died with COVID-19 and other ailments, there were, on avareage, “2.6 additional conditions or causes per death.”

Several factors could have led to the deaths in the majority of those being reported as COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., which now total more than 180,000. Someone might have died in a car accident, or had a heart attack or a stroke, and also tested positive for the coronavirus, and the cause of death was marked “with COVID-19” not “by COVID-19,” but the death was included in the overall count.

In April, Texas state Sen. Donna Campbell, a board certified emergency room physician in New Braunfels, warned about the way death certificates were being handled. For someone who is riding a bike who has a heart attack, the death certificate would state cardiac arrest, not riding a bike, she explained while participating in a Texas Public Policy Foundation panel about the way the coronavirus cases were being recorded in the state. There are procedures to follow when writing death certificates, she said.

Some of the deaths included “comorbidity” factors, meaning “more than one disease or condition is present in the same person at the same time,” or “chronic or long-term conditions,” or “coexisting or co-occurring conditions.” They are also referred to as “multimorbidity” or “multiple chronic conditions.”

These conditions include influenza and pneumonia, respiratory failure, hypertensive disease, diabetes, vascular and unspecified dementia, cardiac arrest, heart failure, renal failure, intentional and unintentional injury, poisoning and other adverse events, and other medical conditions.

Dr. Angelo Codevilla, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, argues in The Covid Coup that the problem with coronavirus reporting extends beyond how deaths are categorized, but the hysteria caused by faulty models, which led to some shutdowns at the beginning of the pandemic.

He notes that the U.S. Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) simulated a model to predict the spread of the virus. The data it published was used as the basis for which national and state lockdowns were issued.

“Its model also predicted COVID deaths for un-locked-down Sweden,” he notes. “On May 3 it wrote that, as of May 14, Sweden would suffer up to 2,800 daily deaths. The actual number was below 40.

“Whether magnifying this falsehood was reckless or willful, it amounted to shouting ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater,” he said. “What justifies listening to, and paying, people who do that kind of science?”

After the IHME models also proved faulty for the U.S., the CDC adjusted the death rate to 0.26 percent, down from 5 percent, in May.

The CDC also adjusted how it began reporting coronavirus deaths, combining them in a new “PIC” category with pneumonia and influenza.

“That is how the death figure came to exceed 100,000,” Codevilla argues. “But if the CDC had used the same criterion that it did with the SARS virus, namely ‘severe acute respiratory distress syndrome,’ the figure by the end of June would have been some 16,000.”

Johns Hopkins University, which has been a media source for daily coronavirus updates, says “the number of confirmed coronavirus cases is nearing 6 million, and more than 183,000 people have died…”

But Johns Hopkins’ website tracker excludes comorbidity factors. It reports numbers of cases, deaths, death rate data, and positivity ratios. It also excludes recovery rates and distinctions between influenza and pneumonia.

“At different times, these experts told us that the virus posed very little danger, and that it was a mortal threat to us all, that masks were useless, and then essential,” Codevilla argues. “On the basis of their many statements, hundreds of millions of American lives were wrecked, and millions continue to languish under ‘guidelines’ that make no sense …”

Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN) announced that JetBlue will begin a new winter seasonal nonstop service between BZN and Fort Lauderdale, FL beginning on Dec. 18, 2020. The new service will be the first and only nonstop service between Florida and Montana.

Austin Grazier has been hired as the Director of Ag Safety, a position funded by the Montana State Fund. Participating organizations include the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Wool Growers Association, Montana Grain Growers Association, Montana Pork Producers, Montana Cattleman’s Association, and Montana Organic Association. Grazier’s office is housed in Bozeman. Grazier, who grew up on a horse boarding facility west of Golden, Colorado, and attended Montana State University as an animal science major.

Oboz in Bozeman has announced several new hires and promotions in product, sales, and operations to foster its continued growth. Amy Beck is Oboz President. Julie Ham Elliott joins Oboz as National Sales Manager. John Nehring has joined Oboz as Planning Analyst.  Dan Wehunt has been promoted to Director of Merchandising and Development.  Steve Lowry has been promoted to Sales and Operational Planning Manager. 

The city of Belgrade received a $3 million contribution from the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport on a new $40 million wastewater facility to allow for more growth. City engineers estimated the airport’s water and sewer use to be 7.5% of the city’s total usage. The current wastewater and sewage facility is at its max capacity of connections, just over 4,000, and will double their capacity with the new upgrade.

In West Yellowstone an agreement has been reached between guides and the company operating most of the area’s tours. The guides, Montana Right Now, listed off many concerns, from what they describe as over-staffing and poor management, to false promises and a non-livable wage. The tourism company, Delaware North, Buffalo, New York, say they’ve invested about $3.5 million into Yellowstone Vacation Tours, a business they have owned since 2016. Guides say they’re worried the company is monopolizing snowmobile travel in the park at the expense of local business owners. The guides do not want the park to renew Delaware North’s license to operate in the park when it expires in a few years.

The Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) began reconstruction of a portion of Valentine Road 22 miles north of Winnett on September 14. The project begins at reference post 22.0, extends north 0.4 miles to reference post 22.4 and is centered on the Sage Creek crossing of Valentine Road. MDT awarded the construction contract to Wickens Construction, Inc. which plans to be finished in November. Proposed work will include adding drainage culverts as well as armoring of the roadway and roadside slopes. The purpose of the project is to improve drainage and armor this section of the roadway to prevent future damage from flooding as it has washed out multiple times in recent years.  The project is funded with Federal Highway Administration funds and State matching funds.

The nonprofit community lender MoFi  uses New Markets Tax Credits Program in Montana to fund projects that create jobs. The U.S. Treasury recently awarded MoFi  $65 million in New Markets Tax Credits to lend to businesses and projects in Montana, Idaho and Wyoming. The NMTC Program was authorized under the Community Renewal and Tax Relief Act of 2000 to help stimulate private investment and economic growth in low-income and rural areas.

124 projects at an estimated total cost of $61.9 million has been approved as Whitefish’s five-year capital improvement program. The city updates its capital improvement plan every few years listing the needed investments in capital facilities and equipment expected in the next five years. One of the biggest changes in the city’s fiscal year 2021 budget, which was recently approved, is the sunset of the city’s tax increment finance district.

The Montana Department of Transportation’s plan to redesign the interchange at Foy’s Lake Road on the U.S. 93 bypass will replace the heavily trafficked roundabout with a four-lane overpass. Two teardrop-shaped roundabouts on the east and west sides of the bypass on Foy’s Lake Road are part of the new design. The Department of Transportation and contractors KLJ Engineering and LHC Construction will remove the Foy’s Lake Road roundabout next spring. The project is on an accelerated design-build timeline, with the majority of the anticipated $14.7 million cost covered by a $12.7 million BUILD grant, MDT expects the new interchange to be open by November 2021.

A proposed $19.1 million facility is being planned for Missoula which will comprise 120,000 square feet of production and operating space and six acres of backlot on about 17 acres of land in the Missoula Technology Park.  The facility will be home to a television and film studio for large-scale productions, targeting producers and streaming platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, Apple, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Hallmark. Preliminary plans were presented to Missoula County Commissioners for parcels of land the developers intend to purchase in the Missoula Technology Park, which is owned by the County. The facility would include three sound stages totaling 60,000 square feet, mill space where props could be built, office and flex space.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality has issued a mining permit for the first phase of the Black Butte Copper Project. Located north of White Sulphur Springs the project developer, Sandfire Resources America, is allowed to build roads and pads, and construct a small reservoir while applying for future permits to tunnel underground.

Heather Greene has joined Florence Crittenton in Helena as development director. Heather brings more than 25 years nonprofit experience. She will be responsible for leading the development team at Florence Crittenton, which raises upwards of $750,000 per year.

The Kimpton Armory Hotel, also called the Etha, will be welcomed its first guests last week after nearly a decade of planning and construction. The Etha Hotel will be home to three restaurants. Facilities include a 600-person capacity venue, the Armory Music Hall.

Rebecca Skeldon has been named director of the Montana Discovery Foundation based in Helena. Skeldon originally was hired by the foundation in 2015 as the education coordinator. She has been instrumental in developing the Helena Master Naturalist program and Helena Snow School.

United Airlines is adding an additional flight to Williston in October. Air service at the Williston Basin International Airport has been scaled back in recent months. United Airline has been operating one flight daily, but will now be adding an additional daily flight to Denver beginning Oct. 1. There is no information regarding Delta Airlines’ return service to Williston.

Schlumberger is trading OneStim, its North American hydraulic fracturing business, to Liberty Oilfield Services in exchange for a 37 percent stake in the new combined operation. These two  hydraulic fracturing business giants are merging. The two companies share only a little overlap when it comes to customers.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce has announced the organization’s opposition to the I-190 initiative. The initiative is also known as Montana Marijuana Regulation & Taxation Act.

1,700 employees of Blackjewel, a bankrupt coal mining company would get up to $17.3 million in back pay under a proposed settlement. The former employees could receive checks early next year depending on the outcome of bankruptcy court hearings. The employees and their former employer reached a tentative settlement in March. The document remained sealed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court until September 1. The Blackjewel shutdown put about 600 employees in Wyoming out of work.

Rosendale will change Washington

So many politicians go to Washington and are happy to go along to get along—as long as they can continue to cash in at the taxpayer’s expense. That is not Matt Rosendale. 

You see, Matt is a businessman, not a career politician. That’s why as state auditor, he cut the operating expenses of his own agency by 23%, and refused a taxpayer-funded pay raise every single year. 

Matt Rosendale believes in the founders’ vision of citizen service, that’s why he wants to send career politicians packing by instituting term limits for members of Congress. But that’s not all, Matt backs legislation to ban members of Congress from becoming lobbyists and continuing to cash in after they leave office.

 And like every other industry, Matt believes that if members of Congress don’t do their job, they shouldn’t get paid. That’s why in Congress, Matt will push for a new law that says if members of Congress want to get paid, they have to pass a balanced budget. 

 Matt Rosendale will always stand with the people of Montana, not with the D.C. swamp or the political class. Matt is a career politician’s worst nightmare, and we desperately need him in Congress.

John Koch

Lewistown, MT

Extreme Kathleen is no moderate

After running a far-left campaign in 2018 focused on having the “strongest progressive record” and being soundly rejected by Montana voters, it appears Kathleen Williams is changing her tune. Extreme Kathleen is now attempting to paint herself as a “true, independent leader”, but Montanans have seen her true colors—and we aren’t so quick to forget.

Extreme Kathleen has admitted that her healthcare policies are aimed at pushing our country towards the total government takeover of our healthcare system proposed by socialist Bernie Sanders.

Time and again she’s supported restrictions on guns and hunting, a record so strong against our 2nd Amendment she earned a “F” rating from the NRA. Extreme Kathleen even said she was “proud” of her failing grade on gun rights calling it a “badge of honor”.

She’s led an all-out crusade against Montana’s energy industry. Extreme Kathleen supports crushing taxes and regulations on energy producers and job-killing Green New Deal policies that would decimate our economy.

It’s clear Extreme Kathleen is neither true, nor independent. Certainly not a leader, a wolf in sheep’s clothing is more accurate.

 Chase Sick

 Big Sky, Montana

Arika Hagel of Great Falls, Abigail “Abby” Majerus of Lewistown, Isabelle Melton of Helena, Sydney Resel of Belgrade, Sue Ann Streufert of Bozeman, and Elizabeth “Betsy” Wade of Polson will receive a total of $5,000 to further their leadership skills from the “Judy Martz Women in Leadership Fund.”  This is the second year the fund has distributed awards.

The awards commemorate former Governor Judy Martz, Montana’s first and only female state executive, who passed away October 2017.  The Martz Fund was established in her memory to provide leadership development resources for Montana women.

Hagel and Wade will receive funds for their Principal certificates at UM, while Melton will get assistance for continuing coursework in the Davidson Honors College program at UM.

Resel and Streufert will receive funding to continue their REAL Montana training through MSU and Majerus will receive funds to pay for Leadership Montana training.

“The quality of applicants is a testament to the inspiration of our late Governor Judy Martz”, said Kathy Brown, chair of the Martz Fund Committee.  “We had a number of excellent applications to review, and the follow-up interviews were rewarding as well.”

The committee to oversee this award dedicated hours to the process, which included reviewing all applications and conducting personal interviews.  Funds will be disbursed from Reach Higher Montana, the repository for the Martz Fund and a participant in the committee and applications process.

“We are grateful to all the contributors to this fund so far,” said Brown.  Contributions to the Martz Fund by check are welcome at Montana Foundation, PO Box 1881, Helena MT  59624-1881.

Holland & Hart announced that six of the firm’s Billings attorneys have been recognized in the 2021 Edition of The Best Lawyers in America© and three attorneys were named to the inaugural edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch. In addition, W. Scott Mitchell received Best Lawyers “Lawyer of the Year“ recognition in two practice areas in Billings. Only a single lawyer in each practice area and designated market area is honored as the “Lawyer of the Year,” making this accolade particularly significant.

Best Lawyers has published its list for over three decades, earning the respect of the profession, the media, and the public as the most reliable, unbiased source of legal referrals. Lawyers on The Best Lawyers in America list are reviewed by their peers based on professional expertise and undergo an authentication process to make sure they are in good standing. Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch recognizes associates and other lawyers who are earlier in their careers for their outstanding professional excellence.

2021 Best Lawyers in Billings:

Shame Coleman: Litigation – ERISA; Litigation – Intellectual Property; Litigation – Patent; Patent Law

Kyle Gray:  Appellate Practice; Insurance Law

Charles Hingle: Banking and Finance Law; Bankruptcy and Creditor Debtor Rights / Insolvency and Reorganization Law

William Mercer: Commercial Litigation; Natural Resources Law

W. Scott Mitchell: Commercial Litigation; Employment Law – Management; Litigation – Environmental; Litigation – Insurance; Natural Resources Law; Personal Injury Litigation – Defendants; Product Liability Litigation – Defendants; Workers’ Compensation Law – Employers

Elizabeth A. Nedrow: Employee Benefits (ERISA) Law

2021 Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Billings:

Vicki Marquis: Environmental Law

Brianne McClafferty: Commercial Litigation

John Sullivan: Commercial Litigation

MSU Billings  fall 2020 enrollment data showed an increase in retention and graduate student enrollment, specifically in all mental and behavioral health programs at the undergraduate and graduate level. At its official 15th class-day count, 4,000 students were enrolled with 2,500 at University Campus and 1,500 at City College. This is a decrease of 416 students (9.4%) from fall 2019. Given the uncertainty and financial impact of COVID-19, this enrollment decrease was expected to be greater and is anticipated to be better than the nationwide higher education enrollment forecasts.

Moving the fall semester start date up three weeks impacted some students’ ability to enroll, especially for those who rely heavily on summer jobs and could not afford to conclude their jobs early. Dual enrollment numbers were also affected since School District 2 and other partner schools started their fall semester later than MSUB, making it challenging for many high school students to enroll.

Interim Chancellor Rolf Groseth noted that many MSUB students also have increased family responsibilities as a result of COVID-19, some having to navigate their children’s remote learning and their own remote jobs, or job loss, creating additional enrollment challenges. Groseth reminded that students can still apply for CARES Act funds that can provide some financial relief.

Notable areas of growth for fall 2020 semester enrollment included:

* Increase in one-year overall freshmen retention by 4%

* City College one-year freshmen retention increased by 13.7%

* Overall graduate student enrollment increased by 6.2%

* New graduate student enrollment increased by 44.2%

* Programs with significant enrollment growth included: Human Services 36.8%, Special Education Advanced Studies 36.4%, Psychology 18.2%, RN to BSN 14.8%, Clinical Rehabilitation and Mental Health Counseling, MS 10.1%, and School Counseling, MS 8.5%

 “The world’s problem is not too many people but lack of political and economic freedom.” Julian Simon

Each year since 2001, Competitive Enterprise Institute pays tribute to free-market economist, professor, and consummate optimist Julian Simon by presenting the Julian L. Simon Memorial Award to an individual whose work supports Simon’s vision of mankind as the ultimate resource. This year, CEI  to honors Dr. Steven Horwitz, Director of the Institute for the Study of Political Economy and Distinguished Professor of Free Enterprise at Ball State University, as the 2020 Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Winner.

Professor Steven Horwitz extends Simon’s legacy with an exemplary teaching career and thorough empirical investigation of labor saving innovations in the modern economy.

Julian L. Simon (1932-1998) was a free-market economist and business professor known for his optimism about the future of mankind. His groundbreaking research built the case for how human ingenuity would allow the environment to support the world’s increasing population over the long-term, demonstrating human beings are an asset to the planet, not a liability.

Simon authored the 1981 classic, The Ultimate Resource, which debunked eco-doomsayers’ predictions that modern civilization is unsustainable. Over the years, he argued that humans are living longer, that people are better fed and healthier, that resources are becoming ever more abundant, and that environmental quality is improving.

Are you a manufacturer who wants to be a part of America’s COVID-19 response? The NAM (National Association of Manufacturers) continues working with the federal government to help manufacturers meet the urgent need for face coverings and other materials. Director of the NAM’s Creators Respond effort Herb Grant recently led a webinar for the Defense Department on how manufacturers can get involved, including by selling to the government itself. Here are a few of his helpful suggestions:  

* Get a DUNS number: A Data Universal Numbering System number is a unique ID that is required to register with the federal government for contracts or grants.* Register with SAM: The System for Award Management consolidates the capabilities of existing federal procurement systems—and you can register at

* Check for contracting opportunities: The webinar covered a range of sites that offer contracting opportunities, including, and Dibbs.bsm.