Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

The 2017 Montana legislative session rejected two bills directed toward fighting human trafficking when worries arose over complicating issues for which laws are already in place.

House Bill 378 was written to revise criminal laws which regard minors and human trafficking, while House Bill 379 set to revise laws requiring escort services and similar industries to verify identities and store records of employees at the risk of a penalty for non-compliance.

House Bill 379 specifically addressed people who advertise on websites such as Backpage and Craigslist with photos for the purpose of marketing. House Bill 278 would have made a change in specifying that exposing a minor to prostitution in any form is illegal.

While trying to crack down on human trafficking in Montana as much as possible, opposition to the bills were centralized around the idea that these revisions needed further revision, and that they didn’t add anything of real value to the existing legislation on the issue. Continue reading “Lawmakers nix human trafficking legislation”

Human trafficking is a Big Sky country problem

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State news

Montana has seen 315 phone calls to the Human Trafficking Hotline since 2007 from witnesses reporting alleged cases of the crime. The most prevalent form of trafficking taking place through prostitution. The Human Trafficking Hotline has been taking in phone calls and generating statistics on the subject since its inception on Dec. 7, 2007. In 2016, the hotline received 52 separate calls, 15 of which were reports on human trafficking cases.

Looking through the available hotline statistics from 2012 to the present reveals an interesting trend. In 2012 there were 30 calls, 2013 saw 41 calls, 74 calls in 2014, 66 calls in 2015, and the aforementioned 52 calls in 2016. While a steady rise in calls is obvious through the progression of calls over time, the transition from 2015 to 2016 shows a drop in the amount of calls as well as reported cases of human trafficking. Continue reading “Human trafficking is a Big Sky country problem”

Vote Smart to leave Montana roots behind

By JORDAN SPARR/Montana State News

Nonprofit activism organization Vote Smart will leave its Philipsburg ranch in favor of Drake University’s campus in Des Moines, Iowa. After troubles arose from the remote location on Vote Smart’s Great Divide Ranch, President Richard Kimball has decided that a university-owned building in Iowa would be a beneficial change.

With a mission that reads, “Provide free, factual, unbiased information on candidates and elected officials to all Americans” and a history dating back to its inception in 1992, Vote Smart has become an important voice within the American political activism circuit.

According to its official website, Vote Smart is dedicated to helping American citizens take an unbiased look at political candidates in an election environment that is increasingly more dependent on how much those running for office spend on their campaign.

Vote Smart founders, such as American Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, wanted to make sure the organization was dedicated to defending democracy and fighting back against threats to the democratic election process. Continue reading “Vote Smart to leave Montana roots behind”

Campaign launched against mussel invasion

By VIRGINIA HOLST/Montana State News

Canyon Ferry and Tiber reservoirs are being infested by mussels, and the state is doing everything it can to prevent them from spreading to other bodies of water.

Aquatic invasive mussels first arrived in Montana in 2016. Other states that have been infested by these pests have incurred millions of dollars in damage to facilities, as well as issues with water and other species health, according to the Montana Mussel Response Website.

“They can change the ecosystem in ways you don’t want the ecosystem to change,” according to Dan Malloy, a research scientist who studies the invasive species. These mussels feed on plankton, a major food source for sportfish, which may be problematic in Montana as the economy largely relies on fishermen.

Boaters and other recreational water users inadvertently transport Zebra and Quagga Mussel larva nearly every time that they don’t properly clean their equipment. Therefore, Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (FWP) is doing everything it can to prevent the dangers that tag along with these tag-alongs. Continue reading “Campaign launched against mussel invasion”

Fort Ellis: A short chapter in Bozeman’s history

By BAY STEPHENS/Montana State News

Fort Ellis holds onto history by a brief existence, its birth brought about by the fear of native tribes. It’s demise came by the relegation of these tribes to reservations.

According to Rachel Phillips, research coordinator of the Gallatin History Museum, Fort Ellis’ story begins with a group of frontiersman whose names remain in the city of Bozeman: Daniel Rouse, William Beall and of course, John Bozeman.

In the 1850s, Beall and Rouse busied themselves with building log cabins for the wagon caravan of settlers that Bozeman was bringing west to start a Montana settlement.

He guided them along what would later become the Bozeman Trail. At the time, it was an illegal route that passed through lands held through treaty by Native American tribes, Phillips said.

In 1867, accompanied by a man named Tom Cover, Bozeman travelled along the Bozeman Trail trying to secure beef and flour contracts with Army posts along the way. However, only Cover returned to the young settlement. Continue reading “Fort Ellis: A short chapter in Bozeman’s history”

Bill proposed to address sex trafficking

By ZACHARY COE/Montana State News

A bill to prevent sex trafficking in Montana was presented to the state House Judiciary Committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 197 is proposed to prevent girls from being abducted from public institutions and sold into sex trafficking. It would require the Office of Public Instruction in collaboration with law enforcement and Montana Department of Health and Human Services, to support schools educating students on the dangers of sex trafficking a district policy.

The bill will be funded through the Department of Justice, as Health Education. Specialists will need to be brought into to educate public schools, and will have a net expenditure of around $90,000 per year with zero net revenue received. The price will fluctuate each year while considering inflation, but should level out around the desired price range for the foreseeable future. Continue reading “Bill proposed to address sex trafficking”

Senate panel nixes bill on brucellosis status

By MICHELLE BURGER/Montana State News

A state Senate committee tabled a measure that would remove brucellosis from the federal disease list.

Although this disease, which is carried by many wild elk and bison, can be transmitted from animals to humans, it is uncommon and can be cured easily. Some believe this disease still poses a lingering threat with over $3 billion already used trying to vaccinate cattle. SJ 19, introduced by Sen. Mike Phillips, D-Bozeman, was tabled by an 8-1 vote by the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee.

According to testimony on the measure, many believe that once the disease is taken off the federal disease list, research will restart as scientists try to develop an effective vaccine. Continue reading “Senate panel nixes bill on brucellosis status”

Zebra mussels threaten state hydro systems

By EMILY SCHABACKER and SAMANTHA SUNDLY/Montana State News

On the shores of Tiber and Canyon Ferry reservoirs in northern Montana, adult zebra mussels threaten indigenous aquatic life as of Fall of 2016. Without any natural predators in the region, zebra mussels threaten aquatic ecosystems and cause damage to man made hydropower systems.

After the discovery of invasive mussel larvae, known as veligers, in Tiber and Canyon Ferry Reservoirs in November, Gov. Steve Bullock declared a natural resources emergency, according to the Billings Gazette. This order provides state access to $750,000 in emergency funds to begin the eradication process.

Zebra mussels found in North America, typically indigenous to European regions, survive in waters with unusually low calcium levels, according to the United States Geological Survey. The mussels require calcium in order to transform from veligers to shellfish.

Calcium concentration is a key factor in mussel distribution, according to Andrew N. Cohen and Anne Weinstein, authors of Zebra Mussel’s Calcium Threshold and Implications for its Potential Distribution in North America. Zebra mussels in North America have been known to initiate shell growth in 10 milligrams of calcium per liter. Continue reading “Zebra mussels threaten state hydro systems”

AG rules Missoula gun ordinance illegal

By CULLAN STAACK/Montana State News

Montana’s Attorney General Tim Fox says Missoula’s controversial gun background check ordinance, passed in September, violates Montana state law.

The law in question requires private gun owners to complete a background check before selling a gun within Missoula city limits. Essentially, a background check on the buyer must be completed before a legal sale of a gun can occur, even between friends or colleagues.

Support for the ordinance originated in the local chapter of the Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America advocacy group, which presented the Missoula City Council with data about the incidence of suicides and acts of intimate partner violence committed using guns that were not legally allowed to be in a person’s possession. Continue reading “AG rules Missoula gun ordinance illegal”

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