Desk pounding, gay rights, college v. golf and Medicaid expansion on “Capitol Talk”

Johnson, Mauk & Dennison 3SMALLTonight on “Capitol Talk”, our weekly legislative analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about lawmakers agreeing not to pound on their desks again, passionate debate on a bill to repeal a statute that criminalized gay sex, the fight over the new Missoula College, and new proposals for Medicaid expansion…

Missoula Rep. wants to remove Missoula College construction project from bonding bill

Representative David 'Doc' Moore (R-Missoula

Representative David ‘Doc’ Moore (R-Missoula)

Republican Representative Doc Moore (R-Missoula) says he is pushing for an amendment to remove funding for a new Missoula College from the state bonding bill.

A $100 million bonding bill before the state Legislature would fund construction projects on college campuses across the state. About $30 million of that would go toward building a new Missoula College facility on the current University of Montana Golf course.Moore says controversy over the building’s proposed location is what led to the amendment to remove funding altogether.

The State Board of Regents is the body charged with deciding how to spend money on higher education that is appropriated by the Legislature.But Representative Moore does not think this amendment oversteps those bounds.

“That was the number one thing people called me about during the campaign was their concern in preserving that recreation area known as the U of M Golf Course, that’s existed since 1965 and it was gift from the community,” he said.

UM officials say building at the golf course makes more sense for the future of the University, because of the golf course’s close proximity to the main campus. Moore believes the University should have found a way to bring the proposal forward with more community support, “instead of what we have now which is a fractured division. Everybody would like to see an updated College of Technology, but it’s the location that’s the sticking point for a lot of people.”

The bonding bill is currently being considered in the House Appropriations Committee. Moore says if the bill passes that committee with the Missoula College project still in it, he will propose the amendment to remove it on the House floor.

Sally, Chuck and Mike talk gauntlets, golf courses and transparency

Johnson, Mauk & Dennison 3SMALLTonight on “Capitol Talk”, our weekly legislative analysis program, News Director Sally Mauk talks with Lee newspaper reporters Chuck Johnson and Mike Dennison about the governor’s challenge to Republicans in his State of the State address, the Republican response, campaign finance reform, the flap over where to locate the new Missoula College, the state’s new “transparency” website, and ahem,  office Super Bowl pools…

Missoula College most contentious project in bonding bill

A University of Montana handout showing a rendering of the proposed new Missoula College building

A University of Montana handout showing a rendering of the proposed new Missoula College building

The Montana Legislature is looking at a nearly $100 million dollar bonding bill (HB14) to fund a dozen construction projects at colleges and other state departments. These range from renovating Main Hall at the University of Montana-Western in Dillon to constructing a new Montana Historical Society building.

The single project in the bonding bill   generating the most opposition is building a new Missoula College facility (formerly known as the Missoula COT) on the current University of Montana golf course.

“The last best open space in Missoula just happens to be a golf course,” Missoula resident Lewis Schneller told a bonding bill hearing of the Joint Appropriations Subcommittees on Education and Long Range Planning. Schneller echoed the sentiments of several bill opponents in preferring the a new Missoula College be built instead west of town at the site known as Fort Missoula.
College officials say the current facility built for 700 students is woefully inadequate to serve the 2,500 students currently attending school there. Missoula resident Cindy Reimers says most of the people she talks to agree a new facility is badly needed but “only about one in a hundred people I speak to want it at the new location being chosen by the University.”

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom says building on the golf course, otherwise known as “South Campus” is a proposal “thinking about the future of the University of Montana as a whole.” He says Missoula College is the next building that needs to be built, but UM has outgrown the main ‘Mountain Campus’ and other projects will need a space. He points out the UM golf course is less than a mile away from the main campus, versus the six to seven miles it takes to reach Fort Missoula.

“Where does the next building go, does it go in Fort Missoula?” Engstrom asked the committee. “Does it go at South Campus? Does is go along the River? That’s a very inefficient way to design and plan for the long term future of this institution, the University of Montana that is so important to Missoula and so important to the state of Montana.”

Similar bonding bills failed the previous two legislative sessions. Long Range Planning Subcommittee Chair Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad) thinks there is “consensus the projects are necessary.” But he says there may not be consensus on approving bonding loans for all of the projects versus paying for them with cash from the state’s budget surplus. He does hope to see all of the projects stay together in one bill, however.

“Once you start to separate projects then the likelihood of that project actually getting funded and getting the go ahead is significantly reduced. The goal would be to keep as many of these together as possible,” he said.

Sally Mauk talks legislative priorities and federal investigations with UM President Royce Engstrom

University of Montana President Royce Engstrom is having a busy winter, preparing arguments for the legislature, hiring a new Cabinet, and steering the campus through two federal investigations and an NCAA investigation. In tonight’s feature interview, Engstrom sits down with News Director Sally Mauk to talk first about legislative priorities. Those include making sure the university system gets a boost in funding to cover inflation and other rising costs:…