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E-cig bill would prohibit sale to minors


HELENA — A bill requested by the Attorney General’s office aims to ban the use and possession of electronic cigarettes by minors. 

Senate Bill 66, introduced by Rep. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, refers to electronic cigarettes as “electronic smoking devices” and would classify them as tobacco products, which would put them under the same laws governing traditional cigarettes and smokeless tobacco. 

Doctors, educators and representatives from non-profit groups spoke in favor of the bill, saying that if kids get their hands on these devices they’re more likely to become addicted to nicotine. 

“These things exploded on the scene a few years ago, well ahead of any research,” said Robert Shepard, a Helena doctor. 

But, a parade of opponents also showed up, saying they supported a ban on sale to minors but don’t want the devices to be considered tobacco products. Many said they’d used electronic cigarettes to quit smoking. 

“It’s something that worked for me,” said Patrick O’Connell. “To say that I’m smoking again, I cannot agree with.”


Bill to offer livestock protection 


HELENA — The House Agriculture Committee last week heard House Bill 145, which would create some prevention funding for the Livestock Loss Board to distribute to prevent grizzly bear conflicts with livestock. 

The board pays farmers and ranchers for the animals they’ve lost if they can prove the animal was killed by either a wolf or a grizzly bear. The bill would give the Livestock Loss Board $400,000 to be used for measures to keep the bears away from livestock, like building electric fences around property. 

Rep. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, said the bill was a rerun from the 2013 session. In 2013, Cuffe introduced the bill that added coverage of livestock losses caused by grizzlies to the Livestock Loss Board. Included in that bill was the same $400,000 allocation, but it was ultimately line-item vetoed by the governor. 

The bill had support from ranchers and conservationists.


Bill seeks parole

 board changes 


HELENA — A long line of people spoke in support of House Bill 43, which would give the governor more power to pardon convicted criminals.

The bill would allow the governor to give someone a parole hearing without the approval of the Board of Pardons and Parole. Rep. Margie MacDonald, D-Billings, said that in at least 30 states the governor has the power to pardon someone without a board. 

“It would bring Montana’s executive clemency process into the mainstream,” MacDonald said.

More than 10 people spoke in support of the bill, saying the board needed oversight from the governor to work more effectively. Amber Foster spoke about her husband, who is in prison for statutory rape. She was the alleged victim in the case, and she said her husband deserves to be pardoned. 

“I have tried and tried to get the board to listen to me,” Foster said. 

The only opponent of the bill was Mike McKee, a former parole board member. McKee said the bills seeking changes to the parole board are a result of the Barry Beach case. Beach is in prison for a 1979 murder and has long claimed he is innocent. His most recent parole application was denied by the board last summer. 

 “I don’t think, personally, that the system is broken,” McKee said.

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