Mar. 29 Montana News Briefs

Friday, March 29, 2019

Montana House passes gun safety bill, advances to Senate

HELENA (AP) — The Montana House has passed an amended version of a gun safety bill championed by a Helena student group. The Independent Record reports House Bill 477 was approved Thursday on a 61-35 vote. It now goes to the Senate for more debate. The proposal sponsored by Democratic Rep. Moffie Funk of Helena would require the Montana Office of Public Instruction to create a gun safety program for public schools. The original bill also would have fined those who fail to secure a gun that a child uses in an act of violence, but that provision was removed in the House. Even with the change, Funk says the bill could make a huge difference in the lives of young people by encouraging school boards to get serious about gun safety education.

Lawmakers reject recreational marijuana in Montana

HELENA (AP) — A state House committee has rejected a bill that would have legalized recreational marijuana use in Montana. The Independent Record reports that the House Taxation Committee voted 12-6 Thursday to table House Bill 770, effectively killing the measure. Supporters of the proposed bill say legalizing recreational marijuana for adults would bring Montana $35 million to $55 million in annual revenue with a 32 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. Opponents noted recent reports that found increased traffic deaths and hospitalizations in Colorado related to marijuana after it was legalized for recreational use in that state. The House panel also tabled five other bills, including one proposal to revive the local option sales tax.

Former day care owner, husband charged with abuse

MISSOULA (AP) — A former Montana day care owner and her husband have been accused of abusing a child they adopted in 2013. The Missoulian reported Thursday that Angela and Malcom Cobler face nine charges including child endangerment, assault on a minor and tampering with evidence. A child and family support official’s report says the couple locked the 11-year-old girl’s bedroom, provided a bucket for a toilet and placed duct tape to indicate boundaries to keep her within sight of a surveillance camera. Charging documents say the girl also suffered a black eye and bruising on her back and arms; she was removed from the home in July. Records say Angela Cobler owned Kids World Childcare in Missoula until it closed in 2012. The newspaper was unable to reach the Coblers for comment.

Former Montana sheriff’s captain charged with embezzlement

GREAT FALLS (AP) — A former member of a county sheriff’s department has been charged with embezzlement. The Great Falls Tribune reported Thursday that Raymond Hitchcock has been charged with misdemeanor theft of property by embezzlement. Police officials say the former Cascade County Sheriff’s Office captain is accused of taking a service firearm worth less than $1,500 purchased with county funds with him upon his retirement without permission. Officials say Hitchcock did not follow the proper procedure for keeping the firearm and returned the Glock 43 to investigators after being interviewed. Officials say former Undersheriff John Stevens was also charged last week with felony embezzlement of countyowned firearms worth more than $1,500 upon leaving the office about 220 miles (354 kilometers) from Billings. A phone number for Hitchcock could not be located Thursday evening.

No serious injuries in bus rollover in western Montana

BUTTE (AP) — Authorities say a small bus rolled over in snowy weather on Interstate 15 in western Montana. No one was seriously injured. The Montana Standard reports the driver of the Salt Lake Express bus lost control south of Butte early Thursday. The bus rolled onto the right shoulder of the northbound lanes, and passengers had to break a window to get out. One passenger was hanging from a seat belt. Investigators say 10 people, including the driver, were on the bus, and some of them were taken to a hospital in Butte. Montana Highway Patrol Capt. Josh Brown says road conditions in the Butte area were wet and slushy, and troopers were steadily responding to calls.