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A bill to spend $2 billion in federal COVID-19 relief money inched forward in the Senate on Thursday passing a preliminary vote in the same form as it emerged from a budget panel last week. House Bill 632 appropriating money coming to the state from the federal American Rescue Plan Act passed second reading 32 to 18. If what’s been nicknamed “The Beast” clears a final vote in the Senate, House Bill 632 will head back to the House.

In a survey commissioned by the Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund, most Montanans are opposed to a bill that would allow NorthWestern Energy to buy greater shares in units at the Colstrip power plant which could pass on costs of more than $700 to each ratepayer per year. Richard Liebert is a ranch owner in Great Falls.

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