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The Montana Senate is considering a bill that would make it illegal for doctors to help terminal patients take their own life.

The bill heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday would open doctors up to possible homicide charges if they prescribe a lethal dose of medication at the request of their patients.

A 2009 state Supreme Court decision protects doctors from prosecution for the practice, though it is not explicitly allowed in state law.

Supporters of the bill said that allowing physician-assisted death would send the wrong message to those considering suicide in the state. Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S.

“Once allowed this is a severely slippery slope,” said bill sponsor Republican Sen. Carl Glimm. “We need to show in every way we can that suicide is wrong.”

Opponents of the bill made clear that medically assisted death is not related to the state’s suicide rate. The practice is only available to those suffering from terminal disease.

“Medical aid in dying is not suicide. These patients are not depressed — they are dying. There is a very big difference,” said Dr. Colette Kirchhoff, a hospice and palliative care physician from Bozeman. “It’s a way to alleviate suffering.”

Leslie Mutchler, the daughter of Robert Baxter, the plaintiff in the Montana Supreme Court case that allowed the practice, testified in opposition to the bill. Her son chose physician assistance to end his life in 2016 after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer.

“He gained so much peace of mind when he was able to obtain the life-ending medication from a physician,” Mutchler said. “It’s not suicide. It’s a life that is already ending. It is just a way to hasten it.”

Several states allow physician-assisted suicide, including California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

Similar measures to criminalize physicians for the practice have faltered in Montana in every legislative session in the past decade — when the bills have died before reaching the governor’s desk.

This year, the bill may find a more favorable fate with the support of the administration of Gov. Greg Gianforte, the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years. Lt. Gov. Kristen Juras testified in favor of the bill on Friday, saying the governor supports the measure.

Juras said two of her grandchildren are diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a disease that causes persistent lung infections and over time reduces lung capacity.

“We are committed to walking with them through the hard days. I do not want you to send them the message when they have a tough day that suicide is an acceptable option,” she said.


A federal appeals court has rejected Maine’s law requiring cable companies to give subscribers the option of purchasing access to individual cable channels rather than bundled packages.

A federal judge already delayed the law from going into effect in 2019, and the 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston agreed that the law raises constitutional concerns.

Comcast, joined by Disney, Fox Cable and NBC/Universal, Fox Cable and others, sued the state over the law.

The appeals court noted that state acknowledged there’s an insufficient record to justify that the law could withstand muster when it came to First Amendment arguments raised by the cable companies. Cable companies contended they were unfairly singled out, among other things.

Maine Attorney General Aaron Frey had no immediate comment on the ruling, which was issued Wednesday.

Comcast contended the law would mean limited choices and higher prices than the current packages it offers to consumers.

It argued it would’ve been forced to overhaul ordering, distribution and billing systems along with providing new digital cable boxes to many customers. It also contended it would have had to renegotiate contracts with programmers and content providers.

The law was adopted in response to consumer frustration over the growing cost of cable TV packages.

Independent Rep. Jeff Evangelos, the bill’s sponsor, said TV viewers complain about paying for unwanted channels. The Democratic-controlled Legislature passed the law largely on party lines.



A judge has struck down portions of a Michigan towing law after low-income Detroit residents shared extraordinary stories of high fees and frustration about the whereabouts of their vehicles.

The case centered on the practices of Detroit police and a towing company. The decision by U.S. District Judge Judith Levy could force changes in a law that’s viewed as favorable to the towing industry.

Levy last week ordered Detroit to notify the state within 24 hours after police call for a vehicle to be towed. That information typically triggers a notice to the car owner.

There was no maximum deadline to report a towed vehicle under the law, attorney Jason Katz said Wednesday.

Vehicle owners also can ask a local court to suspend the immediate payment of towing and storage fees before they get a hearing to object to a car’s impoundment, the judge said.

“You have an opportunity to get into court and fight it,” Katz said. “I don’t think first asking for $1,000 is fair.”

Gerald Grays believed his car was stolen in 2016. More than two years later, he finally learned that his car had been towed. He was told he would have to pay $930 just to get a hearing in 36th District Court, according to the lawsuit.

Levy ordered Detroit to pay $2,000 to Grays and $1,500 each to two more people. There was no immediate comment from the city Wednesday.

While the case only involved Detroit, Levy’s decision could be applied elsewhere in Michigan, Katz said.

State attorneys defended the law when Republican Bill Schuette was attorney general but dropped out of the case after Democrat Dana Nessel took office in 2019.


Labor union members plan to hand out personal protective equipment outside the sports complex where members of the New Hampshire House will be meeting this week.

The 400-member House is meeting Wednesday and Thursday in Bedford, where they will sit 10 to 12 feet apart to prevent spread of COVID-19. Democrats with serious medical conditions went to court seeking remote access to the sessions, but a federal judge declined Monday to order  Republican Speaker Sherm Packard to accommodate them.

While the House will provide members with masks and hand sanitizer, members of the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades and the AFL-CIO of New Hampshire also will be at the facility’s entrances with similar supplies, including mask and gloves.

One New Hampshire school is planning to hold remote learning for two weeks following the winter vacation, despite Gov. Chris Sununu’s executive order requiring schools to offer in-person instruction to all students for at least two days, starting March 8.

The decision regarding Profile School in Bethlehem, which would be in effect as of March 1, is not expected to conflict with the order, Kim Koprowski, chairperson of the school board, said Monday, the Caledonian-Record reported. The school serves students in grades 7 through 12.

“My understanding of it is there were a handful of schools in the state that are totally remote and he is trying to push those to go to two days a week,” she said. “Since we have been doing that all year, we’ve been face to face, with the exception of a remote period. You could call us hybrid. We should be good.”

A message seeking comment was left Tuesday with the state Education Department. The executive order allows schools to return to remote learning for 48 hours if necessary due to COVID-19 infections. After that, state approval would be required.

Koprowski said that although COVID-19 numbers are trending down, “they are still not at the level they were last fall before Thanksgiving and Christmas.”



The New Hampshire House can proceed with in-person sessions this week without providing remote access to medically vulnerable lawmakers, a federal judge ruled Monday.

Seven Democratic lawmakers sued Republican House Speaker Sherm Packard last week arguing that holding in-person sessions without a remote option violates the Americans with Disabilities Act and the state and federal constitutions, and forces them to either risk their lives or abandon their duties as elected officials.

They sought a preliminary order requiring remote access, but U.S. District Court Judge Landya McCafferty denied their request. Without ruling on the merits of the case, she said the speaker can’t be sued for enforcing a House rule that is “closely related to core legislative functions.”

“While today’s ruling is a setback, history will judge New Hampshire House Democrats favorably for standing for public health and democracy during this pandemic,” said House Democratic Leader Renny Cushing, one of the suit’s plaintiffs. “Unfortunately, this case has exposed the callous indifference of House Republican leadership toward our most vulnerable members during the COVID-19 crisis that has taken the lives of a half a million Americans.”

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the 400-member House has met several times at the University of New Hampshire ice arena, outside on a UNH athletic field, and - after former Speaker Dick Hinch died of COVID-19 - from their cars in a parking lot. The sessions scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday will be held at a sports complex in Bedford that offers more space to spread out than the previous facilities, as well as separate entrances for members from opposing parties.

“We will continue to work with all House members to ensure that if they choose to attend any legislative meeting in person, that they can be confident that we are taking a high degree of precaution, and have extensive health and safety measures in place,” Packard said in a statement.

But Cushing said ruling makes clear that the speaker is “solely to blame for active and obvious exclusion of members of the House.”

“As we teach our children, just because you can do something does not mean you should,” he said.


Attorneys who represent clients in the medical marijuana industry are concerned they might face discipline under a state Supreme Court directive that appears to put federal law in conflict with state law.

The directive, which took effect July 1, says attorneys cannot participate in — or advise clients how to participate in — acts that are illegal under federal law but legal under state law. Medical marijuana is illegal under federal law but was approved by Missouri voters in 2018.

Attorney Dan Viets, of Columbia, who represents medical marijuana clients, said he recently asked the state Supreme Court Advisory Committee whether he could be disciplined under the directive, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Viets said attorneys drafting the 2018 constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana anticipated the conflict and included protections in the amendment’s text for attorneys working in the legal marijuana industry.

The Missouri amendment says, in part: “An attorney shall not be subject to disciplinary action by the state bar association or other professional licensing body for owning, operating, investing in, being employed by, contracting with, or providing legal assistance to prospective or licensed” medical cannabis businesses.

“I was very concerned,” Viets said, adding the state Supreme Court’s directive “appears to contradict the Missouri Constitution. ... I just don’t understand how the court can do that.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling followed the filing of more than 800 lawsuits by medical marijuana entrepreneurs who had been denied business licenses by the state after a controversial application process.

Beth Riggert, spokeswoman for the Missouri Supreme Court, said the court would not comment on the order.



The Mashpee Wampanoag Tribe scored a legal victory Friday when the U.S. Interior Department withdrew a Trump administration appeal that aimed to revoke federal reservation designation for the tribe’s land in Massachusetts.

A federal judge in 2020 blocked the U.S. Interior Department from revoking the tribe’s reservation designation, saying the agency’s decision to do so was “arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, and contrary to law.” The Trump administration appealed the decision, but the Interior Department on Friday moved to dismiss the motion.

In a filing in a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., the Interior Department said it had “conferred with the parties and none opposes this motion.” A judge granted the motion and dismissed the case.

The tribe’s vice chair, Jessie Little Doe Baird, called it a triumph for the tribe and for ancestors “who have fought and died to ensure our Land and sovereign rights are respected.”

“We look forward to being able to close the book on this painful chapter in our history,” Baird said in a statement. “The decision not to pursue the appeal allows us continue fulfilling our commitment to being good stewards and protecting our Land and the future of our young ones and providing for our citizens.”

The Cape Cod-based tribe was granted more than 300 acres (1.2 square kilometers) of land in trust in 2015 by then-President Barack Obama, a move that carved out the federally protected land needed for the tribe to develop its planned $1 billion First Light casino, hotel and entertainment resort.

The tribe learned in March 2020 that the federal government was moving to reverse the reservation designation. The Trump administration decided it could not take the land into trust because the tribe was not officially recognized as of June 1, 1934. That was the year the federal Indian Reorganization Act, which laid the foundation for modern federal Indian policy, became law.

At the time, the tribe’s chair called it a “sucker punch.”

The tribe, which traces its ancestry to the Native Americans that shared a fall harvest meal with the Pilgrims in 1621, gained federal recognition in 2007.

U.S. Representative Bill Keating, D-Mass., whose district includes Cape Cod, applauded the decision to drop the appeal.

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