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This Hour: Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

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US delays review of Keystone XL pipeline

WASHINGTON (AP) - The State Department is giving federal agencies more time to review the Keystone XL pipeline before deciding whether to issue a permit.

That could push a decision about the contentious oil pipeline until after the midterm elections in November.

The State Department is citing a recent decision by a Nebraska judge that overturned a state law that allowed the pipeline's path through the state. The State Department says that created uncertainty and ongoing litigation.

The government is not saying how much longer the review will take. But it says the process isn't starting over.

The pipeline has become a politically fraught issue. Republicans criticize President Barack Obama for taking too long to decide. The State Department has jurisdiction because the pipeline would cross the border between the U.S. and Canada.


State won't seek retrial in Yakutat cold case

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - The state won't seek a retrial on a first-degree murder charge for a man charged with killing his girlfriend in Yakutat in 1996.

The Juneau Empire reports ( Alaska prosecutors announced their decision Thursday. Last week, a jury convicted Robert D. Kowalski of second-degree murder in the death of Sandra M. Perry. The jury deadlocked on the more serious first-degree murder charge.

Assistant Attorney General James Fayette asked a judge on Thursday to dismiss the first-degree count.

Sentencing for the second-degree murder charge was set for July 18.

Alaska investigators at first concluded Perry's death was accidental. The case was reopened after Kowalski was convicted of killing another girlfriend six years ago in Montana. Both women were shot in the head at close range, and Kowalski claimed both were accidents.


Montana unemployment rate holds at 5.1 percent

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady at 5.1 percent in March as both the number of available jobs and the workforce increased.

Montana has seen the addition of 7,450 jobs in the first three months of the year.

Labor Commissioner Pam Bucy says stronger job growth has drawn more people into the labor force.

Montana added 2,431 jobs in March - including payroll jobs, agricultural jobs and the self-employed - while the labor force increased by 2,450 workers.

The national unemployment rate in March was 6.7 percent.


Dispute in treasurer's office costs $70K so far

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) - The Ravalli County attorney is recommending commissioners wait for the full results of an audit before filing an official misconduct lawsuit against the county's embattled treasurer. The lawsuit would allow the county to remove her from the payroll.

County Attorney Bill Fulbright said Thursday he believed it would be prudent to wait before suing Valerie Stamey, who was appointed interim treasurer in September and placed on paid leave in January after failing to file several reports.

Commissioners say the dispute and investigation has cost taxpayers $70,000, including Stamey's ongoing pay and pay for a retired Beaverhead County treasurer to help sort through the backlog of work.

Commissioner J.R. Iman said he was frustrated by the county's inability to address the issue, but said he agreed that "a little bit of caution" was a good idea.


Bozeman man sentenced for employee benefit theft

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - A 61-year-old Bozeman businessman has been sentenced to five years on probation and ordered to repay just over $74,000 for failing to deposit money into an employee benefit plan.

The U.S. Attorney's Office says Steven C. Munson pleaded guilty in November to theft from an employee benefit plan and was sentenced last month by U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon.

Prosecutors say Munson owned DDCS Express Inc., which operated mail routes under contract with the U.S. Postal Service.

The company's employee benefit plan received fringe benefit contributions from the Postal Service contracts and voluntary contributions from employees through salary deductions.

After an employee complaint in July 2010, an investigation found Munson didn't make any plan deposits from January 2007 through June 2010 and failed to pay his employees all of the fringe benefits due them.


Man convicted in DUI death returned to prison

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A Browning-area man who has served federal prison time for involuntary manslaughter in a DUI case is being returned to prison for violating his probation by drinking and driving.

The Great Falls Tribune reports ( ) U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Thursday sentenced David Bear child to a year in custody, six months in a residential re-entry center and nine months of supervised release for a March 22 DUI in Glacier County. Court records say he nearly struck a pedestrian in East Glacier.

Bear Child pleaded guilty to the involuntary manslaughter charge after unintentionally backing over his 2-year-old nephew in 2008 and served more than two years in prison. His probation was revoked for driving under the influence and striking another vehicle in December 2011. He was returned to custody and released on supervision in September 2012.

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