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Senate president to ask Priest to 'step back'

By Associated Press
Published On: Feb 03 2014 04:25:13 PM MST
JEFF ESSMANN

Montana Senate President Jeff Essmann

HELENA, Mont. -

Montana Senate President Jeff Essmann says he will ask a state senator to step back from his legislative duties after being arrested on allegations of pushing his wife.
    
Republican Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge pleaded not guilty Monday to charges of partner or family assault and resisting arrest. He was arrested Saturday night and released Monday after posting $1,500 bond.
    
Essmann says the allegations against Priest are a matter of serious concern. The Billings Republican says he has been unable to speak with Priest, but he intends "to discuss (Priest's) continued participation in the business of the Montana Senate."
    
Priest did not return a call for comment Monday.
    
He is the chairman of the Senate Public Health, Welfare and Safety Committee, but is not serving on any interim committees while the Legislature is out of session.