Legislative Update: Monday, March 13


Scott Sales

Senate blocks bicycle-friendly bill

By Freddy Monares

The Montana Senate blocked a bill that would have required vehicles going 35 mph to give cyclists three feet when passing, and five feet if traveling faster than 35 mph.

House Bill 267 failed on a 24-to-26 vote.

Senate President Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, opposed the bill. He says he does not want any more cyclists in the state and thinks there are too many of them as it is.

“They’re some of the rudest people I’ve ever—I hate to say it, but I’m just going to be bold—they’re some of the most self-centered people navigating on highways, or on county roads I’ve ever seen. They won’t move over. You can honk at them; they think they own the highway,” Sales said.

Sen. Jen Gross, D-Billings, was carrying the bill in the Senate for Rep. Frank Garner, R-Kalispell.

“I’ll just say that we can’t kick bicyclists off the roads any more than we can ban pedestrians,” Gross said.

A motion by Majority Leader Fred Thomas, R-Stevensville, to kill the bill indefinitely passed on a vote of 29 to 21.

Property tax bill gets hearing

Also on Monday, supporters of a bill aimed at reducing property taxes in Montana say the agricultural industry needs help because of dropping commodity prices.

House Bill 558 would reduce the amount of property taxes agricultural landowners and commercial properties pay in the state, reducing taxes on agricultural land by .15 percent, and commercial land by .11 percent.

Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, the sponsor of the bill, said the current tax rate results in an automatic increase.

“What’s the result of being quiet and ignoring this? It’s a $32 million property tax increase on the people of Montana,” Hertz said.

Eric Boyson, a lobbyist for the Montana Association of Counties, opposed the bill.

“If this goes into effect it does shift the burden of that tax obligation within mills at the county level and we oppose this bill,” Bryson said.

This was the first time House Taxation heard testimony on the bill.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.




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