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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Panel Advances Montana Museums Act

"Herd Bull," a bronze bison skull sculpture by artist Benji Daniels on display in front of the Montana Historical Society in Helena, MT.
Eric Whitney
Montana Public Radio

HELENA — After being originally tabled, but then revived by the entire House of Representatives, the Montana Museums Act passed out of committee Wednesday.

Senate Bill 338 would increase the state bed tax from three to four percent to pay for a new location for the Montana Historical Society, which the agency has been asking for for about 15 years. The bill would also use the increased tax revenue to build and maintain infrastructure for other museums and historical sites across Montana.

Montana Chamber of Commerce CEO Cary Hegreberg supported the bill during a public hearing in the House Appropriations Committee.

“This is the appropriate way to fund the preservation of Montana’s history. Not only here in Helena, but throughout the state,” Hegreberg said. “I think having a heritage center and having a museums of quality around the state of Montana will not only induce more tourism but I think it will also induce people who are travelling on business to spend an extra day or two and enjoy and learn about Montana.”

Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, said 75 percent of the state bed tax is paid by visitors and tourists. Gauthier also told the committee this bill has failed the past seven sessions.

“There’s been a lot of hard-working people working on this thing for about 15 years. So, it’s nothing new to the Montana Legislature. So, today I ask you to make some real history and let’s support this bill,” he said.

The committee voted to pass the bill 16-6, and it is scheduled for its final vote in the Montana Legislature Thursday.

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

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