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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Legislature Ends With Action On Controversial Policies

The Montana Capitol
William Marcus
Montana Public Radio
Montana Capitol in Helena.

Controversial policy was decided in the waning hours of the 2019 Montana legislative session Thursday. The final acts of the Legislature included funding for a new state history museum, and raising fees on brokers and investment advisors.

Funding for a new Montana Heritage Center appeared dead earlier in the session but was revived and passed its final vote Thursday in the House 58-40.

The so-called Montana Museums Act of 2020 increases the state’s sales tax on hotels and other accommodations from the current 3 percent to 4 percent.

Some of that money will go to pay for the construction of new state history museum in Helena as well as fund grant projects for historic preservation around the state.

Some conservative Republicans objected to the new tax increase saying it will paid by Montanans traveling around the state.

A separate bill, House Bill 694 also passed out of the Legislature just before the deadline. It’s expected to bring around $8 million a year from the doubling of registration fees for certain out-of-state investment professionals, like brokers.

Sen. Tom Jacobson, a Democrat from Great Falls, carried the bill in the Senate.

"It just increases a fee that hasn’t been increased since 1983," he said.

In a last minute move Thursday, lawmakers earmarked some of that new revenue to pay for portions of the state’s Aquatic Invasive Species program. Some of the money will also go into the state’s general fund.

The increase on those fees represents Gov. Steve Bullock’s only requested bill to increase revenue for the state, through a mix of new fees and taxes, to pass out of the Legislature.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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