The Good, the Sad, and the Ugly


The 64th Montana Legislature adjourned on April 28 and preservationists have happy and sad news to digest. MPA is elated to report that two native language preservation bills were signed by Governor Bullock. The Native Language Preservation program was funded for another biennium, and the bill to create native language immersion programs in schools with at least a 10% Native American population was signed into law. Many many thanks to Rep. George Kipp and Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy for carrying these important bills that encourage the use and perpetuation of Montana's native languages.

Also, on a happy note, SB154, a taxation bill that proposed to study the effectiveness (i.e. eliminate) most of Montana's tax credits, including the historic preservation tax credit, passed the House and Senate, but was vetoed by Governor Bullock. A note from the Governor explained, “In fact, the Legislature already has the ability to review the effectiveness and intent of income tax credits through interim committees and during the regular session. There is not a need to force review or to develop an artificial review process which in fact is a simple way to eliminate selected credits without legislative action. For these reasons, I vetoed HB 154.” Thank you Governor! Montana's historic preservation tax credit is a critical component to encouraging preservation and rehabilitation of historic commercial buildings across the state.

Other legislation advocated for by MPA did not fair quite as well. SB264, the Best Place First Bill sailed through house and senate committees with much bipartisan support, but hit a hurdle in the House Appropriations Committee and was tabled 11 to 9. With the end of the session looming, efforts to resurrect the bill failed and time ran out. The Best Place First bill would have diverted a small percentage of the bed and vehicle use tax to fund tourism partners, the Historical Society, Heritage Commission, State Parks, the Arts Council, and preservation grants.

The good news? SB264 gained so much broad support within both houses of the legislature and throughout Montana's heritage, culture and tourism circles that people are already talking about re-drafting the bill for the 2017 session. Working collaboratively we can pass a renewed Best Place First: Tourism, Heritage and Culture bill next time around. 

We thank Senator Bob Keenan! who worked with much energy and commitment to sponsor this bill andsupport heritage and tourism in our state. We also thank Senator Kris Hansen who became a true champion of the bill. In addition, we give special thanks to all our friends in tourism and the arts especially Andrew Geiger, Stuart Doggett, Mike Garcia, Mike Scholz, Racene Friede, and Aimee Grmoljez who worked tirelessly alongside us. We could not have had a better team. We are also are indebted to all our loyal friends who support the MT Heritage Commission, MT State Parks, MT Historical Society, MT Arts Council and our great partners at Montana Association of Museums, for all the tremendous effort to attend hearings, contact legislators, and work on behalf of this bill.

Other bills that failed despite last minute efforts included the much needed infrastructure bills HB5 and SB416 that would have authorized bonding authority for a new Montana Heritage Center and several projects to improve historic buildings across the state. Unfortunately, the bill failed on the last day of the session and the House and Senate adjourned without funding these important building and preservation projects.