A reality based independent journal of observation & analysis, serving the Flathead Valley & Montana since 2006. © James Conner.

Archives Index, 2017 April 1–15


15 April 2017

Flathead Memo stood down on this date.


14 April 2017 — 1722 mdt

A free course in old school backcountry navigation


My Silva Ranger 35T, with the magnetic declination set for just under 14° east. NOAA’s online declination calculator puts Kalispell’s current declination at ≈ 13.4° east.

I’m an old school backcountry navigator. Yes, I’m a technophile who carries a cellphone, GPS receiver, and altimeter, but my 1971 Silva Ranger 35T compass and paper topographic maps are the most important items in my wayfinding kit.

Some 30 years ago, leading a wilderness walk along the Swan Crest for the Montana Wilderness Association, I used my Silva Ranger and USGS topographic maps to locate several small, off-trail, lakes using a technique Calvin Rutstrum described as “intentional deviation.”

MWA’s Wilderness Walks have become legendary, and now MWA is offering free instruction in map and compass skills. One course, taught by Brian Baxter, is scheduled for Earth Day, 22 April, at Snappy’s in Kalispell. Here’s his description of the curriculum:

…The idea here is to coach the folks on the old school basics of orienteering with map and compass.The scenario partially addressing lost GPS, dead GPS, no GPS satellites, ect. Even the GPS Gurus I know don’t enjoy teaching a GPS course as everyone brings a different style unit and it becomes difficult. However, I do encourage participants to know both methods. That is what we used in the remote wilderness extensive forest inventories.

Participants need to bring ruler, pencils, calculator, lunch, water, rain gear. Class is rain or shine. Adjustable declination compass if have OR Snappy’s will have four for sale Silva Ranger CL (sale price 48.00) and I have a couple of loaners. Topo quads available for 8 bucks at Snappy’s.

This is an excellent course that I recommend highly. Baxter is teaching skills that will last a lifetime. Master the map and compass, mister, and you will always know where you are, and how to get there from here. The class is small (12), and partially filled, so you need to RSVP to Baxter



14 April 2017 — 0356 mdt

The Missoula Independent is no longer independent

The Missoula Independent newspaper became part of a not loved media empire yesterday when it was purchased by Lee Enterprises, which publishes the Missoulian newspaper.

In theory, according to initial reports, the Independent will stay independent. In practice, that’s not likely to happen. Over time, as current Independent staff move on, they’ll be replaced by people more comfortable working for private bureaucrats, and the Lee corporate culture will prevail.

The key test will come when something bad happens at the Missoulian and the Independent tries to publish the story. Will the corporate public relations honchos spike the report, order the removal of damning facts, and/or demote or fire the reporters who tried to publish the truth?

The Independent’s had a good run, and Missoula’s been better for it. I understand why the Independent’s owner, Matt Gibson, cashed-in. I might have done the same. But my thoughts and sympathies are with the Independent’s news staff, whose improved benefits are offset by increased uncertainty and the newly acquired stigma of working for corporate bureaucrats.



12 April 2017

Note to readers

Flathead Memo is standing down today. Although we’ll return tomorrow, we’ll be in a blogging lite mode that probably will last through Easter.


11 April 2017

Once again, the raw milk bill is “probably dead”

The MT Senate today voted 36–14 to indefinitely postpone HB-325’s second reading. The vote occurred after a series of failed attempts to replace the bill’s immunity from liability clauses with a requirement that sellers of raw milk carry comprehensive liability insurance. The legislature’s website lists the bill as “probably dead,” but it won’t be truly dead until the legislature adjourns sine die.

Two of the ringleaders in exhuming the bill from committee were Democrats Mary Caffero (Helena) and Margie MacDonald (Billings). Why they choose to be friends of dangerous microbes and enemies of sound public health policy continues to puzzle me.

Note. The legislature’s website now lists only one amendment. Earlier today, it listed three. Confusion? A cover-up?


30 awful seconds on the Rob Quist front

Is Democratic congressional candidate Rob Quist running to denounce the millionaires in Congress — or, is he running to help middle class Montanans? If you pay attention to his 30-second television ads, you’re likely to conclude his highest reason for running is denouncing the millionaires in Congress.

It’s a classic “I’m not him” campaign strategy, the strategy Hillary used in her campaign against Donald.

Thus far, Quist’s advertising agency has produced two 30-second spots. Both begin by reporting there are more than 300 millionaires in Congress. That’s music to the ears of the millionaire hating Butte-Helena axis of Montana’s Democratic Party. But that’s not a song of hope for the Big Sky’s middle class.

His ads are slick. Or, to use the jargon of the advertising industry, his ads have high production values. His campaign so reveres this propaganda that it gives the ads names. The latest is named “Voice.”

After the anti-millionaire spiel, Quist risks a few near generic words about a motherhood and apple pie issue. He closes with an exasperating “I approved this message because….” Note to candidates: it’s best to close simply: “I’m Joe Ginauric, and I approved this message.”

I don’t approve 30-second political ads. They insult the intelligence of voters and undermine democracy.

Just once, I’d like to see a progressive candidate stiffarm the Hollywood consultants and advertising agencies, and employ college students with laptops and iPhones to produce two-minute video ads that make coherent arguments for or against particular policies.

In the meantime, Quist should focus not on what will do to millionaires, but on what he will do for middle class Montanans.



10 April 2017

It’s Ballot Access Chaos Day in Montana

Twenty days ago, Thomas Breck, the Montana Green Party’s choice to run for Congress, and two independents, Steve Kelly, and Doug Campbell, also a declared write-in candidate, asked a Federal District Court to order their names be placed on the ballot for the 25 May special congressional election. Montana’s signature requirements, they said, were unreasonable and thus an unconstitutional barrier to ballot access.

I thought that argument was a stretch — but the court thought it made sense.

Late Saturday evening, U.S. District Court Judge Brian Morris enjoined Montana from requiring that independent candidates and non-automatically ballot qualified political parties obtain more than 400 valid signatures to earn a place on the special election ballot:

The Court GRANTS Plaintiffs’ motion for Temporary Restraining Order and Preliminary Injunction (Doc. 3) and enjoins the State from enforcing Montana’s ballot access laws to the extent that it requires an independent or minor party candidate to obtain in excess of 400 valid signatures in order to appear on the ballot for the May 25, 2017, special election for the United States House of Representatives.

According to the Missoulian, Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton takes the position that the new signature requirement is moot because it’s way too late to collect and submit signatures:

Communications Director for the Secretary of State Morgan Williams said the ruling did not change the deadline for those signatures to be submitted and so the secretary of state’s office did not expect any new names to be added to the ballot. Stapleton celebrated the ruling in a press statement.

Writing on the Green Party’s Facebook page last night, Danielle Breck announced another legal challenge to Stapleton:

Good evening my beautiful family! Please congratulate your (exhausted) Montana Green Party on collecting an outstanding 550 signature in a mere 7 hours today! We are eternally grateful to all of you who helped out!

While the SOS has, at this time, declined to concede ballot access we have filed an appeal with the 9th circuit court of appeals. We will keep you all updated as things progress. With all our love, Dani.

It’s possible the special election could be rescheduled for a later date to allow a week for independents and minor political parties to gather signatures. Montana law requires holding the election 85–100 days after the vacancy occurs. Gov. Bullock chose the earliest possible date, 25 May. The filling a federal vacancy statute is silent on whether the governor can change the date of the election. But assuming he can, a 12-day delay would put the election on Tuesday, 6 June.

A 12-day delay would put absentee ballots in the hands of college students during finals week. Democrats want to avoid that. Therefore, I predict Bullock will not change the date for the election without a court’s ordering him to do so.

There will be a lot of legal and political maneuvering today, and more than a little chaos. Keep your flask of Wild Turkey handy. You may need frequent swigs.



8 April 2017

Why 25 May, a Thursday, for the special congressional election?

Updated to include Jeff Essmann’s theory. Governor Bullock’s decision to hold Montana’s special congressional election on the Thursday before Memorial Day continues to puzzle and exasperate me because it defies rational explanation.

Once Zinke’s resignation became effective, Bullock had the flexibility to hold the election on 6 June, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in that month, and in even-numbered years, the date of Montana’s primary election:

MCA 13-25-203. Vacancy in office of United States senator or representative. (1) If a vacancy occurs in the office of United States senator or United States representative, the governor shall immediately order an election to be held to fill the vacancy, except as provided in subsection (3).

The election to fill the unexpired term must be held no less than 85 and no more than 100 days from the date on which the vacancy occurs…

But instead of holding the special election on 6 June, he chose to hold it on 25 May, a Thursday, and for some high schools, the date for graduation ceremonies. When he announced the date, Montana’s news media reported he chose the 85-day minimum because Montana urgently needed representation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

But does that rationale really make any sense? Holding the election 12 days later would not have any measurable negative effect on Montana. Indeed, given the probability of a Republican win, keeping the seat open as long as possible, and thus withholding a vote that would help Paul Ryan and Donald Trump do damage to programs that Bullock believes benefit Montana, made the most sense from a partisan Democrat’s point of view.

Was it to hold the election while college students were still in school? Probably not. At the University of Montana, final exams end on 12 May. The graduation pageant is the next day. The summer session begins on 22 May, which means students will be in school on 6 June.

Update. Rep. Jeff Essmann (R-Billings) tweeted a theory:


Did Bullock have secret information that holding the election on an oddball date and day would maximize turnout? That’s hard to believe.

And if the goal was to maximize turnout, why did Bullock forego the option of requesting special legislation to combine the May school elections with the special congressional election? That would have at least boosted turnout for the school elections, and saved money in the larger scheme of things.

Both Democrats and Republicans believe that high turnouts help Democrats. Did Bullock choose 25 May because he thought that would depress turnout and thus improve the odds that a Republican would win? If you believe that, you will believe anything.

Montana’s last special congressional election, won by Democrat John Melcher (an immigrant from Iowa), was held on Tuesday, 24 June 1969. According to Evan Barrett, the turnout was 72 percent of the turnout in the 1968 general election. It was the next to the last congressional election in Montana in which the voting age was 21 — and it was held the old fashioned way, by voters casting their ballots in person at public polling places.

Now the voting age is 18, the last day of the election is a Thursday, and our governor is against public polling places because he wants Montanans to cast their ballots by mail.

It’s a strange new world — and I don’t like it.


First full rainbow of the season

The first I could see from my front porch. It intensified quickly, stayed at its peak for only a minute or two, then quickly faced. I made this panorama from two images taken with a Nikon Coolpix P310. Had I taken time to attach a wider lens to my DSLR, I would have missed the action.


7 April 2017

Better to kill HB-83 than to accept Gov. Bullock’s
high-handed amendatory veto on mail ballots

It’s still possible that an unholy cabal of skinflint local elections officials (mostly Republican) and mail ballot loving Democrats who hate casting their ballots at the polls will succeed in converting Montana’s special congressional election to an all-mail ballot election.

This morning, Gov. Steve Bullock announced he has issued an amendatory veto to a bill awaiting his signature that would mandate an all-mail ballot for the special election. Bullock did not identify the bill or its author, nor did the Associated Press, but the Great Falls Tribune did. It’s HB-83, Rep. Bryce Bennett’s (D-Missoula) bill to generally revise election laws.

Both the MT House and MT Senate must approve the amendatory veto. I urge legislators to reject Bullock’s arrogant maneuver. Better to let HB-83 die than to breath new life into the abomination known as an all-mail ballot election.


Raw milk legalization bill resurrected,
Quist polling at Yellow Dog Democrat level

Raw milk legalizers have exhumed HB-325, Logicosity reports this morning. Rep. Nancy Ballance’s bill was tabled in the Senate’s Agriculture, Livestock, and Irrigation, Committee on 30 March. Yesterday, the bill was lifted from the table, amended, and reported to the MT Senate with a do pass recommendation. At this point, HB-325 must receive two-thirds majorities in both houses to send the bill to Governor Bullock.

No amendment can fix HB-325. It’s an assault on pasteurization, one of the most successful public health programs in history. It’s passage in any form would be a victory for deniers of science, and enemies of safe food.

Bills like HB-325, which has more lives than a bag of cats, sometimes get passed not because they do good things but because legislators grow weary of the relentless pressure from the zealots pushing the crackpottery. Instead of standing firm, voting NO, and admonishing the zealots not to return the next session, they throw their hands in the say, say “to hell with it,” and vote YES because capitulation is so much less tiring than constantly fighting the good fight.

A Gravis Marketing poll released yesterday reports Republican Greg Gianforte leading Democrat Rob Quist 50 to 38 percent. Libertarian Mark Wicks polled three percent, Green Partier Thomas Breck, who is not on the ballot, polled two percent, and seven percent said they were “uncertain.”

Quist’s 38 percent is the Yellow Dog Democrat baseline for Montana.

Take this poll with many grains of salt. The dates of the polling were omitted. The sample was a “random survey of 1,222 individuals across Montana.” It was a sample neither of registered voters nor likely voters.

The poll was conducted using interactive voice responses and internet responses of cell phone users, with the results weighted by demographic characteristics.

Thirty-seven percent said they were Republicans. Another 37 percent identified as independents. Only 26 percent identified as Democrats. Most of the self-identified independents actually are closet partisans who want to avoid being labeled. Had the independents’ partisan leanings been smoked out with a question such as “Do you usually lean Republican or Democratic?” the number of true independent would have dwindled to approximately ten percent.

President Donald Trump’s approval-disapprove ratio was 50–42 percent with eight percent uncertain. Governor Steve Bullock’s was 42–35–23. Sen. Jon Tester’s was 43–35–22.

Gravis works for conservative candidates and organizations. I suspect this poll was conducted for either a third party group supporting Gianforte, or for Gianforte’s campaign.


Rep. Derek Skees’ Thou shalt give birth to thy rapist’s baby
constitutional referendum won’t be on the 2018 ballot

House Bill 595, introduced by Rep. Derek Skees (R-Lakeside), is an attempt to amend Montana’s constitution by referendum to declare that a person becomes a person at the moment of conception:

Section 1. Article II, section 17, of The Constitution of the State of Montana is amended to read:

Section 17. Due process of law.

  1. No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

  2. As used in this section, the word “person” applies to all members of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development, including the stage of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, or condition of dependency.

  3. The legislature shall implement this section by appropriate legislation.

If adopted, the amendment would outlaw the morning after pill, and all abortions, even abortions to save the mother’s life. It’s the holy grail of anti-abortion absolutists. It’s also political grandstanding, political posturing, political strutting, and approximately ten votes short of making the ballot.

On 31 March, HB-595 passed the MT House 58–42, with two Republicans, Bruce Grubbs of Bozeman, and Daniel Zolnikov of Billing, voting Nay, and Democrat Jonathan Windy Boy, Box Elder, voting for it.

HB-595 will pass the MT Senate, again on the functional equivalent of a straight party line vote, but as there are only 32 Republicans in the MT Senate, the bill won’t receive the 42 votes it needs to be placed on the 2018 general election ballot as a legislative constitutional referendum:

Article XIV, Section 8. Amendment by legislative referendum. Amendments to this constitution may be proposed by any member of the legislature. If adopted by an affirmative roll call vote of two-thirds of all the members thereof, whether one or more bodies, the proposed amendment shall be submitted to the qualified electors at the next general election. If approved by a majority of the electors voting thereon, the amendment shall become a part of this constitution on the first day of July after certification of the election returns unless the amendment provides otherwise.

Skees and his co-sponsors know HB-595 won’t make the ballot, and they knew it before the legislature convened. Nevertheless, they’re trying to bring the Montana Constitution into theological compliance with the Catholic Church and other anti-abortion sectarian organizations.

HB-595 is also an attempt to force Democratic and pro-choice Republican legislators to go on record as opposing what the Bill’s proponents will say is God’s definition of personhood. In other words, the bill is part of a strategy to win elections.

What’s next? Trying to outlaw contraception.



6 April 2017

The filibuster is an affront to the Constitution and democracy

The U.S. Senate today changed its rules to allow debate on a nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court to be closed by a simple majority. Judge Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed as a justice of the court later this week.

Some Democrats are crying foul, but they have no case. The U.S. Constitution requires a supermajority in only seven situations, and confirming a nomination to the Supreme Court is not one of them.

In 2010, I wrote the following:

Whereas: the current requirement for a 60-vote supermajority to invoke cloture in the U.S. Senate allows as few as 41 Senators, potentially representing as little as 11.3 percent of the total U.S. population, to block a vote on legislation; and

Whereas: the Senate’s requirement for a supermajority to close debate prevents the passage of legislation for which there is the support of a simple majority (one-half plus one) of Senators; and

Whereas: the Constitution of the United States requires Congressional supermajorities in only seven situations (override of a Presidential veto; ratification of treaties; conviction of impeached officials; expulsion of members; proposal of Constitutional amendments; remove disabilities to serve as per the 14th Amendment; determine as per the 25th Amendment that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office); and

Whereas: the Constitution expressly empowers the Vice President, in his capacity as the presiding officer of the Senate, to cast the tie-breaking vote whenever the chamber is equally divided, a provision from which we can infer that a only simple majority is needed to make decisions unless the Constitution explicitly requires otherwise; and

Whereas: the Constitution can be amended only by meeting the requirements set forth in Article V, and therefore cannot be amended by the operating rules of the Senate or House of Representatives;

Therefore, it is clear from the black letter language of the Constitution that the Senate’s filibuster is unconstitutional.

The filibuster perverts democracy. So does the representational scheme for the Senate, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Democrats who want to avoid more right wing justices on the court must do two things: (1) pray that Breyer, Ginsberg, and Kennedy, stay healthy and on the court until a Democrat is elected President, and (2) learn how to win majorities in the U.S. House and Senate.



5 April 2017

Red sky at morning


Fiery clouds over the Swan Range just before sunrise this morning.


4 April 2017

Rob Quist’s first TV ad, University of Montana’s Mary Poppins PR


Rob Quist is finally running television ads. In his first ad, a soft sell 30-second spot named Voice, the raspy-voiced Democrat promises to protect public lands, to “fight for Montana’s ranchers and farmers, not Wall Street banks,” and to fight for “health care we can afford.”

The message is right out of the playbook for re-electing Steve Bullock, adapted for a campaign for Congress.

In public appearances, Quist supports a single-payer health care system. But on his website, he offers the standard formulation of the Clinton wing of the Democratic Party:

…make sure all Montanans have access to quality, affordable health care.

Hillary, of course, opposed single-payer health care.

Writing at USA Today, Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, used the same formulation:

Our goal is to give every American access to quality, affordable health care.

Republican Greg Gianforte, Quist’s main opponent, promises something similar:

I’ll work to repeal Obamacare and replace it with real solutions that improve healthcare quality, reduce costs, and increase access for Montanans.

Libertarian candidate Mark Wicks (his website is experiencing technical difficulties) says he would “…vote to roll back the Affordable Care Act.” Until his website is operational again, some of his platform’s planks can be viewed at Montana Cowgirl.

Better health care may be Quist’s biggest reason for running — but in Voice, he’s running away from the issue. Which Quist position on health care should we believe? His in-person support for single-payer health care? Or, his website’s and TV ad’s support for “access to quality, affordable health care,” the same phrase employed by Paul Ryan?

University of Montana’s President Sheila Stearns favors the Mary Poppins approach to public relations. According to the Missoulian, she wants members of UM’s community to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and don’t get between the legislature and appropriations to the university:

University of Montana President Sheila Stearns asked members of the campus community Monday to tell positive stories about the flagship – and stop repeating negative ones.

“We are the sum of the stories that we tell each other over and over,” Stearns said.

That advice comes as the Legislature is debating the future of higher education funding.

Stearns needs a public relations team with three wise members. She should consider hiring this squad:




3 April 2017

Developing stories

Personal exigencies are limiting my blogging until this evening. I am, however, monitoring a few developing stories.

Rob Quist watch. At Intelligent Discontent, Pete Talbot mounts a spirited defense of Quist, and publishes Tyler Gernant’s excellent history of the FEC ruling that lets campaigns pay modest salaries to candidates from the 95 percent. At the Daily InterLake, Sam Wilson shed additional light on Quist’s financial difficulties, and cleared up some questions.

Thus far, Quist’s problem with the stories about his finances have not been so much with the details — unlike Flathead Commissioner Gary Krueger, his medical problems did not lead to bankruptcy — but with his campaign’s self-destructive delay in releasing the information to the public. Instead of presenting the details at the gitgo, thereby controlling the narrative and proving he had nothing to hide, Quist said nothing until good reporting by the Billing Gazette’s Tom Lutey revealed the situation. That made it seem as though Quist was hiding something.

Correction — the FDP is cosponsoring the Hot, Wet, performance

The FDP’s Facebook page, which said “First, the event has nothing to do with Rob Quist, his campaign, the Flathead Democrats, or the Democratic Party in general,” was wrong. Lynn Stanley, who chairs the FDP advised me late today that:

Yes, the Flathead Dems and Flathead Dem Women are co-sponsoring this show with Big Sky Rising. Neither Rob Quist nor his campaign is or was ever, involved. It was voted on and approved at a CC meeting. The money raised is in support of the progressive agendas of these groups.

The ticket agency notice is correct.

Original post. Is the Flathead Democratic Party raising money by sponsoring a risque, adult adults only, performance by the Viscosity Theatre? The FDP’s Facebook page says no, but the ticket agency for the performance says yes. Right wing websites are recoiling in horror, and rubbing their hands in glee in the belief they’ve found liberals embracing something farther from the mainstream than a public showing of Robert Maplethrope’s photographs. I’ve asked the FDP for clarification and will report back when I obtain it, but I’m quite certain the ticket agency made a mistake or was given inaccurate information. The performance will have no effect on the special election, and only the right wing spies who attend will need therapy after the curtain comes down.

Killing SB-305 makes Montana’s Republicans guilty of attempted voter suppression. The GOP’s situation is analogous to that of a husband who sets out to murder his wife, fires his pistol at her, sees her crash to the floor, and walks away believing she’s dead, only to find out later he was firing blanks, and that his wife had fainted but is very much alive. He can’t be guilty of murder, but he’s most certainly guilty of attempted murder.

The MT GOP’s blanks are its beliefs (shared by Democrats) that conducting the 25 May special election by all-mail ballot will (a) increase voter turnout, and (b) help Democrats. But both beliefs are wrong. There’s no evidence that an all-mail ballot will increase turnout or help the Democratic candidate (more on this tomorrow). Therefore the MT GOP is guilty not of voter suppression, but of attempted voter suppression — and both parties are guilty of seeking to adopt a voting system that provides a partisan advantage.

The attempt to blast SB-305 out of the MT House’s judiciary committee received a 51–49 majority, but needed a 60-vote supermajority. I’ve prepared a spreadsheet with the votes for and against broken down by political party.



2 April 2017

Primary notes

I’ll have more on this tomorrow. The graph is based on ballots cast.


1 April 2017

MT Senate’s agriculture committee tables raw milk legalization bill

Selling raw milk in Montana probably will remain illegal for another two years. For the third legislative session in a row, the MT House ignored the public health benefits of mandatory pasteurization, whooping through a raw milk legalization bill.

But on 30 March, the MT Senate’s agriculture committee tabled HB-325, Rep. Nancy Ballance’s (R-Hamilton) bill to legalize selling raw milk on a small time basis, once again rescuing the MT House from its cowardice and irresponsibility on the issue.

Do not be surprised if the legalization attempt returns in the form of a citizens initiative. And if the bill returns in the 2019 legislative session, do not be surprised if the MT House once abdicates its responsibility to protect public health and whoops the bill over to the Senate.

Meanwhile, Montana needs to start cracking down on the black market for raw milk. A summer of Elliot Ness tactics, of smashing vessels of black market milk, of burning the barns of scofflaw dairymen, of throwing sellers of bootleg unpasteurized milk in jail, would drive the black market out of Montana. Update, 2 April. This paragraph made some people queasy. Therefore, a clarification: all done with a proper court order, of course.


MT Senate stupidly supports Scott Sales’ jihad against bicycles


Montana’s campaign to prevent aquatic invasive species — quagga and zebra mussels are two of the worst — won’t be funded by selling decals to be affixed to motorboats. Instead, some funding will come from slapping a $25 decal on out-of-state bicycles. On 30 March, the MT Senate approved, 26–24, Senate President Scott Sales’ (R-Bozeman) bicycle tax amendment to SB-363:

New section. Section 4. Nonresident invasive species bicycle decal.

  1. an invasive species decal must be affixed in a conspicuous place to each bicycle that is brought into and used in montana by a nonresident. A nonresident may not use or give permission for the use of a bicycle the nonresident brought into the state on which an invasive species decal is not affixed.
  2. an invasive species decal must be purchased each calendar year for $25 at locations prescribed by the department of fish, wildlife, and parks. The decal is not transferable between bicycles.
  3. money collected by payment of fees under this section must be deposited in the invasive species account established in 80-7-1004.

All Senate Democrats opposed the bicycle tax amendment, as did six Republicans, one of whom, Al Olszewski, represents the Flathead. The rest of the Flathead’s delegation to the MT Senate, Dee Brown, Keith Regier, Mark Blasdel, and Bob Keenan, voted to the fund the AIS program by taxing bicycles instead of taxing boats.

Republicans who voted against Sales' bicycle tax

MT SenatorPartyTownFlatheadVote
Fielder, JenniferRThompson FallsN
Fitzpatrick, SteveRGreat FallsN
Gauthier, TerryRHelenaN
Howard, DavidRPark CityN
Olszewski, AlbertRKalispellYesN
Tempel, Russel (Russ)RChesterN

After approving Sales’ soak the tourist with bicycles amendment, SB-363 was approved on the second reading 29–21. A day later, a motion to reconsider the bill drew 19 Ayes and 29 Nays. On the third reading, SB-363 and its tax on bicycles, was sent to the MT House 32–18, with three Democrats, Tom Facey, Diane Sands, and Gene Vuckovich, voting Aye. Three Republicans, Jennifer Fielder, Steve Hinebauch, and Jedediah Hinkle, voted Nay.

For 32 senators, it was easier to pass the buck to the MT house than to buck Sales. Now the MT House has the responsibility of removing the bicycle tax amendment, and restoring the motorboat decal fee.

Meanwhile, the MT Senate should consider rebuking the dour Sales for his reprehensible campaign against bicycles and bicyclists. His bicycle tax amendment to SB-363 was not his first offense against human powered transportation in this legislature. A couple of weeks earlier, speaking against HB-267, Rep. Frank Garner’s (R-Kalispell) bicycle safety bill, he unleashed a diatribe against bicyclists:

“They’re some of the most self-centered, rude people navigating on the highways and county roads I’ve seen. They won’t move over. You can honk at them. They think they own the highway.”

The Senate president also criticized cyclists by saying they use the road without paying a gas tax to support maintenance, and suggested cyclists over the age of 16 should pay a $25 tax.

“They have this entitlement mentality, many of them, that we should just wait for them, and quite frankly I think that’s wrong. … Quite frankly I don’t want more of them in the state because there’s already too many of them as it is.”

Why does Sales hate bicycles and bicyclists so much? I don’t know why, but I do know he likes to drive fast. Perhaps having to slow down for a bicycle sends him into near road rage. Perhaps he roared by a bicyclist and then became infuriated when he was flipped off for driving like a reckless fool. If that’s what happened, he had it coming and has no complaint.

One person I know suggested sending Sales to a re-education camp, or to anti-anger classes. Those remedies are worth considering. But there’s a much better cure for his attitude. Have him spend his summer riding a tour bicycle all across Montana, from north to south, from east to west, in sunshine and rain, at high noon and astronomical twilight, on roads heavily traveled by leadfooted cowboys in speeding pickups, sipping red beer, listening to deafening country rock, their arm around their squeeze, and squeezing bicycles into the ditch. If he survives, perhaps he might undergo an attitude adjustment.