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

1 April 2017

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.