Help Stop the Anti-Tourism Bicycle Tax in Montana

April 5, 2017

Montana has been making bicycling headlines lately, and unfortunately for us, it hasn’t been good press.

This time, the Montana Senate has passed an amendment to create an anti-tourism bicycle tax, which would charge all out-of-state bicyclists who visit Montana $25. This amendment is now part of Senate Bill 363, which is intended to fight aquatic invasive species — essentially, visiting cyclists would be forced to pay for Montana’s efforts to fight pesky mussels.

Huh?! How does that make sense? Well, it doesn’t.

It’s even more incredulous that senators also passed amendments to drop fees on irrigation and watercraft, but somehow bicyclists should “have skin in the game” in the fight against invasive species. This Missoulian article quotes Senator Sales, who introduced this amendment and is now infamous for his previous comments labeling cyclists as “rude and self-centered.”

WE NEED YOUR HELP

We need your to help to stop this bicycle tax requirement from passing in the House. The House Natural Resources Committee will be taking executive action on Senate Bill 363 this Friday, so it’s critical that House representatives hear from you by 12:00 pm Friday, April 7

Please contact these House members listed below TODAY, either by phone or email. You can use the talking points below to craft your message, or if you don’t have much time, you can use the template email. We just ask that you be respectful and courteous — we don’t want to reinforce Senator Sales’s misconception of who cyclists are. We also recognize that this bill is important to Montana’s water quality, so we are not against the bill itself, just Section 4, which includes the $25 out-of-state bicycle fee. 

ASK:

No $25 Bicycle Fee — Please Remove Section 4 from SB 363 

TALKING POINTS: 

  • It’s not appropriate to tax bicyclists from out of state to pay for invasive species removal.
  • It is unconstitutional and discriminatory to target a specific group of tourists.
  • It not feasible to enforce and would cost money to implement, likely more than the revenue that would be gained. 
  • How would law enforcement determine who is a resident bicyclist vs nonresident? 
  • Nonresident visitors wouldn’t know they need a decal or where to buy it. 
  • Taxing bicycle tourists is anti-tourism and would severely impact bicycle tourism in Montana.
    • Visiting touring cyclists spend an estimated $377 million per year, spend 40% more, and stay longer than other types of tourists in the state.
    • Many rural Montana communities rely on bike tourism and are actively investing in attracting bicyclists.
    • This would affect all people who bring a bicycle into the state, including leisure day riders, touring cyclists, mountain bikers, racers, event tour participants, etc. 

MONTANA HOUSE MEMBER CONTACT INFO:

Member Assignment Town Phone email
Kerry White (R) HD 64  Chair Bozeman 587-3683 winwithwhite@gmail.com
Zach Brown (D) HD 63  Vice Chair Bozeman 579-5697 brownformontana@gmail.com
Theresa Manzella (R) HD 85  Vice Chair Hamilton 546-9462 Rep.Theresa.Manzella@mt.gov
Kim Abbott (D) HD 83  Member Helena 439-8721 Rep.Kim.Abbott@mt.gov
Bob Brown (R) HD 13  Member Thompson Falls 827-9894 Rep.Bob.Brown@mt.gov
Virginia Court (D) HD 50  Member Billings 259-5099 vcourtforlegislature@yahoo.com
Willis Curdy (D) HD 98  Member Missoula 546-0523 Rep.Willis.Curdy@mt.gov
Ross H Fitzgerald (R) HD 17  Member Fairfield 788-1443 Rep.Ross.Fitzgerald@mt.gov
John Fleming (D) HD 93  Member St. Ignatius 745-4161 JohnFlemingStIgnatius@gmail.com
Kelly Flynn (R) HD 70  Member Townsend 459-7382 Rep.Kelly.Flynn@mt.gov
Wylie Galt (R) HD 30  Member Martinsdale 220-0157 wyliegaltformt@gmail.com
Steve Gunderson (R) HD 1  Member Libby 334-4370 Rep.Steve.Gunderson@mt.gov
Dale Mortensen (R) HD 44  Member Billings 855-1424 Rep.Dale.Mortensen@mt.gov
Mark Noland (R) HD 10  Member Bigfork 253-8982 marknolandhd10@gmail.com
Jonathan Windy Boy (D) HD 32  Member Box Elder 945-1805  

Template Email: 

No $25 Bicycle Fee — Please Remove Section 4 from SB 363

Dear House Natural Resources Committee,

As a bicycle tourist who would be affected by the proposed $25 out-of-state bicycle fee, I am writing to urge you to remove this Section 4 provision from SB 363.

This is an unenforceable, anti-tourism tax that would damage Montana’s economy and reputation as a tourism destination. It would be unfeasible to implement and would likely cost the state more money than it would generate. It would discriminate against a specific tourist group — people who bicycle on vacation — and force them to pay a tax to fund something that has nothing to do with bicycling: invasive aquatic mussel removal. In addition, there is no way for law enforcement to determine which bicyclists are residents or nonresidents. 

Bicycling is the second most popular outdoor recreation activity in the country, and a third of all Americans ride a bike. Bicycle tourism — including bike touring, mountain biking, events, and day rides — brings in millions of dollars to the state economy. Bicycle touring alone contributes an estimated $377 million each year to Montana, particularly in small rural communities and businesses that need it. If the goal of this tax is to discourage tourists who bicycle from choosing to spend time and money in Montana, that might be its only real effect.

[Include something personal about your past experience or future plans to bicycle in Montana, and how this amendment would affect you.] 

Please support Montana’s tourism economy and strike Section 4 from SB 363. 

Sincerely,

Name

City, State

 

Bottom photo by Tom Robertson

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BUILDING BICYCLE TOURISM is written by Ginny Sullivan and Saara Snow of the Travel Initiatives Department and focuses on the growing national movement to build bicycle tourism, including economic impacts, bike friendly tips, multimodal travel, case studies, and destination development and marketing.

Comments

Rick Mason

This is so nonsensical that I had to quickly check the date of the posting to make sure it wasn't April 1st.

Sounds like someone needs to do some digging to find out why Montana politicians hate cyclist so much.

While I routinely see weekend warrior types of cyclists (i.e. locals) ride in illegal and selfish ways, Bike Tourists and Bike Travelers are generally the opposite. Because our very lives depend on being respected, we tend to do what ever we can to make cars like us.

Very strange indeed. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

April 5, 2017, 8:33 AM
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Carol Maher

I agree with you Rick, if the states would pay more attention to savings lives and they want revenue the should start by fining those motorist from "TEXTING" while driving. They would likely bring in far more revenue from blatant moving violations like this than they would any stupid $25 bicycle tax. As for me personally, I"m damn tired of picking up newspaper and bicycling magazines and every week seeing a cyclist having been run over, mangled for life or killed by some moron in a vehicle not paying attention while driving a three ton vehicle because he or she was texting while driving. It just happened again this past week in Texas but in this case it was a 22 year old driving a truck killed 13 people in a church van while texting and crossing the lines in the road. It could just as easily have been you or me on a bicycle or a group of cyclist let alone a belligerent motorist that doesn't like cyclist. I don't even what to hear from Senator Sales that cyclists as "rude and self-centered."....... how dare him. Let him spend an hour on his tooshie riding a bicycle on any city street and I'd bet he would change his tune real quick like.

April 8, 2017, 9:02 AM
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Michael Gormley

I have taken two tours through Adventure Cycling that have started in Montana. I spent several days before and after exploring the area, paying for lodging, restaurants, gas and other expenses. The reason I was in Montana was to bicycle. I guess the state doesn't need my money.

April 5, 2017, 9:08 AM
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john hutson

This amendment would fail the interstate commerce clause of the US Constitution. Out-of-state cyclists are treated differently than resident cyclists.

April 5, 2017, 10:09 AM
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Milo Minderbinder

While I oppose this tax, I am not sure that it violates the ICC.

States already charge non-residents a higher rate for college tuition, hunting licenses, fishing licenses, park admittance, etc.

April 6, 2017, 8:51 AM
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john hutson

Was familiar with college tuition, not the others. The ICC clause is a funny one. It gets used for many things where the Feds want power over states. Taken one step further (which is not that extreme in this case), would a state be allowed to set up toll booths and charge non-residents a fee to enter? Probably not.

April 6, 2017, 10:31 AM
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Allen Bishop

True but they also charge their residents a fee as well. This punitive tax is for only non-resident cyclists. Which brings the question if a cop sees a bicyclist how will he know if they are non-resident with out doing some sort of stop, mostly without cause.

April 8, 2017, 7:04 PM
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matt f

charge everyone 100$ for bike license plates of course!

April 10, 2017, 4:43 AM
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C Voigtsberger

Johnathan Windy Boy????? What an appropriate name for a politician. Did he come by that name before or after he was elected to office?

If Senator Sales is from your district, the big question is why is he still in office? He clearly has allowed his personal feelings run counter to what is good for his constituents.

April 5, 2017, 12:28 PM
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L Thomas

You probably didn't realize this when you commented, but Johnathan Windy Boy is an Indian name - and probably a very traditional one.

April 5, 2017, 1:15 PM
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greg forrester

Johnathan Windy Boy is a Native American who house district includes 2 resevations, Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap which are south and east of Havre.

April 6, 2017, 6:48 PM
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Stephen De Dalto

I'm just glad that this guy wasn't around 40 years ago when Bikecentennial got started or else I'd have had to get a sticker for my bike back then. And then again in 1980. And, in 2001 for the 25th Anniversary shindig and last year's 40th Anniversary hootenanny (sp?). Besides, I don't want any sticker on my bike frame (if you read the bill, they say it's not transferable and would therefore have to be stuck to the frame). Imagine having to get a new sticker every year one goes to bike ride in Montana? Well, I'd imagine the law would probably keep folks out.

Here in New York City we have all sorts of invasive things, species and otherwise. If only a license would help us eradicate them. Anyway, I will get on it to write to the folks you listed.

April 5, 2017, 1:28 PM
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Jim Braley

I am a native of MT, currently residing in Georgia, and ride my bike around the state every summer. I have written a note to the state rep representing the town in MT where I was born and raised and expressed my opposition. I was not aware the state was so pressed for funds that they needed to come up with such a silly piece of legislation.

April 5, 2017, 2:30 PM
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Rob Weum

Perhaps someone should suggest a financial analysis of implementation/enforcement costs vs. revenue. That's been the final nail in the coffin of most of these bicycle licensing/taxing schemes. Especially since it's aimed only at non-resident cyclists ... are they planning on pulling over every cyclists for proof of residency?

April 5, 2017, 4:55 PM
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Adam Kanczula

Here are all the email addresses from above to copy and paste into your email "To" area...

brownformontana@gmail.com; Rep.Theresa.Manzella@mt.gov; Rep.Kim.Abbott@mt.gov; Rep.Bob.Brown@mt.gov; vcourtforlegislature@yahoo.com; Rep.Willis.Curdy@mt.gov; Rep.Ross.Fitzgerald@mt.gov; JohnFlemingStIgnatius@gmail.com; Rep.Kelly.Flynn@mt.gov; wyliegaltformt@gmail.com; Rep.Steve.Gunderson@mt.gov; Rep.Dale.Mortensen@mt.gov; marknolandhd10@gmail.com; winwithwhite@gmail.com

April 5, 2017, 5:33 PM
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Tim Daniels

Thanks for the copy-pasta version. Here's what I sent:

Dear Montana State Legislators,

If your goal with Section 4 provision from SB 363 is to stop bicycle tourists from riding through your state and spending their tourist dollars there, then by all means, carry on. Before you do this however, you might just want to look a bit more closely at how much money bicycle tourists bring into your state. Don't forget to look at mountain biking tourists who are riding $5000 bicycles and staying in hotels every night and eating at restaurants for most meals. While they may not be the target of this punitive and questionably constitutional "tax", many of them will avoid your state on principal. In light of this, and other recently introduced anti-bicycle legislation, I know I will. The last time I rode through, it was the highlight of a 2000 mile bike ride and I spent a lot of money there. There are plenty of other cool places to ride - and spend my hard earned money - without the bad vibe I'm feeling from Montana.

Beyond that, I hope your state residents are okay with the money their businesses will lose, the money it is going to take to enforce this ridiculous law, and the time and money wasted to futilely defend it in court when it is ultimately challenged.

Disappointedly,

Timothy Daniels

Not a Montana State resident - thankfully

April 5, 2017, 9:45 PM
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Diane Tappero

Thank you, I'm from Auburn, Washington and plan girls weekend get away for the last couple of years to Montana. Just emailed everyone on the list you provided.

April 8, 2017, 2:03 PM
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Brian Darby

Wait, wait! He must think that only out-of-state bicyclists are "rude and self-centered"? They are the ones most likely to be well-behaved! Maybe we should all fax him a pic of our wounds to show how much skin we have left on the pavement, due to motorists.

April 5, 2017, 5:39 PM
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Ford Kanzler

@ John Hutson - Yeah, I thought we got over that when the Articles of Confederation were killed.

"Creating a class"and treating them differently (such as cyclists or people of a particular religion or nationality) is, last time I checked, unconstitutional. But that concept is apparently lost on some people, including those in low and high government offices.

April 5, 2017, 7:58 PM
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Jack Day

A toll or embargo is a form of road pricing typically implemented to help recoup the cost of road construction and maintenance. This bicycle amendment (highwayman toll) is now part of Senate Bill 363 , which is intended to fight aquatic invasive species. Huh? A highwayman was a robber who stole from travelers. In the 19th-century American West, highwaymen were known as road agents. In Australia they were known as bushrangers.

I had planned to take 15 days cycling across Montana this summer. That's two weeks of food, drink, motels, bike parts, campgrounds, trinkets, gifts, and misc. fees. I may take a Canadian route instead. $25 may not be much, but the principle of highway robbery turns me off.

April 5, 2017, 8:24 PM
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Andrew

Does this now mean I will have to change my upcoming transcontinental bicycle tour? Skip Montana altogether? If this passes I will definitely skip Montana. As much as I want visit the state I would easily pass it up on principle alone, if this passes. We know where we are not welcome. I will happily spend my travel funds in the adjacent states.

I was so looking forward to visiting the Adventure Cycling headquarters in MT.

Maine to Oregon 2017!

April 5, 2017, 8:24 PM
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John

I rode self supported across the fine state of Montana 3 years ago. As that tour took 8 days and We ate at local restaurants, stayed in hotels 3 nights, drank local brews. I am not self centered just a very happy cyclist who enjoys talking with people from the local community where one can learn so much more than in a car traveling on the Interstate.

April 5, 2017, 10:08 PM
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Guy Jett

Hmmn,

I'm a property owner in Montana but a resident of another state. My son is a Montana resident and avid cyclist. What happens if I'm visiting and borrow his bike? It's a "Montana bike" but I'm from out of state. Getting even more confusing.

Cheers!

April 5, 2017, 10:31 PM
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Scott Hurst

I run a livery business with over a hundred boats and I have to purchase invasive species stickers for my boat fleet to help pay for protection in other states that we operate in . I could see it if it was a boat which has the potential to spread invasive species like the quagga mussel but a bicycle. Ridiculous.

April 5, 2017, 10:37 PM
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Michael rose

I'm glad I visited Montana a few years ago. It's a beautiful, although, obviously a misguided state. I will do my biking in the other 49 states from now on, thank you. How sad, but I feel that adventure cycling should move their headquarters to another state. I will donate the money that I would have spent in my next trip to Montana to the move.

April 5, 2017, 10:59 PM
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Neil Wilkinson

This is not an at large problem with MT. We have a particular legislator who has gone anti-cycling on us this legislative session. Let's hope this stupid amendment gets struck down and our problem child is not re-elected. Come see is in MT we love to ride!

April 6, 2017, 9:16 PM
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Selwyn

Montana intoduced this New Zealander to cycle touring in 1990. I bought my Cannondale from a super friendly bike shop in Missoula to start a wonderful Great Parks North tour with Bikecentennial. So sad that Montana politicians could let their State down by contemplating such ridiculous legislation and spoil the amazingly friendly impression I had of Missoula.

April 6, 2017, 12:33 AM
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jerry kyser

if the state of montana is bad off for money , they should give it back to the indians and every one move out plus who's pocket will the money go into?

April 6, 2017, 6:07 AM
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Rich McKay

Perhaps Adventure Cycling (and the people of Montana) need to look at the "bigger picture". Scott Sales (R) wins reelections handily, and ran unopposed last year. A bicycle-friendly Republican Montanan needs to run against Sales in the state's primary, backed with cash from every bicycle advocacy group imaginable, including crowd sourced campaigns.

April 6, 2017, 6:13 AM
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greg forrester

His 4 year term runs through 2020 and then he will be term limited out of the Montana Senate.

April 6, 2017, 6:58 PM
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Mark Troup

Planning a long tour in 2018, and my route was going to include Montana. If this bill passes unamended, I will be changing my route to avoid Montana on principle. What a petty and short-sighted amendment!

April 6, 2017, 7:01 AM
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Claudine Zender

I individually emailed each of the legislators with the following:

Dear Legislator:

Last July my husband and I traveled to Missoula for a 3-day cycling trip coinciding with the 40th anniversary of Cycle Montana and the opening of the Bitterroot Bike Trail. We stayed in a condo beside Missoula's community bike path, ate every meal out in restaurants, patronized many businesses, and enjoyed a half-day rafting trip on the Clark Fork River. We had such a good time we decided to put Montana on our regular rotation of annual vacation destinations.

We spent about $600 on our weekend trip, and after we returned home to Idaho became life members of Adventure Cycling, which promotes bicycle touring and draws thousands of cross-country cyclists to Montana each year.

When I heard about efforts to add Section 4 to SB 363 I was aghast. Even in Idaho, where crackpots promoting strange agendas abound in local and state government, I have never heard of such a ridiculous measure intended to drive tourists away from a state.

Are you intending to build a wall around Montana so you can stop vehicles and levy this new tax? That would be great for Idaho tourism, since plenty of people will just turn around at the Montana border and spend their vacation dollars in Idaho.

Please rethink this patently ridiculous measure. It won't do anyone any good.

Claudine Zender

Moscow, Idaho

April 6, 2017, 7:55 AM
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Matthew Kent

Wow, I am shock and horrified that this bill is even under consideration! As lifetime cyclist, i find this both discriminatory and completely without merit. I say we boycott the state. A tax like this, is simply pure ignorance.

April 6, 2017, 7:59 AM
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Dave Weilacher

I'm curious. I ride a trike. Am I excluded from this tax. Amore pertinent question. If I cross the border in my 100k RV with six bikes on racks in the back, do I have to pay $150.00?

April 6, 2017, 8:22 AM
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greg forrester

The way the proposed law is currently written, yes. It does not exclude bicycles being transported across Montana.

April 6, 2017, 7:18 PM
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Mark Clouse

This is just a "spoiler" amendment intended to inflict pain on supporters of the ecological aspects of the bill. A truly Machiavellian tactic that may work to give cover to representatives who vote against the whole measure. This was probably inserted and the request of the various boating lobbies who don't want their industry impacted by the invasive species problem.

April 6, 2017, 8:57 AM
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greg forrester

Cannon Ferry Lake east of Helena is part of Senator Sales district. His district also includes the Missouri River from Gates of the Mountain Wilderness area upstream to where the river forms in Three Forks.

April 6, 2017, 7:15 PM
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Saara Snow

We've since heard that Senator Sales originally introduced the amendment because he was upset about profane comments he'd received in response to his mean-spirited comments about cyclists being 'rude' and 'self centered.' Apparently it actually was an April fools "joke" that got out of hand in the legislature and has caused a lot of unnecessary work and worry. It's not over yet, but we believe it will be removed from the bill. This whole situation was an unprofessional abuse of power from people who are supposed to represent us. Unfortunately, as a nonprofit with a 501 c3 tax status, we aren't allowed to campaign for or against any candidate, but we will work with Bike Walk Montana to do what we can.

April 6, 2017, 9:36 AM
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Alan Millar

My note to your reps:

I am writing in opposition to the proposal to tax cyclists in your state. I am from N. Idaho and a cycle tourist. I have traveled to Montana to cycle numerous times and wanted to do so again but would reconsider if you pass this silly, onerous tax on a set of road users who have nothing to do with the fight against invasive zebra mussels. Should Idaho retaliate by taxing Montana visitors to help with similar efforts here? This unfortunate effort should be reconsidered or my tourist dollars are likely to go somewhere else.

Regards

Alan

April 6, 2017, 10:20 AM
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Sam

I live in New York State, and even by New York's standards, this proposal is silly and nonsensical. Should this law pass my bike touring dollars will definately be spent elsewhere!

April 6, 2017, 1:16 PM
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Cynthia M. Perry

I just wrote to every Montana House member on your list, telling each that I would never again set foot -- or wheels -- in that state if they vote for the punitive and ridiculous bicyclists' tax.

My husband and I, bicyclists for more than 30 years, have spent hundreds (probably thousands) of dollars in Montana on bicycling vacations. We even encouraged friends to take their bicycling vacations in Montana.

No more, not if that outrageous tax/bill passes!

Hey Montana, there are lots of other states that welcome bicycle tourism.

April 6, 2017, 3:49 PM
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Jeff, Ken, Grant

We were planning a bicycling trip through Montana this summer, but will go elsewhere if the tax hungry politicians pass this bill. They should require all boaters to have their boats cleaned, not blame it on bicycles. Next it will be backpackers and motorcycles. Vote out the ignorant politicians.

April 6, 2017, 4:39 PM
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TT

It seems like Montana could tack on a one-cent tax for gasoline. Everyone could then share the joy of funding the invasive aquatic species fight.

April 6, 2017, 6:03 PM
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greg forrester

What I have found even more disheartening in the 2017 session is that the House and Senate members who represent the Bitterroot Valley south of Missoula have consistently voted against bicycling in other bills like HB 267 which was a safe passing law and HB 225 which would have provided a maintenance fund for paved bike paths. The Bitterroot Valley is one of the more significant bicycle touring regions in the state.

April 6, 2017, 7:10 PM
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Bill Sambel

I really believe that Montana can and will become the first State to lose huge sums of money due to active boycotting. It is a shame because I am enamored by vastness and beauty of the state of Montana and it is one of the most incredible places for riding a bike. On any given day you can see hundreds of animals including elk, deer, rabbits and birds in an amazing variety. There isn't another place like it in the world but it appears the only thing Montana Legislator's want the state to be known for is bullying cyclists. It is easy to bully someone riding a bike on the road when their only defense is to smile and wave.

Way to Go Montana!

April 6, 2017, 10:25 PM
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Alan Millar

My note to your reps:

I am writing in opposition to the proposal to tax cyclists in your state. I am from N. Idaho and a cycle tourist. I have traveled to Montana to cycle numerous times and wanted to do so again but would reconsider if you pass this silly, onerous tax on a set of road users who have nothing to do with the fight against invasive zebra mussels. Should Idaho retaliate by taxing Montana visitors to help with similar efforts here? This unfortunate effort should be reconsidered or my tourist dollars are likely to go somewhere else.

Regards

Alan

April 7, 2017, 10:50 AM
Reply
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