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Director's Report March, 2001
- March was again a month devoted in large part to the monitoring and lobbying for key legislation that affected the Lewis & Clark Bicentennial. The following is a very brief summary of the bills being followed:
- Bicentennial License Plate (SB-393) - This bill has successfully made its way through the Senate, and as of March 30th is destined to be debated on the House Floor. Representative Waitschies is carrying the bill for Senator Fred Thomas on the House Floor. Little or no opposition has been made to this proposed legislation thus far. Work continues on fine-tuning the plate design.
- Heritage Tourism Program (HB-16) - If passed this legislation would have created referendum for 11/02 to establish a well-funded Heritage Tourism Program with a significant amount of funding earmarked for Lewis & Clark projects. However, this bill was tabled in the Joint Appropriations Long Range Planning Committee, and will likely not be considered further.
- Joint Resolution to Congress and President Bush (HJ-18) - This legislation has passed both the House and Senate and is in the final stages prior to being signed by Governor Martz. This Resolution encourages Congress to put more focus (and money) toward the Bicentennial effort.
- Senator Grosfield's legislation to raise the bed tax (SB-439) - This bill would raise the bed tax from its current 4% to 9%, in addition to adding a rental car tax. Currently this legislation has passed the Senate and will now be scheduled for a House hearing. An interesting twist is that a significant amount of money from this new bill would go to fund education (K-12). Lewis & Clark is included in the current draft in the amount of $750,000 per year through 2006.
- In early March a letter was drafted on behalf of the state Commission in support of the proposed land transfer at Travelers' Rest Campsite near Lolo. In mid-March it was announced that the proposed 15 acres were in fact transferred to the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks. The land was purchase by a private, non-profit entity. Work continues to facilitate the transfer of additional land in the immediate area to public ownership.
- During March I worked with my counterparts along the trail and the National Council of the Bicentennial to generate an agenda for the Circle of State Advisors (COSA) meeting planned during the 6th Annual National Planning Workshop in Omaha, NE. That meeting and workshop will take place from April 22nd through the 25th.
- The Legislative Audit Division completed an audit of the Montana Historical Society, Montana Heritage Commission and the Montana Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Commission in March. Three rather minor "corrections" were recommended and agreed to by the state Lewis & Clark Commission.
- Working in partnership with the Idaho Lewis & Clark Bicentennial Committee, the Montana Bicentennial Commission wrote a letter of support for a Congressional appropriations request to fund elements of a Public Safety Plan that Idaho and three western Montana counties have been developing this past year. This letter of support was sent to all three members of Montana's delegation.
- An initial meeting (May 15-16, 2001) has been set in Great Falls to convene interested stakeholders to explore the need and the process to create a statewide Bicentennial Public Safety Plan for Montana. Working in partnership with the Montana Sheriff's & Peace Officers Association, the state Commission was notified that a Challenge Cost Share Grant in the amount of $10,000 was awarded by the National Park Service for this initial meeting effort.
Note: The Montana L&C Commission also wrote a letter of support for a Congressional appropriations request to obtain additional planning funding for the creation of this statewide Public Safety Plan. Senator Conrad Burns will carry that request.
- Representative Denny Rehberg has also expressed interest in working to secure Lewis & Clark funding, and is presently considering the submittal of a Congressional appropriations request for funding to implement Montana's new Lewis & Clark Interpretive Sign Strategy.
- The new "Lewis & Clark 101" video was reviewed this month in anticipation of its debut at the Governor's Tourism & Recreation Conference on March 27th. The video, now known as "Lewis & Clark: Montana's Story," is a 22-minute video to be initially featured through the Montana Superhost Program. Distribution guidelines are now being crafted.
- On March 13th I participated in yet another conference call of the National Events Committee. This committee has been charged with the task of reviewing Signature Event Proposals and making selection recommendations to the National Council. The announcement of selected Signature Events is planned during the National Council's meeting on April 23rd in Omaha.
- On behalf of the state Commission, I wrote a letter of support to the Bureau of Land Management for the preservation of land immediately adjacent to the Crimson Bluffs near Townsend. The BLM is considering the purchase of land now being offered for development in this sensitive area.
- During March, I continued the research of Product Licensing options, both at a statewide level and nationally. The National Council is expected to announce its decision regarding a trail-wide licensing program during its meeting on April 23 in Omaha. The state Commission will announce its licensing plans during its June 12 meeting in Missoula.
- To facilitate the planning of critical infrastructure improvements, pertinent planning and funding information was sent out this month to the Regional Bicentennial Commissions for dissemination in their respective areas. The topic of infrastructure planning and financing will be on the agenda for the Regional Bicentennial Commission meeting on June 11th in Missoula.
NOTE: The next meeting of the Commission's Education Committee will be from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. on June 11th in Missoula; the Regional Bicentennial Commission representatives will meet from 2:00 to 4:30 p.m. on June 11th in Missoula, and the state Commission will meet in Missoula on Tuesday, June 12th.
- On March 21st I gave a L&C update presentation to the Helena Downtown Association.
- I co-presented two sessions during the annual Governor's Tourism & Recreation Conference held in Helena on March 26 & 27th. I offered a brief PowerPoint update on Montana's new Master Plan and Jeri Mae Rowley spoke about her Montana Superhost Program (and she debuted the new Lewis & Clark: Montana's Story" video).
- On March 28th I attended a meeting with Governor Judy Martz as the Montana Tourism & Recreation Initiative (MTRI) Directors met with her to set the direction of MTRI for this next year.
- The National Park Service announced the selections for their Challenge Cost Share Grant Program for 2001. Montana was awarded a total of 15 grants, totaling $148,370. The state Commission was partners in two of these grants: one with the Montana Sheriff's & Peace Officer's Association for $10,000 for the initial planning for a statewide Bicentennial Public Safety Plan, and one with the MTRI Bicentennial Focus Team for $20,000 to begin implementation of the L&C Interpretive Sign Strategy.
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