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LEWIS AND CLARK BICENTENNIAL COMMISSION
Attendees: Homer Staves and Hal Stearns in person; Betsy Baumgart and Darrell Martin via conference call. Also attending: Arnie Olsen, Commission Member; Clint Blackwood and Rita Cortright, commission staff.
Executive Committee Meeting
Commission Chair Homer Staves called the meeting/conference call to discuss the following topics:
1. Review of House Bill 164 and support for opposing legislation
2. Review of LC 1068 – a bill to secure funding for Montana’s Signature Events
3. Discuss substitute chair for February meeting in the event Homer Staves and/or Darrell Martin is unable to attend.
House Bill 164 Discussion
Homer Staves began by reviewing that HB 164 was intended to redirect bicentennial license plate revenues from the Commission to the Montana Historical Society effective Jan. 1, 2007, with 50% going to the Society for L&C projects and 50% for a community grants program for L&C projects. He reviewed the points of a letter he received from the Interpretive Center in Great Falls that supported 20% of the revenue going to each of the following: the L&C Interpretive Center Foundation, Pompeys Pillar Historical Association, Travelers’ Rest Preservation & Heritage Assn., Montana Historical Society and the state Commission. Mr. Olsen explained that funds to the Society would support their upcoming L&C exhibit, “Neither Empty Nor Unknown,” in addition to learning trunks and other projects that have statewide exposure. Funds would also be used to support functions the Society would assume when the Commission sunsets. Mr. Stearns asked Mr. Staves to review the proposal from Great Falls. Mr. Olsen responded that a bill had already been drafted that would be heard today, which was HB 301, sponsored by Rep. Kathleen Galvin-Halcro, Great Falls. The bill extends the life of the license plate and directs the funds to the Dept. of Commerce to be divided in thirds among the Interpretive Center, Pompeys Pillar and Travelers’ Rest. Mr. Olsen stressed that we wanted to be inclusive with funds going to tribes and small communities. He noted that two of the three sites were federal; the third is a state park. His final point was that without a statewide effort in the bill, the incentive to continue purchasing L&C license plates would diminish. Mr. Staves noted that the Commission’s grants program had provided critical funding support in the past for the Montana Tribal Tourism Alliance, and HB 301 did not provide for their future funding. Mr. Olsen offered that if HB 164 passed and the Society received the funds it would be good to continue funding MTTA at its current level of $5,000 per fiscal year.
Mr. Staves said the Commission had gone on record in support of HB 164 and did not see any reason to change its position. He said the Commission supported the other three entities, but felt there needed to be a broader distribution of funds. He noted that if no action were taken, the license plate revenues would revert to the General Fund. Mr. Blackwood noted that the three entities would be eligible to receive funds through the continued grants program provided for in HB 164. Ms. Baumgart said that Commerce would not be taking a position on either HB 164 or HB 301. Mr. Martin agreed to make calls and solicit tribal testimony in support of HB 164. Mr. Olsen said he had prepared a handout that listed the past L&C projects at the Society, in addition to a list of the kinds of projects that would receive funding through the Society. Also listed were projects that had not received funding through the Commission’s 2004 Grants Program. After further discussion, there was consensus that the Commission would testify in support of HB 164 and not offer any testimony regarding HB 301.
LC 1068 Discussion
Mr. Staves explained that LC 1068 was intended to provide funding for Montana’s two signature events, “Explore! the Big Sky,” and “Clark on the Yellowstone,” from the general fund. Mr. Olsen said he would attend the hearing on behalf of the Society, but would not offer testimony. Mr. Blackwood asked for clarification that he was allowed to provide supporting testimony for the bill in its present form. However, if the bed tax became the funding source, he would not testify. Mr. Olsen suggested testifying as an informational witness, emphasizing the importance of the Signature Events to Montana and highlighting the efforts already made by the communities to fundraise, but state that the Commission was not in the position of determining the appropriate funding source. Ms. Baumgart read from an unapproved bill draft that $500,000 was allocated to each of the two signature events, with funds passing through the L&C Bicentennial Commission. Mr. Olsen said he felt it would be difficult to provide this level of funding from the general fund. Mr. Staves speculated that the funding source would be changed to the accommodations tax at some point and suggested that Mr. Blackwood contact the sponsor. Mr. Olsen suggested someone from the “tourism family” needed to talk to her about the fact that if the source became bed tax, there would be strong opposition to the bill. The committee members agreed with this approach.
Substitute Chair for Feb. 15, 2005
Homer Staves explained that he would not be able to attend and chair the Feb. 15, 2005, Commission meeting in Helena and there was a strong possibility that Darrell Martin, vice chair, would not be able to attend. The Commission’s Bylaws state that in the event the chair and vice chair are both absent, the Commission would elect a chairperson for that meeting. Betsy Baumgart offered to make a motion at the opening of the meeting to elect Hal Stearns to serve as temporary chair.
At the close of the meeting Clint Blackwood noted that plans for the Legislative Reception on Feb. 14, from 5-7 p.m. were coming together. The Legislative Report was at the printer, and letters of invitation were being drafted for mailing on Feb. 3. The report and letter, including a reminder regarding the reception, would be mailed on Feb. 10.
The meeting adjourned at 9:00 A.M.
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P.O. Box 201201
225 North Roberts
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