Wylie checks in

Local legislator discusses shoulder season bill, other priorities
By: 
CHARLIE DENISON
Reporter
Friday, April 5, 2019

Wylie Galt addresses the legislature in 2017 regarding his gambling bill. Galt has resubmitted a new version of the bill this year. The bill would allow blackjack and other forms of gambling in Montana.

Photo courtesy of Freddy Monares/UM Legislative News Service.

Now in the last month of the legislative session, things are heating up for Representative Wylie Galt (R-Martinsdale), as he has one bill on Governor Steve Bullock’s desk and a proposed resolution waiting for a response from Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

House Bill 497, which “allows an additional elk tag for hunters during shoulder season hunts,” passed the House and the Senate, but not without a little controversy.

“A lot of people are saying I was codifying shoulder season,” he said. That’s not what these bills are doing…this legislation isn’t mandating anything. It’s just providing another option on how to handle the elk overpopulation issue. There is a lot of misinformation out there.”

HB497 works hand-in-hand with Galt’s House Joint Resolution 18, which asks the FWP to “take a more critical look at elk management strategies in Montana.” 

Galt said this is particularly important in his part of the state.

“We’re about 980 percent over quota for elk in Meagher and Wheatland Counties,” Galt said, referring to the population size. “Fergus County is over quota, too.”

If approved, this resolution would make elk shoulder seasons permanent. Some have argued that lengthening the hunting season could benefit landowners such as Galt. 

Galt disagrees.

“These bills are all about the most effective way to handle the elk population,” he said. “This benefits the hunters, not the landowners.”

According to Galt, HB497 and HJ18 are “attempts to work together with hunters, landowners, lobby groups and others to solve this issue of elk overpopulation.” 

Galt said he believes this problem began when former Governor Brian Schweitzer “got rid of two-week guaranteed cow hunts” in the mid-2000s.

“This is just a way to try and monitor the situation a little better,” Galt said. “At this point we just have to get more elk killed. The numbers are just getting bigger and bigger.”

 

Blackjack, film incentive bills staying alive

Wylie Galt’s bill to legalize blackjack in Montana (HB385) passed the House and is headed for a Senate hearing in the coming week.

This bill would allow nonprofit organizations to be “licensed card-room carriers,” an idea Galt said is modeled after North Dakota’s blackjack law.

Although Galt said he’s received much support, there is also some pushback.

“Some people are worried this is an expansion of gambling in the state,” he said, “but I’d rather keep people here to gamble than watch them travel to Las Vegas or the Dakotas to do it.”

Galt’s HB93, which offers 20 percent in state tax credits to filmmakers, also remains on the table.

“The bill is currently going through the Senate and there is some more negotiating to do, but I think we are pretty close to knowing what the final bill will look like,” he said. “I’m optimistic we can get it across the finish line. This is something all factions of our economy can get behind.”

Not sold on ‘Hippy Hippy Shake’

When it came down to it, Galt couldn’t approve Chan Romero’s “Hippy Hippy Shake” as Montana’s “state rock song.”

“I had some opposition to it,” Galt said, referring to HB392, proposed by Jacob Bachmeier (D-Havre). “I felt like we’d be doing a disservice to other rock musicians around the state.”

Galt said he thought Pearl Jam in particular should be in the running for “state rock song,” as their bassist, Jeff Ament, is from Big Sandy. Galt also said the Mission Mountain Wood Band deserved recognition.

As for the rest of the legislative session, Galt said it’s been “pretty calm” and “people are working with each other well.” In fact, Galt said the session is going so well that there is a chance they might be done by Easter.

“That’d be ideal for me, especially since it’s calving season,” he said, “but it’s probably a long shot. I’m just glad I can be here in Helena to help my district out. There are fewer and fewer boots under the desk, so it’s important to have people willing to fight for our number one industry: agriculture.”

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