And now the initiatives

by Pete Talbot

It appears you can buy the Montana Constitution. Witness CI-105.

Here’s how it’s done: select your special interest initiative; make sure there isn’t an organized, moneyed constituency to oppose it; spend a ton on TV, radio and mailings; threaten a loss of equity in your home and a tax increase, and do it during a recession.

The stars aligned for Montana Realtors and their mouthpiece, the Chicago-based National Association of Realtors. (It was the national association that pumped more than $2 million into this race, which is something like 99% of the money spent on this campaign.)

Now we have a constitutional amendment that benefits a narrow, self-interested industry. And we’re hamstrung if we ever want to use a real estate transfer tax to balance a budget or mitigate other, more onerous taxes or maybe get a few dollars out of those second or third million-dollar McMansions that sprout up in exclusive Montana resorts.

Speaking of the Montana Constitution, it did my heart proud to see voters reject the initiative to rewrite our constitution. Our constitution is an excellent document that was hammered out in a bipartisan manner in 1972 and it endures. And fiscally speaking, a rewrite is an expense we don’t need during these tough budgetary times.

I was pleased to see I-164 pass. This ballot initiative put a 36% interest cap on payday loans. The libertarian voice in my head said, hey, if someone wants to pay an exorbitant interest rate for a short-term loan, what the heck. But, Wulfgar! summed up my final thoughts on this initiative:

Yes, 300% (more) interest is way too high. I get that. There still needs to be an alternative for the working poor … (snip) … Hopefully, I-164 will open a gap into which others will move. As a society, we often focus on the fact that these folks are poor, and ignore that they are working, very hard most often. They need a safety net as much as anyone else. Payday lenders have given them that. Passing I-164 won’t alleviate the need for such. It will only appease a symptom, and certainly not cure the disease.

Finally, I-161, the outfitter v. local hunter initiative. I called hunter friends and family members, and got opinions all over the map, literally and figuratively. I heard more dissension and debate on this initiative than the other three combined … but this is Montana, after all.  To be honest, since I’m one of the few Montana males who doesn’t hunt, or so it seems, I didn’t lose any sleep over this one. I voted against it and my wife voted for it, so we canceled each other out. The initiative passed 185,546 to 159,346, apparently freeing up more licenses for resident hunters but not really dealing with the bigger issue of hunter access.


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  1. Quick clarification. I-164 won’t make more resident tags available. But it does level the playing field for out of state big game hunters in the draw, and is one big step towards viewing our resources as something other than a protected revenue stream for the select few.

    • petetalbot

      Thanks for the clarification. As I mentioned, out of lack of self-interest, I didn’t follow this initiative as closely as others.

  2. Ingemar Johansson

    What I didn’t realize until I read the voter info packet was that 161 substantially increased out of staters big game fees.

    Given that, combining the now increased difficulty in planning a hunt in MT with the increased cost of said hunt I’m predicting losing numerous fat walleted hunters to Colorado.

    Colorado-were wolves haven’t been established-yet.

    • Matthew Koehler

      Wyoming did away with guaranteed outfitter sponsored licenses, but there are still outfitters in Wyoming and somehow people, residents and non-residents, manage to hunt in Wyoming. Even with all those wolves.

      Also, even with the new increases in the out-of-state tags for deer and elk as a result of I-161, big game hunting in Montana will still be cheaper than 9 out of 10 western states. Most out-of-state hunters will still see a Montana hunting trip as a bargain…and likely a trip of a lifetime. Better luck next try Ingemar.

      • Ingemar Johansson

        So you’re predicting an increase in out of state hunters?

        • Matthew Koehler

          Nope, I’m going hunting. So see you later, Ingemar.

          P.S. It was you who said: “I’m predicting losing numerous fat walleted hunters to Colorado.” I made no predictions. I just provided some facts regarding I-161 and hunting fees in Montana. Thanks.

    • JC

      “Colorado-were wolves haven’t been established-yet.”

      When they establish were wolves in Colorado, I’m sure the fat-walleted hunters will become the hunted, as they are nicely fattened on filet… Maybe that will chase them back to Montana.

  3. Matthew Koehler

    Regarding I-161 (not 164 as noted above):

    As a hunter it is quite easy to witness the growing commercialization and privatization of Montana’s wildlife, especially big game, that is being perpetuated, in no small part, by these guarnteed outfitter sponsored licenses. So personally I’m glad to see them go. Let rich out-of-state hunters enter the democratic lottery for tags just like the rest of us.

    One of the best pieces in support of I-161 was written by Jim Posewitz of Helena. It can be found here: http://www.clarkforkchronicle.com/article.php/201010301719528

    Posewitz is the founder of Orion – The Hunter’s Institute, the premier hunter ethics organization in North America. He also spent 32 years with Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks. Both my Grandpa Koehler and Great-Grandpa Weber used to drink at the Posewitz family bar in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. Small world.

  4. Pogo Possum

    I have not had time to verify this so perhaps someone can check this out and see if it is accurate. I stopped at a game check station recently and a Fish Wildlife and Parks officer told me Montana has approximatly 1,000 out of state hunting licences available that were not applied for by out of state hunters in the drawing.

    If that is true, then is substantially raising the cost of the licenses, thus setting the price even further out of reach for out of state hunters, not naturally going to decrease the number of hunters coming to Montana and thus decreasing the amount of money needed to fund the block management program?

  5. Pogo Possum

    Note to Matthew Koehler. As a 3rd generation Montana hunter, I have deep respect for a very long tradition of outfitters taking paying clients into the wilderness to hunt. I know Smoke Elser, knew Coppenhaver from Lincoln and have countless other friends who are professional outfitters who do a fantastic job of bringing hunters into Montana, giving them great service and helping them spend very appreciated dollars throughout the state with local restaurants, bars, sporting good stores and motels. These long time family run outfitting business will be hurt by 161. Some may go out of business.

    If someone wants to pay an outfitter money to secure a hunting license and spend a lot of money on a professional hunt that will result in a lot of dollars being spread around the state to small businesses, then I am all for it.

    • I am right there with you, Pogo. I have two outfitters living within 100 yards of my place and both of them are in a tither about how to proceed now. One has over 20 hunts set up for next year and he is trying to figure out how to call his clients and tell them that he can’t get the licenses. This may just be his depression talking but he thinks it likely that at least half of them will cancel their hunts. That remains to be seen but I find it likely that it will occur.

      Dillon won’t see the result of this action till next year but if the economy doesn’t do some amazing things in the coming year, Dillon businesses might experience a VERY lean winter.

    • jim

      Smoke Elser and Coppenhaver and Jack Rich and many other outfitters were making a good living selling hunting trips into the Bob and the Scapegoat before they ever got assured licenses. I’m sure good outfitters can still make a good living with their guaranteed campsites, govt. limited competition and other govt. sponsored privileges. They don’t need to privatize public resources anymore to be successful.

      • That remains to be seen. No one will actually know what the true impact of this initiative will be until next fall. Anyone that says differently should be buying lottery tickets.

        • JC

          Next fall? Like the economy is going to improve enough by then to be able to make a real comparison. Give it a few years and the economy to stabilize before you try and gauge the immediate impact of the law.

  6. Chuck

    Break out the fly rod and go fishing today. In thirty years I have never seen a better day than today for a shot at a monster trout on a tiny dry fly.

    Tight lines and Peace to all.




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