Big things often times have small beginnings. What started out as a discussion in a University of Montana law class has led to a big event in the Montana Legislature: An Access Rally in support of HB 235 on Monday, February 18th, starting at 2 p.m. at the Montana State Capitol in Helena.
HB 235, the Corner Crossing bill that would have opened up about 1.3 million acres of public land to hunters and recreationists met a rather anti-climactic death recently. Rather ignominiously, the bill was tabled on a party line vote, with all Republicans (including the co-sponsor, Representative Kreyton Kerns) voting against it.
But the story doesn’t end there. Not content to take a stinging defeat, the bill sponsor and a few sportsmen hastily put together an idea: Rally and blast.
A blast motion in the Montana Legislature is used when a bill gets tabled, but is believed to have enough support in the main body to pass. In order for the bill to blasted out of committee, it must receive 3/5’s vote. For Montana, that means 61 legislators have to vote yes on the motion.
The blast motion is a tricky thing: Votes get traded, deals are struck and sometimes you get the votes you need. Sometimes not. But there’s a trump card in this: Rally!
Event organizers are asking folks to show up around 12:30. Hunters and recreationists are planning on flooding the Capitol by the busload to rally support for the Corner Crossing bill. The House meets at 1 p.m., and the blast motion will happen not too long into the session. Folks are encouraged to wear hunter orange or camouflage. I think we all like the idea of having the House Gallery ringed with folks in their orange and camo, watching to see how legislators vote. With any luck, and some solid organizing, the bill will be heard on the House floor, and advance to the Senate, where a more thorough hearing can be had.
There are a number of organizations that have rented buses. Here’s the schedule:
Billings 7:00am: Big Bear Sports Center 2618 King Ave West Billings MT 59102
Livingston 8:45am: Albertsons parking lot 2120 Park St S Livingston, MT 59047
Bozeman 9:30am: Walmart parking lot 1500 N 7Th Ave. Bozeman, MT 59715
Missoula 9am: Town Pump Travel Plaza 5310 Grant Creek Rd. Missoula , MT 59801
Great Falls 10:15am: 121 NW Bypass Rd. Great Falls, MT 59404
Butte 10:30am: Butte Plaza Mall 3100 Harrison Avenue Butte, MT 59701
Some anti-access groups have called those who support this legislation “fringe” groups or extremists. That’s hardly the case. Much like the Agricultural groups who have stood up against this bill, both sides have legitimate concerns about how the bill would be enacted on the ground, and what it means in certain situations, like corners where fences intersect. Those details can be worked out, but in order for that to happen, the bill has to move forward.
In order for the bill to move forward, folks need to show up and support the blast motion. Get on the bus, bring your A game and your hunter orange. If you can’t show up, you can sign the petition that’s been gaining steam.