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Bill to construct new Historical Society museum in Helena gets new life

Posted: 10:05 AM, Apr 19, 2019
Updated: 2019-04-19 12:05:43-04
Montana Historical Society
The Montana Historical Society in Helena (MTN News photo)

HELENA – The Montana House Thursday breathed new life into the bill to authorize and help finance a new, $48 million Montana Historical Society Museum in Helena, voting to “blast” it from committee to the House floor.

The House voted 64-32 to take Senate Bill 338 from the House Taxation Committee, where it had been tied up since last week. It will be debated on the floor later Thursday.

SB338 would raise the state lodging tax by one cent, with 80% of the new revenue — $6 million to $8 million a year — going toward construction of the new Montana Heritage Center, over the next five years.

The remainder of the money would finance a new grant program for local historical museums and sites across the state.

The Historical Society has had the new Heritage Center on the drawing board for more than a decade. It already has about $10 million to put toward the projects, from private donors and state bonds sold a dozen years ago.

Rep. Julie Dooling (R-Helena) made the motion to bring the measure to the floor, saying the Heritage Center and the grant program had gone through extensive “vetting” and had good support in the Senate, which passed the bill last month.

Twenty-two Republicans joined all 42 House Democrats in support of the bill.

-Mike Dennison reporting for MTN News