MSSA’s HB 234 is shown on the Legislature’s Website as scheduled for Second Reading debate and vote on the floor of the House on Monday, 3/30.
HB 234 is to fund the Shooting Range Development Program with $700,000 for the next two years, AND to prevent FWP from stealing the money the Legislature appropriates for the SRDP and using it for some other purpose.
For the last two funding cycles, the last four years, FWP has taken most of the money the Legislature appropriated for the SRDP and has applied that money to some other purpose. I believe that the money taken from the 2011 SRDP appropriation went directly into the pockets of FWP employees. The money FWP hi-graded from the 2013 SRDP appropriation FWP says it just put back in its bank account by refusing to spend the money.
The SRDP has been a hugely successful program, I think. I got it started in about 1987, using just a bit of hunter license fee money to make matching grants to local clubs to establish or improve ranges. Since the SRDP started, nearly $20 million has been invested in building ranges in Montana. I believe that people in every Montana community should have a safe and suitable places to shoot the firearms that are so common in Montana, and that are essential for hunting. I’ve told FWP, if people aren’t shooting, they won’t be hunting, and if people aren’t hunting, they won’t buy hunting licenses to support FWP financially.
Notwithstanding that, FWP has always seen the SRDP as the ugly stepchild, using "their" money for a purpose not invented or supported by FWP.
As a part of its hostility to the SRDP, FWP plays a double game. First, it steals most of the money the Legislature appropriates for the SRDP. Then it spreads the word to applicants that the money is gone, so there’s no use going to the trouble of crafting and submitting an application for a grant. THEN FWP tells the Legislature that there are not enough applications submitted to justify the level of SRDP funding MSSA requests.
For the past two budget cycles, 2011 and 2013, MSSA has gotten $625,000 appropriated to the SRDP by the Legislature. In both budget cycles, FWP has diverted about 2/3 of that funding to other uses. In this session, FWP put in a budget request for only $224,000 for the SRDP, again telling the Legislature there are not enough grant applications to justify more than that (see the double game above).
HB 234 bumps that appropriation up to $700,000, AND sets up the funding in such a way as to make it very difficult for FWP to divert the funding.
Please contact your Representative (not Senator, yet) and ask him or her to please support HB 234 on the floor of the House on Second Reading, Monday. Also contact any other Representatives you wish (you’ve learned by now who the softies are).
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Thanks loads for your help!