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HELENA – The House rejected an attempt to blast a bill out of committee to raise the speed limits on Montana highways.

It was among several failed attempts to blast out of committee bills that had been tabled. If these non-money bills aren’t passed by the House this week, they automatically die.

Rep. Mike Miller, R-Helmville, tried to move his House Bill 480 out of committee and onto the House floor for debate.

His bill would have increased the speed limit to 80 miles per hour, from the current 75 mph, at all times, for people driving on interstate highways outside urbanized areas of 50,000 people or more. It would have kept at 65 mph the interstate speed limit within urbanized areas of 50,000 people.

For any other public highways, the speed would remain at 70 mph during daytime hours and 65 mph at night.

At the request of the trucking industry, Miller said he was willing to amend his bill to put the speed limit for trucks at 65 mph on interstate highways and other roads. It had raised the speed limit for trucks to 70 mph on interstate highways and other public highways.

Traffic studies show Montana drivers already are driving “pretty close to 80,” Miller said.

He talked about a Utah study that showed raising that state’s speed limit hadn’t led to more highway fatalities.

Rep. Kathy Swanson, D-Anaconda, said, “We’re not Utah, folks. We’re Montana.”

She asked why Montanans needed to drive that fast under Miller’s bill.

“Why don’t we stop and look at the beauty?” Swanson said.

Rep. Steve Lavin, R-Kalispell, who chairs the House Transportation Committee, asked representatives to respect the committee’s decision to table Miller’s bill.

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Lavin, a Montana Highway Patrol officer, said associations representing Montana motor carriers and tow truck operators opposed the bill, and AAA Montana cited studies showing Montana ranked high nationally in highway fatalities per capita. He said another speed limit bill is in the Senate.

Miller said Lavin was referencing SB375 by Sen. Scott Sales, R-Bozeman, which would raise speed limits by levels similar to his bill, but also greatly increase fines for speeders.” Sales’ bill is scheduled for a hearing on March 5.

Miller’s attempt to blast his bill out of committee failed 44-56.

Two other blast attempts failed in the House.

One was HB409 by Rep. Bryce Bennett, D-Missoula, to empower the secretary of state to revoke the authority of corporations to do business in Montana if they are found to violate election laws. It failed 41-59.

The other bill was HB304 by Rep. Mitch Tropila, D-Great Falls, to increase the penalty for illegally blocking a public road. It failed 44-56.

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