Listen up, all you operators of shooting galleries, Wild West show impresarios and itinerant vendors of poison: The Montana Legislature is about to repeal those oppressive license fees you've been paying to the county treasurer.
The state Senate is slated to take final action Monday on a bill deleting more than a dozen sections of law - some of them on the books since 1895 - detailing payment of miscellaneous license fees to county governments for various businesses and occupations.For example, a 1903 law says shooting galleries must pay a fee of $15 per quarter.
Another 1903 statute - there must have been a big push to regulate entertainment that year - says a fee of $3.70 per quarter must be paid for each "billiard, pool or bagatelle table not kept exclusively for family use." And each proprietor of a bowling alley is to be assessed a fee of $5 per quarter for each alley.
Still another law enacted that year requires a license "for every traveling show, such as circuses, menageries, sideshows, wild west shows, animal shows or tent shows."
The law was amended as recently as 1953 and has an escalating fee scale depending on how many trucks or railroad cars it takes to transport the show.
And Buffalo Bill Cody, call your office: the law specifies no such license will be granted "within a period of 30 days prior to or during the holding of any local, county, district or state fair or rodeo without first obtaining the written consent of the board of county commissioners."
At least one section marked for repeal conveys a flavor of trench-coated figures meeting furtively in dark alleys; it calls for a license fee of $10 per quarter to be paid by "each keeper of an intelligence office."
The various laws being excised "are all old ones that just didn't make any sense" nowadays and haven't been enforced for years, said Sen. Bruce Crippen, R-Billings, who serves on the Senate Taxation Committee. "There was one in there to tax snake oil salesmen."
He must be thinking of the 1895 law imposing a $50 annual fee on any "itinerant vendor of any drug, poison, ointment or appliance of any kind" who professes to cure or treat disease, injury or deformity.
"Fifteen different ways of harassing business are being repealed," Sen. Elmer Severson, R-Stevensville, said in a tongue-in-cheek explanation of the repeal legislation.
The bill deletes eight pages of state law, by Severson's reckoning one-twelfth of one percent of the laws on the books.
"That's a start," he said.
Crippen pointed out that in many instances, businesses named in the archaic laws - theaters, bowling alleys, railroad warehouses, laundries - more than make up for those old license fees in the business taxes they pay today.
He didn't specify whether that includes skating rink and merry-go-round operators, who under an 1895 law were required to pay a fee of up to $15 per quarter.
And a word of caution to traveling salespersons - other than purveyors of poison, one presumes. A law not marked for repeal is Section 7-21-2505: "application for huckster license."