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Tribal advocates keep up legal pressure for fair political maps; 12-member jury sworn in for Trump's historic criminal trial; the importance of healthcare decision planning; and a debt dilemma: poll shows how many people wrestle with college costs.

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Civil rights activists say a court ruling could end the right to protest in three southern states, a federal judge lets January 6th lawsuits proceed against former President Trump, and police arrest dozens at a Columbia University Gaza protest.

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Rural Wyoming needs more vocational teachers to sustain its workforce pipeline, Ohio environmental advocates fear harm from a proposal to open 40-thousand forest acres to fracking and rural communities build bike trail systems to promote nature, boost the economy.

Electric Vehicle Fees Jump Under MT Measure

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Friday, May 7, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. -- Legislation in Montana that will create some of the highest registration fees for electric vehicles in the nation awaits Gov. Greg Gianforte's signature.

The measure will add $375 to the annual registration fee for electric SUVs and light trucks, making it the highest for these types of vehicles in the country. It would add $195 to standard electric cars, the nation's third-highest fee.

Conor Ploeger, clean energy program director for the Montana Environmental Information Center, said the increases run counter to the electric vehicle trend.

"If that's what customers want to purchase, then they shouldn't have to be punished in any way for wanting to choose that over a gas-powered vehicle," Ploeger argued. "Especially if that's where the market is heading, and that's what the more available option may be throughout this decade."

Car companies are making plans to increase their electric vehicle sales. General Motors has announced it plans to stop selling gas-powered cars by 2035.

Supporters of the Montana measure say it's a way to ensure that electric vehicle owners are paying their fair share of taxes to maintain roads, since they don't pay the taxes at gas pumps.

Ploeger agreed electric vehicle owners should contribute to highway revenue, but said the fees are too high. He thinks it should be a flat fee across vehicle types.

Michigan is the only other state that has different fees for SUVs and light trucks.

Ploeger noted Montana already lags behind neighboring states on adoption and wants the Legislature to send more encouraging messages to potential electric car owners.

"Montanans need to hear that the Legislature supports them purchasing an electric vehicle," Ploeger contended. "That the Legislature is going to look into other things, such as electric vehicle infrastructure, such as charging stations, things like that. So I think, in general, this is just a very bad first step."

Nearly a thousand Montanans own electric vehicles, according to a fiscal note attached to the bill. It estimates about 200 new electric vehicles will hit the state's roads each year, with the new fees adding nearly $330,000 to highway revenue in fiscal year 2025.


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