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Montana lawmakers to be polled on 8 veto overrides
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Montana lawmakers to be polled on 8 veto overrides

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Montana Legislature- House Bill 2

Lawmakers in the Montana House of Representative on March 22 in the State Capitol.

In the coming days, lawmakers will be polled on whether to override eight vetoes issued by Gov. Greg Gianforte after they adjourned the legislative session last month, including a bill that sought to add more landowners involved in agriculture to the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission.

The Secretary of State is required to poll legislators on whether to override post-session vetoes of bills that received a combined 100 votes from the 150 lawmakers in the House and Senate. As is the case when the Legislature is in session, a veto override requires a two-thirds vote from both the House and Senate to succeed.

Lawmakers have 30 days from when the Secretary of State sends out the ballots to mail or fax them back.

Among those bills is Senate Bill 306 from Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta, which would expand the Montana Fish and Wildlife Commission from five to seven members and require that three commissioners be agricultural landowners.

The concept of expanding the commission drew support during the Legislature, but SB 306 drew some concerns due to the landowner component.

In April Gov. Greg Gianforte signed House Bill 163 from Rep. Paul Fielder, R-Thompson Falls. That bill moves the commission to seven members representing FWP’s seven administrative regions but does not define membership beyond the one agricultural landowner currently mandated by law.

HB 163 goes into effect in October, when the governor will appoint the additional members.

Gov. Greg Gianforte

Gov. Greg Gianforte speaks on the step of the Montana state Capitol in May. A new law, challenged in court for the second time since passage, would give him the power to appoint judges directly.

The other bills subject to legislative polling are:

  • House Bill 158, sponsored by Rep. Caleb Hinkle, R-Belgrade, which would establish a 14-member commission to investigate the state’s suspension of laws and regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, while appropriating $50,000 to fund the commission’s work;
  • House Bill 277, requiring state departments to create strategic plans and annual performance reports;
  • House Bill 397, establishing tax credits for workforce housing;
  • House Bill 522, creating an eight-member task force to advocate for the continued presence of military installations and facilities in the state;
  • House Bill 688, calling for an interim study of winemaking;
  • and Senate Bill 231, which affects subdivisions and transfers of family land parcels.

Lawmakers will also have the option of overriding a line-item veto issued by Gianforte bill earlier this month. The line-item veto removed funding the Legislature had appropriated for House Bill 691, which would establish requirements for crisis response services in the developmental disabilities system.

In his veto letter, Gianforte stated that the “bill provides a partial appropriation for its execution while failing to reduce the appropriation” in the main budget bill, which was appropriated for the same purpose. A veto override would have the effect of restoring the funding to the bill.

In April, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly to override the first veto from Gianforte, who took office Jan. 4 as the state’s first Republican governor in 16 years. It was the Legislature's first successful veto override in as many years.

Montana State News Bureau
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