Montana Judge Rules Secretary of State Can’t Override Governor’s Veto of Bison Bill
A judge in Helena, Montana ruled this week that Montana’s secretary of state does not have the authority to unilaterally override Governor Steve Bullock’s veto of a controversial bill changing the definition of what constitutes a wild bison.
In vetoing HB 132, Governor Bullock, a moderate Democrat who is currently running for president, said he feared the wording used to redefine a wild bison or wild buffalo would create confusion about whether bison in Yellowstone National Park should be considered domestic animals.
Bullock even offered suggested changes to the wording that were rejected by Republican Representative Kenneth Holmlund, the bill’s sponsor.
Holmlund’s bill defines a wild bison as one that has never been in captivity, never owned by a person and never subject to the state’s per capita livestock fee.
Opponents of the measure say the bill targets a conservation group that is acquiring land in central Montana with the aim of creating the nation’s largest private wildlife reserve that could one day be home to 10,000 bison.
But in the end, the dispute that brought the matter before Judge Michael McMahon in Montana’s 1st District Court wasn’t about definitions. It focused squarely on the timing of Bullock’s veto.
Secretary of State Corey Stapleton, a Republican running for governor in 2020, tweeted May 29 that House Bill 132 became law because Bullock didn’t deliver the veto to him within 10 days of the bill’s transmittal to his office.
Stapleton then assigned a chapter number to the bill and had it delivered to the code commissioner in the legislative branch on May 30 and a copy was mailed to the state Supreme Court.
Attorney Austin James, who represented Stapleton, argued the secretary of state was not overriding a veto, but acting according to his duties because the governor did not return the vetoed bill within 10 days.
Bullock’s staff said the Montana Constitution requires the governor to act on bills within 10 days. He received HB 132 on April 25 and vetoed it four days later, on April 29.
But Stapleton said he didn’t receive notice of the veto until May 22, well past the 10-day deadline.
During a preliminary hearing last week, another 1st District Court judge, James Reynolds, found that Bullock had “established facts” that if confirmed to be true would prove he vetoed the bill in a timely fashion and in compliance with the state Constitution.
Judge McMahon adopted that finding in its entirety as he dispensed the case.
McMahon went on to find that there is no such deadline for turning in vetoed bills and that Stapleton was improperly inserting one part of state law into another in making that argument.
Stapleton is now considering whether to appeal McMahon’s ruling to the state Supreme Court.
In The News
Urged on by President Donald Trump, Republican officials in several swing states, including Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania, are ramping up pressure on Democratic governors to move faster on reopening their economies, despite experts’ warnings of a surge in infections and deaths. The mounting pressure comes as... Read More
MIAMI — Last month, police departments in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Connecticut unveiled what was initially touted as a potential new tool against a pandemic: drones capable of taking a person’s temperature from 300 feet in the air. Both agencies quickly backtracked on using the machines... Read More
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration is quietly organizing a Manhattan Project-style effort to drastically cut the time needed to develop a coronavirus vaccine, with a goal to have 100 million doses ready by year’s end, according to two people familiar with the matter. Called “Operation Warp... Read More
WASHINGTON - The bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus has released a lengthy checklist it hopes will help guide the White House and congressional leaders as they continue to work toward fully reopening the U.S. economy. While the caucus, which has 25 Republican and 25 Democratic members, acknowledges... Read More
France will unveil within two weeks a plan to progressively lift restrictions on travel and business that aimed to curb the coronavirus epidemic, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Sunday. After May 11, when the lockdown starts to get lifted, “our lives won’t be exactly the... Read More
WASHINGTON — Despite continued uncertainty over how the Coronavirus pandemic will end, its economic impact will surely cast a shadow over the November election, according to a pair of former governors. Govs. John Kasich, a Republican of Ohio, and Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat of Virginia, spoke... Read More