By Mark Moran - Producer-Editor, Contact - News

 

Big Sky Connection - Critics of Montana's move to allow lawmakers the chance to override a marijuana sales tax bill veto have accused the Montana Supreme Court of 'judicial overreach.' Constitutional lawyers say the state did exactly what it was supposed to, by mailing out special ballots giving lawmakers a chance to override the governor's veto of a popular bill that would have used revenue to fund social services, veterans programs and county road maintenance. Comments from Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, executive director, Upper 7 Law.

Click on the image above for the audio. Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte vetoed Senate Bill 442 after the Senate had adjourned, leaving lawmakers no chance to override the veto of the popular measure. (Adobe Stock)

Mark Moran

May 20, 2024 - Montana constitutional experts say the state Supreme Court did the right thing by providing lawmakers a chance to override the governor's veto of a popular marijuana sales-tax bill.

Senate Bill 442 passed the Legislature with near unanimous support, but Gov. Greg Gianforte vetoed it minutes after the Senate adjourned, leaving lawmakers no chance to override the veto.

After a series of court challenges, the state Supreme Court confirmed lawmakers should be able to take an override vote by mail. Critics called it "judicial overreach."

Rylee Sommers-Flanagan, executive director of Helena-based Upper 7 Law, said the court did what it was supposed to do, despite Gianforte's efforts to sidestep the override ballot.

"Only as a result of the court order did the state comply with its constitutional obligation to ensure that legislators, at the end of the day, have the say in what laws are passed," Sommers-Flanagan asserted.

The bill would have used marijuana sales-tax revenue for veterans programs, social services and county road maintenance. In his veto note, Gianforte called it a "slippery slope," which could set a precedent for spending state dollars on local infrastructure projects.

Sommers-Flanagan noted her law firm did not take a position on the measure but represented Wild Montana and the Montana Wildlife Federation, which supported the measure and the legal action to require the mail-in override ballot.

"It was wildly popular. That's just factual," Sommers-Flanagan emphasized. "The governor and Secretary of State failed to comply with their constitutional duties to ensure that lawmakers had the final say. And then, the court told them they had to allow that to happen. They did so, and the Legislature decided they didn't want to override the veto."

She called the attacks on the court for requiring the vote "disappointing," and an attempt to avoid talking about the content of the bill.

The measure had support from hunters, outdoor enthusiasts, veterans and county governments. But critics argued the formula for distributing road maintenance money was unfair.

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