Skip to main content

MACo Seeks Clarification on Governor’s Veto

Montana Association of Counties files suit to clarify Governor’s ability to bypass Legislature’s constitutional right to override veto
Published June 7, 2023

HELENA, MT – The Montana Association of Counties (“MACo”) filed suit today to compel Governor Greg Gianforte and Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen to fulfill their constitutional obligations and allow the Montana Legislature their lawful opportunity to override the Governor’s veto of Senate Bill 442 (“SB 442”).

On May 1, 2023, 130 out of 150 legislators passed SB 442, a bipartisan, politically popular measure that touches the state from border to border by redistributing recreational marijuana tax revenues for construction, reconstruction, maintenance, and repair of rural roads, as well as funding directed to veterans’ services, conservation and recreation programs, and dollars to boost behavioral health and addiction services provided by the HEART fund.

On May 2, 2023, the Senate adjourned, and that same day, the Governor vetoed SB 442 without it being communicated to the full Senate. In Montana, the process for a gubernatorial veto and subsequent opportunity for the Legislature to overturn the veto is outlined in the Constitution. If the Legislature has adjourned, and the Governor vetoes a bill passed by a supermajority—two-thirds—the Governor must return the bill and his reasons for the veto to the Secretary of State, who must then poll the members of the Legislature.

“The Legislature’s constitutional check on the executive branch is critical to Montana’s legislative process,” said Roman Zylawy, MACo President and Mineral County Commissioner. “The intent of our Constitution is clear. The Legislature must be given fair opportunity to override a veto.”

Governor Gianforte failed to return SB 442 and veto reasoning to Secretary Jacobsen; therefore MACo, a nonprofit statewide organization of Montana’s 56 counties that helps provide effective county governance to the people of Montana, called on the Governor to uphold the Montana Constitution and his duty. He did not.

“This case is about following established processes,” said Eric Bryson, Executive Director for MACo. “An attempt to circumvent the Legislature’s review authority by playing games and changing protocols is bad politics and bad precedent. We are asking the Courts to remind the parties involved that they have an obligation to allow legislative review of a governor’s veto.”

Questions?

Shantil Siaperas  |  MACo Communications Director |  shantil@mtcounties.org  |  (406) 449-4360