Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Earlier this week, the Lewis and Clark County District Court issued a ruling requiring Governor Greg Gianforte to take the necessary steps to allow the Montana Legislature to vote on overriding his veto of Senate Bill 442.

KGVO News spoke to Frank Szollosi, Montana Wildlife Federation Executive Director on Wednesday about the possibility of overriding the veto that would have used funds raised by the sale of recreational marijuana for a variety of uses.

A Helena Court made it Possible to Override the Governor's Veto of SB 442

“Senate Bill 442 was a bipartisan piece of legislation sponsored by Republican State Senator Mike Lange of Malta,” began Szollosi. “It put together conservation groups like ours, counties, tribes, veterans groups, just a real cross section, including substance abuse treatment interests. The intention was to invest the marijuana tax revenue into things that would improve Montana's quality of life.”

Szollosi said the bill passed the legislature with plenty of votes before being vetoed by Governor Gianforte.

The Bill Passed with 130 out of a possible 150 Votes in the Legislature

“It garnered 130 out of 150 possible votes in the state legislature in April in May,” he said. “Then on the last day of the session, the State Senate adjourned and the governor's veto appeared after that, and with one chamber of the legislature adjourned we just felt that a plain reading of the Montana Constitution says that anything that occurs after adjournment goes through a process specified by law, which is a vote by mail called a veto override, which is a poll that goes out by mail to 150 legislators. The governor was trying to exploit a loophole in some timing that caused us to file a lawsuit in order to see that the Constitution was followed.”

On May 2, 2023, Governor Gianforte vetoed the bill, issuing a letter that stated the bill had ‘substantial technical issues’, writing that the bill as written ‘failed to fund itself’. In addition Gianforte wrote ‘more troubling, Senate Bill 442 creates the illusion that the state will accept increasing responsibility for matters that are strictly under the jurisdictions of local authorities’.

Legislators only have 30 Days to Return Their Ballots

Szollosi explained how the veto override process is going forward.

“Once Secretary of State Christie Jacobson basically puts the ballots in the mail to 150 legislators; that’s 50 in the State Senate and 100 in the State House, then legislators will have 30 days to return those ballots to the Capitol. The votes will be counted and the proponents of Senate Bill 442 need 67 votes out of 100 in the House and 34 votes out of 50 in the State Senate.”

Legislators will have only 30 days to return their ballots to override the Governor's veto of Senate Bill 442.

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