Montana lawmakers have until Monday to cast their votes on whether to override certain vetoes from Governor Steve Bullock.
Bullock vetoed the second highest number of bills in Montana history this year–a total of 71 bills.
Two dozen of those bills were passed by a 2/3rds majority of the legislature, and thus meet the criteria for a potential veto override. The Secretary of State’s office sends out polls on those bills, and if 2/3rds of both the House and Senate vote for them again the veto is overturned.
But, even though the bills received enough votes on their original passage to achieve a veto override, Secretary of State Linda McCulloch says it doesn’t happen very often.
“In fact, the last time it occurred was in the 56th Legislature, which was the 1999 session when the governor was Marc Racicot,” she said.
The polls to override Bullock’s vetoes close depending on when his office originally issued the orders. Votes on five of the vetoed bills are due June 3rd and another 19 are due June 10th.
Some of the bills vetoed by Bullock this year were initially passed by almost the entire legislature. House Bill 218 was passed by nearly 95 percent of lawmakers present for its final vote. The would have created a fund of about $35 million dollars to go toward infrastructure improvements in areas affected by the Bakken Oil boom.
Some of these Eastern Montana communities are badly in need of upgrades to their sewer systems and roads, for example, to handle quickly rising populations.
“This money wasn’t just pork going somewhere, this money is needed money,” said the bill’s sponsor, Duane Ankney. “There’s families living in small campers in the middle of farmer’s fields, this money would have been used to put infrastructure in so affordable housing could have been built. This is about people.”
The Governor’s office declined an interview for this story, with a spokesperson only saying the Governor hopes the legislature understands the need for a balanced budget.
In previous interviews, Bullock said the administration did pass millions of dollars in infrastructure funds for Eastern Montana.
He said vetoing Ankney’s bill was necessary to leave at least $300 million dollars in the bank for unexpected emergencies and the next legislative session.