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By Mark Moran - Producer-Editor, Contact - News

 

Big Sky Connection - Montana lawmakers are completing their veto override ballots that are due back in the Secretary of State's office this week. They're deciding whether to overturn Gov. Greg Gianforte's veto of Senate Bill 442, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, but also has critics. Comments from Frank Szollosi (suh-LAHS-ee), executive director, Montana Wildlife Federation; and Montana state Sen. Mike Lang, R-Malta.

Click on the image above for the audio.  Montana has more than 3 million acres of inaccessible public lands, tops in the West, according to the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. (Adobe Stock)

Mark Moran

April 15, 2024 - Ballots are due back in the Montana Secretary of State's office later this week, as lawmakers decide
whether to override Gov. Greg Gianforte's veto of a high-profile funding bill that would reapportion money from the state's marijuana sales tax.

Gianforte vetoed Senate Bill 442 after the Montana Senate had adjourned last session, which left lawmakers no chance to override it.

It would fund veterans' services, provide permanent property tax relief for vets & Gold Star families, invest in county road maintenance, and support land conservation and habitat management.

Montana Wildlife Federation Executive Director Frank Szollosi said the legislation has received broad support inside and outside the capitol.

"That's why agricultural interests have supported 442," said Szollosi. "Counties have supported 442, and the conservation & sporting communities have supportted 442, and local governments."

Gianforte said in his veto note that using state funds for local responsibilities such as road improvements is a "slippery slope."

A veto override requires the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers. Ballots are due back in the Secretary of State's office on Thursday.

Twenty percent of the sales tax revenue would be used specifically for habitat conservation - but equally important, supporters say, is the money that would be spent to improve veterans' programs and rural infrastructure.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Mike Lang - R-Malta - said S.B. 442 would provide services for groups that have not historically shared common interests.

"I just want to bridge the gap," said Lang, "between recreationists and hunters, and private landowners."

Critics of SB 442 have argued the funding distribution formula isn't equitable, while supporters say it directs resources towards those who need them most.

The bill passed the Legislature with 130 of 150 votes in last year's session.

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