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Montana lawmakers override Gianforte's first veto as governor

Fitzpatrick Override
Posted at 7:04 PM, Apr 09, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-15 00:52:52-04

HELENA — UPDATE: The Montana Legislature has successfully overridden Gov. Greg Gianforte's first veto since taking office.

On Monday, the House voted 89-11 to override Gianforte's veto of Senate Bill 227 – easily clearing the two-thirds required for the bill to become law over his objection.

Under SB 227, the Legislature could repeal a rule by joint resolution – meaning only the House and Senate would have to vote on it and it would not go to the governor’s desk – if the rule was implemented after the end of the previous legislative session.

The Senate previously voted 50-0 Friday to overturn Gianforte's veto.

According to research, this appears to be the first successful veto override in Montana in at least a decade.

This story has been updated. The original story is below.


For the first time since taking office, Gov. Greg Gianforte has vetoed a bill passed by the Montana Legislature – and lawmakers are already attempting to override his veto.

Fittingly, the bill at issue deals with the powers of the executive and legislative branches. On Thursday, Gianforte vetoed Senate Bill 227, sponsored by Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls. SB 227 would let the Legislature repeal some administrative rules without giving the governor the opportunity to veto.

On Friday, senators voted unanimously – 50-0 – to override the veto. If two-thirds of House members also vote to override, SB 227 will become law despite Gianforte’s objection.

Administrative rules are regulations adopted by state departments and agencies. Lawmakers can already undo an agency’s rule by passing a bill. Like any other bill, the governor can sign it, allow it to go into effect without his signature, or veto it.

Under SB 227, the Legislature could repeal a rule by joint resolution – meaning only the House and Senate would have to vote on it and it would not go to the governor’s desk – if the rule was implemented after the end of the previous legislative session.

“SB 227 is an unlawful violation of the separation of powers,” Gianforte said in a letter explaining his veto. “It attempts to remove from the governor, the chief executive officer of the state with the final authority over the rulemaking activities of the legislative branch, the power to approve or disapprove the legislature’s review of the administrative rules implemented by the executive branch.”

Gianforte, a Republican, said Senate Bill 82, which he signed into law, already gave lawmakers greater oversight on administrative rules. That bill made it easier for interim committees to file objections to rules.

But in asking the Senate to override Gianforte’s veto, supporters said SB 227 was an important way for the Legislature to maintain its own power.

“It’s time for us to bring back a little bit more parity between the legislative branch and the executive branch,” Fitzpatrick said. “We’re the branch closest to the people, and I think it’s more appropriate for us to have the authority to repeal rules.”

SB 227 initially passed 30-19 in the Senate, with all Republicans supporting it and all Democrats opposing it. It passed the House with overwhelming bipartisan support, 96-4.

The House is expected to vote next week on whether to override the veto. In order to override a governor’s veto, at least two-thirds of each chamber must agree.

In recent years, successful veto overrides have been extremely rare in Montana. In research, MTN has not been able to find any since at least 2009.

Also on Friday, Gianforte issued his second veto. He rejected House Bill 97, which would have allowed the Commissioner of Political Practices to handle ethics complaints against members of state boards, commissions and committees.