Gov. Bullock Vetoes Parks Management Bill

The proposal would have transferred authority of the state's park system to a volunteer board

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock rejected a proposal Thursday that would have transferred authority of the state’s park system to a volunteer board.

In his veto message, Bullock called the parks measure a well-intentioned proposal but said it would not be “an effective way to manager our parks.” He said he would launch an initiative to address funding, operations and other challenges faced by the park system.

“This bill would be a step backward,” he said, noting that the measure would have removed oversight of the state parks system from the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks. He said handing over authority to a new board would not “provide the results and accountability” to address the challenges faced by the park system that has seen a boom in visitors but also needs $22 million in improvements.

The sponsor of the bill, Democratic Rep. Bradley Hamlett of Cascade, told the Daily Inter Lake that he might seek to override the governor’s veto.

The governor also rejected three other bills, including one seeking to give landlords broader authority in disputes with tenants. Another veto upended an attempt to exempt seasonal outdoor workers from the minimum wage. The governor also rejected a health care bill that would have required Montana to join an interstate health care compact that the governor said could lead to the suspension of some government health care programs.

It was a busy day for the governor’s pen. In addition to his vetoes, he signed 21 other bills into law, including one that protects public employees who allege governmental waste, fraud or abuse. And he agreed to strengthen anti-bullying laws, as well as a bill that would emphasize sexual abuses awareness and prevention in elementary schools.

Bullock also used his pen to seek changes in three other bills — including an amendatory veto on a proposal that would prevent Medicaid funding from being shifted to other programs.

Bullock said the Medicaid bill would strip the Department of Health and Human Services of the budgetary flexibility it needs to juggle budgets across a department that oversees many of the state’s safety net programs.

As most legislation go, the proposal was a rather simple one and loaded its intent in a single sentence: “Appropriations in a general appropriations act for Medicaid may be used only to pay for or administer Medicaid services.”

But in his proposed amendments, the governor undid things by striking “only” and adding three others that Republicans said gutted their proposal.

They said the governor’s proposed changes amounted to an outright veto.

“His proposed amendments go directly against the intent of the bill,” said House Speaker Austin Knudsen, a Republican from Culbertson, “ensuring that budget games can’t be played with Medicaid money.”

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