Montana Lawmakers Mull Another Special Session

By Beacon Staff

HELENA (AP) – Key lawmakers said Tuesday the Legislature made a mistake by using ambiguous language in the tax rebate bill, indicating they would support a special session to fix the problem.

Although they still support the governor’s decision to authorize the rebates, they expressed concern that the law was written in such a way that the rebates might not withstand legal challenge.

Legislative staff has said the governor may have used an inappropriate revenue estimate that set the rebates in motion.

Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s budget director said he did not believe a special session was necessary.

“Our position is that we have met the letter and spirit of the law,” David Ewer said.

The governor plans to move forward with next year’s property tax rebates of $140, which follow the $400 rebates being given out this year.

A legislative attorney said in a memo to lawmakers that the decision authorizing the rebates was legally suspect.

Rep. Ron Erickson, D-Missoula, said he would support a special session to correct the problem but stopped short of saying he would initiate it.

“We made a mistake,” he said.

Sen. John Brueggeman, R-Polson, said he doesn’t thinking bringing lawmakers back to Helena makes sense. He said technically someone could sue over the way the rebates are given out, but questioned whether anyone actually would.

Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula, also said he would support a special session.

“If there’s a chance there’s a problem, let’s just fix it,” he said.

The lawmakers said that if a special session was called, it would only be to clarify that the governor’s office correctly followed the intent of the law and would not affect rebates.