Updated: 100 Bills Remain as Legislature Winds Down

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Republican legislative leaders have yet to send more than 100 bills to Gov. Brian Schweitzer as the session enters its final days, likely reducing the Democratic governor’s ability to request changes to the measures already passed by lawmakers.

GOP leaders called a five-day break last week while they and Schweitzer negotiated a compromise on their highest priority, the state budget.

The Legislature must adjourn its 90-day session within five working days after lawmakers reconvene Tuesday. There are 114 bills that have cleared both chambers but have yet to move to the governors’ desk.

Other measures, like a proposed overhaul of the state’s medical marijuana law, still require votes from the House and Senate before adjournment.

If they are not transferred until the last day of the session, Gov. Brian Schweitzer’s ability to ask for changes to the proposals through amendatory vetoes would be curtailed. Schweitzer would likely have to deal with the measures mostly without changes.

Schweitzer didn’t say how he would handle bills transferred to him in such a fashion, but said his actions would be limited.

“If I can’t get the bill back, I can’t do anything,” he said Monday.

There is a backlog of bills due to their lengthy course through the Legislature, but Republican leaders have also hinted that they may hold onto one bill until the end of the session as political strategy.

After the governor suggested a two-year expiration date on a bill granting eminent domain to businesses, Senate President Jim Peterson, R-Buffalo, said he may delay transfer of the bill to make the governor consider the measure as a permanent solution, without a sunset date.

It’s a tactic the Republicans could use with any number of the bills that have yet to move out of the Legislature.

Peterson said he wasn’t ready to comment on that specific issue but said some of the bills would get to the governor during the last days.

Also Monday, Republican leadership and the governor agreed to make minor changes to the agreement they reached Friday over the state budget.

The deal restored federal funding for human services and reached agreements on school funding and spending of state tax money.

Peterson said technical changes would be made to the school funding language before it reaches the House and Senate floors.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.