Schweitzer Vetoes Abortion Bill and Others

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Gov. Brian Schweitzer struck down a proposal to require parental notification of some teen abortions as he issued yet more vetoes Thursday, including a pro-industry measure that undid portions of the voter-approved ban on cyanide gold mining.

But the governor also went along with several other legislative proposals, including one that critics say unfairly tilts the state’s main environmental law in favor of industry.

Schweitzer was busy with the red pen Thursday.

The governor argued the parental notification proposal would be ruled unconstitutional by courts who had previously struck down legislative attempts to require parental involvement in those decisions.

The legislature’s proposal would apply to minors less than 16 years of age. The issue is not dead, though, since the Republican-led Legislature also put the question on the 2012 ballot for voters to consider.

The governor shot down the Legislature’s attempt to help existing cyanide gold mines expand their operations. He pointed to two initiatives previously approved by voters restricting the process.

“Ultimately the bill forces me to choose between the decision of the citizens of Montana and the decision of 91 members of the 62nd Montana Legislature. That is not a difficult choice,” Schweitzer wrote. “I believe the citizens of Montana knew what they were voting for when they first, in 1998, and again, in 2004, voted to restrict cyanide heap and vat leach open-pit gold and silver mining.”

The governor also vetoed two health care bills aimed at halting the Obama administration’s federal health care overhaul.

One would have ordered the attorney general to join a lawsuit by two dozen other states challenging the law. Schweitzer had requested the Legislature change its wording to “encourage” the state to join the lawsuit and cut its budget by $400,000 to pay for it.

He struck down Senate Bill 106 when lawmakers declined to make those changes.

The other bill, House Bill 526, would have directed the governor to create and join a compact with other states to create a separate health care system.

The bills were part of a large slate of Republican-backed measures this session aimed at avoiding implementation of the federal law.

The governor also vetoed a proposal that sought to put restrictions on local governments who become sanctuaries for illegal immigrants, saying no one has ever found a city in Montana that has ever done so or even said it would like to do so.

“The legislature should not, therefore, concern itself with frivolous matters, such as remedying problems that do not exist,” Schweitzer wrote.

One bill he will allow to become law has been criticized as unfairly tilting the state’s main environmental law in favor of industry. Environmentalists argued Senate Bill 233 was one of the worst bills of the session.

Supporters hope the measure will speed up the permitting process for extractive industries.

Schweitzer said he doesn’t think the proposal will do much, and said that the Montana Environmental Policy Act is confusing and difficult to implement after years of legislative tinkering. He said the latest changes only offer “minor clarity.”

The governor said he was tasking several agency directors to work with interested parties to rewrite MEPA so that it will better involve the public in in major permitting decisions.

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