HELENA — The state Board of Canvassers on Monday certified voter passage of a constitutional initiative that establishes certain rights for crime victims, without stating when it takes effect.
A Friday order by the Montana Supreme Court prevented Secretary of State Linda McCulloch from certifying an effective date for Constitutional Initiative 116, also known as Marsy’s Law.
“I am pleased that the Supreme Court has taken up the issue of the effective date of CI-116 and the issue can be resolved in the proper venue,” McCulloch said in a statement.
Voters approved CI-116, which ensures crime victims and their families have the right to participate in judicial proceedings, to be notified of developments in a case and to be notified when an offender or suspect is released from jail, among other rights.
Language in the voter information pamphlet, approved by the attorney general, indicated the amendment would take effect immediately upon passage.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Montana along with organizations representing city and county governments asked the Supreme Court on Friday to settle a dispute over when it should take effect.
The ACLU petition argues that Attorney General Tim Fox, in writing the voter pamphlet information, misinterpreted a section of the initiative that said the amendment is “self-executing” to mean that it would take effect immediately upon passage.
The initiative language states that it is self-executing “and requires no further action by the Legislature,” to take effect, the ACLU of Montana, the Montana Association of counties, the Montana League of Cities and Towns and the Montana County Attorneys Association noted. They argue the initiative’s language did not include an effective date and in such cases, the state constitution says it should take effect on the July 1 following passage.
The governments say they need time to plan and money to meet the requirements of the new amendment, or they will immediately be in violation of the state constitution.
The court gave the state 14 days to file a response to the petition.
“On Election Day, voters overwhelmingly approved granting Constitutional rights, effective immediately, to crime victims in Montana,” said Chuck Denowh, state director of Marsy’s Law for Montana. “Now, the American Civil Liberties Union is attempting to delay those rights from taking effect, in direct opposition to the popular will of over 325,000 Montanans.”
The crime victim’s law is the second Montana ballot measure to face issues with an effective date.
Initiative 182, which expanded access to medical marijuana, included an effective date of June 30, 2017 for some sections.
Medical marijuana advocates and patients are asking a judge to fix what they say was a mistake that inadvertently delayed the re-opening of medical marijuana dispensaries by eight months.
“I encourage all Montanans and Montana organizations to fully participate in the ballot language drafting process during the public comment period every election, the time when concerns about the ballot language including the effective date, can be and should be addressed,” McCulloch said.
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