Bullock Nixes Bill Seeking More Scrutiny Over Mandates

Governor signed six other bills and suggested changes to three more as a condition for his signature

By Justin Franz

HELENA — Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed two bills Friday, one that sought to bring more scrutiny to unfunded federal government mandates and another that he said would limit the growth of clean-energy industries.

The governor signed six others and suggested changes to three more as a condition for his signature.

Bullock’s veto of the federal mandates bill was no surprise. He vetoed a similar measure passed by the previous Legislature. He said the proposal by Republican Rep. Bill Harris of Winnett “creates a bureaucratic morass” because of duplicative work and new requirements on government agencies.

In his veto message, the governor wrote that the bill “would undermine the efficiency of state government operations for no clear purpose.”

Harris has for years railed against federal programs that states must implement, sometime using their own resources to do so. Additional reviews, he argued, would help Montana officials decide whether federal programs benefit the state and use local resources more wisely.

The governor says there are already mechanisms in place to do that.

Bullock also vetoed a bill on so-called “net metering,” which provides utility customers financial credits for adding unused power back into the electrical grid by generating electricity through such sources as solar panels.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Pat Connell of Hamilton, said he supports clean-energy technologies, but he is concerned about “customers on the grid not paying their fair share for management, maintenance and for power poles, lines and administration.”

Bullock said Connell’s proposal should await a study on net metering that would be authorized by a bill still pending legislative action.

The Montana Renewable Energy Association welcomed the governor’s veto. The group’s executive director, Andrew Valainis, said bill would have “pitted utility customers against each other, and was designed to squelch the development of solar energy and restrict Montanans’ energy choices.”

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

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