Lawmakers Fail to Override Four Vetoes by Bullock

Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to polls asking if they want to override the governor's vetoes on three other bills

By Justin Franz

HELENA — Montana lawmakers did not have enough support to override four vetoes by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, including a strongly supported bill that sought to give health insurers the ability to regulate pharmacy benefit managers.

Poll results released Friday showed lawmakers also did not reach the two-thirds majority needed in the state House and the Senate to override vetoes on two bills that would have created tax breaks and a campus free-speech bill that he said weakened constitutional protections.

Bullock vetoed a bill proposed by Republican State Auditor Matt Rosendale that sought to lower prescription drug prices by requiring pharmacy benefit managers to pass drug manufacturer rebates back to insurers who sell policies through the Affordable Care Act marketplace.

Rosendale’s office estimated the legislation would save $8 million a year for residents who purchase their health insurance on the exchange. Companies that offer plans on the marketplace argued the bill would hamper their efforts to negotiate favorable contracts for administration of their prescription benefits.

Bullock’s veto letter said the proposal would actually increase drug costs and administrative costs. He said he supported other bills to reduce health care costs, including one that disallowed certain pharmacy benefit manager practices such as charging pharmacies unexpected fees or requiring pharmacies to charge a co-payment that exceeds the cost of a drug.

In total, lawmakers voted 108-40 in favor of Rosendale’s bill during the session, but the override effort fell short by five votes in each chamber.

Rosendale sent a tweet Friday morning thanking lawmakers who supported his bill but said Bullock “has successfully denied Montanans lower drug prices. I will keep fighting to lower drug costs.”

Bullock vetoed bills that would have created an income tax credit for job growth and another to offer a moratorium on property taxes for new broadband fiber and cable. His veto letters said both would hurt the state’s ability to balance its budget and would offer more benefits to larger corporations rather than small businesses.

The efforts to override those vetoes both fell 15 votes short in the House and nine and seven votes short in the Senate, respectively.

Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to polls asking if they want to override the governor’s vetoes on three other bills.