Legislature

Montana Bills Would Limit Governor’s Powers in Emergencies

The GOP-controlled state House voted Wednesday in favor of three bills

By Associated Press
The Montana State Capitol. Beacon File Photo

HELENA — A slate of bills limiting the governor’s powers during states of emergency are nearing passage in Montana.

The GOP-controlled state House voted Wednesday in favor of three bills brought in response to what some Republicans say was an overstepping of authority by former Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, who last year issued a stay-at-home order and allowed for mail ballots to be delivered to all registered voters in the state in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the bills would designate religion as essential, limiting the governor’s ability to ban religious gatherings during declared emergencies. Another bill would require the Legislature’s approval for states of emergency lasting longer than 45 days. A third bill would prohibit the governor from suspending state laws that affect constitutional rights during emergencies.

The bills passed largely along party lines, with Republicans in favor. All three measures have already been approved by the state Senate. The House must vote on them for a final time before they reach the desk of Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte, who has also expressed consternation over executive action taken by his predecessor during the COVID-19 emergency, instead advocating for “personal responsibility” in the face of the pandemic.

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