Checks and Balances are at Work

The Secretary of State will conduct a poll to see if most of the legislators want a special session

By James C. Wangerin

Montana government consists of the executive branch, the legislative branch, the judicial branch, a very strong right to participate, and a very strong right to know.

Gov. Greg Gianforte requested in writing that counties “do everything in your authority to limit the growth of both government spending and property taxes in your county,” and to “draw down mill levies that are within your control, and keep property taxes as low as possible,” but he also indicated the state did not intend to lower the rate of statewide mills.

On Nov. 19, 21 members of the Montana Freedom Caucus requested the Secretary of State, per MCA 5-3-105, to conduct a poll of the Legislature to call for a special session to convene on Monday, Jan. 15, at 10 a.m. Only 10 members are needed to request a poll.

On Nov. 21, OP 23-0635 of the Montana Supreme Court “ORDERED that the counties shall levy statewide mills pursuant to Department of Revenue’s calculations for the current and future tax years.”

The Montana Association of Counties’ petition to the Supreme Court stated, “In contrast to the overall taxes and the efforts of local jurisdictions, the State and Department are attempting to increase the statewide mills taxes by nearly 30%.”

In Powell County, taxes on real estate increased by 20%, while taxes on centrally assessed property decreased by 26%.

Article II of the Montana Constitution provides Section 8 Right of Participation and Section 9 Right to Know.

Montana Administrative Procedures Act (MAPA) allows for notice and participation required under the Montana Constitution.

Administrative rules may be adopted and revised throughout the year as circumstances change or as issues arise.

MCA 2-4-102 (11) (a) “Rule” means each agency regulation, standard, or statement of general applicability that implements, interprets, or prescribes law or policy or describes the organization, procedures, or practice requirements of an agency…

On November 16th, I petitioned the Department of Revenue for a hearing to clarify the calculation and levying process.

When the Supreme Court allows the Department of Revenue to create rules for tax statutes widely interpreted in different ways without going through MAPA, taxpayers lose the right to know, and the right to participate.

I am still waiting for a response to my petition. 

The Secretary of State will conduct a poll to see if most of the legislators want a special session.

Checks and balances are at work.

James C. Wangerin
Deer Lodge

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