Three Republican Calls for a Special Legislative Session Fail

Legislators need to get 76 affirmative votes in order to convene

By NICOLE GIRTEN, Daily Montanan
The Montana State Capitol in Helena. Beacon file photo

Three separate Republican calls for a special session failed to get enough votes from legislators, the Montana Secretary of State’s Office announced Monday.

Legislators need to get 76 affirmative votes in order to convene. None of the three calls – requesting legislators meet in Helena to address issues from immigration to judicial election reform – broke 60 votes after Friday’s deadline.

House Speaker Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, called for a special session to address two issues: marijuana taxation in light of the legislature’s fight with the judiciary over Senate Bill 442 and immigration.

SB 442 would have changed how marijuana revenue was allocated to include funding for county roads and conservation efforts. Gov. Greg Gianforte vetoed the bill on the last day of the 2023 legislative session, but the timing of the veto relative to when the session had adjourned raised a question about override procedures, and the conflict ended up in court.

A little more than six months after the actual veto, the court ordered a veto-override poll be sent out to legislators, but Republican leadership urged its lawmakers not to participate, calling it an unconstitutional intervention by the courts. The veto stood as a result.

The speaker also wanted the legislature to address immigration in the state, saying the federal government “has not just ignored the crisis but exacerbated it.” This request came after the state’s Republican federal delegation denounced a migrant family settling in the Flathead after crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. The family’s legal status has yet to be confirmed; a local nonprofit that is assisting them is supporting their privacy.

Regier’s request was signed by several in leadership including Majority Leader Sue Vinton, Speaker Pro-Tempore Rhonda Knudsen and Senate President Pro Tempore Ken Bogner. The House Speaker received 59 affirmative votes and 54 opposing votes.

Regier did not receive Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte’s endorsement in his state Senate primary race, but won handily on Tuesday with 34 percentage points over his opponent, business owner Marquis Laude.

Rep. Jane Gillette, R-Bozeman, penned a request alongside 11 other Republican legislators to propose a special session to make judicial races in the state partisan, as they are currently non-partisan. The lawmakers said the current system deprives voters of the “most important information about the candidates running for these seats: their party affiliation.”

The request received 50 votes in favor and 59 in opposition.

The Montana Freedom Caucus called for a special session to ensure only Montana citizens vote in elections, which is already required by law, and received 52 yes votes and 60 votes against it.

The caucus, mirrored off the national Freedom Caucus that includes Montana’s Rep. Matt Rosendale, failed late last year on a separate call for a special session on property taxes.

Legislators will meet again in Helena for the next legislative session in January 2025.

This story originally appeared in the The Daily Montanan, which can be found online at dailymontanan.com.