HELENA – With Monday’s deadline fast-approaching, it remains unclear whether legislators will succeed in overriding any of Gov. Steve Bullock’s vetoes.
Lawmakers have until 5 p.m. Monday to return their veto-override votes to Secretary of State Linda McCulloch’s office on the remaining 19 Bullock vetoes eligible for the vote. The Legislature earlier this month failed to override five vetoes.
Writers of the Montana Constitution, by design, made it tough for legislators to override vetoes. Over the past 20 years, legislators have overridden only one governor’s veto that came after the session. That came in 1999.
To overturn a veto takes 67 votes in the 100-member House, plus 34 votes in the 50-member Senate. Put another way, 34 representatives or 17 senators can block an override.
Bullock is a Democrat. Although Democrats are in the minority in both houses, they have sufficient members – 39 in the House and 21 in the Senate – to block an override if all or most of them vote together.
The secretary of state’s office sends separate ballots on each vetoed bill eligible for the vote to legislators. They are due at 5 p.m. Monday.
If a legislator fails to return an override ballot for one bill, that counts as a vote against the override.
Two House bills are among the most closely watched override votes.
HB 218, by Rep. Duane Ankney, would appropriate $25 million in grants for infrastructure projects in the areas affected by oil and gas developments. HB12, by Rep. Carolyn Pease-Lopez, D-Billings, would appropriate $6.5 million to the state Department of Public Health and Human Services for one-time provider rate increases.
As of late Friday afternoon, the tally on HB218 was 57-22 to override the veto in the House and 27-7 in the Senate.
A Missoulian State Bureau analysis showed HB218 needs 10 of the remaining 21 House votes, or 47.6 percent, and seven out of the remaining 16 Senate votes, or 43.8 percent, to override the veto.
The votes are kept confidential until all of the votes are in, so it can’t be determined how many Republican or Democratic legislators’ votes are already in.
As for HB12, the count on Friday was 49-26 in the House to override and 27-6 in the Senate to override.
The analysis showed that to override HB12, it will take 18 of the remaining 25 House votes, or 72 percent, and seven of the remaining 17 Senate votes, or 41.2 percent, to override Bullock’s veto.
Two measures drawing plenty of override support so far involve the taxation of air- and water-control equipment that businesses are required to obtain. HB408, by Rep. Ken Miller, R-Helmville, would reduce the property tax rate on existing pollution control equipment, while SB240, by Sen. Bruce Tutvedt, R-Kalispell, would exempt from taxation any new pollution control equipment.
The tally as of late Friday afternoon showed representatives voting to override HB188 57-21 and senators voting to override by 24-12.
The analysis shows that to override HB188 will take 10 of the remaining 22 House votes, or 45.5 percent. It faces longer odds in the Senate, where 10 of the remaining 14 Senate votes, or 71.4 percent, must vote to override.
As of Friday, overriding SB240 is ahead by 55-16 in the House and 26-7 in the Senate.
SB240 would appear to face a better shot than HB188. The analysis shows that overturning the veto on SB240 would take 12 of the remaining 29 House votes, or 41.4 percent, and eight of the remaining 17 Senate votes, for 47.1 percent.