The Montana Legislature has failed to muster enough support on a handful of bills, including one meant to address the practices of prescription drug middlemen through their contracts with insurance companies, to overturn vetoes by the governor.
Senate Bill 71, carried by Sen. Al Olszewski, R-Kalispell, and crafted by the state auditor's office, passed with enough support that it triggered an automatic poll of legislators about a veto override.
A two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate was needed to overturn the veto. Though the bill passed in April by more than that threshold, the results of the override poll released Friday fell shy of the mark.
In the House, 62 members voted to override the veto, five fewer than needed, and 16 voted against it. Twenty-two representatives did not return the poll to the Secretary of State. The Senate count was 29 to override, also five short, and 14 against. Seven senators did not return the poll.
After Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, vetoed the bill, he and Republican state Auditor Matt Rosendale clashed over their views about what the legislation would have done.
In his veto letter May 9, Bullock said the bill would increase costs for Montanans.
Rosendale's office issued a "fact check" of Bullock's veto, questioning the evidence that the bill would have resulted in higher health care costs. A fiscal note attached to the bill only estimated costs for the state to implement the legislation, which were minimal, and not its effect on insurance companies or people paying premiums.
Three other bills also failed to get enough votes to override vetoes. That included Senate Bill 266, which would have created income tax credits for employers who hired at least 10 new people. In his veto, Bullock questioned if the benefits would help smaller employers and asked if the legislation was necessary in a tight job market. The poll results were 52-23 in the House and 25-17 in the Senate.
Senate Bill 239 also fell short, with the House polling 52-24 and the Senate 27-15. The bill would have provided a moratorium on property taxes for the installation of broadband fiber and cable. Bullock vetoed it because he said it gave tax breaks for things corporations were already doing and the budget didn't have room to accommodate the bill.
The third bill was House Bill 735, which would have revised free speech laws on public college campuses. Bullock said the bill was "driven by recent headlines" and called the bill a "mechanism that is weaker at protecting our constitutional freedoms than what current law already provides." It failed 56-20 in the House and 28-14 in the Senate.
The Legislature also previously did not get enough votes to override a veto on a sports betting bill. Bullock and Secretary of State Corey Stapleton are also clashing in court over a bill defining "wild bison," legislation Bullock vetoed but Stapleton contends became law on a technicality. Earlier this month a judge stopped the bill from being codified, saying Stapleton overstepped his authority.