HELENA - It appears that Gov. Judy Martz's veto of bill requiring treatment for those convicted a third time of drunken driving will be upheld by legislators.
By Friday, after just a week of mail balloting, 18 of 50 senators had voted to support Martz. If none of those votes change before the June 4 deadline for lawmakers to return their ballots to the secretary of state's office, no more than 32 senators could vote to overturn the veto and that is two short of the two-thirds majority needed for an override.
Among House members, 22 have endorsed the veto and 13 have voted against it.
The strong preference for killing the measure is a contrast to the lopsided support that Senate Bill 483 had during the legislative session. The bill passed the Senate 47-2 and was approved by the House 96-3.
Of the 40 legislators now voting against the bill, only two - Sen. Ken Miller, R-Laurel, and Rep. Roy Brown, R-Billings - did so in final votes during the Legislature.
The veto override balloting is mostly partisan. Fifteen of the 19 votes for overturning the Republican governor's veto come from Democrats; 31 of the 40 votes in favor of the veto are Republicans.
In vetoing SB483, Martz said it is unnecessary because she believes existing law already requires chemical-dependency treatment upon a second or third conviction for driving under the influence.
She said she would object to the bill even if that were not the case. If the measure demands a new form of treatment, that would impose an unfunded and unacceptable requirement on local governments to pay for such care, Martz said.
She said her decision was influenced by a letter urging her to reject the bill. Signed by 101 City Court judges and justices of the peace, the letter warned of the financial burden of requiring local governments to provide treatment for hundreds more people convicted of drunken driving a third time.
Last year, 356 motorists fell in the category, the judges said.
Cities and counties cannot afford the cost and the bill provides no money from the state, they said. "Without the necessary funds, a greater problem will be created by sending the message that the courts are not able to hold these multiple DUI offenders accountable."
Sen. B.F. "Chris" Christiaens, a Great Falls Democrat and sponsor of the bill, has disputed those claims. The measure does not force governments to pay for the treatment because judges can order defendants to cover the cost and most drivers convicted of DUI can afford to do so, he said.