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Government Review Ballot Issue Discussed In State

Residents from throughout the state took part in a watch party regarding the local government ballot issue. The Roosevelt County Library was one of the sites for the viewing on Thursday, March 27.

Ashley Kent of the local government center provided insight about the proposal. Voters will decide whether the county wants a government review during the primary election in June. If the request passes for a government review, voters will then decide during the general election in November regarding which individuals will serve on the commission.

Kent said the requirement of asking the public for a government review at least every 10 years was a result of the 1972 constitution convention in Montana. The goal is to make sure political power is from the citizens. People have exclusive rights of governing themselves.

Kent noted that the local government review option is not just a law, but it’s a constitutional mandate in Montana.

During the first election held in 1974, 56 counties and 128 municipalities voted to have a government review. In the 2014 election, only 11 counties and 39 municipalities voted to have a government review.

Kent said the government review is a tool for citizens to look at the structure of their local government and decide whether it makes send for their current community.

If the review passes in the primary election, then a commission need to be formed. If the review fails to pass, then the issue won’t be voted on in that county or municipality until 2034.

If a commission needs to be put together, candidates must file by Aug. 12. Once election, commission candidates have 10 days to have their first meeting. Commission must engaged in the community in such forms as surveys, open houses or town hall meetings.

Requirements for commission members include being non-partisan, living in the jurisdiction, being eligible to hold elected office and not be an elected official in local government. Commission members can’t get paid. The commission must include an ex officio non-voting member appointed by the governing body.

Duties of the commission will include studying the existing form and power of the government. Things that are not in the scope of the government review include removing or discipline staff members of individuals in elected offices, adding or changing services or programs, changing the election process, and changing fees, assessments, taxes or other funding mechanisms.

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