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Montanans Vow To Bring Back SB 442

Members of the historic coalition that worked together to develop Senate Bill 442 with Senator Mike Lang have vowed to bring the bill back next session, saying lawmakers left Montanans with unfinished business after lackluster participation in vote-by-mail poll allowed a controversial veto of the bill to stand.

Senate Bill 442 allocated millions in funding for rural roads for better access to hunting and fishing lands, private land stewardship and conservation, public access, permanent tax relief for disabled veterans’ and helping Montanans deal with substance abuse issues. It garnered widespread support from a coalition of Montanans and received supermajority backing during the 2023 Legislature. Despite the bill's popularity, it succumbed to a controversial veto and a nearly year-long campaign of delay tactics and political maneuvers from the Gianforte administration designed to thwart a veto override attempt.

The Montana Wildlife Federation, Wild Montana, and the Montana Association of Counties were all partners in litigation to facilitate this veto override ballot process. They say focus will now shift to ensuring lawmakers live up to their prior support of SB 442 because the critical needs that should have been addressed by the legislation are not going away.

The leaders of these organizations issued the following statements: “Despite broad bipartisan support in the 2023 Legislature, politics became the enemy of good, homegrown policy. Our coalition of hunters, anglers, ranchers, county commissioners, veterans, and Montanans across the state remains united and committed to address these pressing issues,” said Frank Szollosi, executive director of the Montana Wildlife Federation. “It’s regrettable that Montanans must face another delay for crucial investments — ranging from improving veteran benefits to repairing county roads to enhancing private and public land wildlife habitat. We’re already laying the groundwork for introducing new bipartisan legislation, and elected officials can count on our commitment to improve Montana’s roads, wildlife habitat and support for our veterans.”

“Kicking the can down the road didn't solve any of the problems SB 442 would have addressed,” said Noah Marion, Political and State Policy Director of Wild Montana. “The historic coalition who supports SB 442 is not going away, and we expect to bring back similarly bipartisan and impactful legislation once again. We look forward to working with the multitude of legislators who have claimed they will eagerly support the policy in 2025, even if they refused to support the override. The Governor’s unconstitutional actions and the cynical political gamesmanship by his allies was the only chance he had to stand in the way of such a broadly supported bill, but the Court has been clear that cannot happen again. Unfortunately, Montanans will have to wait yet another year for these investments they so critically need. Rest assured this is not the end.”

“The circumstances surrounding SB 442 and its veto should be of great concern to Montanans,” said Jason Rittal, Deputy Director of the Montana Association of Counties. “The District Court serves as a critical check in our system, ensuring that loopholes resulting in unconstitutional actions are not allowed. By closing one of these loopholes, the Court did its job and provided the Legislature their opportunity to override. Some legislators do not agree with the Court’s involvement and subsequent decision, which is their prerogative. However, SB 442 is good policy that would have benefited Montana far and wide, and when the 2025 session arrives, County Commissioners throughout the state will again rally in support of another SB 442.”

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