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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

State Supreme Court Shoots Down Challenge To Brain Research Initiative

Montana Supreme Court seal

Today Montana’s Supreme Court denied a request from unions and lawmakers to find unconstitutional a ballot initiative that aims to create funding for brain research.

Days after I-181 qualified for the general election ballot in July, Montana AFL-CIO, Montana Taxpayers Association and several state legislators, on both sides of the aisle, asked the court to not allow the initiative to go to vote this November.

The initiative would establish the Montana Biomedical Research Authority to oversee efforts to promote cures for brain cancer, dementia, and traumatic brain injuries.

The initiative also authorizes the creation of state bond debt for $20 million a year over the next 10 years to fund that research.

Democratic Senator Jim Keane from Butte says he agrees with the premise of more brain research, but the funding ask in the initiative would limit lawmakers' ability to fund other projects this session.

"What this ballot initiative does is kinda usurps the appropriations process of the legislature, which it says the legislature should appropriate this money for brain research, a significant amount of money for one thing, and it would take away from the ability to of state government to appropriate money for such things as infrastructure."

A statement released by supporters of I-181 says the ballot initiative requests, but does not require, that the Montana Legislature appropriate the proceeds of the bonds to pay for the initiative.

Max Davis with the I-181 effort says he disagrees with the assumption that funding this research would limit other state spending options in the 2017 session.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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