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Montana Special Legislative Session Looks Increasingly Unlikely

A vote count released Monday morning on the proposed special session of the Montana Legislature shows the call is not possible without votes from both sides of the aisle.

Republicans are so divided on the proposed special session that it won’t happen without support from the Democratic minority.

House Minority leader Jenny Eck says she expects her caucus, as well as Democrats in the Senate, to remain united in their opposition to a special session call.

Republicans supporting a special session want to create referenda that could compete with policy outlined in citizen ballot initiatives regarding the future of mining regulation and the state’s Medicaid expansion program. If the Legislature convened next week and passed referenda, it’s possible a special election would have to be called to put the issues in front of voters.

Senate President Scott Sales told MTPR last week rallying support for a special session wasn't going to be easy.

"It’s going to be a very heavy lift to get the 76 votes," said Sales.

The state GOP controls enough of the House and Senate that, if the party was united on this issue, they could call a special session. It takes 76 votes to make that call and Republicans hold 91 of the Legislature's 150 seats.

But the latest vote tally released by the Secretary of State shows 19 Republicans have so far voted against the proposal. They could afford to lose only 15 to make the call without help from Democrats.

Some Republican leaders pushing for the special session hope Democrats from mining towns, like Butte, will join their side. Mining industry advocates say ballot initiative I-186 would kill future mining jobs in the state.

However if Democrats remain unanimous in their opposition, the vote will fall short of calling lawmakers back to Helena.

Corin Cates-Carney is the news director at Montana Public Radio. He joined MTPR in 2015 and is a graduate of the University of Montana School of Journalism.
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