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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Judge Sides With Bullock In Veto Dispute

Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (left) and Governor Steve Bullock (right).
Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton (left) and Governor Steve Bullock (right).

A Helena judge says Montana's secretary of state does not have the authority to unilaterally override Gov. Steve Bullock's veto of a bison bill.

District Judge Mike McMahon Wednesday issued a preliminary injunction blocking Secretary of State Corey Stapleton from beginning the process of publishing the vetoed bill in state law.

Attorney Austin James argued Stapleton was not overriding a veto, but acting according to his duties because the governor did not return the vetoed bill within 10 days.

Bullock vetoed the bill on April 29, but did not turn the bill in to Stapleton's office until May 22.

McMahon says there is no such deadline for vetoed bills and that Stapleton was improperly inserting one part of state law into another in making that argument.

Bullock’s chief legal counsel Raph Graybill agrees.

“There is no support for the idea that there is an ability by the secretary of state to invent a new 10-day deadline that doesn’t exist in the law.”

James says an appeal to the state Supreme Court will be considered.

The lawsuit pitted Bullock, who is running for president, against Stapleton, who is running for governor, over a bill passed earlier this year that could hamper future efforts to allow bison to roam freely in the state. Opponents say the bill targets a conservation group that is acquiring land in central Montana with the aim of creating the nation's largest private wildlife reserve that could one day be home to 10,000 bison.

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