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Lake County proposes to withdraw from a law enforcement agreement with CSKT

Lake County commissioners Monday proposed an ordinance to withdraw from an agreement to provide law enforcement services on the Flathead Reservation.

The state, Lake County and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes opted into the federal law known as Public Law 280 in the 1960s. The law requires Lake County to provide law enforcement services on the reservation, but county commissioners say the state isn’t paying for the cost of those services, estimated at $4 million annually.

The Lake County commissioners’ resolution says their attempts to get the state to pay for those costs have fallen on “deaf ears.” In a statement, Gov. Greg Gianforte spokesperson Brooke Stroyke says the governor’s office has tried to help the county find solutions, but wrote, “The Legislature, not the Governor, has the authority to fund PL 280.”

Gianforte signed a bill passed by the state Legislature in 2021 to reimburse Lake County for law enforcement costs under PL 280. The bill appropriated $1 for that reimbursement. That bill also allowed Lake County to withdraw consent to enforce criminal jurisdiction on behalf of the state.

Lake County Commissioners say local taxpayers can’t afford to pay for the law enforcement services and that the county will withdraw from the agreement early next year, forcing the state to pick up the work.

The county will take public comment on the resolution Jan. 3 before officially voting on the measure.

CSKT spokesperson Shane Morigeau said the tribes decline to comment on the matter.

Aaron graduated from the University of Minnesota School of Journalism in 2015 after interning at Minnesota Public Radio. He landed his first reporting gig in Wrangell, Alaska where he enjoyed the remote Alaskan lifestyle and eventually moved back to the road system as the KBBI News Director in Homer, Alaska. He joined the MTPR team in 2019. Aaron now reports on all things in northwest Montana and statewide health care.
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