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Articles written by Arren Kimbel-sannit


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  • Veto override push on long-debated marijuana money bill falls short

    Eric Dietrich and Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Apr 24, 2024

    A veto override effort on a much-debated marijuana revenue bill that initially passed the Montana Legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support last year has failed, according to poll results released Friday afternoon. The override poll, conducted by a mail ballot by the Montana secretary of state’s office over the last month, attracted only 41 “yes” votes from state representatives and 24 from state senators — well short of the 67-vote and 34-vote two-thirds margins required for a successful veto override. An additional 14 represe...

  • Secretary of State issues veto override poll on long-in-limbo marijuana revenue measure

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Mar 27, 2024

    Montana Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen last week complied with a state district court order by sending a poll that could give lawmakers the ability to override Gov. Greg Gianforte’s veto of a marijuana tax reallocation measure, a significant step in a now almost yearlong fight about the separation of powers and proper veto procedure. Lawmakers now have a month to respond to the mail poll, which asks whether they want to override Gianforte’s veto of Senate Bill 442, legislation that initially passed the Legislature with broad bip...

  • Court denies Gianforte's request to stay ruling in veto lawsuit

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Mar 13, 2024

    A Lewis and Clark County district court judge last week denied a request from Gov. Greg Gianforte to stay enforcement of a prior order directing him to allow lawmakers to override his veto of a 2023 marijuana tax revenue bill. Judge Mike Menahan’s ruling on March 5 does not guarantee that lawmakers will be able to override Gianforte’s veto of Senate Bill 442, legislation that allocated tax revenues from marijuana sales to conservation, veterans and county infrastructure programs. But it does start a 14-day clock for the governor and the Mon...

  • Judge: Constitution says the Legislature's veto override power exists 'regardless of the timing of the veto'

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Jan 24, 2024

    Lawmakers may soon have an opportunity to override Gov. Greg Gianforte's veto of a popular bill that sorts out how Montana spends its marijuana tax revenue. Lewis and Clark County District Court Judge Mike Menahan's order last week doesn't necessarily mean that the 2023 Legislature's Senate Bill 442 will become law. But it does provide clarity on a thorny constitutional issue that arose on the final day of the legislative session: The governor cannot veto a bill in a way that denies the... Full story

  • Broadwater County Attorney announces candidacy for Montana Supreme Court

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Dec 13, 2023

    Broadwater County Attorney Cory Swanson announced his candidacy for Montana Supreme Court earlier this month, setting up a contest between Swanson and former federal magistrate court judge Jerry Lynch for the court's chief justiceship. "When Montanans go to court, they expect a fair judge who will issue rulings based on the facts and the law, not on ideology," he said Wednesday in a campaign announcement on the conservative radio show Montana Talks. "I'm committed to being a fair and impartial... Full story

  • Montana inmates heading to Arizona private prison

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Nov 22, 2023

    Montana has inked a deal to send 120 state inmates to a private prison facility in Arizona, the Department of Corrections announced this week. The shift, which officials say is necessary to relieve crowding in the state prison system, drew widespread debate during the 2023 legislative session as lawmakers wrestled over the most effective way to solve capacity issues at Montana's state facilities. Already, Montana has moved 30 prisoners to Arizona under the terms of the state's existing roughly... Full story

  • Proposed ballot initiatives would mean big changes for Montana elections

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Aug 30, 2023

    A coalition of former Republican officials and a longtime third-party candidate are pushing a pair of constitutional amendment ballot initiatives for the 2024 cycle that would fundamentally alter Montana’s elections in what they describe as an effort to “reform our broken political system.” The most substantive proposal would create a system of top-four open primaries for most state and federal elections in Montana, regardless of party. That would replace the current system — in which a voter can participate in the partisan primary of their c...

  • Conservation groups, counties sue to give lawmakers ability to override veto of marijuana revenue bill

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Jun 14, 2023

    Interest groups filed a pair of lawsuits last week in an effort to allow lawmakers to override Gov. Greg Gianforte’s veto of Senate Bill 442, a bipartisan measure that spelled out how the state allocates taxes collected on the sale of recreational marijuana. The lawsuit filed by Wild Montana and the Montana Wildlife Federation asks a Helena district court judge to declare Gianforte’s veto of the bill invalid unless and until he and Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen ask lawmakers whether they want to override the veto issued on the last day...

  • Bill sponsor pushes for veto override after Gianforte rejects popular marijuana tax bill

    Amanda Eggert and Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|May 10, 2023

    The sponsor of a popular initiative seeking to divvy up more than $50 million of marijuana tax revenue is requesting that lawmakers be given an opportunity to override a veto Gov. Greg Gianforte issued in the final hours of the 2023 legislative session. At issue is Senate Bill 442, which proposes to divide tax revenues levied on recreational marijuana sales between the General Fund, county road construction and maintenance, conservation and recreation programs, addiction treatment and veterans...

  • Legislature to begin assembling feedback on new House and Senate maps 

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Jan 18, 2023

    The Legislature’s joint committee on redistricting will hold public testimony and adopt a resolution this week to provide feedback on how Montana establishes its new legislative districts, the chair of the committee said during its first meeting on January 12. Sen. Mike Cuffe, R-Eureka, said he expects the committee to field public comment in a meeting on Jan. 17, and then receive testimony from Districting and Apportionment Commission Chair Maylinn Smith on Jan. 20. Following Smith’s comments, the joint committee will adopt its rec... Full story

  • House and Senate committees pass preliminary legislative rules

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Dec 14, 2022

    Lawmakers kept the lid on simmering conflict between Republican factions Tuesday and passed amended versions of the rules that govern legislative procedure and decorum in advance of formal votes that will codify those rules in the opening days of the 2023 session. Tuesday's process proved a far cry from the fireworks of last session, lawmakers say, when debates over COVID-19 precautions and intra-party feuding raised the specter of a last-minute leadership change and resulted in the House... Full story

  • Republicans select Legislative Leadership, Carlson selected as Whip

    Arren Kimbel-Sannit, Montana Free Press|Nov 23, 2022

    House and Senate Republicans on Wednesday selected Rep. Matt Regier of Kalispell and Sen. Jason Ellsworth of Hamilton as the leaders of their respective caucuses, cueing up a 2023 legislative session in which the GOP will enjoy the first two-thirds supermajority since Montana drafted its modern Constitution in 1972. “Smile everybody, we’re running the place,” said Rep. Bob Keenan, R-Bigfork, who presided over the House caucus, to kick off the proceedings. In the lower chamber, Republicans voted for Regier as Speaker of the House over Rep. Casey...