Knowing the source of funds coming into a state can give the general public a more complete understanding of where the source of their problems lies. And two bills to shine light on federal funds for the public were passed by the Montana legislature this year. However, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed both of those important reform measures in April.

Introduced by Rep. Tom Burnett (R-Bozeman) in February, House Bill 381 (HB381) sought to create additional measures of transparency related to use of federal funds by state agencies. Introduced by Rep. Bill Harris (R-29), House Bill 315 (HB315) would have revised the current Montana Federal Mandates Act by stating the intent of the legislature that “any implementation of federal policies in and for Montana by federal executive branch agencies that is contrary to the United States constitution and fundamental notions of federalism and self-determination must be identified, countered, and resisted.” [emphasis added]

However, transparency and accountability are not things that the entrenched political establishment in the state of Montana wants. As a result, HB381 was vetoed by Gov. Bullock on April 30, and HB315 was vetoed on April 10.

In his veto letter about HB315, Gov. Bullock claimed that he rejected the bill because it “requires duplicative reporting; adds regulatory requirements; requires the redevelopment of existing forms; and imposes new reporting mandates on the Legislature.” He also claimed that HB315 “increases bureaucracy and red tape.” However, he omitted that fact that the legislation would have created ‘red tape’ pointing out the unconstitutional collusion between the federal government and the state of Montana.

Gov. Bullock made many of the same points in his veto statement about HB381 as well. In addition, he cited a fiscal statement about the bill claiming that the legislation would cost “would cost $300,000 annually in new costs to the state, due to the numerous and detailed reporting requirements.” Rep. Barrett, the bill sponsor, claimed that the fiscal statement referenced in Gov. Bullock’s veto statement is overstated. Nevertheless, the people of Montana will miss out on substantive reforms because of Gov. Bullock’s reckless veto pen.

HB315 would have created a series of studies and reports on the effects of federal mandates on the state of Montana. It read, in part:

Prior to recommending to the legislature a budget for a state agency that is charged with implementing federal mandates, the governor shall require that the state agency provide information regarding any monetary savings for the state and any reduction in regulatory burdens on local governments and on the public that could be or have been achieved through the development of state policies that meet the intent of applicable federal statutes but do not necessarily follow all applicable federal regulations, guidelines, or policies. The state agency shall also provide advice to the governor regarding any changes in state statutes that are necessary to provide the state agency the authority to implement state policies in a way that will create additional savings or greater reductions in regulatory burdens.

HB381 would have required state agencies to submit an annual report that complies with each of the following steps:

(a) [reporting] the aggregate value of federal receipts the designated state agency received for the preceding fiscal year;
(b) [calculating] the percentage of the designated state agency’s total budget for the preceding fiscal year that constitutes federal receipts that the designated state agency received for that fiscal year; and
(c) [developing] plans for operating the designated state agency if there is a reduction of 10% or more in the federal receipts that the designated state agency receives

These bills were significant because the extent of collusion between state and federal government officials is far greater than what most people realize. Shining sunlight onto this web of complicity would raise public awareness of its existence, and could be the first step toward eliminating it entirely. However, that will not come to pass in Montana during 2015. In recent years, Gov. Bullock has emerged as an especially hostile opponent to the bedrock American principles of independence and state sovereignty.

Gov. Bullock has previously vetoed HB203, which would have prohibited state and local agencies in Montana from enforcing any future federal gun laws. In recent years, he has vetoed legislation that would have protected gun freedom and taken action against the indefinite detention provisions of the 2012 NDAA, still in effect today.

Because of his unwillingness to stand for what is just, Gov. Bullock has put the safety and security of Montana residents in great jeopardy. By rejecting added transparency on federal/state partnerships, Gov. Bullock has failed in his duty to represent the best interest of the people.The state of Montana has missed out on being protected from a variety of federal intrusions, thanks solely to the actions of Gov. Bullock. Until a Governor takes the reigns in Montana who actually has the backbone to stand up against unconstitutional federal power, substantive reform will remain a struggle in the Treasure State.


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