Helena District Judge Kathy Seeley dismissed Governor Brian Schweitzer‘s lawsuit against the 2009 Montana legislature today due to a lack of legal standing. Claiming House Bill 676, a companion bill to HB2, was unconstitutional because it contained multiple subject matters (Montana’s constitution allows only the general appropriations act, House Bill 2 to contain multiple subject matters) and that as a result, Schweitzer’s veto powers were compromised. Schweitzer, instead of vetoing the bill, allowed it to become law without his signature in 2009. Lawyers for the legislature argued that he could have vetoed the bill if he had legal issues with it and Judge Seeley agreed as Schweitzer wasn’t able to identify any impairment of his veto power whatsoever. Judge Seeley’s decision can be found here.
Legislators on both sides of the political aisle praised the judge’s ruling, expressing hope that the litigation has come to an end to avoid wasting further taxpayer resources. Schweitzer has not yet decided if he will appeal the judge’s ruling to the Montana Supreme Court.
Last week, Governor Schweitzer took jabs at the legislature, claiming they were the “biggest boozers”. He cited Department of Revenue data that showed a spike in liquor sales in the Helena area during Montana’s biennial legislature. Ignoring the fact that the legislature brings literally thousands of people to Helena in lobbyists, legislative staff, and citizens testifying on bills, he instead chose to place the blame on Montana’s lawmakers.