MISSOULA — Fearing a range of unintended consequences and an economic setback, Missoula County has drafted two letters to Gov. Greg Gianforte imploring him to veto legislation heading to his desk.
The separate letters ask Gianforte to veto HB 112, which will require athletes to participate under the sex they were assigned at birth while the second, SB 257, would prohibit local governments from imposing carbon penalties, fees or taxes.
Missoula County has no intention of imposing such penalties, though the bill’s ambiguity could hinder other local efforts to address carbon emissions and climate change.
“The sponsor seems to think our concerns are not that germane, and it’s not as far reaching as we fear it will be,” said Commissioner Dave Strohmaier. “But the language is ambiguous enough that it could be further reaching than that.”
The county believes the measure could be interpreted by climate change deniers as a way to prohibit local governments from making “sensible investments” across a range of carbon-cutting goals.
That could include investing in energy-efficient building upgrades, electric vehicle charging infrastructure and renewable energy. Such investments are needed to prepare Missoula for the future and save taxpayer dollars down the road.
“The bill could be interpreted to prohibit all sorts of other local government activities that have the result of reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Diana Maneta, the county’s energy conservation coordinator. “We could be embroiled in lawsuits and it would be nice to avoid that.”
The county already has accused the 2021 Legislature of overreach on a number of fronts, even while the Republican-led body often decries the same overreach from Washington, D.C.
In its letter to Gianforte, the county contends that issues addressing greenhouse gas emissions should be left to the local community and its elected officials. The bill’s lack of clarity has the county concerned that far-flung opponents of Missoula’s more progressive methods could meddle in local affairs.
“The concern here is unintended consequences,” Maneta said. “The sponsor of the bill stated he only intended to prohibit local governments from enacting a local option carbon tax. But I’m not aware of any local government in the state with the intention to do such a thing.”
The county also is asking Gianforte to veto HB 112, saying the measure “will deeply hurt” transgendered youth in the city. It would be wrong for the governor to condone a policy that harms a single group of people and their mental health, the county argues.
The bill is widely opposed by medical providers and equal rights groups. Beyond its social and emotional impacts, the bill could also hobble the economies in Missoula and Bozeman, which host and compete in NCAA activities.
College playoffs bring tens of millions of dollars into both communities, though the bill could potentially eliminate that revenue as the NCAA frowns on such legislation. Gianforte has pledged to revive the state’s economic well being, not diminish it, the county reminds him in its letter.
“The NCAA recently announced that it will not allow states that pass discriminatory laws like this to host championship events, including playoff games,” the county writes. “It would cost our local economy up to $7.59 million if the University of Montana could not host playoff football games because of this discriminatory law.”