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Montana legislators voting on 3 separate special session requests

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Posted at 8:30 PM, May 15, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-16 11:43:50-04

Montana Republicans are aiming for a special legislative session this year on three separate issues.

Legislators are currently being polled to find out if they want to meet in Helena in June.

The Montana Secretary of State's Office sent out three ballots to 150 legislators. It will take a majority to hold a special session.  

Issues include immigration, marijuana tax revenue, and judicial party affiliations.

“When we call for a special session, we try very hard to narrow the scope and keep the discussion to the topics that have been passed by those voting for the special session,” said House Majority Leader Sue Vinton, R-Lockwood.

Vinton voted for holding a special session on all three ballots.

Senate Minority Leader Pat Flowers, D-Belgrade, voted against a special session.  

“Those issues that have been raised, and all three were around when we met in 2023,” Flowers said.  

He said there may be some agreement to discuss and debate some issues but emphasized that special sessions should be for emergencies.

“I'll listen to legislators on every issue during the normal session or otherwise,” Flowers said.  “That's part of the process.”

Vinton believes a bill aimed to regulate illegal alien entry into Montana is an emergency.

“We want to make sure that we're not allowing people to come in and contribute to the drug issues or the human trafficking issues,” Vinton said.

The Montana Freedom Caucus wants voters to consider a constitutional initiative that would ensure only verified Montana citizens can vote in elections.

Sen. Theresa Manzella, R-Hamilton, is head of the Freedom Caucus and cites two noncitizens allegedly illegally voting in a municipal election in Phillips County in 2021.  

Manzella also said a ruling in a case involving the National Voter Registration Act, allows checking a box for citizenship without any verification.

“The most unusual one in this one of course is the election security agenda that they have here since all of that stuff already exists,” said Dr. Paul Pope, MSU Billings political science professor.  

Pope said that about all three requests.

“It's mostly political theater,” Pope said. “The people calling this are hoping it's going to drive their people to the polls.”

“All three calls I think are important topics, all worthy of discussion in a special session,” Vinton said.

According to Flowers, a special session would cost $135,000 for the first day and $65,000 for each additional day.

The legislators' ballots need to be returned to the Secretary of State’s office by June 7 for a potential session to start on June 24.

The last time the Legislature met for a special session was in 2017.