Bullock and Stapleton Clash
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton attempted Wednesday to overrule Gov. Steve Bullock’s veto of a bill by saying the governor did not deliver it to his office in time, creating a potential clash over the two offices’ powers.
Stapleton, a Republican, said in a tweet that House Bill 132, which would change the definition of wild bison, has become law because the Democratic governor didn’t deliver the veto to him within 10 days of the bill’s transmittal to his office.
If Stapleton sticks to his interpretation and assigns the bill a chapter number to be codified into state law, the governor’s office would consider that an unconstitutional action and review its legal options, Bullock spokeswoman Marissa Perry said.
“The only person who seems to be confused that HB 132 was vetoed is Secretary Stapleton,” Perry said.
Stapleton is one of several candidates running for the Republican nomination for governor in next year’s election. Bullock, who can’t run again due to term limits, is seeking the Democratic nomination for president.
The disputed bill would redefine a wild bison or wild buffalo in a way that Bullock said in his veto letter would create confusion and uncertainty about whether Yellowstone National Park bison could be mistakenly considered domestic animals. The governor suggested changes to the bill that lawmakers rejected.
The Legislature transmitted the bill to the governor on April 25, and Bullock’s veto letter published on the Legislature’s website is dated April 29, after the session had adjourned. The state constitution says a bill becomes law if he does not sign or veto it within 10 days after it is delivered to the governor. Bullock’s veto letter came four days after transmittal.
“Gov. Bullock received the bill on April 25 and vetoed it on April 29, within the 10-day deadline he has to act on a bill,” Perry said.
But Stapleton makes his argument in two sections of state law. The first says the governor must return the vetoed bill to the secretary of state if the Legislature is not in session. The second says that a bill that has not been returned by the governor within 10 days after its delivery to the governor becomes law.