More BS from Governor Brian Schweitzer on Eminent Domain HB198

by jhwygirl

HB198, the eminent domain bill, is ugly folks.

Governor Schweitzer knows it, having promised the day a majority in the Senate was fooled (having been heavily lobbied by not only NWE and Tonbridge, but by the Governor’s office) into voting for the thing.

This is a bill that was pushed through the legislature with the help of the thugs of NWE. A bill that was tabled in Senate committee.

On the floor of the Senate just 8 days before the close of the session the beast was blasted onto the floor with lobbyists having worked the Senators the night before with drinks and dinner. Amendments to HB198 were offered that even proponents of agreed were worthy and needed to protect private property right, but they failed because there wasn’t enough time to get the thing back through the House.

Apparently though Governor Schweitzer has forgotten the legislative process…or he’s telling us something over and over in the hopes that we will start to believe it (like I said in an earlier post on this subject)…..but when Schweitzer bloviated about his successes to the press on Thursday, he included his “amendment” to HB198, the eminent domain bill:

The Democratic governor also talked up successes like the passage of a business equipment tax cut, workers’ compensation reform and revisions to Montana’s eminent domain laws, which he called the most important “job creator” of the session.

Schweitzer said his recent amendment to House Bill 198, which addresses eminent domain, will terminate the law in two years. The amendment ensures the 2013 Legislature must take another look at landowner issues, while allowing job-related development to flourish in the meantime; without passage of HB198, Schweitzer said badly needed energy development projects would have been jeopardized.

“That energy bill did not consider the rights of landowners, and they were worked up. So it was a balancing act for legislators to say, ‘We need to develop Montana and we need to develop our resources,’ ” Schweitzer said, commending lawmakers for meeting in the middle.

Now – that’s not just Schweitzer saying something in passing about his successes – this is the Governor going on for quite a bit about how he fixed the bill and what it does and what it doesn’t do…along with his own version of the bill’s benefits that many dispute.

Trouble is, Schweitzer started complaining that the bill needed amended – as I pointed out at the top of this post – and that he was going to amendatory veto the thing before the sun had gone down the day of the vote’s successful second reading vote in the Senate which gave the bill the necessary approval in both houses.

So the Republicans, in control, decided to hold back on the thing, not handing it up to him until last Friday, April 29th. A tactical move on their part.

Governor Schweitzer can not amendatory veto the bill – the session is closed.

His choices are two: He has until Sunday to veto the thing or sign it into law. He can also let it lapse into law, but the effect is the same as approving the thing. Letting lapse into law is a choice of the Governor’s, and is equal to signing it into law.

And when it does become law, it will not have a sunset clause.

Look – I know this stuff is boring for you folks but realize this – the effects of handing over eminent domain authority to any private transmission business that comes into this state under the major facilities siting act should be utterly offensive to you.

It is the rise of the ghosts of the Copper Kings. It will be a turning point in our history, just as the sale of Montana Power.

If you have questions, I encourage you to ask – we’ve had some very informed people on this issue, including Kate Orr and John Vincent, who sits on the Montana Public Service Commission (so how’s that for expert, huh?). That’s me kinda openly soliciting his help there, too.

It’s that important.

Please stand up for your fellow Montanan ranchers and property owners out in the eastern and central part of this state that are fighting this thing and contact the governor by email and tell him that working solutions to this issue require full analysis which fully weighs the concerns of Montana’s citizens.

In the meantime, Tonbridge can play fairly. Is that asking too much?

  1. Don Kronenberger

    Saw in the GF Tribune today that the governor intends to sign HB 198. The stink from HB 198 will linger. The public knows it will pay in rights, rates, and productive land. HB 198 costs jobs, doesn’t create them.

  2. mr benson

    Yours are the only posts not boring (a Pete post about all things local Missoula or the more than occasional one from Duganz about several topics excepted).

    All the wailing and gnashing of intra-leftist warfare, or the huffpo meme of the day post and Ranger Larry’s offensive comments, those are the “now we are just like all the other Montana blog sites” stuff; boring.

    Your posts are interesting because they are about current issues of state and local government that affect Montanans, and provide information and perspective not found elsewhere.

    The power to veto is significant. It is limited. The Governor has the power to line item veto to reduce taxes, fees or spending, for example, but not to appropriate money. We will see how that plays out in the next months. Already he lost a lawsuit vs the legislature. Will we see more of that in the weeks to come?

    He can veto or sign 198 but the time has gone for leadership in how it’s crafted; that should have started during the session.

    I think the trick of “not signing but allowing it to become law” is one that can only be used once or twice. Making a habit of not going on the record and taking a stand isn’t something most Montanans will admire. People who get elected to Congress have to vote yes or no, every time, on the record. A record of “AWOL on this issue” or blaming the other guys for his indecision doesn’t look good.

    Pocket approval of 423 and 198, huge issues for many Montanans, won’t let him sidestep those issues and blame someone else. Allowing it to become law is tacit approval.

    Opinion will play out this way: First they came for the property of those in the provider business, then they took the property of those in the way of power lines, and whose property will the Governor allow to be confiscated next?

    That’s not to say the legislature, including most Rs and some Ds, aren’t responsible for the confiscatory laws in the first place. They are. But they’re on the record with a personal vote, green or red.

    The path of redemption with “pocket approval” could be putting in administrative rules that will protect the rights of property first. Mr Schweitzer could do that, and he’d get the kudos of Montanans if he did.

  3. John Vincent

    Jhwygirl has got it right!If HB 198 us allowed to stand, it WILL be a turning point in Montana’s history and one which we’ll forever regret.
    How long did it take for virtually all Montanan’s to figure out deregulation was a disasterous mistake? Done deal now, and we’ll be living with the consequences for decades. Changed Montana
    History! Ditto HB 198.

    The legislature and governor were wrong then and they’re wrong now. But this time, let’s not just sit back and take it. Let’s have the people decide the issue! (Stay tuned on this. More soon).

    Make no mistake, HB198 is bad legislation that’s bad for Montana.
    Even Governor Schweitzer “knows” this; In a Billings Gazette editorial board interview, he called 198 (and I quote) “A deal with the Devil.”

    Hey, 198’s “The Devil In Disguise,” governor! Go ahead and cut your deal, but rest assured it’ll be the voters of Montana makin’ the final call………..(and right now an angel on my shoulder is telling me what that call will be).

    Governor, you’re runnin’ faster than your angels can fly on this one.
    I’d take an angel over the devil any day.

    John Vincent
    Montana Public Service Commissioner

  4. Great post, jhwygirl. Although the sins of the 62nd legislative session were many, this is one we could live to regret forever.

  5. Kirsten

    It is important for these homeowners to get in touch with the Institute for Justice which took the Kelo case to the Supreme Court and, in spite of losing there, have successfully fought for private property protections in many areas. See also its affiliated Castle Coalition against eminent domain abuse.

  6. Kirsten

    For those not familiar with the historic Kelo case:

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