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Bill Would Limit Executive Power During Declared Emergencies

A bill that would allow the Legislature to limit governor’s executive orders during a time of emergency or disaster has been introduced in the Montana House. The bill follows Republicans' protests to Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock’s public health mandates during the coronavirus pandemic.

Hamilton Republican Rep. David Bedey told the State Administration Committee that executive branch emergency powers have grown beyond what the drafters of Montana statute intended.

“They surely did not foresee the governor retaining such extraordinary powers and the legislative branch being sidelined over an extended period, such has been the case for the pandemic we’re currently undergoing," Bedey said.

Republican leaders have objected to Bullock’s executive actions during the coronavirus pandemic, including a statewide lockdown and mask mandate. The former Bullock administration has said its actions were aimed at limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the state.

Bedey presented House Bill 122 to the committee remotely, over Zoom, after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.

Bedey’s bill would limit states of emergency to 30 days and allow states of disaster to extend to 60 days with an option for the Legislature to continue them further. The bill would also speed up the process by which the Legislature calls a special session to address an emergency or disaster.

A spokesperson for Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte said the administration will carefully review any bill that comes to his desk.

The State Administration Committee has not yet voted on the bill.

Kevin Trevellyan is Yellowstone Public Radio's Report for America statehouse reporter.

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