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Judge sides with Gov. Bullock in bison veto dispute

HELENA – A state district judge sided with Governor Bullock Wednesday in a dispute with Secretary of State Corey Stapleton over a governor’s veto.

Judge Mike McMahon said following a brief hearing in a Helena courtroom that Stapleton had no legal authority to overrule the governor’s veto of a bill on the definition of wild bison in Montana.

The judge blocked Stapleton’s action taken last month, to declare the bill law — and said notice of the veto should be sent to state lawmakers.

McMahon’s ruling Wednesday isn’t the final word on the case — but he indicated he won’t change his mind — after more written arguments are submitted.

Stapleton said the Democratic governor didn’t notify Stapleton’s office of the veto within a 10-day time frame — and therefore the bill is now law.

Bullock’s attorneys said Wednesday the governor properly vetoed the bill within 10 days of receiving it — and that no such time limit exists in law, on notifying Stapleton.

An attorney for Stapleton tried to argue no harm had occurred, and that the judge could wait for further arguments before deciding — but Judge McMahon disagreed.

“I think there’s a substantial injury when the secretary of state of Montana overrides a veto by the governor. Unilaterally,” Judge McMahon said.

Stapleton announced his initial decision on Twitter last week and Bullock’s office quickly challenged the action in court.

Mike Dennison

Mike Dennison

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