Montana Governor Vetoes Anti-Sanctuary Bill
By Shari Rendall | May 9, 2019
After months of hard work by the Montana legislature crafting a bill to outlaw dangerous sanctuary policies in Big Sky Country, Governor Steve Bullock (D) vetoed House Bill (HB) 146 on May 7. Prospects for an override look slim and Montanans have good reason to speculate on whether this really has more to do with Bullock’s national ambitions than with adopting good policy for their state.
HB 146 would have:
- Defined and banned sanctuary policies by local governments as well as by state agencies like public universities;
- Required honoring immigration detainers issued by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE);
- Authorized the attorney general to sue for non-compliance; and Imposed fines and cut off certain state grant funds as penalties.
The bill’s sponsor, Representative Kenneth Holmlund (R-Miles City), introduced it on January 9. Anticipating the opposition it would invariably draw from open-borders groups, he said, “[y]ou will hear this is a hate bill … There is not any hate in it. It is intended to be the opposite. It is to protect Montana citizens.”
In his veto message, Gov. Bullock parroted talking points common to the opposition to most anti-sanctuary laws: that it would somehow be a violation of civil rights, that it interferes with local decision-making, and as in many states, that there are supposedly no sanctuary cities in Montana so it’s a “solution searching for a problem.” But the only federal appellate court ever to consider it upheld the constitutionality of anti-sanctuary legislation (in Texas), and at least two jurisdictions in Montana, Helena and Butte-Silver Bow, have some sanctuary policies.
Around the same time, Bullock started confirming all the rumors that he’d shortly be entering the already crowded race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
The Montana Constitution requires a 2/3 vote of both chambers to override a veto by the governor. That would require some Democrats to join with all the Republicans, which is highly unlikely.