On April 2, the Montana Legislature voted to put a measure on the November 2020 ballot that, if approved by voters, would remove the authority of local governments to regulate the carrying of concealed weapons. The measure was designed to be sent to voters if an identical bill, House Bill 325, is vetoed by Democratic Governor Steve Bullock. House Bill 325 passed in the legislature along party lines (29-20 in the Senate and 57-42 in the House) on April 3, 2019. To override the governor’s veto in Montana, a two-thirds vote in each chamber (67 votes in the House and 34 votes in the Senate) would be required.
House Bill 357, sponsored by Representatives Matt Regier (R-4) and Derek Skees (R-11), would state that it is the policy of Montana “that the citizens of the state should be aware of, understand, and comply with any restrictions on the right to keep or bear arms that the people have reserved to themselves in Article II, section 12, of the Montana constitution, and that to minimize confusion the legislature withholds from local governments the power to restrict or regulate the possession of firearms.”
The measure’s text states that its purpose is “to secure the right to keep and bear arms and to prevent a patchwork of restrictions by local governments across the state.”
On February 21, 2019, the House passed the bill in a vote of 56 to 43, largely along party lines. Jade Bahr (D-50) and Jacob Bachmeier (D-28) were the only two of 42 House Democrats to vote in favor while Geraldine Custer (R-39), Neil Duram (R-2), and Bruce Grubbs (R-68) were the only three of 58 House Republicans to vote against. Representative Dale Mortensen (R-44) was absent. The measure passed in the Senate on April 2, 2019, by a vote of 28 to 21 with one Republican Senator absent or excused. One Republican, Brian Hoven of District 13, joined all 20 Senate Democrats in voting no. All 28 yes votes came from Republicans.
Montana Code 5-4-301 provides that the governor cannot veto legislatively-referred state statutes or stop them from appearing on the ballot. Montana is one of 14 states with divided government. The Montana State Legislature is controlled by Republicans and the governor’s office is controlled by Democrat Steve Bullock.