A state judge has unraveled a Republican-passed bill from 2021, declaring that portions of the bill violated the constitution and rendered them invalid, the result of a lawsuit that was filed by Democrat-friendly firms back in June.
In the waning days of the 2021 legislation session, a Republican majority passed Senate Bill 319, a bill introduced by State Sen. Greg Hertz (R-Polson) that was supposed to be a run-of-the-mill campaign finance law that allowed donors to give large amounts of money to multiple candidates across the state. All well and good.
At the last hour, however, a Republican-dominated conference committee made a few changes to it, introducing a provision that judges must recuse themselves from cases where the lawyers on the case donated either more than 90$ in political donations directly to them, or to a political committee supporting or opposing them.
The second provision prohibited political committees from engaging in voter-registration drives and signature-collection excursions in dining halls, dorms and stadiums throughout Montana state college campuses, a move which was swiftly opposed by the progressives at the Missoula-based Forward Montana.
These add-ons were declared to be some bad kimchi, according to Helena District Judge Mike Menahan, who ruled that these last minutes changes were in direct violation of the constitution, which prohibits inserting language and laws that are absent in the bill title, writing in his decision:
“By amending the bill to include provisions regarding political activities on college campuses and judicial recusal requirements, the Legislature altered the original purpose of the bill.”
Furthermore, our constitution insists on a ‘single subject’ rule for any proposed legislation, and Judge Menahan ruled that this law was in violation of it with its two extra provisions at the end, turning one law into three.
While those suing wanted the law struck down in its entire, Menahan only voided the two provisions, allowing for them to be reintroduced at a later date, in which they will likely face scrutiny and further opposition.