McGrath: State Will Not Appeal Sherlock Decision on Referendum
HELENA – Attorney General Mike McGrath said Friday that the State will not appeal the recent district court decision that reversed his determination on a proposed ballot measure. The referendum, proposed by Reps. Michelle Lee of Livingston and Christopher Harris of Bozeman, challenged House Bill 474, an energy bill passed by the 2001 Legislature.
In June, McGrath said the proposed referendum on House Bill 474 involved an appropriation of funds and so did not comply with constitutional requirements for ballot measures. With House Bill 474, the Legislature authorized the state to spend up to $100 million dollars from an energy support account, but did not fund that account. Although the appropriation was “unfunded,” McGrath said it nonetheless failed to meet the state’s prerequisites for submission to the voters.
In a decision released Tuesday, District Court Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena disagreed. Sherlock said the absence of money to appropriate meant the bill did not involve an appropriation and so could be referred to Montana voters.
“There’s no public policy reason to appeal,” McGrath said. “This is a narrow legal issue that has been resolved by the court. Moreover, it would delay the signature process for several weeks and cost taxpayers unnecessary time and money.
“We’ll let the process go forward outside the court system.”
Secretary of State Bob Brown was also named as a defendant in the suit and the decision not to appeal was made in consultation with him. Lee and Harris filed the suit on June 20.