Posted: May 4, 2013 6:58 PM by Lindsey Gordon - MTN News
Governor Steve Bullock (D-MT) has vetoed a bill that would amend the Montana Water Quality Act.
In brief, Senate Bill 347 says that when the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) looks at water quality, they will not consider the amount of water, or quantity.
The legislation passed both chambers before going before moving on to the governor.
With the amount of votes the legislation received on the floor, there is an automatic process that goes into effect to overturn the veto.
Ballots will be mailed out to legislators and it will require a two-thirds vote in both the senate and house to be overturned.
If the final floor votes are a reflection of how lawmakers will vote again, the numbers are very close. The Montana Senate passed SB 347 with a 39-11 vote, but the Montana House of Representatives passed it with a 64-35 vote, they would need three more votes to overturn the governor's veto.
Bill opponents say the bill takes away water rights, and proponents disagree, saying it would increase them:
"All the senior water-right holders, by the time we got done with this bill, they were all in favor of it, because they were going to get further protection, so it was actually going to further protect senior water-right holders instead of the other, which is some of the opposition's claims," said the bill's sponsor, State Senator Chaz Vincent (R - Libby).
"This bill was an attempt by the mining industry to separate water quality from water quantity, making it easier and less expensive for mines to diminish the quality of water," said Jim Jensen, the executive director for Montana Environmental Information Center.
Vincent said that he hopes that the veto is overturned and he will be working to get important votes in the coming days. However, he says he has never seen a veto be successfully overturned in his nearly five years with the Montana Legislature.