House Business and Labor Committee considers bills to change Governor emergency powers

HELENA -- Montana's House Business and Labor Committee heard testimony on bills that would revise the state's emergency and disaster laws, while also revising the power that the Governor has to declare a state of emergency.

In the interest of time, three separate bills on the issue have been merged together. As the transmittal deadline approaches next Wednesday, all bills have to pass through either the House or Senate before then.

If passed, this bill would provide a legislative polling process to extend a disaster or state of emergency if declared by the Governor.

"The Governor has 45 days in a state of emergency or disaster to deal with the issue at hand," Rep. Matt Regier (R-Kalispell) said. "After 45 days, he needs legislative approval then to continue that."

Now, proponents of the bill say that it would help consolidate some of the power that a Governor has, and serve as a check in an emergency. Opponents to the bill say it would potentially hinder the ability the state has to respond.

"So, I really think we need to look, relook, reword," Rep. Willis Curdy (D-Missoula) said. "You know, and I respect the sponsor's point that well its in code. Well, let's change the code!"

Curdy and other opponents also say that in a more serious emergency, it may be difficult to contact legislators who live in more rural areas of the state.

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