Montana Eminent Domain Bill Referendum (2012)

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The Montana Eminent Domain Bill Referendum did not make the November 6, 2012 ballot in the state of Montana as a veto referendum. The measure would have repealed House Bill 198, which supporters of the referendum said severely restricted property owners' rights and lent more opportunity for corporations to implement eminent domain in acquiring land for profit. According to the overview of HB 198, the short title stated that the bill would generally revise eminent domain laws. The measure did not collect enough signatures to be placed on the ballot.[1][2][3]

Referendum supporters scheduled a press conference on June 13, 2011 to announce their efforts and to also begin collecting signatures for the petition.



The following were supporters of the referendum, therefore against against House Bill 198:[4]

  • Public Service Commissioner John Vincent supported the repeal of the bill, and was quoted as saying that the referendum effort was "...fundamentally about creating a level playing field for landowners. Under existing Montana law and HB198, which is now existing law, a transmission utility holds all the cards.”[4]
  • Senator Art Wittich is supporting the measure. According to Wittich, the eminent domain law that the referendum targets was "a retroactive, special interest granting of new rights to foreign entities that confiscate private property." Wittich later said in a news release: "The sooner we repeal this ... the better off all Montana property owners will be."[5]


The following were arguments against the bill, therefore in favor of the referendum.

  • Marie Garrison, spokeswoman for the group in favor of the referendum, Concerned Citizens Montana, argued, “I think the bill is wrong, and I think the way it was handled during this legislative session was wrong. I think private property rights are really important. I think it was a hastily made decision by the Legislature.”[4]



The following were opponents of the referendum, therefore in favor of the bill:

  • John Fitzpatrick, governmental affairs director of NorthWestern Energy, stated about the referendum effort: "Throughout the legislative effort, they misrepresented the effects of HB198, and it’s apparent they’re going forward with the same misrepresentation. They can count on the fact that NorthWestern will vigorously respond to this effort.”[4]


  • Fitzpatrick argued that the referendum against the bill was not necessarily against property rights. Fitzpatrick stated: “It’s the handiwork of groups fighting transmission line and renewable resource development in Montana. If successful, it will have an adverse effect on electricity customers throughout Montana, depriving them of essential utility services.”[4]

Media endorsements

See also: Endorsements of Montana ballot measures, 2012


  • The Great Falls Tribune stated about this measure and the proposed marijuana referendum: "Both referendums are ill-advised, and for pretty much the same basic reason: Even though the laws they target fall far short of perfection, revoking them and replacing them with what existed before the 62nd legislative session would be far worse."[6]

Path to the ballot

The referendum effort needed to gather signatures from 5 percent of registered voters in 34 house districts to place it on the ballot. Also, signatures from 15 percent of the registered voters in 51 house districts were needed to suspend House Bill 198 until voters had a say on it. The petition drive deadline was September 30, 2011. The measure did not collect enough signatures to make the ballot.[1][7][3]

See also

Suggest a link

Additional reading