Montana Senate Bill 96 (2007)

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Montana Senate Bill 96 (SB 96), introduced by Montana state legislator Carol Williams, became law in Montana on May 11, 2007.

SB 96 restricts initiative rights in Montana in these ways:

  • Henceforth, people who ask Montana voters to sign initiative petitions must be residents of Montana.
  • People who ask Montana voters to sign initiative petitions "must not be paid anyhing of value based upon the number of signatures gathered."
  • Petitions may not be circulated for the purposes of signature gathering more than one year prior to the final filing deadline.

Montana is in the Ninth Circuit. On July 9, 2008, the Ninth Circuit in the case of Nader v. Brewer threw out Arizona's residency requirement saying that "such a restriction creates a severe burden on Nader and his out-of-state supporters' speech, voting and associational rights." It is not known what impact this ruling will have on the residency requirement in SB 96.

Supporters of SB 96

SB 96 sponsor Carol Williams is a Democrat. SB 96 had strong bi-partisan support and was jointly requested by Mike McGrath, Montana's Democratic Attorney General and Brad Johnson, Montana's Republican Secretary of State.[1] SB 96 was supported by Montana Common Cause.[2]

Koopman amendment fails

Rep. Roger Koopman, a Republican from Bozeman, Montana, proposed an amendment to the house version of the bill, which failed by a vote of 79-21. Koopman's amendment was to remove the ban on paying petitioners by the signature. In his statement about why he was proposing the amendment, he questioned the prohibition's constitutionality and said it's not the Legislature's role to decide whether people gathering signatures should be paid by the signature obtained.

Prohibition on petition blocking

SB 96 also contains a prohibition on petition blocking. Section 13 of SB 96 says,

Physical prevention of obtaining signatures or physical intimidation of signature gatherers prohibited. A person may not knowingly or purposefully physically prevent an individual from obtaining signatures or attempting to obtain signatures on a petition for a ballot issue or physically intimidate another individual when that individual is obtaining or attempting to obtain signatures on a petition for a ballot issue. A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500, by imprisonment for not more than 90 days, or by both a fine and imprisonment.

See also

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