HELENA — Republican legislative leaders said Friday they didn't want to negotiate with Gov. Brian Schweitzer and they delayed transmitting nearly 100 bills until after the session ended so the Democratic governor would be prevented from recommending changes.
The Legislature adjourned Thursday night, leaving the Democratic governor without his power of amendatory veto, in which he can recommend changes to bills that must then be ratified by lawmakers.
Now, Schweitzer has the choice of vetoing the bills, signing them into law or letting them become law without his signature.
Some bills have been piling up in Senate President Jim Peterson's office for weeks. Republican leadership negotiated with the governor on the state spending plan, but Peterson, R-Buffalo, said it was a protracted process that was just not feasible for the dozens of other measures the Legislature was dealing with.
Peterson also alluded to how Schweitzer earlier this month used branding irons with the word "VETO" to set a handful of nixed GOP measures ablaze before a cheering crowd outside the Capitol.
"I guess my biggest disappointment is you know a lot of our good bills were vetoed in a party atmosphere, and I find that kind of offensive," Peterson said. "I feel like we respect the executive branch, and I don't know that we got that respect in return."
Republican leaders had previously suggested they would delay transmitting a business-backed bill granting eminent domain powers to utilities to prevent the governor from adding his suggested two-year expiration date to the measure.
Now eminent domain and a bevy of bills dealing with other high-profile issues such as state spending, abortion, and environmental law reform are going to go to the governor's desk for an up or down vote.
Gov. Schweitzer criticized the Republican Senate leader's decision to hold the bills, saying Peterson went around the normal legislative process. "Sounds like he came to the birthday party but just didn't like how many candles were on the cake," he said of Peterson's complaints.
Schweitzer has vetoed 31 bills so far from this session. The Legislature attempted to overturn six of those vetoes but failed.
Sen. David Wanzenried, D-Missoula, said GOP leaders holding onto the bills doesn't follow the spirit of the Legislature's rules for passage of bills.
"It shouldn't be left up to the leaders because they don't like a branding party or don't like a bill," Wanzenried said.
Bills must be delivered to the governor's desk within five days of the end of the session. After the governor receives the proposals, he has 10 days to act on them.
Other proposals yet to be sent to the governor include several appropriations bills that give money to cultural and natural resource projects, as well as several gun-rights and wildlife bills.