A statewide, bipartisan, grassroots coalition has been formed to place a citizens’ referendum on the 2012 ballot to repeal controversial Montana House Bill 198 (HB198).

The bill, which was allowed to become law by Gov. Brian Schweitzer on May 12, significantly restricts Montana property owners’ rights and broadens the ability for private corporations to exercise eminent domain in acquiring land for private profit, a coalition spokesperson Marie Garrison said.

Once the necessary signatures are obtained, HB198 will be suspended until Montanan voters decide in 2012 to repeal or keep it as state law. A formal press conference will be held on Monday, June 13, in the state capitol to formally announce the campaign and kick off the petition drive.

Garrison, wife of fourth-generation Divide, Mont. rancher Tim Garrison, said “HB198 is exactly what the governor says it is – ‘a deal with the devil.’ The bill is legislation that gives private and foreign entities the power of eminent domain normally reserved for state government to condemn private land for a public use. This legislation will force Montanans to give up land that has been in families for generations and has provided a broad base of jobs and income.”

Montana Public Service Commissioner John Vincent, D-Gallatin Gateway, has agreed to support the effort and calls the HB198 referendum pure Montana grassroots democracy. “The referendum brings an incredibly important private property infringement issue directly to the people and lets them decide what is fair and just,” Vincent said.

Organizers have already garnered the support of key Republican and Democratic legislators from across the state including senators Shannon Augare, D-Browning; Debby Barrett, R-Dillon; Eric Moore, R-Miles City; Lynda Moss, D-Billings; Jason Priest, R-Red Lodge; Sharon Stewart-Peregory, D-Crow Agency; Mitch Tropila, D-Great Falls; Dave Wanzenreid, D-Missoula; Art Wittich, R-Bozeman; and as well as representatives Kelly Flynn, R-Townsend; Krayton Kerns, R-Laurel; James Knox, R-Billings; Mike Miller, R-Helmville; Michael More, R-Gallatin Gateway; Lee Randall, R-Broadus ;Matt Rosendale, R-Glendive; Derek Skees, R-Whitefish; Bob Wagner, R-Harrison; and Max Yates, R-Butte.

Organizers are continuing to secure support from more Montana legislators and from the 18 groups and organizations who opposed HB198 during the legislative session. A full list of legislators and statewide organizations participating in the referendum will be announced at the June press conference.

The Montana Property Rights petition drive will need signatures of five percent of the registered voters in 34 house districts to place HB198 on the ballot and 15 percent of the registered voters in 51 house districts to suspend it until it is either approved or rejected by voters in 2012.

“We’re confident this will be a highly visible and successful campaign because citizens are motivated, committed and determined to stop the incredibly unjust use of eminent domain as granted in HB198,” said Garrison.

Contact: Katherine Ord
Phone: 406.925.2533
Email: kateord@mac.com

Web Site: http://www.concernedcitizensmontana.net

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