Five initiatives trying to get on Montana ballot – how many will make it?

Posted at 5:47 PM, May 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-07-05 15:04:22-04

HELENA – From locker-room restrictions to green-power requirements, five proposed ballot measures are still bucking for a slot on Montana’s general-election ballot – with just seven weeks left to get enough signatures to qualify.

“We feel pretty good about getting it on the ballot,” says David Brooks of Montana Trout Unlimited, which is part of a coalition backing Initiative 186, to tighten requirements for permitting mines in Montana. “We have a team of people out there gathering signatures, and did a pretty good job of that over the weekend.”

Supporters of the proposals have until June 22 to turn in the minimum required number of signatures of registered Montana voters, on petitions for each initiative.

Four of the five proposed initiatives would amend state law and therefore need at least 25,468 signature statewide to qualify for the November ballot. The other initiative would amend the state constitution and needs twice as many, or 50,932 signatures.

The proposals include:

Initiative 183/locker room restrictions: If passed, the measure would require any publicly funded locker room or restroom to be restricted to one sex. Special accommodations could be made “upon request.”

Jeff Laszloffy, president of the Montana Family Foundation, told MTN News Monday that the signature-gathering process for I-183 is “going well,” but declined to elaborate. Petitions for I-183 were approved for signature-gathering last summer.

I-184/renewable power requirements: This measure would require Montana utilities to provide at least 40 percent of their power from renewable sources, such as wind and solar, by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050.

The measure also expands the allowable size of roof-top solar projects that use “net metering,” which sells unused power back to the utility, and imposes a tax on electricity to fund training for fossil-fuel workers whose jobs may be affected.

Ken Crouch of Billings says a loose coalition of people have been working on the effort and hope to meet the qualification deadline. A similar effort failed two years ago to get the measure on the ballot.

I-185/tobacco taxes-Medicaid expansion: Easily the most well-funded effort, I-185 would increase state tobacco taxes and extend Montana’s expanded Medicaid program beyond 2019.

Medicaid expansion, which provides government-funded health care to 94,000 low-income adults, is set to expire in July 2019 unless extended by the Legislature or this initiative.

I-185 would increase cigarette taxes by $2 a pack and use up to $26 million of that new revenue to pay for part of the state’s share of Medicaid expansion costs.

A coalition of health-care groups and others has already raised or spent more than $500,000 on the effort to qualify I-185 for the ballot.

I-186/mining requirements: Backed by a coalition of conservation and environmental groups, I-186 says any new mine in Montana cannot get a permit if its operating plan needs permanent treatment of water after the mine has closed.

Its supporters include Montana Trout Unlimited and the Montana Conservation Voters.

Constitutional Initiative 177/voting restrictions: This measure, if passed, would amend the state constitution to say only U.S. citizens and people who have been residents of Montana for at least 30 days can vote.

Chris Gallus, a Helena attorney, says these restrictions on voting already are in state law, but that they need to be in the constitution as well, to preclude any relaxation of the restrictions in law.

Gallus said he’s expecting a group called Liberty Initiative Fund to help get behind the signature-gathering effort.