POLSON - Following Gov. Greg Gianforte's recent veto of Lake County’s request to fund Public Law 280, county commissioners met on Thursday, May 25, 2023, to decide on their next steps.
PL 280 is a 1963 law that declares Lake County will fund and deal with policing Tribal lands within the county.
This year, Lake County proposed that the state supply funds to cover the cost of protecting the Flathead Indian Reservation. That bill, which passed the Legislature, was vetoed by Gov. Gianforte.
Commissioners were to decide on Thursday whether to pull out of PL 280 beginning Friday or remain in the agreement until a lawsuit against the state is decided.
Following comments from attorneys, Lake County Sheriff Don Bell, and a public comment session, the commissioners voted unanimously to remain in PL-280 until after the District Court's ruling.
“You know, our concern is that we don't believe the governor has a plan in place to take over law enforcement on the Flathead Reservation. And without any plan or funding in place we just feel it leaves a huge void in law enforcement here on the reservation, and we'd rather not go through that experience,” said Lake County Commission Chairman Gale Decker.
Lake County v. The State of Montana hearing is set to begin July 19, 2023. Following the trial, the Lake County Commission will decide whether or not to remain in PL 280.
Click here to read the full news release from the Lake County Commission.