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Billings legislators look to overturn veto of bill for high school districts

By David Jay,


A bill that would have helped with the formation of a new high school in Billings has been vetoed.

Sen. Chris Friedel, R-Billings, carried the bill in the Senate.

He lives in the Blue Creek area, one of the districts looking to combine with Elder Grove, Elysian and Canyon Creek to form a new west end high school .

Gov. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., stated in his veto that the bill would increase the tax burden.

"I don't disagree with it putting more money on the taxpayer," Friedel said. "But the taxpayers in our area already said they want to do it. So they already, eyes wide open, so that they're willing to pay for this extra money to have their own high school. But at the same time, the local taxpayers are the ones that are going to vote for this before they even anything happen."

The governor also says the potential law creates inefficiencies and expands bureaucracy.

Friedel disagrees.

"As far as creating more bureaucracy, I have to respectfully disagree," Friedel. I believe it actually decentralizes and actually reduces bureaucracy. Bureaucracy happens when you start getting too large for your britches."

Rep. Jody Echart, R-Billijngs, is the main sponsor of House Bill 707 .

Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen," R-Mont., supports the bill,

In a written statement, she said:
"I applaud Representative Echart for listening to her constituents and offering a unique solution that reflects the growth between Billings and Laurel. Parents will be offered the choice of where to have their children educated while also preserving the autonomy of the community of the elementary and middle school environment."

Legislators will soon receive packets to vote whether or not to override the veto.

The bill passed 99-0 in the house and 36-14 in the Senate with a two thirds requirement.

A veto would need 67 House votes and 34 Senate votes.

"If everybody sticks to their votes, this should be over it," said Friedel. "But I'm not going to put all my eggs in one basket. So I'm reaching out to the community. I'm reaching out to my fellow legislators and saying hey, this is a good bill. I understand what the reason is. I disagree with the governor. But I think this is a good idea. I think we need to move forward if you guys do as well and I appreciate a yes vote to override the governor's veto."

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