‘Drama will play out in court’: Gianforte vetoes Lake County law enforcement bill

Lake County Sheriff Donald Bell gives public comment on the county’s intent to withdraw from Public Law 280 on Dec. 12, 2022.

Antonio Ibarra Olivares

Gov. Greg Gianforte last week vetoed a bill that would’ve reimbursed Lake County for providing law enforcement services on the Flathead Reservation.

The veto kicks the question of reimbursement to the courts, as a lawsuit regarding the dispute is pending in District Court.

Rep. Joe Read, R-Ronan, who sponsored the bill, said the governor’s decision “is probably not a wise one.”

“I guess the drama will play out in court,” he said.


House Bill 479 would have appropriated $2.5 million to the Department of Justice each year in the biennium to provide money to Lake County to offset costs for law enforcement activities on the reservation. And an amendment would create a task force to publish reports and provide recommendations based on their findings.

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