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Ever since the day Mitt Romney was filmed saying "Corporations are people, my friend", you've known this was coming. If corporations are people under the law of the land, some Republican legislator or another was bound to work to give them the franchise. That legislator is Montana state representative Steve Lavin (R-Kalispell), and his HB 486 would give any corporation owning land in a particular municipality the right to vote in municipal elections.

The corporation would officially designate one person who could cast a single vote on the corporation's behalf (in addition to his own vote, assuming he is a voter in the municipality) in any municipal election except a school board election.

According to Raw Story, the bill was tabled almost immediately on its introduction and is unlikely to come to a vote, but at least in one state legislator's mind, the idea of corporations being treated just like people (except for being sentenced to death, jailed, breathing, or being limited in political financial influence) is no longer unthinkable.

Bill follows below.

2013 Montana Legislature

Additional Bill Links     PDF (with line numbers)

HOUSE BILL NO. 486

INTRODUCED BY S. LAVIN

A BILL FOR AN ACT ENTITLED: "AN ACT REVISING ELIGIBILITY TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AND TO FILE FOR CANDIDACY FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTED OFFICE; ALLOWING A QUALIFIED NONRESIDENT PROPERTY OWNER OR DESIGNEE OF AN ENTITY TO VOTE IN MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS AND TO FILE FOR CANDIDACY FOR MUNICIPAL ELECTED OFFICE; AND AMENDING SECTIONS 7-1-4121, 7-4-4104, 7-4-4301, AND 7-4-4401, MCA."

BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MONTANA:

     NEW SECTION.  Section 1.  Provision for vote by nonresident property owner. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3), an individual who owns real property in a municipality holding an election on a referendum of the municipal governing body, a mill levy conducted pursuant to 15-10-425, or a bond issue conducted pursuant to Title 7, chapter 7, parts 41 through 44, or an election for municipal officers may vote in the election if the individual is registered to vote as required by law in any county of the state and files with the election administrator at least 40 days prior to the election:

     (a) proof of registration; and

     (b) proof of the property ownership based on the last completed assessment roll.

     (2) An individual convicted of a felony does not have the right to vote while the individual is serving a sentence in a penal institution.

     (3) An individual adjudicated to be of unsound mind does not have the right to vote unless the person has been restored to capacity as provided by law.

     (4) If the election is not held using mail ballot procedures, an individual voting under the provisions of this section must be allowed to vote by absentee ballot.

     (5) An individual who qualifies to vote under this section is not entitled to vote in school elections held under the provisions of Title 20 other than those elections for which the individual would be qualified to vote based on the individual's residency.

     NEW SECTION.  Section 2.  Provision for vote by corporate property owner. (1) Subject to subsection (2), if a firm, partnership, company, or corporation owns real property within the municipality, the president, vice president, secretary, or other designee of the entity is eligible to vote in a municipal election as provided in [section 1].

     (2) The individual who is designated to vote by the entity is subject to the provisions of [section 1] and shall also provide to the election administrator documentation of the entity's registration with the secretary of state under 35-1-217 and proof of the individual's designation to vote on behalf of the entity.

     Section 3.  Section 7-1-4121, MCA, is amended to read:

     "7-1-4121.  General definitions. As used in 7-1-4121 through 7-1-4127 and 7-1-4129 through 7-1-4149, unless otherwise provided, the following definitions apply:

     (1)  "Charter" means a written document defining the powers, structure, privileges, rights, and duties of the government and limitations on the government.

     (2)  "Chief executive" means the elected executive in a government adopting the commission-executive form, the manager in a government adopting the commission-manager form, the presiding officer in a government adopting the commission-presiding officer form, the town presiding officer in a government adopting the town meeting form, the commission acting as a body in a government adopting the commission form, or the officer or officers designated in the charter in a government adopting a charter.

     (3)  "Elector" means:

     (a) a resident of the municipality qualified and registered to vote under state law; and

     (b) for the purposes of the elections referred to in [section 1], an individual who owns real property in a municipality and who meets the requirements of [section 1] or who is designated to vote by an entity as provided in [section 2].

     (4)  "Employee" means a person other than an officer who is employed by a municipality.

     (5)  "Executive branch" means that part of the municipality, including departments, offices, and boards, charged with implementing actions approved and administering policies adopted by the governing body of the local government or performing the duties required by law.

     (6)  "Governing body" means the commission or town meeting legislative body established in the alternative form of local government.

     (7)  "Guideline" means a suggested or recommended standard or procedure to serve as an index of comparison and is not enforceable as a regulation.

     (8)  "Law" means a statute enacted by the legislature of Montana and approved and signed by the governor or a statute adopted by the people of Montana through statutory initiative procedures.

     (9)  "Municipality" means an entity that incorporates as a city or town.

     (10) "Office of the municipality" means the permanent location of the seat of government from which the records administrator, or the office of the clerk of the governing body where one is appointed, carries out the duties of the records administrator.

     (11) "Officer" means a person holding a position with a municipality that is ordinarily filled by election or, in those municipalities with a manager, the manager.

     (12) "Ordinance" means an act adopted and approved by a municipality, having effect only within the jurisdiction of the local government.

     (13) "Person" means any individual, firm, partnership, company, corporation, trust, trustee, assignee or other representative, association, or other organized group.

     (14) "Plan of government" means a certificate submitted by a governing body that documents the basic form of government selected, including all applicable suboptions. The plan must establish the terms of all officers and the number of commissioners, if any, to be elected.

     (15) "Political subdivision" refers to a local government, authority, school district, or multicounty agency.

     (16) "Population" means the number of inhabitants as determined by an official federal, state, or local census or official population estimate approved by the department of commerce.

     (17) "Printed" means the act of reproducing a design on a surface by any process as defined by 1-1-203(3).

     (18) "Public agency" means a political subdivision, Indian tribal council, state or federal department or office, or the Dominion of Canada or any provincial department or office or political subdivision.

     (19) "Public property" means any property owned by a municipality or held in the name of a municipality by any of the departments, boards, or authorities of the local government.

     (20) "Real property" means lands, structures, buildings, and interests in land, including lands under water and riparian rights, and all things and rights usually included within the term "real property", including not only fee simple absolute but also all lesser interests, such as easements, rights-of-way, uses, leases, licenses, and all other incorporeal hereditaments and every estate, interest, or right, legal or equitable, pertaining to real property.

     (21) "Reproduced" means the act of reproducing a design on any surface by any process.

     (22) "Resolution" means a statement of policy by the governing body or an order by the governing body that a specific action be taken.

     (23) "Service" means an authorized function or activity performed by local government.

     (24) "Structure" means the entire governmental organization through which a local government carries out its duties, functions, and responsibilities."

     Section 4.  Section 7-4-4104, MCA, is amended to read:

     "7-4-4104.  General qualifications for municipal office. No (1) A person is eligible to any for a municipal office, elective or appointive, if the person:

     (1)(a)  who is not a citizen of the United States; and

     (2)(b)  who has not met the qualifications prescribed by law or by ordinance adopted by the governing body of a city or town.

     (2) A person who qualifies to vote in municipal elections as provided in [section 1 or 2] and who meets the requirements of subsections (1)(a) and (1)(b) of this section is eligible for a municipal office."

     Section 5.  Section 7-4-4301, MCA, is amended to read:

     "7-4-4301.  Qualifications for mayor. (1) A person is not eligible for the office of mayor unless the person:

     (a)  is at least 21 years old;

     (b)  has been a resident of the state for at least 3 years; and

     (c)  has been a resident for at least 2 years preceding the election to office of the city or town or an area that has been annexed by the city or town or has qualified to vote in municipal elections as provided in [section 1 or 2] for at least 2 years.

     (2)  The office of mayor of a city or town is considered vacant if the individual elected as mayor ceases to be a resident of the city or town or ceases to be qualified under [section 1 or 2]."

     Section 6.  Section 7-4-4401, MCA, is amended to read:

     "7-4-4401.  Qualifications for city council member. A person is not eligible for the office of city council member unless, for at least 60 days preceding the election to office, the person is:

     (1) a resident for at least 60 days preceding the election to office of the ward electing the person or of an area that has been annexed by the city or town and placed in the ward;

     (2) qualified to vote in municipal elections as provided in [section 1] by virtue of the person's property ownership in the ward; or

     (3) is the designee of an entity owning property in the ward as provided in [section 2]."

     NEW SECTION.  Section 7.  Codification instruction. [Sections 1 and 2] are intended to be codified as an integral part of Title 7, chapter 5, part 44, and the provisions of Title 7, chapter 5, part 44, apply to [sections 1 and 2].

- END -

Latest Version of HB 486 (HB0486.01)
Processed for the Web on February 15, 2013 (7:33am)

Sponsor names are handwritten on introduced bills, hence do not appear on the bill until it is reprinted.

See the status of this bill for the bill's primary sponsor.

 Status of this Bill | 2013 Legislature | Leg. Branch Home
All versions of all bills (PDF format)
Authorized print version of this bill w/line numbers (PDF format)
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Prepared by Montana Legislative Services
(406) 444-3064

Originally posted to Kitsap River on Sat Feb 23, 2013 at 03:31 PM PST.

Also republished by Montana Kossaks.

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