Groups Challenge Initiative to Limit Property Tax Changes | Montana News

HELEN, Mont. (AP) – Public employees and a farm organization are among those who have filed a lawsuit arguing that the attorney general and secretary of state failed to follow a new law in approving the collection of signatures for a proposed lawsuit. constitutional initiative that would limit residential property tax changes.

The Montana Federation of Public Employees, Montana Farmers Union, real estate agent Jeff Barber, farmer Ron Ostberg and rancher Dennis McDonald filed their lawsuit Wednesday against Secretary of State Christi Jacobsen and Attorney General Austin Knudsen .

Legislation passed by the 2021 Legislature requires the Attorney General to review ballot initiatives to see if they would impact business and also requires the Secretary of State to forward such initiatives to the Legislative Services Division for a Interim Legislative Committee considers the matter and votes. above.

The wording of the law refers to the consideration of “matters relating to the ballot”. Plaintiffs argue that state law defines a ballot as “a proposal submitted to the people in an election for their approval or rejection, including, but not limited to, an initiative, a referendum, a proposed constitutional amendment, a recall question, a school levy question, a bond issue question, or ballot question.

Spokespersons for Jacobsen and Knudsen said that based on the way the law was written in state code, it only applies to initiatives to change state law. , not to initiatives that would change the constitution.

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The complaint asks the court to block efforts to collect signatures for Constitutional Initiative 121.

State Auditor Troy Downing and attorney Matthew Monforton submitted CI-121 to the Secretary of State for placement on the 2022 ballot.

The initiative would limit total residential property taxes to 1% or less of assessed value and limit annual increases or decreases in residential property assessments to 2%, or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. Market value assessments would be made when the property is sold or significantly improved, under the proposed amendment.

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Penny D. Jackson