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Irrigators may need notarized form to vote

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ST. IGNATIUS – The Flathead Joint Board of Control discussed the Montana Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the constitutionality of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and the State of Montana’s water compact during their regular board meeting Nov. 14.

The FJBC alleged that the compact passed the Montana Legislature without the two-thirds majority vote needed to create immunity provisions for the state from litigation. The FJBC lost the appeal. The Montana Supreme Court deemed the CSKT-MT Water Compact constitutional. 

The appeal overturns a district court’s decision stating that part of the compact concerning immunity from litigation was unconstitutional without the two-thirds majority vote. 

FJBC Attorney Bruce Fredrickson explained that the Montana Supreme Court is the final arbiter in this legal process, so there can be no further appeal concerning the constitutionality of the two-thirds vote.

Fredrickson said the Montana Supreme Court can reconsider a case if the facts were misinterpreted, but the facts were correctly considered, he said, so a new motion wouldn’t apply in this case.

Fredrickson added that it wouldn’t hurt to discuss the issues concerning the compact while Congress works on a decision, regardless of whether a person is pro-compact or against it.

The board also addressed an issue concerning voting ballots that allow irrigators to vote for board members after the Montana House of Representatives passed House Bill 388. Rep. Greg Hertz introduced the bill, and it revises voter qualifications and designations in irrigation district elections. 

The FJBC is now in charge of mailing out forms designating one person to vote on land with multiple owners, and out-of-state landowners are not subject to state residency requirements, so they can vote without designating someone to vote for them in the state.  

The board discussed the possibility of requiring everyone that owns or co-owns irrigation land to fill out a designation form and have it notarized even if only one person owns the property in an effort to make voting records complete, although the board is also trying to make the process easier for voters. They haven’t made a decision yet on how to proceed with the process, but letters with instructions concerning voting could be mailed out by mid-December. 

The board is also working on evaluating bylaws to make sure that operating rules are followed, and double checking accounts to make sure checks are correctly distributed. They are meeting with insurance agents to try and recoup $221,000 of missing funds after it was taken from the board’s account without approval. The next regular FJBC meeting is at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 12, at the FJBC office in St. Ignatius. 

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