In a unanimous ruling issued on October 26, the Montana Supreme Court rejected an appeal by proponents of Initiative 154 that sought to put it and two other initiatives back on the ballot.
I-154 aimed to restrict the use of eminent domain and compel governments to pay property owners for environmental and land-use regulations (including zoning rules) that could reduce the value of their holdings.
The court’s ruling upheld the September 13 order of District Judge Dirk M. Sandefur to remove the three initiatives from the November ballot.
The supreme court ruled that Sandefur “did not err when [he] invalidated the signatures of proponents’ out-of-state signature-gatherers that were obtained in a manner that did not comply with Montana statutes and were tainted by or associated with deceptive practices and misrepresentation.”
All three ballot initiatives were pushed and financed by Montanans in Action, which has been financed by tax-exempt organizations and other entities operated by Howard Rich, a political activist from New York City.
Because ballots have already been designed, the court ordered that county administrators not count the votes for the three initiatives “to the extent that this is technically feasible” and that, “if the votes must be counted, they will have no force or effect.”
Protect Our Homes Montana, the official proponent of the initiative, spent at least $315,000 in support of I-154. More than $285,000 of that amount came from Montanans in Action.
Read the Montana Supreme Court ruling.