Senate Bill No. 308

Introduced By beck, stang

A Bill for an Act entitled: An Act requiring state and local government entities to provide upon request a written statement of the legal authority upon which certain action is based; providing definitions and exceptions; and providing an immediate effective date and an applicability date.


The legislature finds that there have been instances in which decisions made by government entities exceed, or appear to exceed, the legal authority of the government entity. Because the power of government comes ultimately from the people served by the government, it is therefore appropriate that government should upon request provide the legal authority upon which certain action is based.

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Montana:

Section 1.  Short title. [Sections 1 through 4] may be cited as the "Government Accountability Act".

Section 2.  Findings and purpose. The purpose of [sections 1 through 4] is to require government entities to make known the legal authority upon which certain action is based. The benefits of this requirement will be that government officials will articulate and reaffirm their legal authority to act and that both the government and the people will have a fuller understanding of the limits of the law and the facts to which the law applies. This understanding will benefit both government and the people by helping to resolve disputes between government servants and the people, without lengthy and costly litigation, by instilling trust in government, and by helping to identify deficiencies in the law so that those deficiencies may be addressed by legislative action.

Section 3.  Definitions. As used in [sections 1 through 4], the following definitions apply:

(1) "Aggrieved" means that a person can demonstrate a specific personal and legal interest, as distinguished from a general interest, that has been adversely affected.

(2) (a) "Government act" means the denial or issuance with conditions of a permit, certificate, license, or the equivalent of a permit, certificate, or license issued by a government entity.

(b) The term does not mean:

(i) litigation in which a government entity or other person litigates the authority of the government entity to take an act provided in subsection (2)(a);

(ii) an act provided in subsection (2)(a) for which a citation or warning is issued, other than the statement required by [section 4], on which a reference clearly appears to the legal authority for the government action; or

(iii) a legislative act by the state of Montana.

(3) "Government entity" means a state agency or a local government unit.

(4) "Local government unit" means a city, county, town, unincorporated municipality or village, or special taxing unit or district and any commission, board, bureau, or other office of the unit.

(5) "Rule" has the meaning provided in 2-4-102.

(6) "State agency" has the meaning provided in 2-4-102(2)(a).

(7) "Statement of government authority" or "statement" means the statement required by [section 4].

Section 4.  Statement of government authority required. (1) When a government entity takes a government act, as defined in [section 3], it shall provide upon request to the applicant a written statement of legal authority upon which the action is based. The statement must be provided within 30 days of the government act.

(2) The statement must clearly cite the statute, rule, ordinance, resolution, or other legal authority for the government act.

Section 5. Applicability. [This act] applies to a government act as defined by [section 3] taken after [the effective date of this act].

Section 6.  Effective date. [This act] is effective on passage and approval.