Governor Bullock Shuts Down Whistleblower Bill

In an unsurprising move, Gov. Steve Bullock vetoed House Bill 202; a whistleblower protection act that had key provisions that would protect state employees from retaliation from their supervisors.

The base premise of this legislation was to protect state employees from harassment and retaliation from their supervisors if they choose to share important information to state legislators. In the Governor’s veto, his critique is that this bill will lead to costly litigation for the state and that whistleblower measures currently exist in the state government.

This is a shallow and disappointing reason to veto legislation that passed with bipartisan support and strengthens whistleblower protections. To his primary critique, “costly litigation” is not a reason to kill legislation. This implies that the Governor believes if pursuing justice is “too costly” it should not be done. For an administration that is fine with paying nearly $100 million to keep whistleblowers quiet, to then say these types of cases could be “too costly” is a non sequitur.

As for his excuse of “these types of whistleblower protections currently exist”, Governor Bullock seems to be saying that strengthening protections for his own employees is not a priority for his office. This comes as no surprise, given the Governor’s past rocky relationships with his employees. Governor Bullock seems more comfortable operating in the shade and having fewer and fewer limitations on how he can handle disputes with staff.

Montanans should demand more from their state government. Whistleblower protections are essential to a functioning democracy, and Montana is not without incident in this issue arena. The legislature seems to be doing it’s job on the issue; both Democrats and Republicans in the legislature supported HB202. And last fall, legislators demanded transparency from the governor’s office.

As Montana Democrats currently scream at Senator Steve Daines about transparency through townhalls, perhaps they should look toward the Governor’s office.

Not holding townhalls is a bad move, but downright suppression of whistleblowing? That’s dubious.

Yet Governor Bullock continues to use his bully pulpit to squash criticism. These strongman tactics are not what Montanans deserve. As Governor Bullock looks into his political future, with rumors already circling of a 2020 Senate challenge against Senator Daines, he will have to answer to Montanans regarding his inability to tell them the whole story.

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