Montana state Sen. Greg Hinkle (R) is sponsoring a bill to give local sheriffs supreme authority in their counties, and requiring “that federal employees shall obtain the county sheriff’s permission to arrest, search, and seize.”
In a meeting before the state’s Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, the Helena Independent-Record reports that more than 25 people testified in support of the bill, including Gary Marbut, president of the Montana Shooting Sports Association, who said that authority should rest with the guy that we know and the rascal we can throw out.”
The proposal is called “Sheriffs First,” and aims to “put teeth into the expectation that federal agents must operate with the approval of the sheriff, or not at all,” by making it a state crime for federal agents to operate without written consent from sheriffs. Some exceptions apply — including “‘hot pursuit’, U.S. customs and border patrol, corrupt sheriffs, and more,” according to the “model legislation” text.
“I’ve come to the point where I don’t trust the federal government to protect us,” The AP reports Helena resident Lisa Wamsley said Friday. “I urge you to support this bill to regain what is rightfully ours as citizens of Montana.”
But according to the Independent-Record, not everyone is on board with the idea:
Gallatin County Attorney Marty Lambert, speaking for the Montana County Attorneys Association, called that an unconstitutional infringement on his job as the county’s top legal officer and bristled at the notion of being told which cases to prosecute.
“It truly isn’t about law enforcement,” he said. “It’s about calling attention to the grievances and concerns about the federal government.”
State Sen. Jim Shockley (R) agreed: “Federal laws are superior, whether you like it or not.”
According to KULR8.com, a similar bill was vetoed in 1995 by Republican Gov. Marc Racicot.
The Judiciary Committee has not yet taken any action on the bill.