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Governor vetoes 34 bills, all but 2 from Republicans

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HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's Democratic governor has vetoed more bills from this year's Republican-controlled Legislature than he had at this point after the 2013 session.

Gov. Steve Bullock had shot down 34 bills by the end of the day Wednesday. He still has at least 150 more bills to consider.

All but two of the vetoes were issued on bills sponsored by Republicans.

Bullock has issued a second denial to some proposals he also vetoed in 2013, including bills to deregulate guns in various ways and cut income taxes.

In March, Bullock rejected two bills that would have nullified Montana's concealed carry permitting system and allowed law enforcement officers to disregard future federal gun laws. On Monday, he vetoed one to allow concealed handguns to be carried in bars and restaurants.

He rejected two bills to cut income taxes across the board and will soon receive a proposal to simplify tax brackets that's similar to a bill he vetoed in 2013.

Lawmakers passed three anti-abortion measures this year, a subject that did not survive the 2013 Legislature. Bullock has vetoed two of the Republican measures and is expected to reject the third.

A proposal from Rep. Keith Regier, R-Kalispell, to require doctors to be physically present when performing abortions was on the chopping block Monday. House Bill 587 would effectively forbid prescriptions for medicated abortions to be provided with the use of a webcam. Opponents questioned whether it could have also adversely affected the use of birth control in Montana.

"As a safe, effective, and efficient method of delivering health care to underserved regions of Montana, we should be embracing the use of telemedicine, not criminalizing it," Bullock wrote in a letter explaining his veto of HB587.

On Wednesday, Bullock rejected a bill by Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings, that would have required health insurers that offer coverage plans that include elective abortions to also provide a reciprocal plan that does not cover elective abortions. Bullock said the proposal could leave women without coverage options necessary for unforeseen events and medical emergencies.

"SB 349 would create additional administrative burdens and costs for insurance companies, potentially doubling the number of insurance products on the exchange, and ultimately leading to increased costs for consumers," Bullock wrote on Wednesday.

He has not yet taken action on House Bill 479 by Rep. Albert Olszewski, R-Kalispell, to require doctors to administer anesthesia to a fetus of 20 or more gestational weeks during surgeries including abortion. Supporters said fetuses of that age can feel pain, but medical boards and individual obstetricians spoke against the measure and said research has found no conclusive evidence of fetal pain before the third trimester at 26 weeks.

Bullock issued 23 vetoes by the day after the 2013 session but received fewer bills overall.

Once a bill is sent to the executive office, the governor has 10 days to act on it before it automatically becomes law. About 50 bills that passed this session are in the process of being transmitted to Bullock and more than 100 are on his desk awaiting action.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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