Martin Kidston

(Missoula Current) A push to get a ban on some plastics on the November ballot could put the City of Missoula in a pinch regarding its new fiscal budget and the cost of the election.

Eric Hallstrom, director of Central Services for the city, is seeking $32,000 in the FY 25 budget to pay for the “space” of placing the plastic ban on the ballot. However, the Secretary of State hasn’t yet certified the signature-gathering process and may not do so until after the city adopts its budget.

Hallstrom said the $32,000 cost was an estimate.

“We used our estimates for whatever it would have cost to run the government study in November,” he said on Wednesday. “It’s hard to know what the ballot space will be. Our obligation will be a portion of whatever space that would be.”

In May, the Families for a Livable Climate Beyond Plastics submitted a petition to the Missoula County Elections office that could place an initiative banning single-use plastics on the November ballot.

Members of the initiative must gather more than 9,000 signatures to place the measure before voters in Missoula. At the same time, Montanans Securing Reproductive Rights is working to gather signatures statewide to get an abortion protection bill on the ballot.

The Secretary of State will need to determine if the measures qualify for the ballot. The office has until Aug. 22 to do so, but the city is expected to adopt its budget on Aug. 19.

“We’re going to have a tiny bit of a conundrum from the standpoint of the date,” said City Council member Stacie Anderson.

If the city includes the $32,000 funding request in its new budget and the plastic ban doesn’t make the ballot, Hallstrom said the funding would likely go unused. But he’s hoping the state makes a determination before the city finalizes its budget.

“We may know before then. The timing is just about right there,” he said.

If passed, the Missoula plastics ordinance would prevent any city government facility or business within city limits from providing single-use plastic bags and polystyrene items such as foam cups, food containers or packing peanuts.

Likewise, the abortion measure would amend the Montana Constitution to “expressly provide a right to make and carry out decisions about one’s own pregnancy, including the right to abortion.” It would also prohibit the government from interfering before fetal viability.

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