MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 6
The first weeks of the Montana Legislature seemed to be focused on bills attempting to take away the basic human rights of Montanans to access medical care, basic safety, and democracy. This week, many of the attacks are coming through taxation issues.
Read on to see which bills have the potential to create rigged systems and inequality in our state. We’ll give you all of the information you need to create a simple, thoughtful response to your legislators.
Remember that short emails are fine! We know the list is long, so if you don’t have much time, choose a few bills and focus on those.
How to contact your legislators
Find your legislators here.
Email them here.
Call the Capitol switchboard at 406-444-4800 from 7:30am – 5pm on weekdays to leave them a message.
NO on Gov. Gianforte’s budget, SB 159 and HB 279 – Budget and tax cuts
Any way you look at it, Governor Gianforte’s proposed budget is terrible for Montanans. Instead of generating revenue for crucial programs that serve local communities and people who have been hurt by the pandemic, Gov. Gianforte proposes cuts, cuts, and more cuts.
His fiscal vision for Montana is so bad that a former Republican legislator from Kansas is trying to warn us. “Do not expect that simply cutting taxes will magically produce economic prosperity. It did not happen in Kansas, and it will not happen for you,” said Don Hineman. Read his full letter here.
We’re featuring a couple of the tax bills here, but make sure you read this report from the Montana Budget and Policy Center which shows exactly how devastating and unfair the entire plan really is.
SB 159 – This bill for “income tax relief” only helps those who already have the most. It lowers the top income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%, which means that 79% of the benefit will go to the wealthiest 20% of households.
Someone with adjusted gross income of $25,000 will NOT get a tax cut, while a millionaire will get more than $1,400. That’s not only unfair, it will drain the state budget of $30 million each year and starve crucial programs of the funds they need.
Action – This bill was heard in the Senate Taxation Committee this week. Please tell this committee and your senator to vote NO on SB 159.
HB 279 – This bill would dramatically expand the tax-credit program for private schools. The current limit of $150 would jump to a shocking $200,000. This would allow individuals and companies to funnel money away from public education and steer it directly toward religious schools, continuing the Religious Right’s sustained attack on public education.
Action – This bill had a hearing in the House Education Committee this week, so please contact the committee and your representative and tell them NO on HB 279.
YES to HB 35, HB 36, SB 94 and SB 146; NO to SB 138 – MMIW/P and Indigenous safety and sovereignty
We are thrilled to see that HB 35 and HB 36 are sailing through the legislature! HB 35 would establish a missing persons review commission, and HB 36 would create a missing persons response team training grant program.
Action – Please contact the Senate Judiciary Committee to say YES to both bills.
It’s time for Indigenous People’s Day! Both SB 94 and SB 146 would add Indigenous People’s Day to the list of Montana holidays. Click here to read about these bills.
Action – Both bills had hearings before the Senate State Administration Committee this week, so please contact this committee and your senator to say YES to SB 94 and SB 146.
SB 138 was tabled in the Senate Taxation Committee! This bill would have removed a tribal property tax exemption that has allowed tribes to restore and protect lands that were stolen from them.
HB 241 was also tabled this week! This bill challenged tribal sovereignty through changes to hunting regulations, and had a hearing in the House Fish, Wildlife, and Parks Committee. The bill’s sponsor had not consulted with Montana’s eight tribal nations before creating the bill, but leaders from these nations all turned out to reject the bill.
Thank you for contacting legislators on all of these bills!
NO to HB 200 and HB 223
Unfortunately, these two anti-immigration bills made it further through the process. HB 200 prohibits sanctuary cities in Montana, even though none currently exist. HB 223 would compel local law enforcement officers to be pulled into immigration issues, which could increase racial profiling and erode trust between police and Montana residents.
Action – Both bills are waiting for a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please tell that committee and your senator NO on HB 200 and HB 223.
NO on HB 244, update on HB 335 – Death penalty, rights for incarcerated people
HB 244 would change the requirements for drugs used for lethal injections so a broader range of drugs could be used for executions. It is uncertain what those drugs would be and if they would be adequate for humane executions.
Action –This bill passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 11-8, so please contact your House member and say NO to HB 244.
HB 335 would end the death penalty in Montana and replace it with life in prison without possibility of parole. This bill was scheduled to have a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, but that has been postponed for now. We’ll let you know when to take action!
We were happy to see that SB 195, which would have removed incarcerated people from the protections of the Montana Human Rights Act, was tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week.
NO on SB 215 and HB 112 – Attacks on LGBTQ rights
We saw a version of SB 215 back in 2015, and now it’s back. This bill would allow any person, corporation or other entity to claim an exemption from any law, policy or government regulation if the action might burden their religious expression. And it could allow individuals to decide that non-discrimination laws, child abuse laws, and domestic violence laws don’t apply to them.
We know that this bill will legalize discrimination, cause economic harm, and target LGBTQ community members.
Action – This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, February 16, so please contact that committee and your senator to say NO to SB 215.
HB 112, which would prevent transgender youth from participating in school sports, is still waiting to be assigned to a committee. While we wait for more information, you can remind your senator to vote NO on HB 112.
NO to HB 176 – Voting rights
HB 176 was revived, and now this bill, which would repeal Montana’s very successful same-day voting registration law, is headed for a hearing in the Senate State Administration Committee. If this passes, many young voters, new voters, and Indigenous voters would miss out on voting. Same-day Election Day voter registration would be eliminated, and late voter registration would close at 5 pm on the Friday before Election Day.
Action – This bill has a hearing in the Senate State Administration Committee on Monday, so tell the committee members and your senator NO on HB 176.
NO to HB 121, HB 236, SB 67, HB 144, and HB 316 –Militia ideology undermining county health boards
Bills that undermine the authority of county health boards take on new significance in light Gov. Gianforte’s decision to end Montana’s mask mandate this week. If these bills pass, partisan politics and pro-militia ideology could have more authority than science-based recommendations from county health boards. Click here for more information on how dangerous these bills are.
HB 316 is a new bill that gives the final decision on public health measures at the local level to the county commission, and it changes the governor’s powers during statewide emergencies.
HB 316 had a hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee this week. Please contact the committee and your House member and say NO to HB 316.
SB 108 is scheduled for hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee later this month. Please contact that committee and say NO.
SB 67 passed its second reading in the House with a vote of 71- 29, so please contact your representative and say NO.
HB 144 passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, so please contact your Senator and say NO.
NO to HB 136, HB 140, HB 167, HB 171, HB 229, SB 99 – Anti-choice
It is discouraging to see so many bills limiting reproductive care move through the legislature. HB 136, HB 140, HB 167, and HB 171 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and are headed to the Senate floor.
Action – Please contact your senators and tell them NO to these bills. Click here for more details and talking points.
HB 229 would prevent insurance policies obtained through the Affordable Care Act exchange from covering abortion. This would force people with tight budgets to pay for this important care out of pocket.
Action – This bill is headed to the Senate Judiciary Committee, so please contact the committee and your senator and say NO to HB 229.
SB 99 would make sex education an opt-in activity, creating another hurdle for students who need to have access to accurate information about reproductive choices.
Action – SB 99 was heard in the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee. Please contact them and your senator and say NO.
NO on HB 168, HB 251, and SB 89 – Unions
These bills attack the freedom of workers to belong to unions, have union dues subtracted from their paychecks, and work through union representatives to negotiate wages and benefits. You can read more about the problems with these bills in an editorial from the Montana AFL-CIO here.
The language implies that union membership is coerced, and the restrictions these bill enact represents government overreach and an assault on the freedom of speech. Public and private sector workers like nurses, educators, police, and state troopers who protect, serve, educate, and care for Montana citizens deserve to have the freedom to organize without burdensome restrictions.
We’re proud to stand with our allied union members to fight these attempts to limit their rights. It’s important to remember that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights lists forming and joining unions as a fundamental human right.
HB 168 had a hearing before the House Business and Labor Committee. Please contact that committee and tell your representative NO on HB 168.
HB 251 will implement Right to Work in Montana, which ends up lowering pay for workers. This bill has a hearing in the House Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday, February 16. Please contact that committee and tell them NO.
SB 89 would revise laws related to collection of union dues. This bill passed out of the Senate State Administration Committee, so please contact your senator and say NO.
NO to HB 258, SB 158, and HB 102 – Gun safety
These bills would remove or change common-sense laws and make Montana less safe for everyone.
SB 158 would allow legislators to carry concealed weapons on the floor of the legislative chambers, creating an intimidating atmosphere, especially when discussions can be heated.
Action – This bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, so please contact your senator and say NO to SB 158.
HB 258 prohibits the enforcement of any federal regulation regarding firearms. As you can imagine, this would remove many gun safety regulations that have been carefully created at the state and local level. This bill was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee, so thank you to everyone who urged this committee to vote no on this bill! We’ll let you know if this legislation gets revived later in the session.
HB 102, which would allow concealed carry without a permit and force colleges to allow guns on their campuses, was sent to Governor Gianforte for approval. Please email him here to request a veto of this bill.