MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 7
MHRN supporters have reached out to ask what on earth is happening at the session this week! New bills are cropping up, and the others are getting pushed through the process very quickly.
Why the rush? It’s almost transmittal time!
Transmittal is an important deadline within the legislative session. Bills that aren’t passed through the chamber of the legislature where the bill was introduced by this date are essentially dead. The deadline for introducing general bills (those not related to the budget) is next week. That’s why legislators are hustling to get their bills submitted and hearings scheduled.
The result is that in a year when so many bad bills are coming through, it’s going to feel even more overwhelming for the next few days. Please keep breathing, keep calling or writing, and do what you can. Thank you for all of the work you’ve done so far!
We did our best to list bills by priority in this summary, but that doesn’t mean that bills at the bottom are less important.
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.
Discrimination by Design – NO to anti-LGBTQ legislation
Top priority for this week is a list of bills we’re calling the Discrimination by Design campaign. There’s no denying that all of these bills will make life more difficult for LGBTQ community members, especially when some of them are specifically targeting transgender, nonbinary and Two Spirit people.
HB 112 – This bill would prevent transgender and nonbinary youth from participating in school sports. Health care professionals have testified that participation in sports gives trans more confidence, better mental and physical health, and affirmation that they are valued members of their school. Montana could also lose up to $484 million in federal funding because this bill contradicts President Biden’s recent executive order that states, “Children should be able to learn without worrying about whether they will be denied access to the restroom, the locker room, or school sports.”
Action – Contact your senator to say NO to HB 112.
HB 427 is a revised version of HB 113, which proposed denying health care to transgender youth. It looks like the bill sponsor is trying to get this version through by removing hormones and puberty blockers from the list of prohibited care, but the outcome is still the same. Montana legislators are trying to get between families and their medical care.
Action – HB 427 should have a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday, so please contact them today to say NO this bill.
SB 215 is another attempt to establish the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which 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.
Action – This bill passed out of committee 7-4 on a party line vote after receiving amendments. Please tell your senator NO on SB 215.
SB 280 This bill, which is sponsored by the same legislator as SB 215, just appeared this week. It would force transgender people to have surgery and go through a court process before their birth certificate could be changed to their correct gender.
Action – A hearing in the House Judiciary Committee is scheduled for next Thursday. Please tell them NO.
SB 99 would prevent access to accurate sex education and ban qualified medical providers from offering sex education and possibly classify any mention of human sexuality or gender identity as sex education.
Action – Please tell your senator NO on this bill.
NO to HB 200 and 223 – Immigration
These two bills made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so we need another round of emails. Both these bills ask local police to play the role of immigration officers.
HB 200 prohibits sanctuary cities in Montana, even though none currently exist.
HB 223 is especially dangerous because it not only asks, but compels local law enforcement to play the part of federal immigration agents. This bill would divert local resources, open the door for profiling and civil rights violations, and erode trust in ways that make our communities less safe.
Action – Ask your senator to say NO to both bills, but please reach out to these additional senators on HB 223. They might be persuaded to vote against.
Duane Ankney – R-Colstrip, SD20
John Fitzpatrick – R-Great Falls, SD10
Chris Friedel – R-Billings, SD26
Terry Gauthier – R-Helena, SD40
Bruce Gillespie – R-Ethridge, SD9 (Cascade, Augusta, Choteau, Conrad, Shelby, Cut Bank)
Doug Kary – R-Billings, SD22
Walt Sales – R-Manhattan, SD35
Daniel Salomon – R-Ronan, SD47
Jason Small – R-Busby, SD21
Russ Tempel – R-Chester, SD14
Jeff Welborn – R-Dillon, SD36
Mark Blasdel (Majority Leader) – R-Kalispell, SD
NO on SB 169, SB 170, HB 176, HB 406, HB 455 – Voter suppression
More voter suppression bills are flowing into the session, and the ways that they could complicate voting in Montana are staggering. These bills seems to be targeting voting rights for Indigenous people, new voters, and college students in particular.
Thanks to the Indigenous Organizers’ Collective for sharing this information so we can take action!
Information and action items
SB 169 would require voters to have photo ID to register to vote and cast their vote. This bill had a hearing on Friday, so please tell the House State Administration committee NO.
SB 170 would require annual voter list maintenance. This could lead to list purges that removed people from voter registration lists, but they would not realize they were ineligible to vote until Election Day. Please tell the House State Administration committee NO.
HB 176 would eliminate same-day voter registration and end late voter registration at noon the day before Election Day. Please tell the House State Administration committee NO.
HB 406 attempts to place new restrictions on ballot collection. People who are not family members would be required to register as a ballot collector and fill out a permission slip for each ballot collected. Each violation of proper registration would be considered a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of $500. Tell the House Judiciary Committee NO.
HB 455 attacks the absentee ballot process by complicating the system considerably. Please tell the House State Administration committee NO. Here are some of the unnecessary and oppressive restrictions it creates.
Absentee ballots would have to be returned by 6pm on Election Day
Voters would be required to request an absentee ballot for each election, eliminating the option to be on a permanent absentee ballot list
Absentee ballots would have to be sent to your residential address, even if you’re away temporarily
Yes on SB 94 and SB 146, NO on LC 2809 – Indigenous sovereignty
Action – Both bills had hearings before the Senate State Administration Committee, so please contact this committee and your senator to say YES to SB 94 and SB 146.
LC 2809 This bill sponsored by Bob Keenan would repeal the CSKT water compact, which was carefully negotiated for years. Many anti-Indian groups and their supporters have been trying to undo this agreement at every step in the process.
This bill could enter the process at moment, and we will tell you how and when to say NO.
NO on HB 121, HB 236, HB 216, and SB 108 – Militia ideology removing authority from health boards
Most of the county supremacy bills are about to advance, so please take a few minutes to contact legislators and committees about the dangers of these bills.You can click here to get talking points about these bills and their connections to militia ideology.
Updates and action items
HB 121 and HB 236 are bills that remove power from the nonpartisan public health experts on county health boards and give it to partisan members of county commissions. These bills have hearings in the House Business and Labor Committee on Monday. Please tell that committee to vote NO.
HB 316 is waiting for action in the House Business and Labor Committee. The bill gives final decision on public health measures and the local level to the county commission, changes the governor’s powers during statewide emergencies, and allows legislators to request to poll the entire legislative body in order to challenge the governor’s emergency orders. Please contact this committee and tell them NO.
SB 108 would remove certain powers from the health board, like the ability to recommend and carry out prevention measures for communicable diseases. It would also remove penalties for people who don’t comply with health department directives. This bill has a hearing scheduled in House Business and Labor on Tuesday, February 23, so please contact the committee and tell them NO.
HB 144 , which would allow sheriffs to refuse to assist health officers without penalty. This bill passed unanimously out of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, so please contact your senator and say NO.
Yes on HB 458 and HJ 12, No on HJ 11 – Accountability for militias
HB 458 – During the summer of 2020, there were a number of militia and so-called “Patriot” groups that showed up heavily armed to public events across Montana. They called themselves “neighborhood protectors” and claimed to be coordinating with police departments. In some cases, they chased down people they falsely assumed to be suspicious and held them until actual officers arrived.
This attempt to rebrand violent extremist groups as legitimate law enforcement entities needs to be stopped. This bill will classify those actions as impersonating an officer and place some other limits on militia activity.
Action – HB 458 has a hearing on Tuesday, February 23 in the House Judiciary Committee. Please tell them YES.
HJ 12 is a resolution recognizing that white nationalism and neo-Nazi groups are some of the largest threats to public safety in America today. This bill follows the conclusions of reports from the FBI , the Department of Homeland Security, and investigations after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol that far-right extremists are responsible for the majority of violent and lethal activity in America.
Action – HJ 12 will have a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on February 23. Please urge the committee members to vote YES.
HJ 11 , which would classify antifa as a domestic terrorist group, had a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this week. During the hearing, a committee member asked bill sponsor Rep. Braxton Mitchell if this bill was bipartisan, as Mitchell claimed, where the Democratic sponsors were. Mitchell admitted that “making a joke on the bill.” Committee Chairman Barry Usher reminded Mitchell that the hearing was not a joking matter.
After the hearing, 31 GOP 31 Republican lawmakers originally listed as co-sponsors withdrew their names.
Action – Tell the House Judiciary NO on HJ 11.
NO on SB 158 – Gun safety
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.
NO to HB 171, HB 136, HB 140, and HB 167, HB 229, and HB 337 – Anti-choice
HB 171, HB 136, HB 140, and HB 167 are attempts to restrict reproductive health care and make abortion impossible in Montana. For more context on these bills, click here to listen to an interview with Joey Banks, the chief medical officer for Planned Parenthood of Montana. He explains why full access to reproductive care is crucial for Montanans.
This article provides an overview of all of these anti-choice bills.
Action – Please contact your senators today and tell them to vote No on HB 136, HB 140, HB 167, and HB 171.
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 waiting for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee, so please contact the committee and your senator and say NO to HB 229.
HB 337 is a new bill attempting to redefine the word “person.” This would give a fertilized egg constitutional rights in order to ban access to abortion and possibly birth control.
Action — HB 337 will soon be up for debate on the House floor, so please contact your senator to say NO.
NO on Gov. Gianforte’s budget, SB 159 and HB 279 – Budget and tax cuts
Gov. Gianforte’s proposed tax cuts are bad for Montana, and especially for working families. The proposed cuts will bring no benefit for them, but the wealthiest Montanans will get 80% of the benefits. Former Montana tax and economic development experts say that this tax politics that benefit the wealthy aren’t good for our state. Read more here.
We’re featuring a couple of the tax bills below, 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 passed out of the Senate Taxation Committee this week. Please tell 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 is still waiting for a vote in the House Education Committee. Please contact the committee and your representative and tell them NO on HB 279.
NO to HB 244, YES to HB 335 – Death Penalty
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 had a hearing in the House Appropriations Committee this week, so please contact these members and your representative 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 is still waiting for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. We’ll let you know when to take action!
No HB 168, HB 251, and SB 89 – Attacks on 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 bills enact represent 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 The Montana Human Rights Network opposes this bill because “Right to Work” laws harm working families. Studies show that states with such policies have lower wages, higher rates of household poverty, and increased levels of consumer debt. “Right to Work” only benefits large corporations at the expense of workers. This bill had 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.
Questions about these bills or the legislative process? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.