MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 8
The pace at the Montana Legislature isn’t slowing down. As we get closer to transmittal next week, legislators are pushing bills through as fast as they can, so a lot of dangerous legislation is on the table.
Several bills haven’t moved forward since last week because we’re hitting the transmittal deadline, which is Wednesday, March 3. Bills need to cross from the chamber where they originated (from House to Senate or vice versa) by this date. If you’re not seeing action on bills that crossed to the other chamber earlier this month, that’s probably because legislators know they have time to act on them during the second half of the session.
Please take a few minutes to make comments on these bills. There’s a good chance that we can kill some of the really terrible ones this week.
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 to SB 215, SB 280 and the Discrimination by Design campaigns
Legislators should be using their time focusing on Montana’s economy, but they’re attacking LGBTQ people instead. We’re calling their efforts the Discrimination by Design campaign. Please email your legislators every day on one of these bills. Top priorities are SB 215 and SB 280!
You can read more about these bills here.
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.
We are very close to getting enough votes to defeat this bill, but we need senators to know they have support from across the state to vote NO. Please email your senator, then email each of these men. Click here to get their emails.
Sen. Jason Small, SD 42, Busby
Sen. Bruce Gillespie, SD 9, Ethridge
Sen. Brian Hoven, SD 13, Great Falls
Sen. Terry Gauthier, SD 40, Helena
SB 280 This bill, which is sponsored by the same legislator as SB 215 (Sen. Carl Glimm), would force transgender people to have surgery and go through a court process before their birth certificate could be changed to their correct gender.
At its hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, the bill had one supporter and 11 opponents. Opponents testified clearly about the harm this bill would do to transgender Montanans, but it still passed 7-4. Click here to read more about the hearing.
Action – SB 280 moves to the Senate floor, so tell your senator NO on this bill.
HB 427 is a revised version of HB 113, which proposed denying health care to transgender youth. The revised bill denies surgical care for trans youth, who rarely get surgery, but when they do, it’s often needed to help correct severe dysphoria. This bill denies the fact the trans youth have a whole team of people helping them make important decisions about their health.
Action – HB 427 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday, so please contact that committee to say NO.
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 – While we wait to hear about a date for a vote, contact your senator to say NO to HB 112.
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 – SB 99 is scheduled for a hearing in the House Education Committee in March. Please tell that committee NO.
Yes on SB 94, SB 146, HB 613 – Indigenous sovereignty
The Indigenous People’s Day bills are still alive! 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 earlier this month. Action could happen any day, so please contact this committee and your senator to say YES to SB 94 and SB 146.
HB 613 is the Montana Native American Voting Rights Act. This bill would make it easier for Indigenous people to vote by establishing permanent satellite offices on tribal lands and clarifying requirements around tribal IDs used for voting. Indigenous organizations have been working hard for years to keep removing the hurdles that prevent people in Native communities from voting.
Here’s an article with more information.
Action – Tell the House State Administration Committee YES on HB 613.
LC 2809 – This bill sponsored by Bob Keenan to repeal the CSKT water compact was tabled in the Senate Natural Resources Committee!
NO on HB 121, HB 236, HB 216, and SB 108 – Militia ideology removing authority from health boards
There were several bills in process that took authority away from county health boards and gave it to county commissioners or local sheriffs. It appears that legislators have combined the features of some of these bills and revised HB 121.
MHRN is concerned about these bills because a key component of militia ideology is the supremacy of elected county officials like the county sheriff and county commissioners.
Updates and action items
HB 121 removes power from the nonpartisan public health experts on county health boards and gives it to partisan members of county commissions. This bill passed a second reading in the House and is scheduled for a third reading on Monday. Please tell your representative NO. Here’s more information on HB 121.
HB 144, which would allow sheriffs to refuse to assist health officers without penalty. This bill is waiting for a vote in the Senate, so please contact your senator and say NO.
NO on SB 258 – Gun safety
HB 258 was revived after being tabled earlier this month. This bill would prohibit the federal ban or regulation of firearms in Montana. Passed its third reading in the House, so please contact your senator and say NO.
HB 560 is a similar bill, which would prohibit state employees from enforcing federal gun laws. This bill passed the House Judiciary Committee, so please tell them and your House member NO.
SB 158, which would have allowed legislators to carry concealed weapons on the floor of the legislative chambers, narrowly failed on its third reading in the Senate. Thank you to all of you who wrote to your senators on this bill!
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 seem 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. This bill is waiting for action in the Senate State Administration Committee, so please tell that committee and your senator NO on this bill.
HB 176 would eliminate same-day voter registration and end late voter registration at 5pm on the day before Election Day. This bill is waiting for action in the Senate State Administration Committee, so please tell that committee and your senator NO on this bill.
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. This bill passed its second reading in the House and has a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Monday. Please tell that committee and your representative NO on HB 406.
HB 455 was tabled in the House State Administration Committee. This bill was an attack on the absentee ballot process. We’ll let you know if it is revived later.
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 anti-choice bills that were approved in the Senate this week. HB 167 needs the House to approve an amendment, but the rest are headed for the governor’s signature. This article provides an overview of these anti-choice bills.
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.
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.
NO to HB 200 and 223 – Immigration
These two bills are waiting for action on the floor of the Senate while a flood of other bills are moving through the legislature. 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
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
NO on Gov. Gianforte’s budget, SB 159, SB 184, and SB 184 – 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 and is headed to the House. Please tell your representative NO on SB 159.
SB 182 will trigger more tax cuts to wealthy Montanans based on state revenue levels. Similar laws in other states have been detrimental and left those states unable to pay for basic public services, like K-12 education and roads.
Action – Please contact the House Taxation Committee to say NO to this bill.
SB 184 cuts certain capital gains taxes, which benefits wealthy investors, not workers.
Action – This bill is also waiting for a vote in the House Taxation Committee. Please say no.
Yes on HB 458 and HJ 12, No on HJ 11 – Accountability for militias
HB 458 was meant to deter militia and so-called patriot groups from showing up at public events and claiming 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 bill was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.
HJ 12 was 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. After a tense hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, this bill was tabled.
It was unfortunate to see committee members refuse to acknowledge the attempts by white nationalist to intimidate Montanans and radicalize more people to their extremist beliefs. You can read information here.
HJ 11, which attempted to classify antifa as a domestic terrorist group, was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee after 31 GOP 31 Republican lawmakers originally listed as co-sponsors withdrew their names.
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 – Passed the House by a 56-42 vote and was assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please tell that committee NO.
HB 335 would have ended the death penalty in Montana and replaced it with life in prison without possibility of parole, but this was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.
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.