MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 9
Transmittal Break Update
We’re at transmittal! Legislators are heading home after considering and voting on a massive amount of proposed legislation. Bills that did not pass out of the chamber where they originated (from House to Senate or vice versa) are now dead. The bills that made it over this threshold are still in action, and we’ll help you respond.
This summary is the Dead or Alive update. We’ll let you know what legislation didn’t make it through, and which bills we need to support or resist as they move through the rest of the session.
The legislators are on a break for a few days, but you can use that time to write them to support or vote against the bills you care about.
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.
Bills still alive
Discrimination by Design bills
Certain legislators have used these bills to spread misinformation about transgender, nonbinary and Two Spirit Montanans. Here are the bills that still need our attention.
HB 112 would prevent transgender youth from participating in school sports. Across the country, there is no proof of problems when transgender girls participate in sports. Please tell the Senate Judiciary Committee NO on this bill.
HB 427 would prevent trans youth under 18 from getting gender-affirming surgery. This situation rarely happens, but bill sponsor Rep. John Fuller is using hearings on this bill and HB 112 to spread misinformation about trans people and their medical needs. Tell your senators NO.
SB 215 would 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. This bill barely passed the Senate, so please tell the House Judiciary Committee NO.
SB 280 would force transgender people have surgery and get a court order before changing the gender marker on their birth certificate.
SB 99 would prevent access to accurate sex education and ban qualified medical providers from offering sex education. This bill could possibly classify any mention of human sexuality or gender identity as sex education. Tell the House Education Committee NO.
Indigenous safety and sovereignty
HB 613 is the Montana Native American Voting Rights Act, which would make it easier for Indigenous people to vote. This is now an appropriations bill, which means it can be considered after the transmittal. Tell your representative YES.
Militia ideology and health boards
HB 121 would remove power from the nonpartisan public health experts on county health boards and give it to partisan members of county commissions. This bill is a compilation of several similar bills which had hearings and time for public testimony, but this bill did not have a hearing in its final form. We are concerned not only about the impact of this bill, but the fact that this seems to bypass public comment and normal process. Please tell your senator NO.
HB 144 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.
HB 200 would prohibit sanctuary cities in Montana, even though none currently exist. Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and your senator NO.
HB 223 would compel local law enforcement to play the part of federal immigration agents. Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and your senator NO.
SB 169 would require photo IDs to register to vote and vote in person. Tell the House State Administration Committee No.
SB 170 would require annual voter list maintenance. This could lead to list purges that remove people from voter registration lists. 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 absentee ballot collection. Tell your senator NO.
HB 455 attacks the absentee ballot process by complicating the system in several ways.
GOP legislators came out of the gate determined to create more barriers to reproductive care in Montana. HB 171, HB 136, HB 140, and HB 167 all passed through both chambers and are headed for approval by the governor. Here’s an overview of these bills.
HB 229 would prevent insurance policies obtained through the Affordable Care Act exchange from covering abortion. Tell the Senate Judiciary Committee and your senator NO.
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. Please contact your senator to say NO.
HB 244 would change the requirements for drugs used for lethal injections so a broader range of drugs could be used for executions. Please tell the Senate Judiciary Committee NO.
HB 258 would prohibit the federal ban or regulation of firearms in Montana. 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.
Budget and revenue
These bills have one theme in common: lowering taxes for the wealthy and cutting much-needed revenue for important state programs. Please tell the House Taxation Committee NO on all of these bills.
SB 159– This bill would lower 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.
SB 182 will trigger more tax cuts to wealthy Montanans based on state revenue levels. Please tell the House Taxation Committee NO.
SB 184 cuts certain capital gains taxes, which benefits wealthy investors, not workers.
These bills are no longer moving forward because they were voted down, tabled, or withdrawn by their sponsors. Too many good bills died, but we are relieved to see the end of a few bad proposals.
Discrimination by Design
SB 245 would have created a medical right of conscience which could allow professionals to deny care to LGBTQ people.
SB 259 would have prevented youth from privacy when getting health care. This could have prevented LGBTQ youth from getting the mental or other health care that they need.
SB 282 would also have allowed parents to direct health care of children 18 and under and forced the release of medical records to parents. This could have been be devastating to children suffering from abuse or rejection from parents because of their place in the LGBTQ community.
The big victory this week was the defeat of several anti-union bills, including HB 251, the “Right to Work” law. Similar legislation has driven down pay and benefits for workers. This bill didn’t pass second reading on the House floor.
HB 168, which tried to restrict the collection of union dues and fees, was tabled in committee and SB 89, which also pertained to union dues, did not pass the second reading in the Senate.
Indigenous safety and sovereignty
SB 371, which would have repealed the carefully-negotiated Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes – Montana Compact was tabled in the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Accountability for militia groups
HB 458 would have prevented armed militia and so-called “Patriot” groups from patrolling public events and claiming to be coordinating with legitimate law enforcement officers. This was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee.
HJ 11 This bill sponsored by Rep. Braxton Mitchell would have labeled antifa as a domestic terrorist organization, even though there are no incidents involving antifa in Montana. This was tabled in the House Judiciary Committee on February 25. There was controversy about this bill because Rep. Mitchell “joked” about this bill being bipartisan, and he rejected the proposal to add other violent extremist groups like the Proud Boys to this list.
Say goodbye to HB 455, which attacked the absentee ballot process by complicating the system in several ways. It was tabled in the House State Administration Committee.
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.
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.
HB 570, which would allow the state to nullify federal laws it deems unconstitutional, was voted down in Sponsor Derek Skees attempted to bring similar legislation 10 years ago, which also failed. At that time, Garrett Epps, a law professor at the University of Baltimore (now retired) said, “This is crackpot stuff with a very disreputable history. It makes as much sense as saying the Legislature can repeal the law of gravity or say that pi equals three.”