MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 10
The tenth week of the legislative session just wrapped up! The schedule is slowing just a bit because new non-revenue bills can’t be introduced. However, the sense of urgency is increasing as bills impacting LGBTQ community members, Indigenous people, and the budget keep moving ahead.
Please take a few minutes to write or call your legislators and tell them your perspective on these bills. Your voice matters!
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
Crucial hearings and floor votes are coming up next week. Please say no to these anti-LGBTQ bills and get a few friends to contact their legislators, too.
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.
More than 20 people testified against this bill, but Lieutenant Governor Kristen Juras spoke in favor of it on behalf of Governor Greg Gianforte. During the hearing, it appears that committee members broke decorum by reacting in a positive way to someone giving testimony about LGBTQ people considering leaving Montana.
Representative Donavon Hawk objected. From the Montana Free Press: “‘I would just like to say that if I can give my representatives in the committee respect in listening to our people, I would hope that we just couldn’t sit here and snicker while people are making testimony,’ Hawk said. He later confirmed in a phone interview that he was speaking in response to behavior by Hinkle and Phalen.”
Action – This bill is waiting for executive action from the House Judiciary Committee, and it could go to the floor quickly. Urge the committee and your representative to vote NO.
SB 280 would force transgender people have surgery and get a court order before changing the gender marker on their birth certificate.
Action – This bill has a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 23. Please tell this committee and your representative NO on SB 280.
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.
Action – It has a hearing in House Education Committee on Monday, March 15. Please tell the committee and your representative NO.
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.
Action – This bill is waiting for action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please tell them and your senators 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 – Please contact your senator and the Senate Judiciary Committee and say NO to HB 112.
Attend the Rainbow Rally at noon on Monday, March 15
This session has been rough for the LGBTQ community. Every week they’ve had to hear state leaders amplify misinformation and harmful stereotypes about LGBTQ Montanans and deny that discrimination toward them exists.
We’re throwing a Rainbow Rally with the Free and Fair Coalition at noon at the Capitol in Helena on Monday! We want to let the LGBTQ community know we see them, we believe them, and we support them. Bring LGBTQ-positive signs and wear rainbows! Masks are required for this socially-distanced event.
YES to HB 35, HB 36, HB 98 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
There are three bills that address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous People in Montana.
HB 35 would establish a missing persons review commission.
HB 36, which establishes a missing persons response team training grant program.
HB 98 will extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task force and the LINC (Looping in Native Communities) grant program.
Action – All three bills will also be considered in the Senate soon, so please tell your senator to vote YES.
NO to SB 214 and HB 526 – Tribal sovereignty
Last month, we thought attempts to remove tax exemptions for private land that is being reclaimed and added to tribal trust lands had been blocked. The Senate Taxation Committee rejected SB 138, but SB 214 and SB 526 have the same objective. This is a tribal sovereignty issue. Read more here on SB 214.
Tell your representative NO on SB 214. This bill should be assigned to a House committee soon.
Tell the Senate Taxation Committee NO on HB 526 because you agree with Montana’s sovereign tribal nations, the Governor’s Coordinator for Indian Affairs, and the Department of Revenue, which are opposing HB 526.
YES to HB 613 – Indigenous voting rights
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 deadline.
Action – This bill is waiting for executive action in the House State Administration Committee. Please tell them and your representative YES.
No to HB 121 and SB 108 – 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.
SB 108 weakens the authority of county health boards and officers by restricting them to recommendations (not directives) on public-health measures. County commissions would be given final approval instead of health board members with specialized knowledge.
Anti-government groups have routinely pushed for exactly this type of shift to give more power to the county commission, which they view as the highest legitimate level of government.
HB 121 has a hearing in the Senate Business, Labor, and Economic Affairs Committee on Friday, March 19. Please tell that committee and your senator NO on this bill.
SB 108 is waiting for action from the House Business and Labor Committee. Please tell them and your representative NO.
NO to HB 200 and HB 223 – Anti-immigration bills
HB 200 would prohibit sanctuary cities in Montana, even though none currently exist. This bill would fine cities that do not take part in federal immigration issues.
HB 223 would compel local law enforcement to play the part of federal immigration agents and could increase racial profiling across Montana.
HB 200 will be debated on the Senate floor before facing a vote on Monday. Please tell your senator NO.
HB 223 is waiting for executive action in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please tell them and your senator NO.
YES to federal funding for refugee resettlement programs
So far, the legislature has rejected $390,000 in federal funding for refugee resettlement programs. This funding is available at no cost to the state or municipalities, and it has provided critical resources for jobs and support mechanisms for recently arrived refugees. Thanks to the hard work of the International Rescue Committee and Soft Landing Missoula, we are optimistic that we can restore this funding, but we need your help.
Action – Please contact the House Appropriations Committee and tell them you support funding for refugee resettlement.
NO to HB 258 and HB 560 – Gun safety
HB 258 would prohibit enforcement of any federal regulations regarding firearms in Montana. Gary Marbut, leader of the pro-militia extremist group the Montana Shooting Sports Association, and his supporters have been rallying support for this bill.
Action – This bill is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, March 16. Please contact this committee and your senator and say NO.
HB 560 is a similar bill, which would prohibit state employees from enforcing federal gun laws.
Action – This bill is waiting for a vote on the House floor, so please tell your representative NO.
NO to SB 169, SB 170, HB 176, HB 406 – Voter suppression
An inclusive democracy should make it easier for people to exercise their right to vote. Instead, legislators are creating barriers to voting for first-time voters, college students, people who move frequently, Indigenous people, and people who work long hours.
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 your representative NO.
HB 176 would eliminate same-day voter registration and end late voter registration at noon the day before Election Day. Please tell the Senate State Administration Committee and your senator NO.
HB 406 attempts to place new restrictions on absentee ballot collection. Please tell the Senate State Administration Committee and your senator NO.
NO to HB 229 and HB 337 – Anti-choice bills
Four anti-choice bills have passed through to the governor’s desk, but there are two more bills that need our attention.
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 representative to say NO.
NO to HB 244 – 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. This change is happening because the drugs that were previously used for fast, pain-free executions have been discontinued by their manufacturers.
Action – Please tell the Senate Judiciary Committee NO.
No to SB 159, SB 182, and SB 184 – Budget and revenue
These bills have one theme in common: lowering taxes for the wealthy and cutting much-needed revenue for important state programs. You can read more here.
SB 159 would lower the top income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%. That means that 79% of the benefit will go to the wealthiest 20% of households and drop more than $30 million in revenue from the general fund per year. That will probably lead to drastic cuts in vital services and infrastructure in Montana.
SB 182 will trigger more tax cuts to wealthy Montanans based on state revenue levels. This bill will have serious repercussions that could last for years.
SB 184 cuts certain capital gains taxes, which benefits wealthy investors, not workers. This will not help Montana recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic.
Action – Please tell the House Taxation Committee NO on all of these bills.