MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 11
This is a crucial week for action on LGBTQ legislation! Many of these destructive bills have their final hearings or votes on the floor of the House and Senate, so we need more calls and emails to persuade legislators that these bills will harm Montana in many ways.
It’s important to give priority to bills impacting Indigenous sovereignty, voting rights, and safety, too.
Please keep up the pressure!
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.
One more way to oppose anti-LGBTQ legislation
Businesses and organizations – if you serve Montana, you can tell tell legislators NO to anti-LGBTQ bills by signing onto this statement. It clearly outlines how these bills hurt LGBTQ people and businesses that operate by the core values of fairness, equal treatment, opportunity, and inclusive practices.
NO to SB 215, SB 280 and the Discrimination by Design campaign
Please share the link to this report with your friends and family! We need every LGBTQ ally to send a message to the legislature that we won’t stay silent in the face of cruel bills that make life harder for Montanans who already face discrimination and harassment.
Here’s a great overview of the place we’re in right now. The groups supporting anti-LGBTQ legislation claim these bills aren’t about discrimination, but they have repeatedly tried to remove rights from LGBTQ Montanans.
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.
The big news this week was that opponents to HB 112 turned out in huge numbers to testify against this bill and HB 427. Members of the LGBTQ community, physicians, athletes , and university students showed up to support transgender people and reject the misinformation being spread by partisan and anti-LGBTQ groups on these bills.
Action – HB 112 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines and will likely have a Senate floor vote next week. Please contact your senator and say NO to HB 112.
HB 427 would prevent trans youth under 18 from getting gender-affirming surgery. This situation rarely happens, but bill sponsor Rep. John Fuller used the hearing on this bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week to spread misinformation about trans people and their medical needs.
Medical professionals have repeatedly rejected his talking points and testified about how passage of this bill will create barriers for any children to have any genital surgery and will make it harder to recruit medical providers to Montana.
Action – This bill was also approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines, and a floor vote in the Senate is expected next week. Please tell them and 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 passed out of the House Judiciary Committee with a vote along party lines. Governor Gianforte and Lt. Governor Kristen Juras have been lobbying legislators hard on this bill, so our pushback needs to be equally strong. This bill had a very close vote in the Senate, and public pressure could make a huge difference in the House.
Action – This bill is headed to the House floor next week. Please tell your representative to vote NO today and every day.
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 late next week. 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 had a hearing in House Education Committee and is waiting for executive action. Please tell the committee and your representative NO.
YES to HB 35, HB 36, HB 98 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
Good news on bills that address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people in Montana!
HB 35 would establish a missing persons review commission. This bill was overwhelmingly approved in the Senate on Friday, and heads back to the House for approval for amendments.
Action – Tell your House member to vote yes.
HB 36 establishes a missing persons response team training grant program. It passed its second reading in the Senate, and was referred to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.Action – Please tell that committee and your senator yes on this bill.
HB 98 will extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task force and the LINC (Looping in Native Communities) grant program. It passed its third reading in the Senate, and is now on its way to the governor’s desk!
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. Fortunately, SB 526 was tabled in the Senate Taxation Committee on Friday!
Action – SB 214 has a hearing in the House Taxation Committee on Wednesday, March 24. Tell this committee and your representative NO. Read more here on SB 214.
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. Great news on this bill! It was unanimously approved by the House State Administration Committee on Friday with some amendments that reduced the number of election offices in tribal nations.
Action – This bill should be going to the House floor for a vote soon. Please tell 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. It passed third reading in the Senate and is headed to the governor’s desk.
HB 223 would compel local law enforcement to play the part of federal immigration agents and could increase racial profiling across Montana. Please read this account of the harm that racial profiling is doing in Montana.
Action – HB 223 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Please tell your senator to say NO to this bill as it heads to the Senate floor..
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 narrowly passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee Please contact your senator and say NO.
HB 560 which have would prohibited state employees from enforcing federal gun laws, but it was tabled this week in the House Judiciary Committee.
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 170, which required annual voter list maintenance that could lead to voter list purges, passed out of the House and was sent to the governor’s desk.
SB 169 would require photo IDs to register to vote and vote in person. It passed out of the House State Administration Committee this week with some modifications, so tell your House member 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. This bill is scheduled for a hearing on Monday, March 22, so please tell the Senate State Administration Committee and your senator NO.
No to HB 279, HB 633, and SB 99 – Attacks on public schools
The Religious Right is attacking the basic rights of many Montanans this session. They’ve targeted LGBTQ rights, reproductive choice, and now they’re trying to undermine public schools.
HB 279 is a proposal to increase the Montana Tax Credit Scholarship Program from a tax credit of $150 to an unbelievable $200,000. This bill burdens the state as wealthy folks receive more tax cuts which deplete funds available for our public schools. We know that many religious schools, like the one that Gov. Gianforte helped found in Bozeman, have refused to provide support services for students with special needs. Any measure that moves towards privatization and away from educating ALL students should be rejected.
Action – Tell the House Education Committee and your representative NO on this bill.
HB 633 is an attempt to establish charter schools using taxpayer funds. It’s very possible that these schools could promote specific religious beliefs, exclude LGBTQ students and families, and refuse to offer resources for special needs or gifted students. Similar bills in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 failed. Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is a supporter of this bill, and also supported charter school bills in 2013 and 2015.
SB 99 is another bill supported by the Religious Right. See details above, under the anti-LGBTQ Discrimination by Design bills.
NO to HB 229 and HB 337 – Anti-choice bills
Two anti-choice bills need immediate attention! Legislators have passed four harmful bills this session, and these are two more attacking reproductive choice in Montana.
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 attempts to redefine the word “person.” This would give a fertilized egg constitutional rights in order to ban access to abortion and possibly birth control. This bill passed through the House and is on its way to the Senate, so please tell them 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 – Is scheduled to have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. Please tell them 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.
Action – SB 159 and SB 182 are waiting for executive action in the House Taxation Committee.
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.