MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 12
We’re still running the legislative marathon!
Thank you, thank you to everyone who is still writing and calling your legislators. This report adds up the number of messages that legislators have received through the Capitol switchboard and online mail form. It’s clear that you’ve been busy!
Here’s one example. For HB 112, the bill that would ban trans youth from participating in sports, more than 2, 145 people sent messages opposing the bill, and 853 were in favor.
Please keep up the amazing work! Each message is important as we remind legislators that Montana values are built on caring for our neighbors and creating opportunity for everyone.
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, HB 112, and HB 427 and the Discrimination by Design campaign
The dates for final votes for these bills have changed a couple of times, and we’re trying to keep everyone updated via Facebook posts and email action items. Given the information we have at the moment, we’re anticipating that floor votes on HB 112, HB 427, and SB 215 will happen early this week. See the listing for each bill for more information.
These bills are part of a coordinated effort across the country to normalize anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation. It’s crucial to keep sending the message that everyone has the right to feel safe in Montana.
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 youth more confidence, better mental and physical health, and affirmation that they are valued members of their school.
Action – HB 112 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee along party lines and may have a Senate floor vote on Tuesday. 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 is already heavily restricted, but bill sponsor Rep. John Fuller used the hearing on this bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee to spread misinformation about trans people and justify unnecessary restrictions on surgical care.
Action – This bill is also likely to have floor vote in the Senate early this week. Please 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.
Governor Gianforte and Lt. Governor Kristen Juras have been lobbying legislators hard on this bill, so please make sure you prioritize this action.
Action – This bill is also headed for a vote on 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 should have a vote in the House Judiciary Committee early this week, and could move to a floor vote soon after. 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 – This bill is waiting for a vote on the House floor. Please tell your representative NO.
YES to HB 36 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
Bills that address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women have had a lot of support at every point in the legislative process. Let’s give this bill support during its final vote.
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.
NO to SB 214 – Tribal sovereignty
SB 214 is an attempt to remove tax exemptions for private land that is being reclaimed and added to tribal trust lands. Montana’s tribal nations have repeatedly spoken out against this bill and two others like it this session.
Action – SB 214 had a hearing in the House Taxation Committee and is waiting for a vote. 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.
Action – This bill is scheduled for a second reading on the House floor on Monday. Please tell your representative YES.
No to HB 121 and SB 108 – Militia ideology and health boards
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 authority instead of health board members with specialized knowledge and medical training.
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.
Action – SB 108 is waiting for action from the House Business and Labor Committee. Please tell them and your representative NO.
YES to federal funding for refugee resettlement programs
Earlier this session, $390,000 in federal funding for refugee resettlement programs was removed from the budget. 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 tell the Senate Finance and Claims Committee and your senator that you support funding for refugee resettlement.
NO to SB 100 and HB 676 – Economic justice
SB 100 would make it more difficult for Montanans to qualify for public assistance programs, leading to low-income folks losing their healthcare or SNAP benefits, even if they’re eligible for those programs.
HB 676 makes multiple changes to CHIP and Medicaid. This bill would increase the number of uninsured children in Montana and further complicate DPHHS’s ability to verify information, making access to health coverage more difficult for both children and adults.
Both SB 100 and HB 676 leave Montana families, hospitals and providers, and communities vulnerable to loss of coverage and services, uncompensated care, and worsening health outcomes.
NO to HB 258 – 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 has one more reading on the Senate floor. Please contact your senator and say NO.
NO to HB 176 and 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.
HB 176 would eliminate same-day voter registration and end late voter registration at noon the day before Election Day. It passed the Senate and is scheduled for its second reading in the House with amendments. Please tell your representative NO.
HB 406 attempts to place new restrictions on absentee ballot collection. This bill is waiting for executive action from the Senate State Administration Committee. Please tell this 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 – This bill passed its second reading in the House and was referred to the House Appropriations Committee on Friday. Tell this committee and your representative NO on HB 279.
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.
More discussion is ahead. According to the Daily Montanan, “A legal review of the bill notes a potential constitutional conflict. It said the bill exempts public charter schools from the Board of Public Education’s teacher certification requirements.” A fiscal note indicates that if three charter elementary schools and one charter high school were started by fiscal year 2023, that could cost the state general fund $1.1 million in 2023 and $2.2 million in 2025.
Bill sponsor Ed Hill has filed a rebuttal to the fiscal note, which you can read here.
Action – HB 633 is waiting for executive action in the House Education Committee. Tell them and your representative NO.
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. It passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, so please tell 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 is scheduled for a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, March 31, so please contact the committee and your senator and 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 – This bill should have a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. 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.
Action – This bill is scheduled for second reading in the House on Monday. Please tell your representative NO.
Bills recently passed
Here’s a recap of bills that passed their floor votes and are headed to the governor’s desk. Our position on each of these bills is indicated with a YES or NO.
HB 35 will establish a missing persons review commission in order to address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people. YES
HB 98 will extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task force and the LINC (Looping in Native Communities) grant program. YES
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 passed its third reading on Thursday. NO
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. NO
HB 223 would compel local law enforcement to play the part of federal immigration agents and could increase racial profiling across Montana. This bill passed its third reading in the Senate. After approval of amendments, this should soon pass to the governor. NO
SB 169 would require photo IDs to register to vote and vote in person. It passed third reading in the House with amendments, and now the Senate has to approve those amendments. NO
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. NO