MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 13
This week in the Montana Legislature was rough, with the rejection of the Indigenous Voting Rights Act, HB 613, and the passage of Montana’s version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, SB 215.
There were a couple of bright spots in the week, so please keep up the emails and phone calls. It’s important that we keep moving forward and letting our legislators know that it’s okay for Montanans to have diverse opinions on important issues.
The legislators are on break for a few days, but there are more bills on economic justice, LGBTQ issues, and reproductive rights that we can speak to. Let’s use our freedom of speech to speak up for safety, equity, and justice 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.
Thank you to businesses and organizations opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation!
Last week, more than 300 businesses and organizations across Montana said no to anti-LGBTQ bills that have been working their way through the legislature! Big national corporations like American Airlines and small businesses like Tree Hugger Soap Company in Dillon are signed onto a statement that tells legislators how anti-LGBTQ legislation is bad for businesses and even worse for the lives of their valued employees.
Please check out the list to see which businesses are invested in a more diverse and equitable Montana. If you’d like to add your business or organization to the list, click here.
NO to SB 280 and HB 427, YES to the amendment on HB 112
To all LGBTQ and especially transgender, nonbinary and Two Spirit community members, we want to send you a lot of love. You have been courageous during this legislative session. We see you, we see what’s happening, and we are going to keep fighting for your rights.
Discussion on the floor vote for HB 112 in the Senate and SB 215 in the House were awful, as expected. Senator Matt Regier opened his statement with a quote from Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, and legislators repeatedly ignored testimony from LGBTQ legislators and Montanans about how this bill would impact their lives.
These bills are part of a coordinated effort across the country to normalize anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation. It’s crucial that we keep sending legislators 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 29-21. However, an amendment nullifying the bill if the US Department of Education gives Montana consequences for violating Title IX on the basis sex discrimination has to be approved by the House. Please contact your House member and say YES to the amendment for 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 could have a floor vote in the Senate soon. Please tell your senators NO.
SB 280 would force transgender people to have surgery and get a court order before changing the gender marker on their birth certificate.
Action – This passed out of the House Judiciary Committee by a vote of 12-7 and should be scheduled for a floor hearing soon. Please tell 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.
SB 215 establishes the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which allows 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. An amendment to protect the Montana Human Rights Act and local non-discrimination ordinances failed by a vote of 47-53 on the House floor. The bill passed the House 59-38 and is on its way to the Governor to be signed. Governor Gianforte and Lt. Governor Juras lobbied legislators hard on this bill.
YES to HB 36 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
Bills that address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women have had a lot o so please make sure you prioritize this action.
Action – This bill is going back to the Senate for approval of???, and then is expected to be signed by the governor.
YES to HB 36 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
Bills that address the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women have had a lot of bipartisan support at every point in the legislative process. Let’s give HB 36 support as it nears the finish line!
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.
Tribal sovereignty – SB 214 defeated
SB 214 was an attempt to revise tax exemptions for private land that is being reclaimed and added to tribal trust lands. A similar bill like this was tabled in committee, and this bill was tabled in the House Taxation Committee this week. Montana’s tribal nations have repeatedly spoken out against this bill and two others like it this session, so we are relived to see it finished.
Indigenous voting rights failed to pass
HB 613 is the Montana Native American Voting Rights Act, which would make it easier for Indigenous people to vote. This bill had a great deal of support through the legislative process, only to be voted down on third reading in the House, 48-51.
Losing these protections for Indigenous voters is difficult to face, especially considering how many voter suppression bills have passed. Here is a statement from Keaton Sunchild, Political Director of Western Native Voice.
NO to 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 406 is the last of the voter suppression laws left in the process. All others, which include SB 169, SB 170, and HB 176, have all passed. HB 406 attempts to place new restrictions on absentee ballot collection that would directly impact Native voters.
Action – This bill is waiting for executive action from the Senate State Administration Committee. Please tell this committee and your senator NO.
No to 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, the Senate Finance and Claims Committee added the funding back into the state budget.
Action – Please tell the Senate Finance and Claims Committee and your senator to keep funding for refugee resettlement in the budget.
NO to SB 100 – 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.
Action – This bill had a hearing scheduled in the House Human Services Committee on Tuesday and is waiting for executive action. Click here to send a message to the House Human Services Committee and tell them NO to Senate Bill 100.
We are relieved that HB 676 was tabled in committee. It would have made multiple changes to CHIP and Medicaid that would increase the number of uninsured children in Montana and further complicate DPHHS’s ability to verify information.
Thank you to Montana Women Vote for their leadership in opposing these bills.
No to HB 279 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 hearing in the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday. Please tell your representative NO on HB 279.
HB 633 was tabled in the House Education Committee, possibly due to the fiscal note. This bill was an attempt to establish charter schools using taxpayer funds. It’s very possible that these schools would 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.
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 had a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, and is awaiting executive action. 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 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a narrow 6-5 vote. Please tell your senator to vote 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.
Action – SB 159 is waiting for executive action in the House Taxation Committee.
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 – This bill passed the House Taxation Committee with a 12-6 vote, and should have a floor vote in the future. Please tell your House member NO.
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 passed its 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
HB 176 will eliminate same-day voter registration and end late voter registration at noon the day before Election Day. It passed third reading in the House on Tuesday. NO
HB 258 would prohibit enforcement of any federal regulations regarding firearms in Montana. This bill passed the Senate and should be on its way to the governor’s desk. NO