MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – WEEK 14
The flood of hearings is slowing to a more manageable pace this week, but there’s still plenty of issues to watch. Thank you to everyone who is keeping up and sending messages each week. It’s important to keep moving even when things are rough.
Yes, this session has been rough. The legislators are feeling it, too. If you’re fortunate to have a legislator who supports the same issues that you do, please take a few minutes to thank them for their service. Gratitude goes a long way during uncertain times.
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.
Last chance to say NO to HB 112 and SB 280 – Rights for transgender community members
HB 112 went through its third reading in the Senate and is waiting for approval of amendments in the House. This bill, which would ban transgender youth — specifically transgender girls — from playing school sports, had an amendment added which would make the bill “void on the date that the office for civil rights of the United States department of education [sic] issues a letter of impending enforcement action due to the enforcement of [this act].”
Action – Please tell your representative YES on the amendment, which will have a vote on Monday afternoon. We are hoping that the Department of Education acts quickly after this bill is enacted.
SB 280 had a second reading on the House floor and passed. Representative Kim Abbot had a powerful statement (starting at 12:54:20) about privacy for medical information, safety for transgender people if their documents don’t match, and the benefits of making the change of gender markers simple for people.
Action – Third reading for SB 280 is scheduled for Monday afternoon on the House floor. It will probably pass, but please take a moment to tell your representative NO on this bill.
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.
Why is there so much anti-LGBTQ legislation?
One answer is that Governor Gianforte has made very large donations to organizations with a clear anti-LGBTQ agenda, and many legislators have his support. Another is that the Religious Right, which was created as a partisan movement to gain and sustain political power, continues to motivate much of the Montana Republican Party, including many legislators.
According to this Montana Press Monthly article, here are the Gianforte Family Foundation donations:
$725,000 to Focus on the Family between 2007 to 2018
$119,000 to the Family Research Council between 2007 to 2018
$283,500 to Alliance Defending Freedom between 2008 to 2018
In Montana, they donated nearly $2 million between 2005 and 2018 to the Montana Family Foundation and its partner organization, the Montana Family Institute. Both are the leading Religious Right groups in the state.
The wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation in Montana is part of a larger coordinated campaign that’s happening across the nation. We are very lucky to have amazing transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit organizers who have been having important conversations with people to stop this legislation. We’re going to keep fighting!
Thank you to businesses and organizations opposing anti-LGBTQ legislation!
In March, more than 350 businesses and organizations across Montana said no to anti-LGBTQ bills that have been working their way through the legislature! If you’d like to add your business or organization to the list, click here. Lots of people asked us for the list so they know which local businesses they can support!
YES to HB 36 – Indigenous safety and sovereignty
HB 36 establishes a missing persons response team training grant program that would help address the missing and murdered Indigenous women and people crisis. It passed its second reading in the Senate, and was referred to the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.
Action – This bill is waiting for executive action, so please tell that committee and your senator yes on this bill.
Tribal sovereignty – NO to SB 214
SB 214 is 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 last week. Unfortunately, it was revived in the committee and is back in action. Montana’s tribal nations have repeatedly spoken out against this bill and two others like it this session, so we need to take action!
Action – Tell your representative NO on SB 214.
NO to HB 406 – Voter suppression
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.
An amendment to this bill outlines a mail-in or absentee ballot collection process that appears to be restricted to family members and has several strict requirements for family members bringing another person’s ballot to a collection box.
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 is another measure to undermine the ability of county health boards to address public-health crises like the current pandemic. It lays out a process whereby community members can overturn public-health directives meant to keep our communities safe. Anti-government groups have routinely pushed for this type of situation.
Action – SB 108 passed its second reading in the House by a vote of 66-34, and will have a third reading next week. Please tell your representative NO.
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. New analysis of SB 100 estimates that about 22,000 Medicaid and CHIP beneficiaries would be harmed by the loss of 12 month continuous eligibility policies each year.
Action – This bill had a hearing in the House Human Services Committee 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. Thank you to Montana Women Vote and the Montana Budget and Policy Center for their leadership on this bill.
No to amendments on SB 278 – Protect non-profit organizations
Last-minute amendments to SB 278 would add regulations for non-profit organizations that do not match the federal 501(c)(3) guidelines. The amendment would also tax nonprofits for challenging or supporting a “government action” and force non-profits to make the names of any donor giving more than $50 public.
As drafted, the definition of “government action” could include activity such as lobbying to address or change current law, addressing local ordinances, and interacting with administration around policies or rules that may impact a broad segment of the population.
Action – Ask your senator to say NO to the amendments to SB 278.
No to HB 279 – Attack 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 the House and is now headed for the Senate. Please tell your senator NO on HB 279.
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 passed out of the Senate Judiciary Committee with a 7-4 vote and is headed to the Senate floor on Monday. Please contact 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 and should be heading to the Senate floor soon. Please tell your senator to vote NO.
No to SB 159 and SB 182 – 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 have lowered the top income tax rate from 6.9% to 6.75%. This bill was tabled in the House Taxation Committee after receiving amendments and three fiscal notes.
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 its second reading in the House and was referred to the House Appropriations Committee. Please tell that committee and your House member 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
SB 99 would prevent access to accurate sex education and ban qualified medical providers from offering sex education. This bill passed third reading on Friday. 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. NO
HB 613 is the Montana Native American Voting Rights Act, which would make it easier for Indigenous people to vote. YES
SB 184 cuts certain capital gains taxes, which benefits wealthy investors, not workers. NO