MHRN LEGISLATIVE SESSION SUMMARY – Closing remarks
The 2021 Montana Legislative Session was one of the most complicated and contentious in anyone’s memory. At every turn, GOP legislators made the everyday decisions more difficult, from COVID-19 prevention to basic rights for Indigenous and LGBTQ Montanans.
All of us at the Montana Human Rights Network want to take a moment to thank the legislators who served with civility, integrity, and compassion during this difficult time. We are also grateful for everyone who called, emailed or texted their legislators, even when it seemed that our voices were being ignored.
The GOP seemed determined to push through every horrible bill that had been rejected in the past decade, but we still had some significant wins. This article has a good summary of the entire session. Please read on for our overview of the victories we are proud of during this overwhelming session.
Victories for the LGBTQ community
HB 113/HB 427
The defeat of these bills, which would have banned or restricted necessary and affirming care for transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit youth, is a huge relief. Similar bills passed in other states, and we are grateful to all of the transgender people and medical professionals who spoke up to reject this bill. Senator Bryce Bennett also deserves a lot of praise for his part in making sure HB 427 was indefinitely postponed.
Businesses rejecting anti-LGBTQ bills
In March, more than 350 businesses and organizations across Montana said no to anti-LGBTQ bills that had been proposed. These businesses clearly communicated why anti-LGBTQ legislation was bad for Montana and spoke up so locals know which businesses support the LGBTQ community. If you’d like to add your business or organization to the list, click here.
Victories for Indigenous people
HB 35, HB 98, and SB 4 will help create missing persons teams or panels that can respond more effectively when Indigenous people disappear from their communities. These bills had wide, bipartisan support due to the efforts of Indigenous organizers who have been working for years to end the crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous people.
Victories for economic justice
SB 100 defeated
Thanks to the hard work of organizers from Montana Women Vote and the Montana Budget and Policy Center, SB 100 was tabled. This bill would have made 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 were eligible for those programs.
HB 676 tabled
This bill would have made multiple changes to CHIP and Medicaid that would have increased the number of uninsured children in Montana and further complicated DPHHS’s ability to verify information.
Victory for budget and revenue
SB 182 tabled
Economic experts were very concerned about this bill, because it would have triggered additional tax cuts for wealthy Montanans based on state revenue levels. The impact of this bill would have had serious repercussions for years, so we are relieved that it was defeated.
Victory for public schools
HB 633 tabled
This bill was an attempt to establish charter schools using taxpayer funds. These schools could have promoted specific religious beliefs, excluded LGBTQ students and families, and refused to offer resources for special needs or gifted students. Similar bills proposed in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017 failed.
Victory for reproductive choice
There were serious losses to reproductive freedoms during this session, but you helped fight off an amendment to establish an abortion court, which would have allocated $90,000 of taxpayer funds to investigate whether abortions were “necessary.”
This cruel and invasive amendment was defeated, and the money was redirected to the Department of Public Health and Human Services for a study on Medicaid-funded abortion that will be delivered to an interim committee. It’s not a great outcome, but far better than investigating people who have received medical care.
Final actions for anti-LGBTQ legislation
Two anti-LGBTQ bills still have a chance of being vetoed by Governor Gianforte. HB 112 would ban transgender youth from participating in school sports, and SB 280 would force transgender, nonbinary, and Two Spirit people to have surgery and a court hearing to change the gender marker on their birth certificate.
Tell Gov. Gianforte to veto these bills, and if you’re a teacher, coach, athlete, student, or business leader, please tell him that, too.
Get on social media, and tell your friends to as well, to tell the governor to veto these bills. Tag Gov. Gianforte in the posts. He’s on Facebook and Twitter as @GovGianforte and Instagram as @govgianforte.
When you send an email or call asking for Gov. Gianforte to veto this bill, here are a few points you can use.
The NCAA made a statement warning states that legislation banning transgender student athletes could jeopardize their chance to host championship games. Athletic department staff at the University of Montana held a press conference stating that the loss of championship games could cost Missoula businesses $7.5 million. Sports writer Jeff Welsch from the Missoulian wrote a scorching column on this topic.
Please call Gov. Gianforte’s office at 406-444-3111 or email a comment at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.
More veto requests
These bills passed both chambers before the session ended, so we need your help sending another round of messages. Please tell Gov. Gianforte that he should veto these bills, because they don’t reflect Montana values.
SB 214 is an attempt to revise tax exemptions for private land that is being reclaimed and added to tribal trust lands. This is an attack on Indigenous sovereignty that would make it more expensive for Indigenous people to recover stolen land.
SB 278 would force nonprofit organizations to hand over their membership lists (an unconstitutional proposition) and declare their expenses as non-charitable expenditures should they challenge state or federal decisions. The obvious intent of this bill is to intimidate members and charitable donors of nonprofits while hampering their ability to fulfill their missions.
HB 530 is a voter suppression bill that was amended to place restrictions on the collection of absentee ballots. You can read an article about the bill here. Some of these restrictions were recycled from the voter suppression bill HB 406, which was not approved by the legislature. In other words, legislators bypassed proper procedures while approving this bill.
MHRN is grateful for you
During the worst days of the session, it felt like legislators weren’t listening and the bills designed to harm people we care for kept coming. Your persistence kept us going.
Thank you for stepping up, speaking up, and continuing to call every week during these four long months. We are so grateful for your dedication to communities built on equality and justice.