Montana Legislature: Halftime Update

Facade of the Montana State Capital Building in Helena, Montana
Matthew Brower, Director, Montana Catholic Conference

 

Montana’s 66th legislative session has now reached the halfway point (known as “transmittal”) and the deadline for general bills to be through the chamber of origin (House or Senate) and “transmitted” over to the other chamber. Once the transmittal date has been reached, general bills that have not passed over to the second chamber are typically dead and such is the fate of many bills once this deadline has been reached.

Over the first two months we’ve seen bills addressing issues of human trafficking, abortion, criminal justice, abolition of the death penalty, sanctuary cities, religious freedom/conscience rights, physician-assisted suicide and much more.

As a reminder, all hearings and floor sessions are available streaming live (audio, video or both). Simply go tohttps://leg.mt.gov/ to find a list of the streaming events for the day. All the recordings are also archived. Additionally, the Montana Public Affairs Network (MPAN) reaches thousands of homes throughout Montana thanks to broadcasters, cable and telecommunications providers from around the state. For more information about MPAN, please click here.

The following is an update on some of the bills of interest to the Montana Catholic Conference.

Physician-assisted Suicide/Euthanasia:

HB 284-“Provide that consent to physician aid in dying is not a defense”
Sponsored by Rep. Carl Glimm (R) HD 6
Status: A hearing was held in the House Judiciary Committee on January 29. To see video of the hearing, please click here. This bill passed out of committee with a 10-9 vote and was heard on the House floor on February 14 where passed second reading with a 53-47 vote and third reading with a 53-46 vote. To see video of the House floor debate, please click here. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a hearing.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

This bill sought to address the very narrow holding in the Baxter v. Montana case by stating that consent of the victim of a physician-assisted suicide is not a defense to a charge of homicide and that physician-assisted suicide is against the public policy of Montana.

Abolition of the Death Penalty:

HB 350-“Abolish state death penalty”
Sponsored by Rep. Mike Hopkins (R) HD 92
Status: A hearing was held in the House Judiciary Committee on February 18. To see video of the hearing, please click here. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled in committee. As a result, the bill failed to meet the transmittal deadline despite strong and increasing support from legislators in both parties. The bill is probably dead.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

This bill would have abolished the death penalty in Montana and replaced it with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

Abortion:

SB 100-“Require the provision of information before the performance of an abortion”
Sponsored by Sen. Keith Regier (R) SD 3
Status: A hearing was held in the Senate Judiciary Committee and the bill later passed out of the committee with a 6-4 vote. To listen to audio of the hearing, please click here. The bill was then debated on the Senate floor and passed second reading with a 31-19 vote. To see video of the debate and vote, please click here. The bill passed third reading with a 31-19 vote and was transmitted to the House. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

This bill requires an abortion provider to inform the pregnant woman of the opportunity to view an active ultrasound of the unborn child and listen to the fetal heart tone, if audible.

Child welfare & human trafficking:

SB 147-“Revise laws concerning human trafficking and sex crimes to protect victims”
Sponsored by Sen. Margie MacDonald (D) SD 26
Status: The bill was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 31. To view a video of the hearing, please clickhere. After being amended, the bill passed out of the committee on a 8-2 vote. The bill was then debated on the Senate floor and passed second reading with a 46-4 vote. To see video of the debate and vote, please click here. The bill passed third reading with a 49-1 vote and was transmitted to the House. The bill has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

This bill aims to provide additional protections for victims of sex trafficking. For example, it would provide that consent is not a defense to human trafficking and sex crimes if the accused knew or reasonably should have known that the person was a victim of human trafficking or was subjected to force, fraud or coercion.

Criminal Justice:

HB 215-“Prohibit incarceration of juveniles in adult prisons”
Sponsored by Rep. Kimberly Dudik (D) HD 94
Status: The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on January 23. To watch video of the hearing, please click here. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled in committee. As a result, the bill failed to meet the transmittal deadline. The bill is probably dead.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

While it is already current practice within the Department of Corrections to NOT incarcerate juveniles within adult prisons, this bill would have mandated and codified that prohibition in statute.

HB 429-“Revise criminal sentencing laws for youth offenders”
Sponsored by Rep. Zach Brown (D) HD 63
Status: The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 15. To watch video of the hearing, please click here. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled in committee. As a result, the bill failed to meet the transmittal deadline. The bill is probably dead.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

This bill would have prohibited Life Without Possibility of Parole sentences for juvenile offenders.

Religious freedom/Conscience rights

HB 465-“Generally revise the Montana Human Rights Act”
Sponsored by Rep. Kim Abbott (D) HD 83
Status: The bill was heard in the House Judiciary Committee on February 22. To watch video of the hearing, please click here. The bill was tabled in committee. As a result, the bill failed to meet the transmittal deadline. The bill is probably dead.

The Montana Catholic Conference OPPOSESthis bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please click here.

This bill sought to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the state’s non-discrimination statute. We believe this bill failed to provide adequate protections for those who might object to celebrating, by their actions, situations that run contrary to their deeply held beliefs (e.g., the wedding photographer refusing to take photos at a same-sex wedding ceremony due to beliefs regarding the nature of marriage).

Other:

HB 375-“Establishing incarceration standards for pregnant women”
Sponsored by Rep. Wendy McKamey (R) HD 19
Status: A hearing was held on February 12 in the House Judiciary Committee. To see video of the hearing, please clickhere. Unfortunately, the bill was tabled in committee. As a result, the bill failed to meet the transmittal deadline. The bill is probably dead.

The Montana Catholic Conference SUPPORTS this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please clickhere.

Among other things, this bill seeks to ensure that incarcerated pregnant women have access to necessary prenatal care, ban restraints during labor and delivery, and ensure that new mothers who are incarcerated can get breast milk to their newborns.

HB 146“Establish laws regarding sanctuary cities in Montana”
Sponsored by Rep. Kenneth Holmlund (R) HD 38
Status: A hearing was held on February 1 in the House Judiciary Committee. To see video of the hearing, please click here. The bill later passed out of the committee on an 11-8 vote. The bill was then debated on the House floor and passed second reading with a 59-41 vote. To see video of the discussion and vote on the House floor, please click here. The next day it passed the House on third reading with a 58-41 vote. The bill has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

The Montana Catholic Conference OPPOSES this bill. To read the testimony provided by MCC, please click here.

Among other things, this bill seeks to prohibit state agencies or local governments from enacting policies that would restrict government entities, officials or employees from complying with immigration detainer requests. For example, this bill would prohibit a local government from exercising discretion regarding the processing of ICE detainer requests. This bill  prohibits local policies that would only allow for holding individuals under an ICE detainer request when certain criteria are met (e.g., when the individual has already been convicted of a serious crime or when ICE has agreed to reimburse for all costs of detainer compliance).

Stay informed and get involved!
As we continue our efforts to make a “Catholic voice” present in public policy discussions, the Montana Catholic Conference is building a network of interested and committed Catholics to be mobilized when important issues arise.

You can stay up to date on all the latest news about our policy efforts by signing up for our Alert Network, if you have not done so already. This session the Montana Catholic Conference is once again utilizing a sophisticated grassroots advocacy system of software tools hoping to increase our efficiency and effectiveness. We want to make it as easy as possible for Catholics in Montana to stay informed about key issues and make their voices heard on “the Hill” in Helena and in Washington, D.C.  You can sign up for the MCC Alert Network by visiting the “Take Action” page on our website (www.montanacc.org/takeaction).

I also encourage those of you who use Facebook to “like” the Montana Catholic Conference Facebook page to view articles and updates we post on a regular basis (www.facebook.com/MTCatholicConference). It’s another great way to stay informed about issues and our policy efforts.

Lastly, I ask that you please keep Pope Francis, our bishops, priests, lawmakers, government officials and the work of the conference in your prayers.

Matthew Brower, Executive Director

And remember to share this message with your family, friends and fellow parishioners and encourage them to sign up for the MCC Alert Network!!

Contact Information for Montana’s Federal Legislators

Senator Jon Tester
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-2604
D.C. Office: 202-224-2644
Helena Office: 406-449-5401
To email Sen. Tester, go to:
https://www.tester.senate.gov/contact/

Senator Steve Daines
320 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
D.C. Office: 202-224-2651
Helena Office: 406-443-3189
To email Sen. Daines, go to: https://www.daines.senate.gov/connect/email-steve

Representative Greg Gianforte 
1222 Longworth HOB
Washington, D. C.  20515
D.C. Office: 202-225-3211
Helena Office: 406-502-1435

To email Rep. Gianforte, go to: https://gianforte.house.gov/contact/email

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