Montana Legislature Update – March 1, 2021

In Helena, the pace of bills being considered in House and Senate committees picked up dramatically in the last week as the Montana legislature hurtled toward the transmittal deadline of March 3.  Bills not sent to the opposite chamber by that date are dead for the session.  Speakers in one committee were allowed only one minute each to make their case due to so many bills on the docket. This illustrates the saying, “The less people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep at night.”

However, there may still be time to make an impact on some bills important to you. If you care about transgender people, reproductive health, the authority of local health boards, voting rights, or public education, you can contact the appropriate committee, your representative, or your senator depending upon where the bill is in the process of becoming a law.

For more information, go to our website www.gallatinvalleymethodists.com created by Zach Nell, a member of our team. Go there to find updates on bills we are tracking, where they are in the process, and who to contact.

Montana Legislature Update—March 1, 2021

Anti-Transgender Bills

  • HB 112 prohibits transgender youth from participation on school sports teams, passed the House & now in the (S) Judiciary Committee.
  • HB 427 denies gender-affirming health care to trans youth (nearly identical to HB 113 which was defeated in the House), passed the House & now in the (S) Judiciary Committee.
  • SB 215, called the religious freedom restoration act, could allow religion as an excuse to discriminate against and harm others, scheduled for 3rd and final reading in the Senate on March 1.
  • SB 280 makes changing gender on a birth certificate harder, passed (S) Judiciary Committee & now to the Senate floor.

Reproductive Health Bills

  • Three bills are headed for the governor’s desk—
    • HB 136 broadly restricts abortions after 20 weeks
    • HB 140 requires offering an ultrasound before an abortion
    • HB 171 prohibits medication abortion by telehealth and requires the patient to pick up the medication in person.
  • HB 167 is a referendum to require all action be taken to save the life of a fetus born through abortion (opponents note that infanticide is already illegal), in reconciliation between House and Senate.
  • HB 229 prevents insurance policies obtained through the Affordable Care Act exchange from covering abortion, in (S) Judiciary Committee.
  • HB 337, gives a fertilized egg constitutional rights in order to ban abortion and possibly birth control, passed (H) Judiciary & headed to House floor.

Authority of Health Boards

  • HB 121 allows the governor or local officials to overturn recommendations issued by county health boards, including directives restricting access to religious services, scheduled for 3rd and final reading in the House on March 1.

Public Education

  • HB 279 features a whopping increase from $150 to $200,000 in the allowable tax credit for donations to private and for-profit schools for individuals and corporations at the expense of funds available for public schools, still in the (H) Education Committee.

Voter Registration

  • HB 176 eliminates same-day voter registration and ends late voter registration at noon the day before Election Day, creating hardship on those who live far from polling places and have to make two trips in order to vote, in (S) State Administration Committee.

For updates on other bills, go to www.gallatinvalleymethodists.com.

If a bill is still in a committee:

1) Call 406-444-4800 and leave a message for the whole committee or individual legislators.

OR 2) Go to https://leg.mt.gov/ and send a message on the web.  Say whether you want them to vote yes or no and a sentence or two about why. It doesn’t have to be long.

OR 3) Sign up on the website to give testimony.

If the bill has passed committee and is in either the House of Representatives or the Senate, use the same phone number or website to contact your representative or senator as appropriate.

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