Montana Legislature Update – May 3, 2021

It’s over! The 2021 Montana Legislative Session has officially sine die. We can breathe a little easier and celebrate that it’s done. This session felt like it was never-ending when there was a tsunami of bad bills that would nothing but harm people to create a culture war against the most marginalized and vulnerable Montanans.

Some of those bills are at the Governor’s desk such as HB 112 and SB 280 needed one last final push to stop it from becoming law. Update: Unfortunately, HB 112 an SB 280 were signed by Governor Gianforte. Both of those bills are likely to be challenged in the courts. Of course, there were a few good bills such as SB 235 and HB 35 that were passed. Below, here are the bills waiting to be either signed or vetoed by the Governor. 

Bills on the governor’s desk:

Bills that were signed by Governor Gianforte:

1) HB 112 would ban transgender youth and collegiate athletes from playing sports. It fundamentally misunderstands the identities of transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit people.

2) SB 280 would require transgender, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit people to have surgery and a court hearing to change the gender marker on their birth certificate.

Contact Governor Gianforte and ask him to veto:

1) HB 530 was amended at the last minute with a provision that would create limitations on ballot collection by prohibiting people from collecting mail-in ballots in exchange for any “pecuniary benefit” with a $100 penalty for each ballot that’s improperly ordered, collected, or delivered.

Contact Governor Gianforte and ask him to sign:

1) HB 235 would double the effective value of SNAP (food assistance) benefits when used on fruits and vegetables, thereby improving nutrition while supporting local farmers and economies.

Phone 406-444-3111 or toll-free 855-318-1330 or fax 406-444-5529 to contact Governor Greg Gianforte.

Bills that were recently defeated:

Some good news about legislation happened during the final days of the legislative session. There were a few wins from defeating some bad bills such as HB 427, SB 100, and SB 379.

1) HB 427 was postponed. It would have banned or restricted necessary and affirming care for transgender, nonbinary, and Two-Spirit youth.

2) SB 100 was tabled. It would have changed eligibility verification for public programs such as SNAP and Medicaid. This would have had put low-income folks at risk of losing their healthcare or SNAP benefits, even if they were eligible.

3) SB 379 was tabled. It would have ensured that NorthWestern Energy would acquire additional shares of Colstrip from the power plant’s other owners. Meaning, customers of NorthWestern Energy would be billed for any additional Colstrip shares purchased, while also being obligated to pay for any unforeseen costs as well as possible environmental cleanup.

4) HB 695 was amended with a key provision from SB 379 but it didn’t make it to the Senate floor before the session ended. This bill would have allowed a utility to increase energy bill prices related to cost recoveries without approval from the PSC.

The work always continues… but first, rest.

We can finally put this exhausting legislative session behind us. We thank all of you for walking with us on this journey. Thank you for calling and emailing consistently during four long months. It was a testament to dedication and perseverance through a dark tunnel. For now, rest is the most important step. Taking sabbath is crucial to our faith and work. It is a time for all of us to reflect on the past and be present with God’s gifts. After that, the work to strive for equality and justice always continues. Be tuned for information over the summer about our activities, events, and updates.

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