Candidate Questionnaire


 

As part of our mission to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every individual in Montana by our state and federal constitutions, we sent questionnaires to each candidate running for governor, asking each to share their position on crucial civil liberties issues. Here is the questionnaire in full.

Before you head to the polls in November, learn the candidates' positions. 

Criminal Legal System Issues

Money Bail

In addition to people held in state prisons, Montana incarcerates over 2,000 people in county jails. The majority of people in jail are held pretrial, meaning they have not been convicted of the crime for which they are accused. Montana still uses a money bail system, thus if a person cannot afford the bail or bond ordered by the court, they will remain in jail until their case is resolved. The time it takes for a case in Montana district courts to reach disposition increased 60 percent between 2012 and 2015, contributing to longer jail stays for those who cannot afford bail. While in jail, even though people have not yet been convicted, they often lose jobs and access to housing, and cannot care for their families.

If elected governor, would you sign legislation ending money bail?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment for People on Probation or Parole

Montana’s probation and parole system is an enormous contributor to the state’s incarcerated population. Seventy-four percent of people who move from community supervision into detention do so as the result of a probation or parole violation (e.g. being late to probation meetings or entering a bar). In 2018, the ACLU of Montana issued a comprehensive report on Montana’s probation and parole system, which found that a primary driver of recidivism was unmet mental health or substance use disorder treatment needs. This is because support and services for these needs were difficult to access or afford in their communities. Numerous studies have shown that providing access to mental health and substance use disorder treatment can be less expensive than incarceration and more effective at reducing recidivism rates.

If elected governor, will you expand access to mental health and substance use treatment by proposing a budget that restores the level of services cut in 2017 and increases their funding by 10%?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Employment Access

Formerly incarcerated people are five times more likely to be unemployed than people without criminal histories. This high unemployment rate is due in part to barriers in state law that decrease opportunities for formerly incarcerated people seeking work. For example, according to the Institute for Justice, Montana imposes higher barriers to occupational licensing requirements than many other states. To address this challenge, some states have passed “clean slate” laws. These laws include provisions granting a “certificate of rehabilitation” to people who have completed their sentences that can be shown to prospective employers, creating a broad, automatic expungement system and other measures. “Clean slate” legislation has been proven to increase access to employment opportunities for those who have completed jail, prison, or probation.

If elected governor, would you sign “clean slate” legislation?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Reduce Court Fines and Fees

In 1983, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that people could not be imprisoned on the basis of their inability to pay fines, fees, or other costs. But in many places, including Montana, people still are jailed for failure to pay these court costs. State and local courts often attempt to supplement revenue by charging fees to people convicted of crimes, including fees for public defenders, prosecutors, court administration, jail operation, and probation supervision. Montana courts are no exception, where aggressive tactics can be used to collect these unpaid fines and fees, including for traffic violations and other low-level offenses. Courts have ordered the arrest and jailing of people who fall behind on their payments and have used private debt collection services that threaten and harass people who are unable to pay. These drastic measures are often taken without affording meaningful hearings to determine an individual's ability to pay or offering alternatives to payment such as community service or food donation (which is allowed under Montana law).

If elected governor, will you veto any legislation seeking to increase fines, fees, and costs for criminal law violations or traffic infractions?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

End Private Prison Contracts with the State

The private prison industry profits from incarceration. In July 2018, Governor Bullock extended the contract of the only private prison in Montana — CoreCivic’s Crossroads Correctional Center in Shelby. CoreCivic — which changed its name from Corrections Corporation of America to mask its abysmal reputation — has a long record of being held liable for human rights ​abuses​, understaffing that directly contributes to increased violence, and other issues that threaten health and safety in its facilities. In an annual report from 2016, CoreCivic listed criminal legal reform as a threat to its bottom line. In 2009, the ACLU of MT filed a complaint against Crossroads and then-Corrections Corporation of America for religious freedom violations in the Shelby facility.

The CoreCivic contract is up for renewal or termination in 2021. If elected governor, will you end the contract with CoreCivic for the operation of the private prison in Shelby and bring the prison under state ownership?

MIKE COONEY:

No response

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response
 

Indigenous Justice

Education Equity

In Montana, quality education is a constitutional right, yet too many students are kept from accessing that right. Indigenous students are disciplined, pushed out of school, and arrested at higher rates than their peers. This results in harm to students that can be lifelong: they are less likely to graduate from high school and more likely to be unemployed and ensnared in the criminal justice system. Research shows that when schools implement restorative justice practices to manage student behavior instead of exclusionary discipline or other punitive responses to behavior (including referrals to/arrests by police), student outcomes improve.

If elected governor, would you sign legislation ending permanent police presence in schools and limiting law enforcement presence in schools to issues involving serious criminal law matters where there is an imminent threat to safety?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Protecting First Amendment Speech and Expression

In 2016 and 2017, the government cooperated with private pipeline companies to violate the rights of Indigenous groups, environmental activists, and others peacefully protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Law enforcement agencies used excessive force, intimidation, and military tactics against people exercising their First Amendment rights to protest and peacefully assemble on public lands.

Anticipating the potential construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline, some legislators in South Dakota have introduced “riot boosting” laws (some of which have been found unconstitutional). These laws can stifle free speech, intimidate peaceful protestors, and lead to self-censorship among activists who are fearful of criminal penalties.

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Expanding Voting Access in Indian Country

The right to vote is fundamental to - and a cornerstone of - our democracy. Both the Montana and U.S. Constitutions guarantee the right to vote to every citizen aged 18 or over. Indigenous voters have historically experienced unequal access to the ballot. Geographic isolation on rural reservations creates obstacles to voting, including a lack of standardized residential addresses, lack of residential mail delivery, inability to access mail, lack of access to transportation, and post office and polling places that are often located dozens of miles away from where Tribal communities live. Satellite polling locations have been used to reduce this burden in some counties.

If elected governor, would you sign legislation making placement of satellite voting offices automatic in each county with land that overlaps with a reservation?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Treaty Rights/Consultation with Tribes

There are 13 federally recognized tribes in Montana, organized politically into 8 sovereign tribal governments, each having a unique trust relationship with the federal government embodied in the Constitution of the United States, Supreme Court jurisprudence, an entire chapter of the United States Code, executive orders, treaties, and federal agency policies. Both state and federal governments have the obligation to work with tribes on a government-to-government basis and to support tribal self-determination and self-governance. The well-being of tribal communities in Montana depends on relationships between tribes and state government that are based on trust, respect, and collaboration.

If elected governor, will you enact administrative policy that requires input from each tribe in Montana, including regular and meaningful consultation, consent, and collaboration, before signing or vetoing legislation that has implications for tribes and Indigenous people living in Montana?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

 

LGBTQ Rights

Nondiscrimination in Employment and State Government Services

Montana’s Executive Branch has a legacy of promoting non-discrimination and equal employment for LGBTQ Montanas. In 1999, former Governor Marc Racicot issued state personnel rules prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, but only for employment in state government. Eight years later, former Governor Brian Schweitzer issued an executive order, considerably strengthening those policies for state agency employment and services. In 2016, Governor Steve Bullock further expanded the work of his predecessors by adding gender identity and including state contractors and subcontractors under the mandate as well.

If elected governor, will you continue to enforce Governor Bullock’s executive order that prohibits discrimination by state agencies, contractors, and subcontractors against LGBTQ employees?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Nondiscrimination in Public Accommodations

Transgender people, like all people, deserve dignity and respect in our communities. However, some state legislatures have tried to restrict the rights of transgender people to live their lives authentically and safely - in public accommodations, schools, and health care settings. In 2017, the Montana House Judiciary Committee considered a bill that would have banned transgender people from using the restroom that matches the gender they live every day. Other states have have tried to ban transgender youth from playing on school sports teams or even criminalize medical professionals who provide transition-related care.

I​f elected governor, will you veto any legislation attempting to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ people in public accomodations?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Nondiscrimination in Sports

If elected governor, will you veto any legislation attempting to legalize discrimination against LGBTQ students in school sports?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Criminalizing Health Care Providers for Providing LGBTQ Affirming Care

Transgender and non-binary people who have supportive families and medical providers have equally positive health outcomes to their cisgender peers. By contrast, when denied medically necessary treatment and health care, transgender and non-binary people experience high rates of suicidality and negative health outcomes.​ Medical professionals should be focused on providing the best care possible for patients based on established medical standards and patient circumstances. This includes transition-related care as well as general preventive care.

If elected governor, will you veto legislation that criminalizes or penalizes medical professionals for providing health care to LGBTQ patients, including minors, in accordance with current medical best practices?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

 

Reproductive Health Care Access

Redefining “Personhood”

In the past 4 legislative sessions, there have been proposals that attempt to redefine a “person” as “all members of humankind at any stage of development, beginning at the state of fertilization or conception, regardless of age, health, level of functioning, or condition of dependency.”

This type of proposal has far-reaching implications. Redefining personhood and granting constitutional rights to a fertilized egg, zygote, or fetus that are separate from the pregnant person is dangerous and would undermine the right to make a number of private medical decisions. For instance, it could interfere with Montanans’ ability to utilize certain types of contraception, prohibit the use of in vitro fertilization and stem cell research, and ban abortion entirely.

As governor, will you veto any legislation that attempts to redefine personhood in Montana law?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Abortion Bans

Over the past decade, both in Montana and across the U.S., we have seen legislative proposals banning abortion at various points in pregnancy that would effectively ban abortion outright or substantially restrict it. We expect the legislature to introduce these types of proposals in upcoming sessions under the next governor. These attempts to ban abortion represent political interference with important medical decisions, violate the constitutional right to privacy, and do not take into account individual circumstances.

If elected governor, will you veto any legislation that bans abortion?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Medically Unnecessary Abortion Regulations

In 2019, a bill was introduced in the Montana legislature that would have forced health care providers to offer a medically unneccessary ultrasound before an abortion. We have seen similar proposals across the U.S. that create state-mandated medical procedures and protocols, such as forcing health care providers to give misleading or false information to patients and making patients endure medically unnecessary waiting periods for zero health benefit. Instead, these measures are intended to shame people for their personal, private medical decisions and push abortion care out of reach.

In addition, some state legislatures have attempted to impose arbitrary regulations on clinics, such as requiring certain hallway widths, room humidity specifications, or admitting privileges at a hospital within a limited distance from the clinic. These rules, which have been scientifically proven to have no health benefits, are designed to shut down health centers and make abortion care inaccessible.

If elected governor, will you veto legislation that imposes burdensome regulations, which medical experts have determined are unnecessary, on health centers, abortion providers, and patients?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Criminalization of Medical Providers

In recent Montana legislative sessions, there have been proposals that attempt to threaten health care providers with punishment, including jail time, for providing abortion care. Health care professionals should be focused on providing the best care possible for patients based on their training, patient circumstances, and medical ethics and standards, not worrying if their actions will have legal repercussions.

If elected governor, will you veto any legislation that would threaten health care professionals with criminal investigation and prosecution for providing abortion care?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Nondiscrimination in Employment and State Government Services

Montana’s Executive Branch has a legacy of promoting non-discrimination and equal employment for LGBTQ Montanans. In 1999, former Governor Marc Racicot issued state personnel rules prohibiting discrimination and harassment on the basis of sexual orientation, but only for employment in state government. Eight years later, former Governor Brian Schweitzer issued an executive order, considerably strengthening those policies for state agency employment and services. In 2016, Governor Steve Bullock further expanded the work of his predecessors by adding gender identity and including state contractors and subcontractors under the mandate as well.

If elected governor, will you continue to enforce Governor Bullock’s executive order that prohibits discrimination by state agencies, contractors, and subcontractors against LGBTQ employees?

MIKE COONEY:

Graphic of Yes checkbox

GREG GIANFORTE:

No response

LYMAN BISHOP:

No response

Go back to more on the election 

Note: The ACLU of Montana is a nonpartisan 501(c)(4) social welfare and advocacy organization that does not make endorsements, yet strives to ensure that voters are well-informed regarding the civil liberties positions of candidates for public office.