Legislative update: Week 5, January 29-February 4
Supported by the ACLU:
HB 146 – Revising Temporary Roadblock Laws
Rep. Zolnikov (R) brought this bill with the support of the Montana Highway Patrol and the ACLU of Montana. HB 146 will provide guidance to law enforcement who seek to setup checkpoints and roadblocks, limiting the reasons for use of these tactics and requiring police departments to make a case for each roadblock they will use. Providing these sideboards will not only help law enforcement know when and how to use checkpoints, but will also prohibit using them to randomly check for criminal activity that does not have a legitimate public safety purpose.
Call your senators in the Senate Transportation Committee and ask them to vote YES on HB 146.
HB 148 and HB 149
Rep. Daniel Zolnikov has been a consistent champion of privacy rights for Montanans during his tenure as a legislator. This year, he has re-filed two very important bills that the ACLU will be supporting. HB 148 would restrict police access to third party databases containing your electronic records. For example, under HB 148, the police couldn’t go to Verizon and ask for all of your text messages without a warrant signed by a judge. It would also require that notice be given to you if/when the government does attempt to access your data (with certain exceptions). HB 149 would ban the use of license plate readers by law enforcement. These readers have been used to mass surveil everything from church parking lots to political conventions – a serious, unwarranted invasion of privacy.
Contact the House Judiciary Committee and ask for YES votes on each of these bills.
Opposed by the ACLU:
SB 97 – Prohibit application of foreign law in state courts
Senator Keith Regier (R) has picked up this torch from last session, seeking to prohibit something that has never actually happened in the United States – the application of foreign laws in our courts. Unfortunately, this innocuously named piece of legislation is far darker that the title implies. Each time it has been heard, the true motives have been revealed through proponent testimony. SB 97 is nothing more than Islamophobia shrouded in the idea that our courts need protecting. Regardless of whether the bill title says “foreign law,” proponents really mean Sharia law. This xenophobic manifestation of Islamophobia does not reflect Montana values and its passage will only increase anti-Muslim sentiment in the legislature and the state.
Contact the Senate Judiciary Committee and ask for NO votes on SB 97.
HB 320 – Allow a state to appeal when a charge has been dismissed
Ignoring over a century of case precedent, including multiple Supreme Court cases, Rep. Matt Regier (R) has filed a bill to nullify the constitution’s protections against “double jeopardy.” Specifically, the 5th amendment guarantees, “[N]or shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.” HB 320 flies directly in the face of the Bill of Rights. Prosecutors have leeway to appeal specific, collateral orders (like suppression of evidence) but not the complete dismissal of charges. This bill would undoubtedly lead to expensive law suits for the state.
Call your House Judiciary Committee members and ask them to VOTE NO on this unconstitutional and costly bill.
HB 93, sponsored by Rep. Garner (R), increases the court surcharge in criminal cases by 50% and earmarks that money the law enforcement academy. This directly ties how many people police arrest to the amount of money the academy receives. HB 93 is policing-for-profit, plain and simple. While the legislature should fund the academy, the funding should come through the appropriations process not on the backs of Montanans who find themselves in court for traffic offenses.
HB 268 – Create offense related to assault on healthcare and emergency providers
HB 268 creates a duplicate, unnecessary felony in Montana’s criminal code. Montana statutes already provide penalties for simple assault, aggravated assault, assault with a weapon, and assault with a bodily fluid. Unfortunately, HB 268 would duplicate the language from the simple assault statute, but increase the penalty from a misdemeanor (500 dollars, 6 months in jail) to a felony (10 years in jail, 50,000 dollars) if the victim is a nurse or emergency worker. We agree that nurses should be protected from assault, but hospitals should take responsibility for that protection. Our current statutes already provide criminal penalties – an additional assault penalty is unnecessary. People in crisis who need help at the hospital and are suffering from mental health and addiction issues, should not be charged with felonies for something that would otherwise be a misdemeanor.
Contact the House Judiciary Committee and ask for a NO vote on this bill.