Legislative update: February 6-10

This is a big week for ACLU supported and opposed legislation! Please follow us on Facebook and Twitter to stay up to date on the which bills are moving and respond to our ACLU Action Alerts!

Supported by the ACLU:

HB 366 – Death Penalty Repeal

Representative Adam Hertz (R) will present his bill to replace the death penalty with ‘life without parole’ to the House Judiciary Committee this week. This has been a decades long fight in Montana, with faith leaders, advocacy groups, and criminal justice reform advocates joining forces session after session to repeal this archaic, broken, and cruel practice. HB 366 was heard on Monday morning, February 6.

Call your Representatives  and ask them to finally repeal the death penalty in Montana.


SB 145 – Revise laws regarding when individuals may be transferred to Dept. of Corrections

Senator Roger Webb (R) is carrying this very important piece of legislation, which will provide greater protection to those who suffer from a mental disease, disorder, or developmental disability who enter the criminal justice system. SB 145 will provide greater guidance on, and restrictions for, when someone in a mental health or residential facility can be transferred to a correctional facility. It also provides requirements for mental health screening and treatment after the transfer and provides a process for when a person should be transferred back into mental health facility from a corrections facility.

Please call your senators and ask them to support SB 145. 



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 protection.  Regardless of whether the bill title says “foreign law,” proponents really mean Sharia law. This legislation does not reflect Montana values and its passage will only increase anti-Muslim sentiment in the legislature and the state.

This bill has passed out of the Senate and is on its way to house. Call your Representatives and tell them to VOTE NO on SB 97.


HB 357 – Voter ID

Rep. Derek Skees (R) has filed this dangerous voter ID legislation requiring Montanans to show a photo ID before we can vote in our elections. Unfortunately, as in other states that have photo ID requirements, the number of problems with legislation like HB 357 are too many to count. The IDs allowed are too limited, the arguments for photo ID have been proven time and time again to be false (like voter fraud), and states that have passed photo ID requirements have experienced a decrease in voter turnout. Though measures like this are always touted as a “protection mechanism” to ensure our elections aren’t hijacked, they are the opposite. Photo ID requirements for voting are only meant to disenfranchise certain voters – poor people, people of color, the elderly, those with disabilities – in an effort to advantage one political party over another.

Call your House State Administration committee members at 406-444-4800 and demand a NO VOTE on this regressive, unconstitutional legislation.


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 members at 406-444-4800 and ask them to VOTE NO on this unconstitutional and costly bill.


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.

This bill was tabled in the House Judiciary committee! Thank you to everyone who contact your representatives.