Legislative update: February 20 -24

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 524 – Body Worn Camera Commission

Rep. Daniel Zolnikov, always a champion for government transparency, has filed this bill to create a commission within in the Department of Justice tasked with creating uniform rules and regulations for body worn cameras use by law enforcement agencies. The ACLU will have a seat at the table and have the opportunity to work with other stakeholders in crafting processes and procedures for body cams that will increase transparency while still protecting the privacy of Montanans.

Contact your representatives and ask them to support HB 524 – a great step toward thorough and uniform body cam regulations.

HB 493 – Prohibit State Use of Private, for Profit Prisons

Rep. Casey Schreiner is taking the prison industrial complex to task with HB 493, a bill that would prohibit the state from contracting with private, for profit prisons. It is time for Montana to stop farming out their responsibility to house and rehabilitate those who violate state criminal laws. The private prison industry is not motivated by rehabilitation – decreasing recidivism actually decreases their profits.

Call your representatives and ask them to support HB 493 – it is time end imprisonment for profit in Montana!

HB 417 – Include LGBT people in the Montana Human Rights Act

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people are still being fired, denied housing, or kicked out of a business because of who they are and who they love. Even after the US Supreme Court’s historic ruling for marriage equality, Montana laws still do not explicitly protect the basic dignity of our LGBT friends, family, and neighbors. Rep. Kelly McCarthy (D-Missoula) presented HB 417 to the House Judiciary Committee last week, and on February 20th the committee killed the bill on a party line vote. But we aren’t done!

Contact your representatives and tell them it is time to provide fully inclusive non-discrimination protections to the LGBT community in Montana – bring HB 417 to the floor for full debate.

HB 366 – Death Penalty Repeal

Representative Adam Hertz (R) presented his bill to replace the death penalty with ‘life without parole’ to the House Judiciary Committee last 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 tabled (voted down) by the House Judiciary Committee, but the fight isn’t over!

Call your representatives TODAY ask them to finally abolish 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 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 282 – 24 Week Abortion Ban

This unconstitutional piece of anti-reproductive rights legislation is sponsored by Senator Olszewski. Unfortunately, it flies in the face of over 40 years of SCOTUS precedent on the right of women to access abortion services. The Supreme Court has found again and again that states are prevented from setting a viability marker and that viability should only be determined by a doctor on a case-by-case basis. Sen. Olszewski’s bill also does not make an exception for post-viability abortions when the life of the mother is at risk, another patently unconstitutional provision that violates Supreme Court precedent. Though the sponsor says that SB 282 is about protecting women, we know it is really the latest in a long list of attempts to make abortion almost impossible to access. This bill was heard on Monday, February 20 in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Call your state senators TODAY and tell them to get the government out of private, medical decisions.

HB 463 – Criminalization of Homelessness and Addiction

HB 463, sponsored by Rep. Kathy Kelker, is a misguided attempt to get people from suffering from addiction off the streets and into treatment. Unfortunately, it goes too far and criminalizes those who are suffering. HB 463 gives local governments the power to adopt ordinances criminalizing those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol and find themselves spending most nights without shelter. Penalties range from monetary fines to county jail, neither of which have ever been effective in reducing addiction and addiction-related behavior. HB 463 sends the wrong message about addiction – we should be investing in treatment, not making criminals out of those who are in crisis.

Call your representatives and ask them to VOTE NO on HB 463.

SJ 15 – Anti-LGBT resolution preventing equality in the provision of legal services

The American Bar Association has adopted a new Model Rule of Professional Conduct that would prohibit discrimination in the provision of legal services – including discrimination against LGBT people. Senator David Howard has filed a resolution in the senate opposing adoption of a similar rule in Montana, a move being considered by the Montana Supreme Court. Senator Howard is using the legislative process to bully the Montana Supreme Court and to prevent equal treatment of LGBT Montanans in our justice system.

Call your senators and tell them to VOTE NO on SJ 15 – the only bill in the 2017 legislative session that proactively targets the LGBT community for discrimination.

SB 97 – Prohibit application of foreign law in state courts

Senator Keith Regier (R) has picked up this torch from last session, playing to wholly unfounded fears that Islamic laws and customs—commonly referred to as “Sharia”—are taking over American 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.