Throughout the 2019 legislative session, we were busy in Helena standing up for the civil rights and liberties of all Montanans. As the session came to a close, we’re proud that we passed some major criminal justice reforms and stopped a number of bills that were not aligned with our values and would have deeply harmed many Montanans.
Thank you for joining us by taking action on bills throughout the session - your lawmakers heard you and that’s a crucial component of our victories. In a major victory this session, Montana will soon end the practice of suspending driver’s licenses based on court debt, bringing the state one step closer toward ending the criminalization of poverty. We worked closely with Rep. Casey Knudsen (R-Malta) on this bill, and formed partnerships with a number of conservative groups including Americans for Prosperity and Americans for Tax Reform. Governor Bullock is expected to sign the bill into law.
In other criminal justice work, in coalition with other groups, we passed a bill that will restrict the use of solitary confinement. We also stopped more than 30 harmful bills from passing that would have created new crimes and put more people in Montana’s jails and prisons. The failed tough-on-crime days are over, but apparently some legislators haven’t gotten the memo.
Other tidbits from the session:
- We worked in coalition with Montana Women Vote, Montana Budget and Policy Center, Montana Human Rights Network, Planned Parenthood of Montana, and others to pass a Medicaid expansion bill. Our original bill - one that was free of burdensome and problematic work requirements - unfortunately failed due to partisan politics. But, the second-best option, a bill that will expand Medicaid with limited work requirements and protect the healthcare of 96,000 Montanans, was passed. Access to healthcare makes our communities safer, lowers recidivism rates, and keeps people out of the criminal justice system.
We were proud to stand with the Indigenous Justice Coalition in support of bills including the creation of Indigenous Peoples Day. This bill passed out of the House with strong support, but didn’t pass out of Senate committee. After quite an effort from Indigenous leaders and advocacy groups, Hanna’s Act passed with the teeth it needs to be effective! It will bring more support and accountability to the crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.
Governor Bullock is expected to veto some harmful anti-immigrant bills that we opposed, including a bill that would penalize cities that use their law enforcement resources on state and local issues instead of helping enforce federal immigration laws. We also opposed a number of bills aimed at banning constitutionally protected abortions in Montana, and we expect the Governor will veto those as well.
There are other issues - including ending the death penalty and ensuring that LGBTQ Montanans have equal rights - that we will continue fighting for. And, in time, we will win.
Thanks for your support and thanks for raising your voice on issues that are important to you. We can’t do this work without your support and your engagement.