Legislative Update: Wednesday, Feb. 8

Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus

A new name for Columbus Day?

By Cole Grant

Lawmakers in Helena are considering changing the name of Columbus Day to Montana Heritage Day.

Many proponents of House Bill 322, including Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, say part of the bill is about correcting misinformation about the discovery of America.

“As awareness grows in the age of information, hope grows also,” she said. “The celebration of oppression must end.”

There was no opposition to the bill at the House State Administration Committee hearing Wednesday morning.

According to the Library of Congress, the first official celebration of Columbus Day was in 1892, marking the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ landing in America. In a proclamation, the president at the time, Benjamin Harrison, called Columbus “the pioneer of progress and enlightenment.”

Some cities and states have now taken the same holiday and renamed it “Indigenous People’s Day,” or “Native Americans’ Day.” South Dakota officially switched the name to Native Americans’ Day in 1990, and Vermont switched the 2016 holiday to Indigenous People’s Day.

Cole Grant is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

Consistent ag regulations sought

By Freddy Monares

Lawmakers in Helena will consider a bill that would strip local governments’ authority to regulate the agricultural industry, aiming to provide consistency for farming techniques across the state.

Senate Bill 155 would mandate that any regulations dealing with agricultural processes or seed usage would have to come from the state.

A similar bill was passed by the Oregon Legislature in 2013 after a county’s ballot initiative banned GMOs in that area.

Chelcie Cargill, a representative of the Montana Farm Bureau Federation, said it’s common for Montana farmers to have land spanning county lines.

“Being subject to regulation that varies county by county by county makes it really difficult for them to operate in each individual county and becomes pretty burdensome and cost prohibitive to those farm and ranch families in Montana,” Cargill said.

The Senate Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Committee will hear the bill Thursday.

Freddy Monares is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association and the Greater Montana Foundation.

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