Legislative Update: Friday, March 31


Freddy Monares/UM Community News Service

Rep. Casey Knudsen, R-Malta, looks on Friday as Gov. Steve Bullock signs a bill Knudsen carried that would define electric fences. This was Knudsen’s first bill signed into law, and one of 12 the governor signed this week.

Caregiver Act among bills signed into law

By Freddy Monares

Gov. Steve Bullock signed 12 legislative bills into law this week, including one that would establish something called the Caregiver Act.

Created by House Bill 163, it will require hospitals to record the name and phone number of a patient’s caregiver when the person is admitted to the hospital. The bill also makes it so that hospitals have to coordinate with caregivers for after care before the patient is discharged.

Bullock and Rep. Geraldine Custer, R-Forsyth, both praised the bill at  Friday’s signing.

“Good for the patient, good for the caregiver, good for the hospital and it’s good for the state,” Bullock said.

Custer says the communication from the hospital could mean better outcomes for patients and the facilities.

“If you could keep someone in their home longer, and they don’t need assisted living care or nursing home care, (that’s) way better for everybody,” Geraldine said.

At this point in the session, the governor has signed 123 bills into law and vetoed three.

Sex trafficking bill advances

A bill aimed at raising awareness about human sex trafficking in Montana is making its way through the Legislature.

Senate Bill 197 would require the Office of Public Instruction to devise an education plan for faculty, staff and children in school to recognize signs children often exhibit when they are being recruited for a sex trafficking ring. The bill passed the Senate unanimously in February and is now in the House.

Sen. Terry Gauthier, R-Helena, the bill sponsor, described it as “a training and education bill, and this is our best weapon against a $32 billion industry.”

Brian Kahn, host of the “Home Ground Radio” radio show, spoke in support of the bill, saying that the recruiting procedures for human trafficking rings are predictable and take time.

“Because in the time that it takes there are changes of behavior that are seen in the child,” Kahn said. “So you can forewarn the child about the pitch.”

The House Judiciary didn’t immediately take action on the bill.

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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