Legislative Update: Tuesday, March 14

High school seniors, from left, Jessica Not Afraid, Georgeline Morsette and Shaylee St. Marks wear their beaded graduation caps to support Senate Bill 319 at the Montana Legislature Tuesday.

Freddy Monares/UM Community News Service

High school seniors, from left, Jessica Not Afraid, Georgeline Morsette and Shaylee St. Marks wear their beaded graduation caps to support Senate Bill 319 at the Montana Legislature Tuesday.

Bill would allow traditional regalia at graduation

By Freddy Monares

Native American communities across Montana are asking the Legislature to make it unlawful to ban traditional regalia, specifically beaded caps, during graduation ceremonies.

Senate Bill 319 would allow items with cultural significance to be worn at public events, including public meetings, awards ceremonies and high school or college graduation ceremony.

Bill supporter Georgeline Morsette is a senior in high school.

“Beaded graduation caps aren’t merely for decoration or to look pretty, but there is great traditional importance to the beaded caps,” Morsette said.

Cindy Swank was the only opponent of the bill. She wore a yellow name badge in the shape of Montana that said taxpayer underneath her name.

“The way it’s written, it’s a pretty broad bill and it kind of gave me the impression when I first read it that anything could go,” Swank said.

This marked the first time the House State Administration Committee heard testimony 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.

 

Tax on medical marijuana proposed

By Cole Grant

A bill working its way through the Legislature would put a tax on medical marijuana.

House Bill 529 would put a 6 percent tax on all marijuana products sold in Montana. Those dollars would go into the state’s general fund.

Voters passed Initiative 182, which repealed the three-patient limit for medical marijuana providers, last November. Jon Elbet, a spokesman for the state Health and Human Services Department, said the initiative, among other things, requires the department to establish a program for cannabis products to be tested. That money would come out of the general fund.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Tom Jacobson, D-Great Falls, says consumers should be shouldering some of the costs of regulating the drug.

“Especially with the fiscal condition that the state is in right now, to increase that burden upon the state, I don’t think that’s a fair burden to put on us right now,” he said. “I don’t know that we would be able to do that right now.”

Gov. Steve Bullock’s budget proposal predicts that a tax would generate more than $2.5 million for the state general fund.

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.

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