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Legislative Update: Monday, Feb. 20

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Land access complaints dealt with in bill
By Freddy Monares
Hard-to-access public lands have become a hot topic at the Montana Legislature. Senate Bill 262 would allow complaints of closed roads to go through county commissioners to determine whether or not certain roads are being closed unlawfully. The bill aims to address the issue of checkerboard lands, which wedge public lands between private lands making them hard to get to. Sen. Edie McClafferty, D-Butte, is the sponsor of the bill. “You know, it’s just about public access and we need to make sure that our sportsmen, actually all the citizens of Montana, have the access to our public lands,” McClafferty said. Continue Reading →

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In busy week in Helena, LGBTQ protections debated

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The Montana Legislature heard emotional testimony last week on a bill that would include gender identity and sexual orientation in the state’s non-discrimination laws. Introduced by Rep. Kelly McCarthy, D-Billings, House Bill 417 would add LGBTQ-identifying individuals to a list of classes protected by the Montana Human Rights Act, meaning it would prevent them from being discriminated against when seeking housing and employment, and when using public accommodations. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, Feb. 17

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Bills would dismantle office of political practices commissioner
By Freddy Monares
Montana Republicans are furthering their efforts to dismantle the Office of the Commissioner of Political Practices with a bill that would prohibit past, present and future commissioners from doing any work for the office. House Bill 340, which passed the House this week, would eliminate the office completely. Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is the sponsor of House Bill 406, which would also prevent serving commissioners from calling past commissioners for clarification on issues. “I’m just trying to keep the integrity of this office and take politics out of it. That’s the purpose of my bill,” Hertz said. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update, Thursday, Feb. 16

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Insurance bills under consideration
By Freddy Monares
Supporters of Senate Bill 58 say they’re afraid to report damages covered under their insurance policies because they might be disqualified from renewing. The bill would make it so that zero-dollar claims, which do not pay any money out to the insured, would not be allowed to count against someone for their insurance. Sponsor of the bill, Sen. Mary McNally, D-Billings, says some insurance companies consider a phone call a zero-dollar claim. “At some point you might have a real claim and if the game is to get you off the books before that happens, I’m not sure if I have a lot of sympathy for that,” McNally said. State Farm Insurance lobbyist Gregory Van Horssen, though, said, “We should be able to get out of contracts if we choose to get out of contracts; it is contract law.”

The bill passed out of the Senate on a 43-7 vote. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update, Wednesday, Feb. 15

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Should Montana ignore federal gun bans? By Freddy Monares
Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would supersede federal law for any future ban on firearms and magazines. Senate Bill 99 would create the “Montana Federal Firearm and Magazine Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act.” The bill would force local law enforcement agencies in Montana to ignore federal bans on firearms. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Tuesday, Feb. 14

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Bill would allow teachers to arm themselves
By Freddy Monares
Lawmakers in Helena are considering a bill that would allow full-time school employees with concealed carry permits to carry handguns on school grounds. House Bill 385 would create the Montana Safe Schools Act, which the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Seth Berglee, R-Joliet, says would create a line of first defense for schools. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, Feb. 13

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Bill would allow food sales from private kitchens
By Cole Grant
A bill in the Montana Legislature would allow Montanans to sell food out of their own kitchens, either directly to customers or for community social events, like weddings or potlucks. Rep. Greg Hertz, R-Polson, is carrying House Bill 352, or the Montana Local Food Choice Act. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Thursday, Feb. 9

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Treatment for 1st-time drug offenders? By Freddy Monares
First-time drug offenders in Montana are currently not given the option to enter residential treatment facilities in the state. House Bill 278 would give judges the option to defer these first-time offenders to a live-in treatment facility, or rehab center, rather than putting them on probation. Rep. Matt Regier, R-Kalispell, is the sponsor of the bill. “If we wait multiple times down the road that they’re failing, before, ‘Ok, now we’re going to give you meaningful treatment,’ they’re just that much further down that road,” Regier said. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, Feb. 8

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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. Continue Reading →

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