Montana Legislature

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 12


Abortion bill wins preliminary approval
By Freddy Monares
The Montana House gave preliminary approval Wednesday to a bill that would make it unlawful for physicians to perform abortions after five months of pregnancy. Senate Bill 329 provides an exception for medical emergencies that threaten the life of the mother. Rep. Dennis Lenz, R-Billings, a supporter of the bill, said he says he takes great offense when someone says men don’t understand abortion. “As someone who was born to an unwed mother—11 years before Roe v. Wade—I know where I would be,” Lenz said. Rep. Virginia Court, D-Billings, who opposes the bill, said it is the ultimate in government interference. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, April 10

Resolution calls for study of pot legalization
By Cole Grant
Montana lawmakers may have the opportunity to study the possibility of  legalizing recreational marijuana in the next year or so. Rep. Mary Ann Dunwell, D-Helena, said that even if now isn’t the time to legalize, it may be the time for the state to look at the issue. “I’m not sure it’s the best thing for Montana,” she said. “I just feel it’s an opportunity. Given what’s going on all around us, it’s an opportunity to take a look at this.”

House Joint Resolution 35, heard Monday, would create a committee that would study how recreational legalization would be carried out in Montana. Continue Reading →

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Lawmakers debate beer, insurance, student loans


HELENA — The Montana Senate is considering a bill passed by the House 62-38 late last month that would provide partial forgiveness of student loans for farmers. Introduced by Rep. Zach Brown, D-Bozeman, House Bill 631 would repay up to half of a farmer’s student loans if he or she commits to farming or ranching for a minimum of five years. “Student loan debt is a big issue facing our economy in general,” Brown said. “It’s holding back young professionals.”

Brown said the issue is particularly relevant to the agriculture industry, which he described as “aging.” According to the latest statistics from the USDA’s Ag Census, which is done every five years, the average age of the American farmer in 2012 was 58. That’s five years older than the average age in 1992. Continue Reading →

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Making sense of Legislature’s surviving tax proposals


HELENA — When it comes to balancing the state budget, there are two schools of thought—raise taxes and generate revenue, or cut spending and save money. With the state facing a budget shortfall, that ideological difference has become all the more prominent throughout Montana’s 65th legislative session. Often, it defines party lines. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, April 7


Bullock tries amending balloting bill
By Cole Grant
Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock used his veto power Friday to amend a bill that landed on his desk to include a mail-in ballot option for Montana’s upcoming special congressional election. The amendatory veto comes after another bill died last month that would have allowed counties to opt in for mail ballots. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Wednesday, April 5


House hears two abortion bills
By Cole Grant
Montana lawmakers heard two bills Wednesday that would change when and how women can have abortions. The House of Representatives advanced Senate Bill 282, which would require, among other things, that if a fetus has more than a 50 percent chance of living outside the womb, a doctor would need to give it life-sustaining support. The bill needs one more vote to pass the House. Rep. Lola Sheldon-Galloway, R-Great Falls, voted for the bill. “The pregnancy is terminated, which is the desire of the mom, but the life of the child is saved,” she said. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Monday, April 3


Raise for care workers rejected
By Cole Grant
All day Monday, Montana senators debated the state’s $10 billion-plus budget. Sen. Mary Caferro, D-Helena, carried one of the more expensive amendments in the Senate that would have added a dollar an hour per year to the wages of workers who care for seniors and disabled Montanans. The amendment failed, as did similar ones throughout the day. “We have to recognize that there are a lot of people left on the table that are not going to get their needs met,” Caferro said. “And I think if this doesn’t get fixed down the road, we’re going to find in the next two years that we’ll be hearing from people in our districts.”

Sen. Eric Moore, R-Miles City, said giving money to programs like these would be a worthy act. Continue Reading →

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Legislature trying to find money for aides to disabled


HELENA — With so much talk of money during Montana’s 65th legislative session, it can be difficult to comprehend how all that money affects everyday Montanans. This session, one group has become the de facto human face of the budget—direct care workers. (more…) Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Friday, March 31


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. Continue Reading →

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Legislative Update: Thursday, March 30


Senator pushes for warnings on raw milk
By Freddy Monares
In response to a House-approved bill that would legalize raw milk, lawmakers are considering a bill that would label raw milk. Senate Bill 300 would require raw milk and products made with raw milk to have a warning label for consumers who are vulnerable to bacterial infections. That bill passed the Senate 29-to-21. Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula, is the sponsor of the bill. “As a historian I will tell one of the reasons pasteurization became common was because of the number of deaths of pregnant women and stillbirths related to the consumption of raw milk,” Sands said. Continue Reading →

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