Constitutional Changes & Another Zombie Bill
???? Calls to Action ????
⚖️ HB 915 proposes a Constitutional amendment that would replace our Supreme Court justice elections with a system where the Governor appoints new justices, needlessly injecting partisan politics into the courts. Tell your Representative you want to be able to elect your Supreme Court justice, and to vote NO on HB 915.
????️⚧️ HB 361 would perpetuate hostile school environments for transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit students by preventing any disciplinary action from being taken against students who refuse to use the correct name or pronouns for their classmates. Let’s stop this bill in the Senate – send a message to your Senator and urge them to vote NO on HB 361.
⚕️ HB 303 would give anyone involved in providing health care services sweeping permissions to discriminate against patients, restricting access to medical services with little regard for the rights and needs of people seeking care. Send a message to your Senator asking them to stand up for patients’ rights and vote NO on HB 303.
HB 625 is a zombified version of LR-131, a measure that Montana voters rejected just this November. Tell the Senate Judiciary committee to respect the will of those who elected them, and vote NO on HB 625.
A Breath of Fresh Air
Ready for some positivity? This week we testified in support of SB 532 from Sen. Mary Ann Dunwell of Helena, a bill to establish the Montana Climate Action Act! This bill would establish a carbon tax on any company that emits more than 25,000 metric tons or more of carbon and other greenhouse gasses each year.
This bill shifts the physical price of pollution to those emitting it, incentivizing them to reduce those emissions, which then lessens harmful effects on folks in the forms of diseases like COPD, pneumonia, and so much more. It would also greatly benefit the beautiful habitats and incredible wildlife across this state that we are lucky to see and care for– and which tourists pay big bucks to visit.
Carbon taxes have been around across the US and the globe for over 15 years. It’s not a new concept, which means there’s a lot of research into the pros and cons. The tax implemented by SB 532 is low on the companies, starting at $10 per metric ton and increasing annually by $1 per metric ton, plus the rate of inflation, and they would receive help from the DEQ in planning the processes to reduce their carbon emissions!
This tax would also generate much revenue for the people who live and work and thrive in Montana. It is clear that this bill has had much thought put into it, and we’re grateful to Senator Dunwell for bringing it forward. Unfortunately, SB 532 was tabled in committee.
We’re fast approaching the deadline for legislators to propose constitutional amendments, and they’re coming fast and furious. We’ve done our best to make some sense of this flurry of bills:
SB 272, introduced by Sen. Theresa Manzella of Hamilton, expands the powers of county sheriffs. This proposal has several major issues: it says that “historical powers of the sheriff may not be withdrawn, transferred from, or delegated to any person or entity outside the control of the sheriff.” This raises all kinds of complicated jurisdictional questions, especially for cases on tribal lands that could require involvement from tribal and federal law enforcement.
These ideas are part of the constitutional sheriff movement, which you can read more about in this article from the Southern Poverty Law Center. This proposed amendment would give someone who just has to be “a qualified elector” with no prior legal training or experience the power to treat a county like their personal fiefdom, an idea that is incredibly dangerous for all Montanans.
HB 895, introduced by Rep. Paul Green of Hardin, would alter our nonpartisan method of changing legislative district boundaries. This amendment changes the redistricting process by mandating the Legislature’s approval of the redistricting commission’s changes (without specifying what constitutes “approval”), rather than the current process where the Legislature gives the commission recommendations for changes that they can then consider and vote on.
This proposal would change the balance of redistricting in our state, in favor of prioritizing partisan pleas rather than creating districts that equally represent Montana. Redistricting must remain independent in Montana because when legislatures control redistricting they can use this power to serve their own political interests, rather than the interests of the people. Tell the House Judiciary Committee to vote NO on HB 895.
You thought we were done telling you about all the ways members of the Legislature want to change Montana’s judicial system? Think again! Rep. Bill Mercer of Billings has introduced HB 915, an amendment which would replace our Supreme Court justice elections with a system where the Governor appoints new justices. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, Montana’s nonpartisan judicial branch of government is essential for ensuring our state has a fair court system.
Proposals like these are not fixing a problem that really exists in our state; all they do is inject needless partisan politics into the courts. Tell your Representative you want to be able to elect your Supreme Court justice, and to vote NO on HB 915.
HB 361, Rep. Brandon Ler’s bill that would perpetuate hostile school environments for transgender, non-binary, and Two-Spirit students by preventing any disciplinary action from being taken against students who refuse to use the correct name or pronouns for their classmates, was heard in the Senate Judiciary Committee on Monday.
The sponsor’s justification for this blatantly transphobic bill was (surprise!) blatant transphobia. Basically, he argued that students shouldn’t have to respect trans people’s names or pronouns because children have a right to deny the existence of trans people.
Opponents included several trans students and parents of trans children who affirmed that trans people are very real, and that this bill would cause very real harm to students who already struggle to find acceptance and respect for their identities at school. One trans student questioned the sponsor’s intentions, asking, “What do you gain?… Are our lives really less important than passing this unnecessary bill?”
What we really can’t wrap our heads around is how any of these legislators are still choosing to deny that people are actually trans! And that these real people with real identities (identities that have been around for thousands of years longer than this legislature has been around) deserve respect.
Let’s stop this bill in the Senate – send a message to your Senator and urge them to vote NO on HB 361.
HB 303, the so-called “Medical Ethics and Diversity Act” also had a Senate committee hearing on Monday. Proponents of the bill specifically mentioned both abortion and gender affirming care as services that they don’t want to be forced to provide. Once again, legal protections already exist for health professionals who choose not to participate in services that they morally object to. HB 303 would give anyone involved in providing health care services sweeping permissions to discriminate against patients, restricting access to medical services with little regard for the rights and needs of people seeking care.
Send a message to your Senator asking them to stand up for patients’ rights and vote NO on HB 303.
The hateful array of anti-trans bills moving through the Montana legislature includes HB 361, HB 303, and at least 4 others. It has been truly heartbreaking to witness this in our state and across the country (currently, the ACLU is tracking 435 anti-LGBTQ bills). For Trans Day of Visibility on Friday, 3/31, we showed up at the Capitol to affirm our right to be trans, take our bodies back, and demonstrate the strength of solidarity amongst allies and members of the trans, non-binary, and Two-Spirit communities.
We heard from some amazing speakers, including Indigenous trans youth, Keegan Medrano of the ACLU, Rep. Zooey Zephyr, and Hillary-Anne Crosby, before disrupting the capitol with our bodies and voices. For three minutes, we laid in the rotunda, in the middle of the halls where trans lives have been debated, defended, and ignored.
Together, we must unite in defense of our lives, our bodies, and our autonomy. Through this action, we joyfully proclaimed that our bodies are our own and that our power, together, is stronger than any state.
VILLAIN OF THE WEEK –
Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe (R) Billings
Once again, some of our legislators are showing just how much they’re ignoring everyday Montanans. Our villain this week, Rep. Kerri Seekins-Crowe of Billings, is trying to sneakily bring back LR-131 in the form of HB 625, which is deceivingly titled the “Infant Safety and Care Act.”
Y’all may remember that we just voted on LR-131, the so-called “Born-Alive Referendum,” last November, so why do we have so many legislators trying to bring back zombies?
For a quick refresher, you can check out these impactful stories from real Montana families about how LR-131 would have affected them. HB 625, this almost-identical zombified version, would require doctors, under threat of fees and jail time, to provide life-saving care to any infant “born alive…at any stage of development, who… breathes, has a beating heart, or has definite movement of voluntary muscles” even if the infant has no chance of survival due to complications.
Reviving a policy that was just rejected by the Montana electorate? That’s villainous behavior. If you agree, tell the Senate Judiciary committee to vote NO on HB 625.
HERO OF THE WEEK –
Sen. Jen Gross (D) Billings
If you, like us, have watched what feels like one million hours of Senate Judiciary Committee hearings this session, then it’ll come as no surprise that Sen. Jen Gross of Billings is our hero this week. As the session barrels toward the bitter end, this committee has been hearing more than its fair share of highly controversial bills. As the Vice Chair of the committee, Sen. Gross has been a voice of reason through them all.
During Tuesday’s hearing on HB 721, an inflammatory anti-abortion bill based on disinformation and stigmatization of crucial reproductive healthcare, tensions ran high. When it came time for the committee to ask questions, Senator Emrich started down a line of questioning comparing abortion procedures to satanic rituals. After Democratic Senators Gross and Olsen’s repeated objections were shut down by the Chair, Sen. Gross drew a line: she walked out of the hearing, and Senators Olsen and Webber followed.
This isn’t the first time Sen. Gross has taken a stand against the disrespect and misinformation that so frequently rear their heads in her committee. From day one, she has spoken out against the rushed decision making, breaches of decorum, and inflammatory statements that have unfortunately become hallmarks of this legislative session. We know that this is extremely difficult work, and we’re grateful to Senator Gross for doing it.
You can show your support for our Hero by asking your Senator to vote NO on HB 721. When you’re done, drop Sen. Gross a thank you note.