Calls to action

???? SB 315 would allow Montana schools to provide age and developmentally appropriate information on consent and healthy relationships, anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent sexual development, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and identity, sexual health, and interpersonal violence. Send a message to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee voicing your support for SB 315!

????️SB 323 would allow for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes to be built in any area zoned for single-family homes in cities with a population above 50,000. This is often the most affordable type of housing, and is currently banned in 70% of Montana’s most in-demand communities. Ask the Senate Local Government Committee to vote YES on SB 323.

????‍♀️HB 464 and SB 302would both politicize Montana’s judicial elections. HB 464 would allow currently-nonpartisan judicial candidates to list a party affiliation, and would list candidates who do not declare an affiliation as “undisclosed.” SB 302 would require judicial candidates to list a party– after a nonpartisan primary. Judges are nonpartisan for a reason, and they should stay that way. Ask the House Judiciary Committee to vote NO on HB 464, and ask the Senate State Administration Committee to reject SB 302.

????️SB 372proposes a Constitutional amendment that would do away with Supreme Court and District Court justice elections entirely. Instead, the Montana House of Representatives would nominate justices, and the Senate would confirm them. When a vacancy occurs at a time when the legislature isn’t in session– which is most of the time– the Governor would appoint the justices. Ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to uphold our Constitution and democracy, and vote NO on SB 372.

⚕️HB 432would codify Montana’s constitutionally protected right to access abortion care and clean up outdated, unenforceable code. Abortion is legal in Montana, and this vital reproductive healthcare should be accessible, straightforward, and not surrounded by confusing and contradictory policy. Ask the House Judiciary Committee to vote YES on HB 432.

Enthusiastic consent for comprehensive sex ed!

Senator Mary Ann Dunwell of Helena is sponsoring a bill that we are delighted to support, SB 315. The comprehensive personal health, sexual health, and safety education proposed by this bill gives Montana’s current sex ed policies a much needed update, and includes criteria for providing age and developmentally appropriate information on consent and healthy relationships, anatomy and physiology, puberty and adolescent sexual development, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation and identity, sexual health, and interpersonal violence.

Currently, Montana schools are required to teach sex education, but state laws don’t provide guidance as to what should be taught, leaving students across the state with variable, inadequate, and often inaccurate information regarding their own bodies. According to a 2017 study on sex education in Montana high schools, approximately three-quarters of the participants reported that the sex education they received was “useless”.  

In 2021, the passage of Senate Bill 99 further restricted student’s access to sex education by requiring teachers to notify parents at least 48 hours in advance of lessons related to sexual education and prohibits school districts from receiving sex education instruction from any person or entity affiliated with providing abortion care. 

The current standard for sex education is a disservice to students in Montana, and SB 315 would give students the opportunity to gain important, age-appropriate skills and knowledge from 4th to 12th grade. Let’s give young people what they deserve – comprehensive and useful education on topics impacting their physical, relational, and emotional health. Send a message to the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee voicing your support for this bill!

Hold your loved ones close – and hold your legislators accountable

With LGBTQIA2S+ people under attack in the legislature, we’ve drawn a lot of strength from the people showing up to advocate for their communities and loved ones.  Thank you for submitting public comment, messaging your legislators, giving testimony and sharing our calls to action. It matters. Witnessing community support for trans rights affirms the choices of allies in the legislature, gets our opposition to these bills on the record, and reminds everyone that queer Montanans are here and we won’t back down. 

HB 359, the bill that would ban minors from attending drag shows, restrict drag performances to “sexually oriented businesses,” and criminalize any trans performer for their art, passed in committee last week, but has not been voted on in the House yet, which means that it’s time to urge your Representatives to vote NO on this unenforceable, stigmatizing, and generally terrible bill. 

Since our last update, several discriminatory bills have moved forward in the legislative process; HB 234 and HB 361 passed in the House, and we mentioned last week that SB 99 and HB 303 have also passed in their respective chambers (for a refresher on these bills, check out info linked to the bill number).  

For the legislators who have continued to disregard the concerns of the many folks who would be affected by these bills, it’s time to remind them that they were elected to represent the interests of their constituents, NOT to spread hate or further their personal agendas.

While these bills are waiting to be transmitted to the next chamber, we also have time tothank the folks who have supported the rights of all Montanans by voting against transphobic policies ????

Legalize Duplexes!

SB 323, sponsored by Senator Jeremy Trebas of Great Falls, would allow for duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes to be built in any area zoned for single-family homes in cities with a population above 50,000. 

Currently, more than 70% of residential areas in Montana’s highest-demand communities– like Missoula, Bozeman, Whitefish, etc– either penalize or outright ban the development of multi-family housing. This is absolutely a contributing factor to our state’s housing crisis: according to data from the 2020 Census, the median rent per unit for a 2-4 unit development is, on average, $200 less per month than the median rent for a single-family home. Even more baffling, these 2-4 unit rentals are also, on average, less expensive per unit than larger developments with 20-50 units. In short, duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes are some of the most affordable housing options available, and they’re currently banned in much of our state.

In the context of state vs. local control over all kinds of things, you’ve heard us (and others) say that there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution. Right now, many local governments are literally only allowing one size of home to be built in vast stretches of our communities. We think it’s time to strike this outdated code and push our cities to meet the needs of our growing population. If you agree,ask the Senate Local Government Committee to vote YES on SB 323.

Plastic is (not) Fantastic

Ready for a bill with potential? Look no further than HB 413, sponsored by Ed Stafman of Bozeman. This bill seeks to repeal a bill from last session, which was about preventing local governments from banning “auxiliary containers” aka single use plastics. Some of the powers that were denied include regulating the use or sale of plastic containers, any attempt to prohibit or restrict them, or even imposing fees on them, any of which could be a useful tool for reducing our impacts on local landfills.

Proponents at the hearing lined up to point out the terrible effects of plastics on the world in general, and on Montana’s ecosystems in particular. To be clear, this bill is not forcing any local government to ban single use plastics. It would actually return control to local governments and their residents to make their own decisions to ensure a cleaner future.  

It’s clear that Montanans want the power this bill would give back to them. The Missoula City Council passed a resolution to support HB 413, and there are similar calls from residents in other towns, including from SustainaBillings in Billings and the city council in Bozeman!

Frustratingly, HB 413 was tabled in committee, but we know the conversation about plastic waste won’t end here. You can learn more about how to keep the conversation going by following the work of Families for a Livable Climate and @sustainabillings on Instagram!

The Judicial Dating Game

Welcome, welcome, lucky contestant to the Judicial Dating Game, where you get to meet some eligible bill-chelors making a splash in the Legislature! Your choice in today’s game will determine how Montanans elect their judges for the foreseeable future. Without further ado, meet bill-chelor number 1!

HB 464, introduced by Rep. Paul Fielder of Thompson Falls, would allow judge candidates to declare their party affiliation when they run for office. But this bill is a little spicier than just that – it also requires candidates who do not list a party affiliation to be listed as “undisclosed” on the ballot. If you want laws that sow seeds of doubt in the actions of judges who follow their ethical obligation not to be partisan, HB 464 might be the choice for you!

Bill–chelor number 2 is actually a package deal! Both of these politicizing proposals come courtesy of Sen. Daniel Emrich of Great Falls. The first is SB 302, a doozy that would require the November elections for judges to be partisan, but only after a nonpartisan primary. If you love administrative nightmares and surprise party announcements, then SB 302 could be just what you’re looking for!  

Up next is an amendment to Montana’s Constitution also proposed by Sen. Emrich, that would do away with Supreme Court judge elections entirely! Instead, SB 372 would have the House of Representatives nominate a judge and then have them confirmed by the Senate. When the legislature is not in session (which is most of the time), the Governor would appoint justices to vacant seats. Montana has never had a system like this; since statehood the Supreme Court judge has always been an elected position.

Our final bill-chelor is not actually a bill at all. It’s a little older than your previous options, at 88 years old. Born in 1935, bill-chelor number 3 is Montana’s current system of nonpartisan judicial elections! This system recognizes that judges should not decide cases based on partisan alignment, but on the facts and arguments presented to them. An independent judiciary is indispensable to providing robust checks and balances on the other branches of our state government, which is why SB 200, another bill that would have allowed judges to run as partisans, was strongly opposed by Montana’s judges and lawyers and was unanimously tabled in committee just last week.

We know which bill-chelor we’re choosing, and if you also support an independent judicial branch we know just what you can do.

Ask the House Judiciary Committee to vote NO on HB 464.
Ask the Senate State Administration Committee to reject SB 302.
Ask the Senate Judiciary Committee to uphold our Constitution, and vote NO on SB 372.

Hero of the Week- Rep. Laurie Bishop

This week’s hero– Rep. Laurie Bishop of Livingston–is the sponsor of HB 432, which would codify Montanans’ constitutional right to abortion care. In her opening on the bill, Rep. Bishop specified that this bill doesn’t grant Montanans any protections that are not already enshrined by our constitutional right to privacy; instead, it updates Montana law to reflect reality. It also repeals several abortion-related bills that are legally unenforceable, making Montana’s healthcare landscape much clearer to folks who may be confused by conflicting code when seeking this essential reproductive care. 

In the face of mischaracterizations from anti-abortion opponents (including the Senate Majority Leader, Senator Sue Vinton), who described her bill as “radical,” Rep. Bishop was level-headed and sure. She reiterated that HB 432 is nothing new, instead drawing a parallel between her bill and the numerous Republican-sponsored “clean-up” bills that have been breezing through the legislature this session. Abortion-related hearings are notoriously tense environments, and Rep. Bishop did an excellent job re-centering the conversation on what the bill would actually do. For her commitment to accessible reproductive care and protection of every Montanan’s constitutional rights, we are proud to call Rep. Bishop our Hero this week! Show your support for abortion access, and ask the House Judiciary Committee to vote YES on HB 432.

VILLAIN OF THE WEEK: Senator Jeremy Trebas

Last week, the Senate State Administration Committee heard SB 222, sponsored by Senator Jeremy Trebas of Great Falls. This one’s a real doozy – it would ban state institutions from requiring their employees to participate in any training that “compels an individual to believe” a whole list of things, including: 

  • “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s class, is inherently racist, sexist, or oppressive, whether consciously or unconsciously;”
  • “an individual’s moral character or status as either privileged or oppressed is necessarily determined by the individual’s class;”
  • “an individual, by virtue of the individual’s class, bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress because of actions, in which the individual played no part, committed in the past by other members of the same class.”

We definitely recommend checking out the full text of the bill, linked above. In practice, SB 222 could ban all state institutions (including public schools) from requiring employees to attend training on bias, diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as from facilitating any discussions about the very real impacts of white privilege and white supremacy on government and education. 

Let’s focus on education. When teachers participate in DEIJ trainings, they become more able to meet the needs of all of their students. Students of color, queer students, trans students, students with disabilities, students from low-income families– we all benefit when our state’s educators understand how these identities can impact the way students show up at school. 

We see this bill for what it is: an attempt to erase history, prioritize white people’s feelings over reality, and shut down vital critiques of existing systems and social structures. Reckoning with the ways in which these structures (particularly white supremacy) impact our lives, work and society is the first step toward creating a future where all people can thrive. That reckoning also threatens the status quo, which can feel like an attack to people (like Trebas) who are used to benefiting from that status quo. 

Despite not a single proponent testifying in support of the bill, SB 222 passed in the Senate this week; next, it will have another hearing in the House. This hearing isn’t scheduled yet, but start working on your testimony, and we’ll let you know when it’s time to show up!