- Sen. Diane Sands has introduced a bill that would make it mandatory that all sexual assault kits get tested in the State Crime Lab. This may seem like a no-fucking-brainer, but a report in 2015 found 1,140 untested kits in Montana. This is a long-overdue change to help bring justice to survivors.
- A lot of rural communities rely on volunteer firefighters to battle blazes — but when they get hurt, there’s sometimes no money for workers compensation. A new bill would put a 5 percent tax on fireworks to fund payment for injured firefighters. The only people opposed are the fireworks companies, and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we shouldn’t make policies based around the wishes of people who make explosives.
- Remember when you were a teenager and finally negotiated a later curfew? Montana’s breweries are growing facial hair, getting their driver’s licenses and are ready for an extension on their beer curfew. House Bill 185 would allow breweries to stay open until 10 p.m., giving the rest of us more time to sip our IPAs and contemplate existence.
- Rep. Shane Morigeau introduced House Bill 219 to abolish Columbus Day as a state holiday and recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in its place. Missoula and Bozeman already made this change a few years ago, and I’m extremely ready to stop honoring this country’s most notorious colonizer with a holiday. Check out this video on the issue.
Throw it away:
- It’s week two and already legislators are trying to restrict your voting rights. Sen. Mike Cuffe introduced SB 143 which would eliminate same-day voter registration, which was how over 12,000 Montanans voted in 2016. (I would provide you with 2018 stats, but the Secretary of State’s office hasn’t updated their data. I’m venturing down an email rabbit hole in search of the new numbers and will update you with anything I find down there.) If there was ever a time to CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS at (406)444-4800, it’s now.
- I cannot stop thinking about this story on higher education funding, where we find out that Montana invested $41 per student in need-based aid last school year, while the national average was $539! WHY ARE WE NOT INVESTING IN THE STUDENTS WHO NEED IT MOST? In 2019 we are purging ourselves of this kind of negative energy and lobbying our legislators to help make! higher! education! attainable!
- Look guys, I know we talked about it last week, but I just wanna make sure everything was clear: Work requirements for Medicaid are BAD. As many Montana legislators and activists are pointing out, work requirements in Arkansas kicked over 18,000 people off Medicaid in six months. This article lays out how difficult it can be for low-income people to report their work hours. A handful of Republicans are considering implementing work requirements. Let’s not, and say we didn’t.
- The UM Community News Service wrote about the self-named “solutions caucus,” a group of moderate Republicans who meet frequently and are willing to compromise with Dems to pass legislation. The story included Rep. Derek Skees, R-Kalispell, saying that elected Republicans who don’t vote with the rest of the party make “a component of our service a lie to our constituents.”
Save the Dates and Such
Jan. 21 — Martin Luther King Jr. Day Lobby Day with the Montana Human Rights Network
Jan. 23 — Clean Power For All: Rally at the Capitol
Jan. 28 — Youth Legislative Voices Round Table
Feb. 6 — Montana Conservation Voters Conservation Community Lobby Day
Last But Not Least, a Little Inspiration
It’s super easy to get caught up in the minute, ever-changing details of the leg session — it’s enough to give anyone the January blues. Here is my offering to help ward them off: these incredible photos from the Jan. 11 public lands rally, where over 1,500 Montanans PACKED the capitol rotunda to support keeping public lands in public hands. The energy in these pictures warms my cold heart.
(FMT was there too — check out more pics of our cute staffers on Insta!)
Keep fighting the good fight, friends. Subscribe to this newsletter, if you haven’t already. See you next Sunday.
Margaret Grayson is Forward Montana’s Legislative Communications Fellow. A recent graduate of University of Montana, Margaret spent three years with the Montana Kaimin as a reporter and editor and interned at the Missoula Independent (RIP). Now she writes jokes for the internet and works to educate young folks about the legislative session.