Although bills are still slow in coming, several quite important bills came before the legislature this week and others will be coming very soon . I’m going to write about some of both this week.
First, a few important bills of this week. My suicide awareness bill passed out of the Senate committee unanimously and is headed to the Senate floor. It is being carried by a Democrat and will pass easily. The crux of the bill is to move the suicide awareness officer from the director of DPHHS office to the mental health division. A move that will free up the position to be able to access more federal funds and have more staff to help Karl Rostad in the effort to get information and support out to the local health groups.
My anti sanctuary cities bill passed out of the House along party lines with some controversy. It is headed to the Senate committee, but I haven’t gotten a date for the committee hearing yet. It will pass the Senate pretty much along party lines as well and, since Governor Gianforte asked for the bill in his state of the state message last week, will be signed by the Governor.
A mix of now and coming bills involve election law. The current bill would eliminate same day registration and, as passed by the House, end registration at noon on the Monday before election. It has been sent to the Senate where it will probably be amended to the end of the day on the Friday before election. If that happens it will have to come back to the House to concur with the amendment. If we concur, the bill goes to the Governor for his signature. If we don’t concur, it goes to a conference committee to decide. Both houses vote on the decision and it is sent to the Governor.
Coming legislation for election law includes voter ID and mail in ballots. Voter ID isn’t too controversial and will pass easily. Mail in ballots are a bit more open for discussion. I believe we will end up with no state wide mail in ballots but will keep absentee ballots. The laws as I have described will tighten up voting requirements and lessen the possibility of fraud to a great extent.
Last, but not least, is limiting control by the Governor and nonelected officials if we were to experience another event like the last year has been. Currently there are at least four bills to do just that and the work to consolidate them is in the process. It appears as though the four bills will end up as two and should be coming out in the next two weeks or so. They will probably allow for a short period- two to four weeks- during which time the local emergency group can implement regulations but after that the decisions will be made by local elected officials. State wide the Governor will be limited as well and will have to have legislative approval to go further. Complete details are still being worked out.
Again I thank you for your outreach. If you wish to contact me please do so at Ken.firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 406-951-6764. I’m seldom at liberty to answer the phone since I can’t have it ring during committee or session.