Montana Lawmakers Pass 11 Bills Cracking Down on Violent Crime
Many Montanans have been distracted during this now-concluded legislative session. Gender identity issues, trans rights, charter schools, and tax cuts seem to have received most of the press's attention. These are all hot-button topics that inflame passionate opinions from both sides of the aisle.
Meanwhile, some of us may have wondered if our lawmakers were actually working on other serious problems in Big Sky Country, like the dramatic rise of fentanyl, violent crime, and missing and murdered indigenous people.
The answer is yes.
In between worrying about genitals, the 98th session of the Montana Legislature managed to pass a number of bills that aim to crack down on drug trafficking, human trafficking, sex crimes, and violence. Thank God. 'Cause it's starting to feel like the wild west around here, especially in places like Yellowstone County. A press release (5/3) from Montana Attorney General Austen Knudsen shared some of the highlights.
Two bills were passed (House Bill 112 and Senate Bill 522) that help address human trafficking. One will increase the penalties for human trafficking and will provide prosecutors with more tools to prosecute human traffickers. The other creates an emergency lodging grant program to assist in providing short-term lodging in the state to individuals and families that are victims of domestic violence or human trafficking.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous People
Native Americans are four times more likely to go missing in Montana. Sadly, many are never found and homicides remain unsolved. Two House Bills (HB 163 and HB 18) and two Join Resolutions (Senate 5 and House 1) were passed by legislators this session. The initiative will provide additional resources and personnel to help curb a serious problem.
Four bills were passed that address sex crimes (SB 38, SB 345, HB 79, HB 640). One will create a sexual assault response network program within the Department of Justice. Another involves updated practices regarding sexual assault evidence kits. The other two strengthen sex offender laws and notification requirements.
Three bills were passed regarding illegal drugs (HB 791, HB 437, SB 67). The real standout of the three bills is House Bill 791, which imposes a mandatory minimum sentence of two years of jail time, a $50,000 fine, or both, for anyone convicted of trafficking fentanyl in the state of Montana.
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