Upcoming Week in the Legislature:
Next week the Section B appropriations subcommittee will be holding a hearing on the Senior & Long-Term Care Division (SLTC) budget. This will be on Thursday, January 21 from 8:00 to 12:00. Public Testimony is also scheduled for that Division on the following day, Friday, January 22.
There is also public testimony scheduled for Tuesday, January 19 for the Developmental Services Division (DSD) budget, which is scheduled to be acted upon that day by the committee.
The Sub-Committee will need to take significant actions to restore the DSD budget after its starting point motion made on January 8, which changed the starting point from the current proposals to the 2019 actuals – a reduction of the DSD budget by $93 million for the biennium.
There was discussion of the Division’s failure to spend its appropriation during its budget hearing on Thursday, January 14. This has been an issue of contention in the recent past. Past subcommittee members have been concerned that funds they appropriated to be used for providing services to adults with developmental disabilities and children with serious mental illness were left unspent. They have instead seen these funds revert to the general fund or perhaps be transferred to other purposes within the Department. Some of those past committee members have brought legislation in prior sessions to attempt to ensure that money appropriated for Medicaid waiver services actually be spent in those programs. The most notable of these was in 2017: HB 334 “Directing that Medicaid appropriations be used only for Medicaid expenditures” sponsored by Rep John Knokey and SB 208, “Generally revise Medicaid waiver laws” which was sponsored by Sen. Mary Caferro. Both passed with strong support in both houses but were vetoed by Governor Bullock. An attempt to override the vetoes was not successful.
We hope that the current concern about this reversion does not result in cuts to the Governor’s DSD budget. We understand the frustration but would urge the sub-committee members to opt for closer oversight of DSD to use these funds for services, not to cut the appropriation in the amount that has been reverted in the past.
Click here for the full schedule. Be sure to check it often as we have seen the schedule change with little notice.
Monday, January 18
At 2:30, the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee will hear SB 18, "Establish graduation requirements for educationally-disrupted youth.” Click here to read this bill. This bill provides legislative intent to “allow a pupil who experiences an educational disruption to obtain a diploma if the pupil meets the state's minimum high school credit requirement.” Educational disruptions include homelessness, involvement in the child welfare system or juvenile justice system, or a medical or mental health crisis. The hearing is in room 422, and the bill is sponsored by Sen. Dan Salomon.
Click here for the contact information for the Senate Education and Cultural Resources Committee.
Tuesday, January 19
At 9:00, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear SB 32 “Revise monitoring requirements for guardians of adults.” Click here to read this bill. This bill would require potential guardians to submit a plan for caring for the potential ward at the time the person petitions for that position. The sponsor is Sen. McNally and the hearing is in room 303.
Click here for the contact information for the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Wednesday, January 20
At 3:00, the House Education Committee will hear HB 46 “Revise special education funding.” Click here to read this bill. This bill was requested by the interim legislative finance committee. It would include special education funding in BASE aid, which is a formula-driven, inflation-adjusted formula for school funding. It would apply the inflation factor from current law to the total special education allocation. It will be heard in room 137 and is sponsored by Rep. Bedey.
Click here for the contact information for the House Education Committee.
Friday, January 22
At 3:00 pm, the Senate State Administration Committee will hear SB 15, “Revise election laws related to accessibility for disabled electors.” Click here to read this bill. This bill was drafted by the interim State Administration and Veterans Affairs Committee, which sought out input from all stakeholders. This bill addresses the availability of accessible voting machines, including assuring their use in school and other non-federal elections. It also makes various changes regarding the use of registered agents for voting, referring to applicable federal law, accessibility of polling places, and protecting people with disabilities’ ability to cast ballots and receive voting assistance.
It is sponsored by Sen. Janet Ellis and will be heard in room 335.
Click here for the contact information for the Senate State Administration Committee.
Developments this Week
The Senate Judiciary passed SB 31 “Require consideration of less restrictive options in guardianship proceedings” and SB 4 “Extend the Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force” out of committee on Friday. The next step will be a debate and vote in the full Senate.
Also congratulations to our Montana Coalition for Public Safety partners on their work to get HB 92, “Establish compensation program for wrongfully convicted individuals” out of the House Judiciary with a unanimous vote! That will be heard by the full House likely next week.
To listen to audio/video streaming of committee hearings, click here.
How to Contact Legislators During the Session
Use the online messaging form to message a legislator (click button below). This is one of the quickest and most effective ways of contacting your legislator.
Regular office hours during the session are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to adjournment on Saturdays. Callers may leave messages for legislators or acquire general legislative information by calling the Information Desk at (406) 444-4800. Callers may leave messages for up to 5 individual legislators or 1 legislative committee per call.
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We will be posting an electronic newsletter each Friday during the 2021 legislative session. We will give you information about upcoming budget and general bill hearings, developments for other bills we are following and action alerts when these bills are coming up for votes.
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MonTECH houses a wide range of equipment to help you get connected. Borrow iPads, adapted keyboards, hands-free mice, laptops, wearable speakers, headphones, webcams, voice amplifiers, or devices that allow hands-free video calls with motion tracking. Spotty or nonexistent internet? If you’re in range of a cellular tower, borrow a Jetpack Mobile Hotspot and connect up to 15 devices! MonTECH provides free shipping and return shipping anywhere in Montana, and serves any Montanan who has a disability (including learning disabilities). The program is easy to use and does not require medical verification of a disability to borrow this type of equipment. Call or write if you have questions or need help accessing our program: firstname.lastname@example.org, 1-877-243-5511. We look forward to helping ensure you are heard during the 2021 legislative session!
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