Week 5 Legislative Update:

February 1st - 5th 

Photo of Montana Capitol building.


Next week the Section B appropriations subcommittee will be holding a work session on the Disability Employment & Transitions Division on February 2, at 8:00. The subcommittee will hold a hearing on the Child & Family Services Division (CFSD) budget at 8:00 on February 3. The following day, Thursday, February 4, the subcommittee will hear the Quality Assurance Division (QAD) budget. The committee will hold a work session on the CFSD and QAD budgets on Friday, February 5, at 8:00.

Click here for the full schedule. Be sure to check it often as we have seen the schedule change with little notice.


General Bills

Monday, February 1st:

At 3:00, the House Education Committee will hear HB 233, “Revise funding for students with disabilities.”  Click here to read this bill. The bill extends the maximum allowed school age for students with disabilities from age 18 to 20. Currently, school districts can offer services for these students, but they are not funded to do so under the state school funding formula. This will allow those districts that choose to offer the services to be reimbursed for the cost.

The extra two years will provide critical life-skills training – learning to live more independently,  building the self-assurance and self-sufficiency critical to being successful in adulthood. This is sponsored by Rep. Fred Anderson and will be heard in room 137.

Also at 3:00, the House Education Committee will hear HB 227, Establish student mental health screening pilot program.” Click here to read this bill. Sponsored by Rep. Maryann Dunwell, it will also be heard in room 137.

Click here for the contact information for the House Education Committee

Also at 3:00, the Senate Public Health and Safety Committee will hear SB 155, “Provide for equal access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation.” Click here to read this bill. This bill would prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities in access to anatomical gifts and organ transplantation.  It creates a cause of action for violation of the non-discrimination provisions and prohibits the insurer from denying coverage solely on the basis of disability.  This bill is sponsored by Sen. Tom Jacobsen and will be heard in room 317.

Click here for the contact information for the Senate Public Health and Safety Committee.

At 3:00, the House Human Services Committee will hear HB 222, “Establish limits on cost-sharing for insulin.” Click here to read this bill. This bill would limit the required disability insurance or prescription drug coverage certificate copayment to $35.00 for a 30 day supply of insulin. The sponsor is Rep. Jessica Karjala and the hearing will be in room 152.

Click here for the contact information for the House Human Services Committee.

Tuesday, February 2nd

At 1:30 or upon adjournment of the Senate, the Senate Finance and Claims Committee will hear HB 21, “Authorize funding for the multifamily coal trust home loan program.” Click here to read this bill. This bill authorizes additional funding for low-income and moderate income loans from the permanent coal tax trust fund.  It is sponsored by Rep. Geraldine Custer and will be heard in room 303. 

Click here for the contact information for the Senate Finance and Claims Committee.

Wednesday, February 3rd

At 3:00, the House Human Services Committee will hear HB 235, “Create nutrition incentive program for SNAP participants.” The stated purpose of the bill is “ to develop a nutrition 19 incentives program to double the purchasing power of Montana residents with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables, support Montana farmers, and invest in Montana's local economies.” It is sponsored by Rep. Tom Welch and will be heard in room 152.  

Click here for the contact information for the House Human Services Committee.


To listen to audio/video streaming of committee hearings, click here.


Goings on this week:

Three of the interim committee bills that we supported regarding waiver services passed their relative committees this week.  SB 33, “Require 30-day notice before termination of participation in HCBS waiver program” and SB 43, "Require administrative rulemaking for substantive changes to HCBS programs” were passed unanimously by the Senate Public Health and Safety Committee.  In addition, HB 38, “Establish legislative intent for home and community-based services waivers” which has already passed the House of Representatives was also supported unanimously by the Senate Public Health Committee, receiving that vote right after the hearing was finished.

Also, HB 176, ”Close late voter registration on Friday before the election,” which rolls back late registration to the Friday prior to election day was tabled in the House State Administration Committee. We opposed this bill as it creates obstacles to voting for people with disabilities. The votes to table the bill were Rep. Weatherwax, Bishop, Custer Frazer, Hayman, Karjala, Kortum, Putnam, Running Wolf, Smith, Whitman. Please feel free to reach out to them and thank them for their vote.     

Also, several tax bills we were following were tabled this week.  Two notable bills are SB 73, “Provide for local distribution of lodging sales tax revenue” and HB 162 “Eliminate state tax on social security income.”  We opposed these bills as they collectively remove roughly $140 million in revenue from the state each year. 

SB 73 addressed local lodging sales taxes. Currently, after the tax is collected, 25% of the income returns to the local jurisdiction that collected it and 75% goes to the state general fund.  This tax was originally established in order to make up for the loss of revenue caused by large income tax cuts in the early 2000s. SB 73 would have changed the law so 100% of the tax revenue went back to the local community where it was generated. This would have taken $30 million out of the general fund in 2022, $36 million in 2023, $40 million in 2024, and so on. Given that our state has not yet recovered from the low revenue in 2017 that led to tremendous cuts in disability services, this change in state revenue would make it unlikely that there would be sufficient general fund dollars to fund necessary services. Thus, even though places like Gallatin County would have seen more revenue, most other smaller counties in Montana would not, and given the impact on the state budget, they would also likely see cuts to the disability services funded by the state that many of their residents rely upon.

We also had a similar concern about the impact of HB 162 on state revenue. This bill would have eliminated taxes on social security income largely for higher-income earners. Most low and middle income recipients of social security income already have their income exempted from taxation. The exemption is based upon adjusted gross income and nearly 70% of all social security income in Montana is already exempt from taxation.  This bill would largely benefit higher income households, as 79% of the benefit would go to the highest 20% receiving social security benefits, which would be those earning $103,000 year or more. 

The impact of this bill would have been to reduce revenue by a whopping $100 million a year, which, as noted above, would have a very negative result for our state budget and the funding of disability services.


How to Contact Legislators During the Session

Online Messaging

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. 

Phone Call

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.

Not sure who represents you in the Montana Legislature? Click Here 

Stay Informed

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.  


Do You Have the Assistive Technology You Need to Participate in the 2021 Legislative Session?

Do you have what you need to share your story or voice support of bills that impact the lives of Montanans with disabilities? Borrow equipment from MonTECH for 30-60 days so you'll be prepared to write, call, or testify.

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: montech@mso.umt.edu, 1-877-243-5511. We look forward to helping ensure you are heard during the 2021 legislative session!


Protection & Advocacy Service Training

We are more than happy to provide training and workshops to others. We welcome nonprofits, clients, workplaces, and more, to reach out to us if you would like for us to present about our services, and how we can provide assistance. Call 406-449-2344 or email Advocate@DisabilityRightsMT.org.


"Advocating for justice is our individual and collective responsibility."

Executive Director,
Disability Rights Montana
Bernie Franks-Ongoy



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Disability Rights Montana
1022 Chestnut Street  | Helena, Montana 59601
406-449-2344 | Advocate@DisabilityRightsMT.org

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