Last week the Legislature passed 39 bills. The following are some of the subjects that were covered.
Teen alcohol - HB 20 by G. Hendricks (R-Superior) - Authorizes counties to enact social host ordinances. Rep. Hendricks carried the bill for a group of teenagers who did the homework and proposed the bill as a way to curb teenage drinking. Ordinances passed under this authorization would hold parents who supply alcohol to minors at "house" parties responsible. Adoption by counties is optional. The bill passed 90-10.
Workers Comp - HB 118 by C. Hunter (D-Helena) requires that one of the seven board members of the State Insurance Compensation Fund must have "executive management experience in an insurance company". This was not a previous requirement, even though the state fund is an insurance operation.
Marijuana - The House passed HB 19 by D. Sands (D-Missoula) to amend the Clean Indoor Air Act to include smoking medical marijuana. This bill came out of the Interim Health and Human Services Committee, which studied the marijuana problem during the last Interim. It was requested by a number of business interests and hospitals. The bill passed 98-2.
Also, the Health and Human Services Committee held a hearing on HB 161 by House Speaker Mike Milburn. The bill would totally repeal the existing law. Needless to say the hearing drew a very large crowd. The committee has not taken action on the bill, yet.
Immigration - HB 302 by J. Taylor (R-Dayton) Drivers license in English only.
State law already says that English is the official language of state and local government, but driver license tests are given in Spanish, Russian and Chinese as well. This bill says that written tests, and road tests, must be conducted in English. The bill passed 62-38.
Elections - HB 152 by T. Washburn (R-Bozeman) clarifies that only a Montana drivers license, or Montana MVD Identification card, or a Tribal Identification card is acceptable ID for voting. No more utility bills, government pay stubs, or other non-verifiable identification is acceptable. The bill is aimed at reducing the possibility of voter fraud.
We also had our first "blast" motion of the session. When a bill is stuck in committee, the sponsor, or anyone else, can try to "blast" the bill out of committee and to the floor for discussion and a vote. This requires 60 votes to pass and is seldom successful.
In this case, the bill was HB 220 by D. Barrett (D-Missoula). The bill would require that any child 1 year or less and weighing less than 20 pounds must ride backwards in a car-seat. The bill had been tabled in the Transportation Committee. The blast failed 48-52.
Another unusual vote was failure of HB 154 on third reading. Usually, if a bill makes it through committee and second reading (debate and vote) on the floor, it is pretty certain of passing third reading. In this case, HB 154 by J. Knox (R-Billings) would have eliminated the requirement that the state Superintendent of Instruction must have at least a baccalaureate degree. The bill passed second reading 58-42, but failed on third by 46-53. So, the law remains unchanged.
Next week the Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on SB 185 by D. Wanzanreid (D-Missoula) which would abolish the death penalty and provide for life imprisonment without possibility of parole. This will be heard Wednesday at 8 a.m.
HB 203 by M. Menehan (D-Helena) - Allow evidence of other crimes in sexual assault and child molestation cases. The bill will be heard in House Judiciary Feb. 7, 2011.
Individual bills can be tracked and committee hearing schedules can be found at www.leg.mt.gov. I believe that we in the legislature must be accountable to the people, and that means providing as much information as possible. You can call a legislator by dialing 444-4800, and leaving a message.
Representative HD 89