Watch the MT House Debate SB107 Live

Here: http://leg.mt.gov/css/Video-and-Audio/live-session-2013.asp

Help Still Needed to Pass SB107

Because of YOUR HELP, we made history today!
But we still need YOUR HELP to pass Senate Bill 107!
 
Dear supporter of equality:
Senate Bill 107 has passed an important hurdle! For the first time in our state’s history, a bill to repeal unconstitutional language from Montana’s code that labels gays and lesbians felons has received majority support from both chambers in the Montana Legislature.
This is big news, and reason to celebrate! But there’s still more work to be done.
SB 107 survived today’s “blast motion” carried by Rep. Bryce Bennett and will be heard during second reading on the floor of the Montana House TOMORROW: Tuesday, April 9th!
 
We need you to take a moment and contact your Representative immediately and ask them to support SB 107! Click here to email representatives in your area, or call 406-444-4800 to leave messages for up to five representatives in your area!
This bill would finally remove unconstitutional language from Montana law that labels gays and lesbians felons, punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in jail. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, but remains on the state’s law books because of homophobia and fear.
 
We know that there are reasonable members of both parties on the floor of the Montana House who believe language criminalizing gay and lesbian relationships is wrong! Click here to see how your representative voted on today’s “blast motion” for SB 107!
 
We need you to take a moment and contact your Representative immediately and ask them to support SB 107! Click here to email representatives in your area, or call 406-444-4800 to leave messages for up to five representatives in your area!
 
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (406) 444-4800 to leave a message for up to five legislators in your area at a time.
Thank you for your continued support for equality.

Being Gay or Lesbian Isn’t a Crime! It’s Time to Pass SB 107!

Action Alert! From The MHRN today:
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Senate Bill 107, carried by Missoula’s Sen. Tom Facey, was tabled by the House Judiciary Committee today on a 12-8 vote.
We need you to take a moment and contact your Representative immediately and ask them to support the “blast motion” on SB 107 to put this bill on the House floor for a simple yes or no vote! Click here to email representatives in your area, or call 406-444-4800 to leave messages for up to five representatives in your area!
This bill would finally remove unconstitutional language from Montana law that labels gays and lesbians felons, punishable by fines of up to $50,000 and/or up to ten years in jail. It was ruled unconstitutional by the Montana Supreme Court in 1997, but remains on the state’s law books because of homophobia and fear. Despite perennial attempts to eliminate this hurtful language from our laws, and the passage of this bill by the full Senate this session and back in 2011, we consistently come up against a brick wall in an ideologically driven and extremely conservative House committee.
But this is not the end of SB 107 this session! 
We think there are reasonable members of both parties on the floor of the Montana House that believe language criminalizing gay and lesbian relationships is wrong! We want to see this bill move forward with a “blast motion,” a special procedure that allows a bill that has been tabled in committee the chance to have an up-or-down vote. The catch?We’ll need a supermajority of legislators to agree with us – and that’s why we need your help! 
We need you to take a moment and contact your Representative immediately and ask them to support the “blast motion” on SB 107! Click here to email representatives in your area, or call 406-444-4800 to leave messages for up to five representatives in your area! 
 
Call the Capitol Switchboard at (406) 444-4800 to leave a message for up to five legislators in your area at a time. 
Thank you for your continued support for equality.
Sincerely,
Jamee Greer
Montana Human Rights Network

Wrong Side Of History

An excellent post by The Montana Cowgirl (reposted with her permission)

Montana lawmakers who have spent the entirety of their paltry careers voting against equality now find themselves on the wrong side of history.  In the wake of the upcoming supreme court decision on equal marriage, no one who reads a newspaper can come to any other conclusion.  Even Rush Limbaugh says marriage equality is inevitable.

The nutjob wing of Montana’s Republican Party  aren’t just wrong, they’re way out in right field, and soon to be there alone.   Montana is one of only four states that has a law on the books that makes being gay an imprisonable offense.  This fact alone is despicable, but when you consider what else the Montana Legislature has done you start to wonder if the Montana legislature isn’t among the most bigoted in America.

Consider this: During the past 21 legislative sessions least 32 bills have been introduced to make all Montanans equal under the law.  Some, like Sen. Facey’s SB 107 attempted to repeal the “deviate sexual conduct” law, other would have prevent discrimination in housing, or stopped the bullying of young people in schools. Many have been introduced by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, of Helena.

Not a single one of these bills has ever passed in the history of this state.

But it’s worse than that.  The Montana legislature isn’t content with blocking equality bills.  They’ve tried year after year to make things worse.
Montana LegislatureLook what they did in 1995, when Republican Senator Rick Holden added an amendment to a bill to require gay men and lesbians to register as felony sex offenders. Democrats tried to remove the amendment, but 32 of 50 Senators voted to keep it in.

It was only after twenty-four hours of scathing national press coverage from CNN that the Republicans were finally forced to take the sex offender amendment out. But not before Billings GOP Sen. Al Bishop decided to share his beliefs with the world.  He said consensual activity between people of the same sex was “a worse offense than rape.” (The bill was HB 214 and predates the online legislative search.)

Anyway, the Chick-Fil-A munching bunch was not happy to be denied a “felony sex offender registry” of gay citizens. A couple of days later anti-gay slurs and graffiti were “scrawled across the doors of the capitol, and a famous statue was defaced. With no sense of irony, and no mention of the anti-gay nature of the spray-painted slogans, Senators introduced a bill to make defacing the capitol a felony.”

And who could forget what happened ten years later in 2005, when the all-day kindergarten was opposed by religious right Repubs, who claimed bill was part of the “gay agenda.” “The purported evidence given by these groups was that gay activists were NOT at the hearing, proving it was part of the activists’ secret agenda.”

Public sentiment is now so firmly behind equality that the reaction to democratic politicians who announce their support at this late date ranges from “who isn’t” to “where were you earlier.”  The Montana Senate even voted, finally, to erase our “anti-sodomy law” which makes it an imprisonable crime to be gay.  Although invalidated by our state supreme court in 1997, the law has remained on our books because Republicans have always refused to go along with efforts to scrap it.

Now, SB 107, a measure to strike the offensive language from our statutes finally passed the senate.  That said, the vote was far from unanimous.  Ten Republicans voted no.

Any day now the bill will be voted on in committee, and then on the Floor of the House.  No assumptions can be made about body which includes Verdell Jackson, Krayton Kearns, David Howard and Jerry O’Neil, so start contacting  the lawmakers in the House of Representatives, which you can do via this online form. FYI, you can always use the back button after submitting your message, which allows you to skip retyping all your info when you contact multiple legislators. Or you can cut and paste this list of House GOP legislators.

Conservatives were on the wrong side of history with women’s suffrage, they were on the wrong side of segregation.  Let’s see whose side they’re on now.

Help Expand Medicaid in Montana!

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This session the Montana Legislature has an incredible opportunity to expand access to healthcare for 60,000 Montanans! Doing so would involve a minimal cost to the state, and have a major impact across our communities. Our legislators can do this by choosing to expand eligibility in the Medicaid program for individuals who live at or below 133% of the federal poverty level.  It will take a lot of effort on the ground across the state to pass this policy and we need your help!
We’re asking you to contact your Representative and Senator today and urge them to support Medicaid expansion! If we’re able to pass this expansion, it would be a huge victory for human rights in this state!
You can call and leave a message for your legislators at 406-444-4800 or you can fill out an online form by clicking here.  We’ve included some key facts and talking points at the end of this message.   Click here to find out who your legislators are.
We’re asking for your help because this is a once in a generation chance to expand an effective public healthcare program and get Montanans the care they need! But this policy won’t just help our neighbors who can’t afford health insurance. It will also have an incredible effect in our local and state economies. By expanding eligibility to our state Medicaid program, Montana will be investing in our workforce, creating new jobs, and giving a much needed boost to our economy. For more details on the economic impact of Medicaid expansion click here.
Expanding our Medicaid program is the right choice for Montana.  If we make that choice, 100% of the costs of expansion will be paid for through federal funding for the first 3 years. Beginning in 2017, Montana will pick up a small portion of the costs, paying no more than 10% from 2020 forward. This means that by investing a small amount of state dollars in our administrative capacity to expand the program, we can open access to healthcare for up to 60,000 Montanans.
We are so excited about this opportunity, and we’ll keep you updated as this policy discussion progresses.  For now, we hope you’ll write your legislators and let them know how important it is to support Medicaid expansion! 
Thank you for your continued support!
Sincerely,
Kim Abbott

Montana GOP: Plotting To Oust Moderates?

From the Great Falls Tribune: 

On the surface, lawmakers in the 63rd Montana Legislature appear to be working to get along and to advance bills both parties can live with.

But below the surface, a simmering ideological battle is threatening to boil over onto the Senate floor.

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

The red “GOP” logo used by the party for its website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The turmoil isn’t between Republicans, who control both houses of the Legislature, and their Democratic counterparts. The most heated political power struggle under way at the Capitol right now is between the conservative and moderate factions within the GOP caucus.

It’s a power struggle that has played out in local legislative primary races. It is often bantered about in the halls of the Capitol and in the watering holes around Helena.

Emails recently obtained by the Tribune pull back the curtain and give the public a glimpse of the seething intra-party acrimony that has infected the Legislature’s most powerful body.

The documents show key members of the Senate Republican caucus, including members of the current leadership team, began plotting their power play as early as September of last year.

According to one former state senator who was defeated in a three-way Republican primary last June, conservative members of the Senate caucus began identifying allies and enemies and painting political targets as early as July 2011, just a few months after the session adjourned.

The emails and documents — which feature a lengthy discussion between Senate President Jeff Essmann of Billings, Senate Majority Leader Art Wittich of Bozeman, Sen. Jason Priest of Red Lodge, Majority Whip Frederick “Eric” Moore of Miles City, Sen. Ed Walker of Billings and Sen. Dave Lewis of Helena — outline the strategy the conservative Republicans in the Senate caucus used to seize power from the 2011 leadership team in order to advance their policies in 2013.

The goal of the new conservative leadership team, as Essmann detailed in one email last September, was to advance a “long game strategy” that “involves changing the face of the Montana Supreme Court” so the high court “does not find a constitutional block to every conservative policy initiative and will give (Republicans) a better shot at redistricting in 10 years.”

“(Republican Redistricting Commissioner) Jon Bennion was able to draw a map with 63 safe Republican seats,” Essmann wrote on Sept. 13 in an email with the subject line “Agenda control.”

“If we can implement the long term strategy we will be in a position to actually elect a majority of conservatives in both bodies, adopt conservative legislation and have a court that will uphold it,” Essmann wrote.

Read the full story here.

Better Know a Legislator: Sen. Robyn Driscoll and Sen. Janna Taylor

In today’s edition of Better Know a Legislator we’ll look at the records of two women who served 8 years in the House, and are now serving their first session in the Senate: Sen. Robyn Driscoll (D-Billings) and Sen. Janna Taylor (R-Dayton).

Sen. Robyn Driscoll, SD 26

Sen. Robyn DriscollSen. Robyn Driscoll is one of the unsung heroes of the Montana legislature. A strong and steady leader, Robyn says what Montana progressives are thinking and she never backs down in the face of opposition from the right. These strengths as well as her positive demeanor are why her colleagues in the Senate elected her as one of their whips for the session.

Sen. Driscoll was one of the true hero’s of the infamously bad 2011 House Judiciary Committee. In that committee women and students were constantly demonized, but Robyn never let the horrible comments of legislators and the right-wing public go unchallenged.

Robyn also was a hero on the House floor. One of her most notable actions on the floor was introducing an amendment to a Republican bill that would require trans-vaginal ultrasounds before a woman could have an abortion. Her amendment would require that men undergo an EKG heart health test before they are able to get a prescription for Viagra or other drugs to combat erectile dysfunction. Needless to say Republican heads spun. This amendment was effective in pointing out the insanity of the bill and helped to kill it on the House floor.

This session, Robyn will serve on the Senate Juciary, Rules, Energy & Telecom, and Education & Cultural Resources Committees.

Sen. Janna Taylor, SD 6

Sen Janna TaylorLike Sen. Driscoll, Sen. Janna Taylor is also serving her first session in the Senate. While in the House, Taylor served as the Speaker Pro-Temp in the disastrous 2011 legislative session.

During the 2011 session, Taylor’s hypocrisy was on full display. She led the charge against federal funds that were intended to help fund programs to benefit students, people with disabilities, seniors, rural health care providers and low-income Montanans. However, while leading this charge, she and her husband helped themselves to more than a million dollars in federal farm subsidies. When challenged about her hypocrisy, instead of taking responsibility for her actions she said, “I can control state tax dollars, but I can’t control federal tax dollars. You’d have to talk to Tester and Baucus about federal tax policy.” Congratulations Janna, for living up to your party’s mantra of “taking responsibility for your actions.”

Taylor also received national notoriety for her comments against the abolition of the death penalty. While testifying against the bill, Taylor said that we had to keep the death penalty because if we got rid of it, we’d have no way to punish HIV-positive murderers, who are currently in jail serving a life-sentence, who spit spit-balls at guards. I’m not joking.