Bullock Signs Missing-Persons Bill, Vetoes Other Measures
By AMY BETH HANSON Associated Press
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Steve Bullock signed bills Friday calling for better coordination in the search for missing people and another saying the state Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks can establish agreements to allow access to public lands surrounded by private property.
The missing persons bills include Hanna's Act, which authorizes the Department of Justice to assist with investigating missing persons' cases. It was named in memory of Hanna Harris, a Lame Deer woman who was killed in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. He signed another bill that requires all law enforcement agencies to accept missing persons reports and enter them into a national database — within two hours if the missing person is under the age of 21.
Bullock vetoed a bill Friday that would have allowed lawmakers and sergeants-at-arms to carry concealed weapons at the state Capitol, saying Helena police provide adequate security.
The Democrat rejected another bill that would have required a woman to view an ultrasound and listen to her unborn child's heartbeat before having an abortion. He said it was an effort to harass and shame women and dissuade them from seeking legal medical care.
The governor has vetoed 15 bills so far and signed 54 bills Thursday and Friday as he continues to act on nearly 300 bills sent to his desk after the Legislature adjourned.
Other vetoes include:
— A bill that he said would give the Child and Family Ombudsman too much control over the administration of the state's child welfare agency. The bill would have required the ombudsman's office to report to judges when they're investigating the way a child abuse or neglect case was handled by the Division of Child and Family Services and to report to the governor, the attorney general and the state health department if the ombudsman documents repeated policy violations. In his veto letter, Bullock wrote that the health department will continue to work with the ombudsman's office "in the collaborative, independent manner that Montana law requires."
— A bill that would prevent unions from collecting a "representation fee" from non-union members. He cited a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that disallows such fees. "To sign it now would be to celebrate the decision, not to implement it," he wrote in his veto letter.
— A bill that that would have prevented local governments from regulating whether felons and the mentally ill can carry firearms in public places
— Legislation that would have allowed major power plants to change their fuel source without oversight from the Department of Environmental Quality.
The governor signed bills Thursday to:
— Update the stalking statute to include electronic surveillance or harassment as violations and to allow victims of child sexual abuse or sex trafficking to receive orders of protection. A first-offense stalking conviction would still bring a possible sentence of up to a year in jail and up to a $1,000 fine. The bill calls for up to a 5-year prison sentence and up to a $10,000 fine for a second or subsequent stalking offense; for violating an order of protection; if an offender uses, or threatens to use, force or a weapon against the victim or if the offender is at least five years older than a minor victim.
— Allow resort communities with fewer than 5,500 residents to ask voters if they want to levy up to an additional 1% resort tax to pay for a specific infrastructure project. The additional tax must end after it raises enough money to pay for the project.
— Allow schools to spend state and local funding on school safety and security, including hiring school resource officers or counselors, conducting safety and security training or to hire consultants to recommend any improvements.
— Prevent prosecutors from filing drug or drug paraphernalia possession charges against pregnant women seeking help for substance abuse disorders.