Democrat legislators weigh-in on missing person bills

Print Article

When women and girls go missing in our state, itís not a Democratic problem or a Republican problem ó itís a Montana problem. And itís an urgent one.

Not much research exists on the epidemic of Indigenous women and girls going missing or being murdered. But we do know that in Montana, where human trafficking is on the rise and there are serious flaws in our missing persons reporting system, hundreds of people have gone missing and their families are still left wondering what happened to them.

Thatís why this legislative session, we refused to back down. We fought relentlessly to pass bills that will save lives in Montana and deliver justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women.

Two of these bills will eliminate delays and require all law enforcement agencies in the state to submit a missing persons report immediately if someone is reported missing. HB 20 was signed into law back in February, and the other, HB 54, has passed overwhelmingly and should be headed to the governorís desk soon.

We also championed SB 40, which will require the Office of Public Instruction to create and maintain electronic directory photograph repository of studentsóonly to be used if that child is identified as missing. This, too, is headed to the governorís desk for signing.

And we introduced Hannaís Act.

Hannaís Act, HB 21, will create and fund a new missing persons specialist position at the Department of Justice dedicated to assisting all law enforcement agencies in the state pursue missing persons cases. Law enforcement agencies in Montana need the tools to find our loved ones when they go missing, and it is imperative that the Department of Justice hires someone to make these cases a top priority.

Since we introduced Hannaís Act in January, it has taken on a life of its own. Hundreds of Montanans have reached out to share their own stories of their missing loved ones, or cases gone cold because of delayed investigations. Folks are realizing this epidemic isnít only a tribal oneóit affects all Montanans.

But although we saw a powerful groundswell of support for Hannaís Act, we didnít see the support this issue deserves from all Montana lawmakers. For some, politics got in the way.

We are deeply disappointed that several Republican lawmakers tried to gut the bill by removing its funding and making it optional for the Department of Justice to create the position. ďContingency languageĒ was added into Hannaís Act to tie its fate to another Republican bill, which would have killed Hannaís Act if the other bill had not passed as well. A final vote on Hannaís Act was delayed, causing the bill to miss a legislative deadline and putting its passage in jeopardy. And to our great dismay, Deputy Attorney General Jon Bennion even tried to take Hannaís Act hostage and use it as leverage to pass an unrelated bill about DUI laws.

We donít know why a bill to give law enforcement better tools to investigate murders and missing persons cases, especially in a state with a widespread human trafficking problem, got hung up on partisan politics. But it did.

Fortunately, common sense and bipartisanship ultimately prevailedóand to our great joy, on Legislative Day 85, Hannaís Act headed to the governorís desk for signing.

Without the Montanans who came forward to tell their stories, the support of countless agencies and Governor Bullock, the Democratic caucus that made this a priority since Day One, and the bipartisan support of legislators across the aisle, we could never have gotten this Montana solution passed.

No matter what your political stripes, no family should have to experience the pain of having their loved one disappear and never knowing what happened to them. Weíre proud to let Montanans know that these four bills are going to make women and girls safer across our state.

ó Rep. Rae Peppers and Rep. Sharon Stewart-Peregoy

Print Article

Read More Letters to the Editor

Pacific Northwest Trail plan Ďa train wreckí

September 13, 2019 at 3:00 pm | Daily Inter Lake Iím writing to support the formal complaint filed by the Yaak Valley Forest Council (YVFC) about the lack of a comprehensive management plan for the Pacific Northwest Trail (PNT). For 30 years, the...

Comments

Read More

Lesnickís retirement the end of an era

September 13, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Daily Inter Lake Dave Lesnick retired the other day. The next day the Daily Inter Lake was printed and life went on. But for those of us who know Dave, it really is an end of an era. In a time when social media and...

Comments

Read More

Concerned about lawsuit to move trail for griz safety

September 10, 2019 at 11:31 am | Daily Inter Lake This letter is addressing the article in the Western News by Duncan Adams about the Yaak Valley Forest Councilís lawsuit to reroute the Pacific Northwest Scenic Trail out of the Yaak Valley to suppos...

Comments

Read More

Hurricanes

September 10, 2019 at 11:30 am | Western News Hey you scientists, I have a question for you people. What would happen if liquid oxygen was dropped in the eye of the monster like tons of liquid oxygen bombs? Perhaps freezing the thing would be a ...

Comments

Read More

Contact Us

(406) 293-4124
311 California Ave.
Libby, MT 59923

©2019 The Western News Terms of Use Privacy Policy
X
X