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Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Hanna's Act Moves Forward

March for Henny Scott in Lame Deer
Kayla Desroches / YPR
March for Henny Scott in Lame Deer

A bill to establish a missing persons specialist in Montana is advancing to the Senate after a week in limbo.

Hanna’s Act, named after a Northern Cheyenne woman found murdered in 2013, was originally intended as a step toward solving the epidemic of missing and murdered indigenous women and girls.

The Senate Judiciary Committee tabled it last Monday following a 5 - 5 vote.

Then on Friday, Republican Senator Jennifer Fielder of Thompson Falls put it back on the table with some changes after originally voting “no.”

“This amendment is brought after conferring with the sponsor, the chairman of [the] State Tribal Relations Committee, the Department of Justice, and some of my colleagues on this committee,”  said Fielder.

On Friday, the committee approved Fielder’s amendments to make the specialist an optional hire and remove the job description.

Rep. Shane Morigeau, a Democrat from Missoula and a member of the Indian Caucus, supports the latest compromise.

“I still think like the heart of it and the important pieces are really in existence,” said Morigeau. “I mean, really, at the end of the day, the original intent was to just get something created so we can have someone more focused on these cases.”

He’s optimistic about the chance the Department of Justice will establish a missing persons specialist.

A previous draft would have appropriated $100,000 for the position, but the money was struck from the bill before it was tabled last week.

The Senate Judiciary Committee passed the bill 8 – 2 Friday.

Copyright 2019 Yellowstone Public Radio

Kayla Desroches reports for Yellowstone Public Radio in Billings. She was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and stayed in the city for college, where she hosted a radio show that featured serialized dramas like the Shadow and Suspense. In her pathway to full employment, she interned at WNYC in New York City and KTOO in Juneau, Alaska. She then spent a few years on the island of Kodiak, Alaska, where she transitioned from reporter to news director before moving to Montana.
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