Capitol briefs: drag ban and CPS bills move through the Legislature
Bill to prohibit minors from attending drag shows passes Senate
Montana Public Radio | By Ellis Juhlin
A bill to prohibit minors from attending drag shows has been amended by lawmakers anticipating legal challenges. The current version has passed in the state Senate with an amendment that removes all mentions of drag.
Sen. Chris Friedel, a Republican from Billings, brought the amendment which he says would uphold the intent of the bill while making it harder to challenge in court.
“The reason I brought this amendment today is to make sure that we get this across the aisle. We get this in front of the governor. He signs it, it goes to court and it can be defended by the AG’s office,” Friedel said.
Proponents of the original bill have said it would protect children, while opponents, including Democratic lawmakers, have argued that the bill inaccurately conflates drag performers with sexual predators and perpetuates harmful stereotypes of the LGBTQ+ community.
Friedel referenced similar bills in other states that have faced legal challenges. Immediately after being passed into law,legislation in Tennessee was temporarily blocked earlier this month by a federal court judge.
The amendment removes the term “drag” and replaces it with “adult-oriented performance.”
With these changes, the bill still prohibits minors from attending events considered adult oriented, and bans such performances at libraries, schools or other entities that receive state funding.
With changes removing the specific ban on drag performances from the bill, Democrats voted in favor of advancing it. No Democrat voiced their reason for supporting the bill on the Senate floor.
Republican opponents of the changes say the term “adult-oriented performance” is too broad and it’s unclear what is included under this phrase.
Sen. Carl Glimm, a Republican from Kila who carried the bill on the Senate side, opposed Friedel’s changes saying they derailed the intent of the policy.
“The other thing this amendment does is it allows all these under art and so it really just completely guts the bill,” Glimm said.
The bill as amended passed with bipartisan support and will now move back to the House for consideration.
Bills would overhaul child abuse and neglect systems
Montana Public Radio | By Shaylee Ragar
The momentum to overhaul Montana’s child abuse and neglect systems in the state Legislature has carried a slate of bills close to the governor’s desk.
The overhaul began with an interim committee of lawmakers over the last two years studying the state’s process for handling child abuse and neglect cases.
A key piece of the puzzle would add new requirements to remove children from their homes. It passed the House with widespread, bipartisan support, but it was met with some resistance in the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Steve Fitzpatrick from Great Falls spoke in opposition to House Bill 37.
“Our child abuse and neglect statutes are there for the protection of the children. Parents have rights, but so do kids,” Fitzpatrick said. “We should be protecting kids, we shouldn’t be looking for ways to make it harder to take kids out of situations where there is abuse, where there is neglect, where they can be harmed.”
The bill would require warrants for children to be removed from their homes, and that children in those removal cases are appointed their own attorneys. It would change state law so that substance abuse and disorderly living conditions are not equated to physical or psychological harm, and tighten the definitions of abuse and neglect.
Republican Sen. Dennis Lenz of Billings defended it, saying lawmakers have been pushing the state health department to reform the system for years.
“This isn’t that big of a step. This provides safety, it provides clarity,” Lenz said.
Lawmakers have also advanced bills to shorten the wait time for initial hearings in abuse cases, to create a task force looking at a court system for such cases and to require the state health department to provide evidence of abuse and neglect to parents involved in cases.
The bills are nearing Gov. Greg Gianforte’s desk for consideration.