Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Montana politics, elections and legislative news

Capitol briefs: 'Jungle primary' bill tabled; Rule change targets Medicaid coverage for abortion

Montana Capitol dome
Ellis Juhlin
Montana Capitol dome

Legislature tables "jungle primary" bill that would have changed primary elections in the state for the 2024 U.S. Senate race

Montana lawmakers have tabled a bill that would have changed the primary process for the 2024 U.S. Senate race and effectively boxed out minor party candidates.

The proposal targeted a race that will be hotly contested as U.S. Sen. Jon Tester seeks reelection. It would have allowed the top two vote-getting candidates, regardless of party, to advance to the general election.

The New York Times first reported that lawmakers were told the proposal originated from Republican Sen. Steve Daines who is in charge of running the opposition to Tester’s campaign.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican Sen. Greg Hertz, denied that he got the bill from Daines.

During a recent hearing, supporters of the bill said it would ensure that the winning candidate wins a majority of the vote. Opponents said the bill would disenfranchise third party voters, and was politically motivated.

The House Administration Committee voted 17-1 to table the bill.

Rule change will restrict Montana Medicaid patients abortion coverage

Montana Medicaid patients will see new restrictions on coverage for abortion procedures. State lawmakers are also advancing similar regulations in the state Legislature.

The proposed rule would add new requirements for patients seeking state-funded Medicaid coverage to terminate a pregnancy, like proof they have a physical illness that would be “significantly aggravated” by pregnancy and prior authorization before a procedure.

First reported by Montana Free Press, the state health department moved to adopt the rule Tuesday. It was submitted to the Secretary of State and will be published on Friday.

Federal Medicaid dollars cover abortion in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment. But a legal precedent in Montana requires the state to cover Medicaid patients’ abortions more broadly when “medically necessary.”

The rule will tighten that definition.

Republican lawmakers are supportive of the restrictions, saying Montana taxpayers should not have to pay for procedures they morally object to. The state Legislature has advanced two of its own bills with similar language that are nearing the governor’s desk.

The Montana Sexual and Reproductive Health Collective, a group of abortion providers and advocates, has pushed back against the rule, saying in a statement it creates “unnecessary, burdensome hoops” that Medicaid patients should not have to jump through to access abortion.

Shaylee covers state government and politics for Montana Public Radio. Please share tips, questions and concerns at 406-539-1677 or  
Become a sustaining member for as low as $5/month
Make an annual or one-time donation to support MTPR
Pay an existing pledge or update your payment information