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Montana Senate sends Medicaid expansion bill back to House

Hanna's Act passes


April 16, 2019


Associated Press

HELENA - The Montana Senate on Tuesday passed bills to continue the state's Medicaid expansion program and improve investigations of missing persons' reports just under the deadline for bills with amendments to be transmitted to the House.

Lawmakers also supported a bill to end the statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual assault if the victim was younger than 18 when the offense occurred.

Bills that are still alive and need amendments approved are:


A bill to continue the Medicaid expansion program that provides health coverage for 96,000 low-income residents passed the Senate 28-22 a day after it passed second reading 26-24. Republican Sens. Duane Ankney and Jeff Welborn switched their votes.

"It was never my intent from the start to kill the Medicaid expansion bill," Ankney said, adding he had hoped to use his vote to leverage support for natural resources bills that create jobs.

Welborn said he went home over the weekend and spoke to business owners who supported Medicaid expansion.

"I would implore the 96,000 people throughout Montana that this stands to help to stand up and be counted for the pro-jobs and natural resources economy that it takes to pay for these types of programs," Welborn said.

The Medicaid expansion program includes a work requirement, an improved asset test and increased premiums for people who stay on the program for more than two years. Opponents argue there are too many exemptions to the work requirement.

The bill passed the House 61-37 in late March. The House must still consider Senate amendments.


The Senate passed a bill calling for the Department of Justice to hire a missing persons' specialist to work with local, state, federal and tribal governments to investigate missing persons cases and ensure listings placed in the National Crime Information Center are accurate, completely and made in a timely fashion. The bill was named in memory of Hanna Harris, a Lame Deer woman who was killed in 2013 on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.


The Senate unanimously passed a bill to lift the statute of limitations for prosecuting sexual abuse against children. The bill would extend from age 21 to age 27 the time by which victims of childhood sexual abuse have to file a lawsuit seeking damages. It retains a provision that allows lawsuits within three years after a person discovers their injury was caused by an act of childhood sexual abuse. The bill was prompted by two cases that frustrated prosecutors, one in which a former athletic trainer from Miles City began contacting victims he reportedly sexually abused shortly after the statute of limitations ran out and another where a child rape case couldn't be prosecuted because DNA evidence identified the perpetrator after the statute of limitations expired.


The House passed a bill to revise medical marijuana laws to eliminate a requirement that patients have only one provider. The bill would allow patients to buy medical marijuana from any provider with the limit of 5 ounces (142 grams) per month and 1 ounce (28 grams) per day. The bill also sets licensing fees based on the amount of marijuana each business decides to grow, with fees ranging from $500 to $20,000 a year. The Senate must approve amendments made in the House.


The House also passed a bill to allow the state to negotiate agreements with landowners for access to public lands through their property. It allocates up to $500,000 per year and a maximum of $15,000 per landowner for access agreements. The bill notes Montana has 2,375 square miles (6,151 square kilometers) of federal land that is inaccessible to hunters, anglers and other recreationists.


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