By Tim Leeds 

Governor, Democrats praise passage of Hanna's Act


April 24, 2019

Montana’s governor and the Legislature’s House Democrats issued releases Tuesday praising the passage of a bill intended to help in searches of missing persons on Indian reservations, as well as the rest of the state.

“I’m extremely pleased that Hanna’s Act is headed to my desk for signature. The missing and murdered Indigenous women epidemic is a crisis in Montana and throughout the country, and it’s long past due elected officials do what is right and seek justice for Native women, their families and their communities,” Bullock said. “Thanks to the bipartisan effort, I will be signing a package of legislation that will be setting a foundation to report, investigate and create a task force to address this human rights crisis. Our work together is not yet done — but this is the first step in preventing future tragedies.”

Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer, sponsored the bill, named in memory of Hanna Harris, a Lame Deer woman found murdered in 2013.

The bill says the Montana Department of Justice may assist in the investigation of all missing persons cases and that it will employ a missing persons specialist responsible for working closely with local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement authorities on missing persons cases.

“This is a historic day — not just for tribal nations, but for the entire state of Montana,” Peppers said. “The crisis of missing and murdered Indigenous women has torn apart too many families and has been shoved to the sidelines for too long. Today is the beginning of a change. To the countless Montanans who shared your stories and called us to action: You were heard.”

The Democrats said passing legislation to seek justice for missing and murdered Indigenous women has been a priority for them since the start of the session, and Hanna’s Act is the last to pass in a package that addresses the crisis.

“This is an important day for Montanans, and I am thrilled to see this legislative body do the right thing on this critical issue for Montana families,” House Democratic Leader Rep. Casey Schreiner of Great Falls said. “At times, political games threatened to halt our progress on finding a much-needed solution. But the tireless work of Reps. Peppers and (Sharon Stewart-Peregoy, D-Crow Agency) and courageous Montanans ruled the day.”

The bill had a tumultuous passage. It passed the House 99-0 Feb. 19, then was tabled in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The committee then amended it to make the missing persons specialist optional instead of mandatory and passed it to the floor.

Then it was amended again, putting the specialist back as mandatory

The Senate passed it 37-13 April 16, with Sens. Mike Lang, R-Malta, and Russ Tempel, R-Chester, voting against it and Sen. Frank Smith, R-Poplar, voting for it.

Tuesday it passed the House as amended by the Senate 96-1 with three excused, with the sole no vote from Rep. Greg DeVries, R-Jefferson City.

Reps. Jacob Bachmeier, D-Havre, Josh Kassmier, R-Fort Benton and Casey Kudsen, R-Malta, all voted for the bill Tuesday.

Bullock said that, in addition to Hanna’s Act, he will be signing into law the other legislation to address missing persons, including House Bill 54, Senate Bill 40 and Senate Bill 312. In February, Bullock signed House Bill 20 into law to help locate missing children.


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