Attorney General Fox’s Legislative Priorities Advance
Montana’s 63rd Legislature has passed Attorney General Tim Fox’s top legislative priorities from their chamber of origin. The legislature begins its transmittal break today, which is the deadline for voting non-fiscal bills out of their chamber of origin.
“The fact that legislators have, by wide margins, passed my top priorities out of the first chamber shows that these are not Republican or Democrat issues – they’re Montana issues,” Attorney General Fox said. “I am proud to be working with members of both parties on common-sense solutions for taking on repeat DUI offenders, protecting our most vulnerable citizens, and improving law enforcement infrastructure in Montana.”
HB 355: Tougher penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol (Rep. Christy Clark, R-Choteau). HB 355, which passed the House of Representatives 78-20, changes from five years to ten the window used to determine if a person is subject to enhanced criminal penalties and driver licensing sanctions for a second or subsequent DUI. Currently, a person is only charged for a first-time DUI as long as a prior DUI was more than five years earlier than the second.
HB 335 (Rep. Jenny Eck, D-Helena) and SB 213 (Sen. Cliff Larsen, D-Missoula): Protecting the public against sex offenders. HB 335, which passed the House of Representatives 100-0, would allow a district court judge to designate a tier level to sex offenders who do not have one. SB 213, which passed the Senate 50-0, would require sex offenders who move into Montana to provide a DNA sample to the state DNA database.
HB 140: Criminalizing new designer drugs (Rep. Tom Berry, R-Roundup). New drugs such as “bath salts” that mimic dangerous, illegal drugs are not designated as unlawful in statute. HB 140, which passed the House of Representatives 91-7, would classify these drug compounds as illegal under Montana law.
HB 287: Protecting the elderly and disabled (Rep. Dan Salomon, R-Ronan). HB 287, which passed the House of Representatives 79-20, would impose stiffer consumer protection penalties for individuals or businesses that target the elderly or mentally disabled for scams.
HB 137: Closing a parole eligibility loophole for juvenile offenders (Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula). HB 137, signed by Governor Bullock last week, closed a loophole in the law that dealt specifically with parole eligibility for violent offenders stemming from a recent court case. This new law provides clarity and legislative intent in criminal statutes to avoid a situation that makes violent offenders immediately eligible for parole.
Improving law enforcement infrastructure in Montana. In addition to requesting specific legislation, Attorney General Fox is working with lawmakers to make investments in critical law enforcement infrastructure, including:
• Increasing the Montana Highway Patrol’s presence in areas impacted by the Bakken oil boom.
• Expanding the skillset at the state Crime Lab by adding a scientist focused on testing for synthetic drugs such as “bath salts.”
• Improving the accuracy of the Sexual and Violent Offender Registry by dedicating a full-time, permanent investigator toward tracking down offenders who fail to register properly.
Additionally, the Senate overwhelmingly passed SB 258, which would name the Justice Building after Joseph P. Mazurek and allow for a privately funded memorial to be built on capitol grounds. The Justice Building at 215 N. Sanders houses the Attorney General’s Office, the state Supreme Court, the Clerk of Court and the state law library. Former Attorney General Mazurek passed away from Alzheimer’s last August. Governor Steve Bullock and Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike McGrath have been vocal proponents of this bill, which Sen. Art Wittich (R-Bozeman) introduced at the request of Attorney General Fox.
Attorney General Fox will continue to work with lawmakers as these and other public safety bills move through the legislative process.