Attorney General’s Legislative Priorities Receive Bipartisan Support
When the 64th Session of the Montana Legislature convenes next week, the agenda will include several measures brought forward by Attorney General Tim Fox. The attorney general’s priorities, which have been introduced with bipartisan support, focus on protecting children, enhancing public safety, and strengthening consumer protection laws.
“These are commonsense measures that address genuine needs and concerns of Montanans throughout the state,” Fox said. “With these proposals, we at the Department of Justice are building on the bipartisan success of our priorities in the 2013 Legislative Session as well as our ongoing work over the last two years.”
Attorney General Fox’s 2015 legislative priorities have drawn a diverse group of supporters. “Protecting children and public safety aren’t partisan issues – they are Montana issues,” Fox said. “I look forward to working with our bill sponsors and others to move these measures forward to the governor’s desk.”
Improving Montana’s human trafficking laws (HB 89, Rep. Kim Dudik, D-Missoula)
This bill would bring Montana’s anti-trafficking laws into conformity with the model Human Trafficking Act. It would establish and strengthen definitions in state law as well and clarify penalties for those found guilty of human trafficking.
Creating a sexual assault prosecution unit in the Attorney General’s Office (HB 75, Rep. Stephanie Hess, R-Havre)
To improve the investigation and prosecution of sexual assault crimes, this bill would statutorily establish a special team within the Montana Department of Justice’s Prosecution Services Bureau focused on prosecuting sex assault crimes directly and training county attorneys.
Requiring data breach notifications to the Attorney General’s Office (HB 74, Rep. Ryan Lynch, D-Butte)
This bill would require any company doing business in Montana to report data breaches to the Attorney General’s Office of Consumer Protection. Such notice would give the Attorney General’s Office a better sense of the scope of identity theft in Montana and would help identify some businesses that have lax security practices.
Improving Montana’s sexual offender registry (HB 88, Rep. Sarah Laszloffy, R-Laurel)
As part of Attorney General Fox’s long-term strategy for reducing the number of sexual offenders who lack a tier designation, this bill would place more of the tier-designation burden for out-of-state and federal offenders on the offenders themselves. The bill would also require registered offenders to disclose email addresses and online social media screen names to law enforcement, and would require a tier-1 (lowest risk) offender to register for 15 years (currently 10 years) before they could petition for removal from the registry.
Strengthening laws against indecent exposure to a minor (SB 60, Sen. Robyn Driscoll, D-Billings)
Currently, first offense indecent exposure in Montana is a misdemeanor regardless of who the victim is. This bill would felonize the knowing or purposeful exposure of the person’s genitals, including through electronic communications, to a person the offender believes to be under the age of 16 in order to abuse, humiliate, harass, or degrade the child or for purposes of sexual gratification.
Protecting Montanans from patent trolling (SB 39, Sen. Cary Smith, R-Billings)
This bill would create penalties for those who engage in patent trolling, which is when a person or business acquires patents not for the purpose of developing products but with the sole purpose of suing, intimidating, and/or extorting supposed infringers. Over the past several years, an increasing number of small businesses in Montana have been victimized by patent trolls.
Criminalizing the misuse of official confidential criminal justice information (HB 32, Rep. Kirk Wagoner, R-Montana City)
To help protect an individual’s constitutional privacy rights, this bill would establish misdemeanor penalties for those who access confidential criminal justice information for unauthorized purposes or disseminate such information to unauthorized parties.
Requiring electronic reporting of pseudoephedrine sales (SB 48, Sen. Chas Vincent, R-Libby)
To combat the manufacture of methamphetamine, this bill would require businesses selling pseudoephedrine to electronically report sales to the Montana Department of Justice. Currently, businesses only have to maintain records of sales at their stores.
Prohibiting sales of e-cigarettes to minors (SB 66, Sen. Diane Sands, D-Missoula)
This bill would prohibit sales of electronic cigarettes to minors, as well as their possession by minors.
Updating laws on surreptitious viewing (SB 50, Sen. Jennifer Fielder, R- Thompson Falls)
Because Montana’s current laws regarding the surreptitious viewing/recording of another person do not take into account members of the public recording others through cell phone cameras and other means made possible by technological advances, this bill would update state law to allow for more effective prosecution.
Allowing law enforcement to obtain search warrants electronically (SB 26, Sen. Nels Swandal, R-Wilsall)
This bill would clarify the law to allow officers who have internet access in their patrol cars or offices to create affidavits in support of a search warrant and submit it to a judge via an email request. The judge could review the affidavit and either deny or issue the warrant. This would save valuable investigation time and help officers collect and preserve evidence more quickly.
Attorney General Fox will also be bringing forward proposals to enhance DUI laws and renew funding for the Department of Justice’s Child and Family Ombudsman position.