Legislature establishes committees to study statewide issues after 2019 session ends

(UM Legislative News Service) As the 2019 legislative session winds down, lawmakers are looking ahead and considering legislation that would establish committees to study statewide issues after the 90-day session ends.

The House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed House Joint Resolution 31 on Monday, which would look at shifting oversight of the Montana Board of Crime Control, which distributes crime prevention grants, from the Department of Justice to the Department of Corrections.

The committee also passed HJ 36, which would look for ways to compensate people who have been wrongfully convicted, with a vote of 17-2. Rep. Joel Krautter, R-Sidney, introduced the resolution.

“I care about our justice system and I care about what we do as a state when we do get it wrong. How do we make it right again?” Krautter said.  

HJ 43, which the committee passed 15-4, would study appeals hearings, and what how specific types of evidence, like DNA, are weighted in these hearings.

Rep. Alan Doane, R-Bloomfield, is chair of the committee, and said studies voted down in committee aren’t necessarily dead.  

“All the interim committees set their own work plans. Even though there’s not a “study-bill”, per se, a committee can adopt a study if they think it’s necessary on any of these things if they have the time and resources to want to do that,” Doane said.

The committee voted 8-11 to table  HJ 30, which would look at allowing victims of domestic abuse to record abusers without their knowledge. Some opponents, like Rep. Bob Brown, R-Thompson Falls, said this should already be a law.

“When somebody’s right is starting to infringe on somebody else’s freedom, we ought to be addressing that fairly seriously. Let’s bring the bill and let’s get it done,” Brown said.

The committee tabled another study, HJ 37, which would look at the effectiveness of services provided to children with incarcerated parents.

Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.