By Rep. John Fleming
It has been great to return to the Montana House of Representatives for the 65th Legislative Session. As we wind down, I’m happy to report we have passed some good legislation to help the state deal with important issues including suicide prevention and the increasing problem of invasive species on our public lands and in our waters.
It’s well-known that Montana has one of the highest suicide rates in the U.S., and that number is even higher in our native communities. House Bill 118 has passed both the House and the Senate and addresses suicide prevention in Montana. It provides that the state’s suicide prevention officer, within the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, will coordinate suicide prevention activities, create culturally appropriate awareness campaigns and conduct research aimed at better understanding the problem of suicide in Montana.
House Bill 622 (sponsored by my colleagues across the aisle Republicans Mike Cuffe, of Eureka; Bob Keenan, of Bigfork; Mark Noland, of Bigfork; and Al Olszewski, of Kalispell) received very strong bipartisan support by both the House and the Senate and is now awaiting governor’s signature. The bill will help the state fight a relatively new scourge to Montana’s waters — aquatic invasive mussels. It establishes an invasive species council, creates the Upper Columbia Conservation Commission, establishes the Missouri River containment and quarantine program and and revises the location and timing of inspections in the statewide invasive species management area.
I proposed HJ 37, a joint resolution to study the threat of plant pests (or invasive pests) to agriculture, the environment and Montana’s economy. This study will help us continue to address current threats and better prepare for potential future non-native infestation.