The 2021 legislative session has officially wrapped up. It was a challenging year for some of AHA's priority issues and we wanted to give a brief recap of the wins and losses from this legislative session.
Double SNAP Dollars Bill (HB 235). We were able to pass this very important food security bill through the legislature. It would have added funding to the program that allows SNAP recipients to get more fruit and vegetables at Farmer’s Markets. It was a win for SNAP recipients and Farmers. Unfortunately, the Governor vetoed it. We are truly disappointed and we are exploring next steps. We are celebrating that the legislature recognized the need for this legislation and supported improving access to healthy foods for our Montana neighbors who are struggling. We made a lot of new community and legislative friends in this process.
The Fight to protect SNAP – we (a large coalition of folks) were able to defeat legislation that would have required Child Support Cooperation to be eligible for SNAP. This was a damaging and costly bill. Similarly, SB 100 which would have kicked thousands of people off Medicaid and SNAP was stopped in committee.
HB 285 - the Cigar Bar- Rep. Trebas from Great Falls introduced this bill which would have allowed for ‘cigar bars’- but it was actually written so that most bars could become a cigar bar. We were able to defeat this bill in committee and twice on the floor.
HB 106 - Introduced by Vape Shop owner/legislator, Ron Marshall from Hamilton. He has shops in Belgrade and Hamilton. This bill would remove vaping from local clean indoor air policies and also prevent local communities from adding vape into clean indoor air. Basically, a way to normalize vaping and sell more product. This bill was tabled in committee. A big thank you to all the advocates who did great outreach on this bill.
HB 137 - This bill would have undone all local decisions about tobacco. It would have removed all the local clean air protections (same as the one above) AND made it so that NO decisions could be made locally to protect people from vape/tobacco. This bill passed the House, but we were able to defeat it in the Senate.
Medicaid was funded in the budget with no massive cuts.
As you can see, we were very busy trying to stop bad legislation. Unfortunately, we were not able to stop them all.
HB 398 - This was a narrower version of HB 137 (above). This bill restricts anti-tobacco advocates from working locally to restrict the sale of flavored tobacco products. The passage of this bill was really unfortunate and will greatly impact our ability to do local work.
HB 257 - This bill makes it so local health boards/ city councils/ commissioners really have no authority or ability to enforce health orders. We are greatly concerned because now local health departments no longer have the ability to create mask orders, close a business if they have a septic backup or mold infestation, or shut down a childcare center due to whooping cough or other outbreak of illness.
It was a very busy session, and we appreciate all your help as we worked on these issues. The Montana legislature does not meet in 2022 so we are currently evaluating what issues we can work on locally and through regulation.