HELENA - Advocates say it's been an emotional few months, but they're relieved that a bill to help address the issue of missing and murdered people in Montana could finally be heading to Governor Steve Bullock's desk.
Hanna's Act is named after a Lame Deer woman who was found murdered on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation. It would create a special position for an investigator at the state Department of Justice who would handle missing persons cases.
It's been a bumpy road for the bill, with some versions taking out the funding for the position and then putting it back in. But it's currently in the House and unanimously passed its second reading on Friday.
Just the news coverage of the bill is helping highlight the issue of missing and murdered indigenous women, says Kelli Twoteeth, community organizer at the Montana Human Rights Network.
“Just watching what this bill has done across the state, but it's also made national news. So just bringing awareness in a way we never thought possible," Twoteeth says.
Twoteeth says when Hanna's Act passed its second reading on Friday, she sat in her office and cried.
She has been at the Capitol since the beginning of the session and has watched families testify about their missing and murdered daughters.
She says for Hanna's Act to finally pass is a step toward addressing the root of the problem.
"Now it’s actually going to kind of give us that data, like what's going on, what's happening, how many women are missing, where are they missing from, what parts of the state are they missing from," she says.
Hanna’s Act is scheduled for its third reading in the House at 1 p.m. on Tuesday afternoon.