HELENA, Mont. - Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been coming together to tackle the issue of missing and murdered indigenous people in Montana.
Earlier in the legislative session, there were concerns that budget cuts could potentially mean the end of the MMIP Task Force for the state, but the legislature has provided support to the initiative.
This session has seen four separate bills on the MMIP Task Force that are currently in the legislative process. The two main bills that extend the lifetime of the task force, Senate Bill 4 and House Bill 98, have both passed the legislature with broad bipartisan support, and are making their way to Gov. Gianforte's desk next week. The 2019 legislative session saw the formation of the initial task force. Now, lawmakers are hoping to build further support for looking into the issue.
"As the process has gone along throughout this session, we've refined a lot of what's happened,” Sen. Jason Small (R-Bigfork) said. “And we've improved upon what we already had existing."
The two other bills that are moving through the legislative process involve establishing a review commission for the issue in Montana, and a team training grant program for the task force.
The bill providing for the review commission is also on its way to the Governor's desk, while the bill for the grant program is still waiting to pass the Senate.
"These response teams will coordinate the efforts,” Sen. Susan Webber (D-Browning) said. “And a lot of times, it’s the families that look for the missing person. And so, they don't have any of the training."
The grant program bill will have to pass the Senate before next Thursday’s transmittal deadline, but after passing unanimously through the house, it is not expected to have any issues.
One Senator even spoke out on the floor, calling the legislation one of the most important series of bills that they will pass this entire session.