Senate Judiciary hears bill to extend Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force

HELENA - The Senate Judiciary Committee met to discuss a bill that would extend Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force for another two years. 

The task force was enacted after the last legislative session and helps provide a collaborative effort between a variety of groups across the state.

Those groups include the Attorney General's Office, Montana Department of Justice, Montana Highway Patrol and Indian Health Services among others. Several proponents of the bill to extend the task force spoke this morning, including Joan Kresich, who offered this harrowing statistic to the committee.

"Though Native Americans comprise about 6.7 percent of Montana’s population, they account for, on average, 26 percent of the state's active missing person’s cases," Kresich said.

As for opponents to the bill, none testified at Tuesday morning's hearings. There were some questions directed to Sen. Jason Small, the sponsor of the bill, regarding proposed amendments to make sure the task force is adequate to serve the needs of indigenous people across the state.

"Now that law enforcement is actually working together on the edges of the reservation and just off, everyone is getting along and it is starting to expedite the process,” Small said. “I remember at one point in the past year, there were three kids that came up on a BOLO-type alert, and heck they found them within three to four hours."

As of now, the bill will most likely add in a couple of amendments as it relates to fortifying the task force. Based on the feedback from the committee, it is not expected to face many issues as the bill progresses.

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