Senate Committee votes not to re-instate Title X money into budget

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee meeting Friday

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee meeting Friday

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted Friday not to add back into the budget $4.5 million in federal family planning funds. The money was removed from the budget earlier in this process and was not added back in when the budget bill went through the House. Republicans have opposed the funding because some of it goes to Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortion services with other funding.

“I know there’s a lot of sensitivity about what this money is used for and let’s make it clear from the outset, none of this money can be used for abortions,” said Senator Dave Wanzenried (D-Missoula), referring to legal stipulations placed on the federal funding. But he says the funds are used for services such as preventing premature births, reducing infant mortality rates, and even reducing abortions through providing contraceptives.
Senator Alan Olson (R-Roundup) was the only Repubican to vote for Wanzenried’s amendment to add the funding back in. All Democrats voted for the amendment. It failed on a 12-8 vote.

Montana Right to Life State Director Greg Trude says Republicans know the federal funds cannot be used for abortions—but says that money frees up other resources for Planned Parenthood that could go toward those types of services. Trude says that federal funding is important, however, and he supports it if it is not distributed to Planned Parenthood.

“I’d actually like to see that money put back in but redirected to the county healthcare centers,” said Trude, who mentioned he is working with some Republicans on getting the money back in the budget in some modified way.


Abortion bill would require parental consent prior to abortion for a minor

Abortion opponents are supporting a bill which would require parental consent before a minor can get an abortion. The bill follows up on a ballot measure passed overwhelmingly by voters last fall. Legislative Referendum 120 requires parental notification prior to abortion for a minor under the age of 16. 70 percent of voters voted in favor of it and it is now state law.

The bill before the House Judiciary Committee takes the idea from LR 120 one step further. Under the new bill, HB 391,  a girl under the age of 18 would need a parent’s notarized written permission before seeking an abortion. A similar measure was passed by the Legislature in 1995, but was struck down by the Montana Supreme Court in ‘99.

Montana ACLU Public Policy Director Niki Zupanic says the court pointed to the state Constitution’s strong right to privacy, which can only be overridden by a compelling state interest. The court says minors have these rights too, unless the law in question is found to enhance their safety.

“It’s that…part that is really being challenged by the law that is before you today,” Zupanic told the committee,  “Does a consent requirement help minors or hurt minors?”

She says it was found to hurt minors more “by making them delay care or driving them into dangerous situations where they may harm themselves or seek an illegal abortion.”

Opponents to the new consent bill say over 90 percent of teens seeking an abortion now do consult with their parents. They say those who don’t may be afraid of parental abuse or may be pregnant due to the sexual abuse of a family member.

State Director of Montana Right to Life Greg Trude supports the consent bill. He says doctors need permission before performing other medical procedures.

“Suturs , a wart removed, a physical, a checkup, a Tylenol, they have to have parental permission,” he said.

Opponents say abortion falls under a different category.

“How many young women do you know that harm themselves because they took a tylenol, how many young women run away because of a wart, how many young women are thrown out of their homes, verbally abused or worse because of braces?” Asked Lindsey Love, speaking on behalf of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana.

The nonpartisan Legislative Services Division has submitted a legal note on the bill, saying the Supreme Court’s striking down of the similar 1995 bill brings up constitutional concerns about this bill too.

Montana Family Foundation President Jeff Lazloffy disagrees.He says the heavy majority voting in favor of last fall’s ballot initiative shows the public believes the Montana Supreme Court made a mistake.

“We had the vote on LR 120, the notification initiative, the will of the people was clearly articulated, and I believe that needs to be taken into account and I believe that proves the court went way beyond what the people wanted when they were interpreting the constitution,” he said.

The House Judiciary committee did not take a vote on the bill.


Republican Legislator proposes bills to bring some light to dark money

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad)

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad)

Representative Rob Cook (R-Conrad) has introduced two bills he calls a “necessary first step on the long road to true campaign reform.”

After the deluge of anonymous political spending in the 2012 election, campaign finance has become a top issue of the 2013 Legislature.

Representative Cook’s bills are modest compared to other reforms suggested by lawmakers. His first bill (HB254) would require election materials such as flyers to include disclaimers if they were paid for with anonymous funds through Political Action Committees.

As it stands, the disclaimer would look like this:

“This communication has been funded by anonymous sources. It is the responsibility of the voter to determine the veracity of the statements being made and the true character of the organization behind this communication.”

Representative Cook says he is amenable to making that disclaimer shorter.

Cook’s second bill (HB255) would require certain PACs to submit expense summaries to the Commissioner of Political Practices detailing money spent opposing or supporting candidates or issues. The Commissioner would then make this report public and offer it to the donors to that particular PAC.

Cook cited the dark-money group American Tradition Partnership as an example of the organizations about which he is trying to find more information.

“I wanna know where you played, who you played against or for, and how much you spent,” Cook said.
State Director of Right to Life Montana Greg Trude opposes both bills.
“Is this going to absolutely make it so someone like ATP is going to disclose,” Trude said about Cook’s first bill. “Or is somebody going to have to hunt them down. It’s going to be a big waste of time as far as I’m concerned.”
He also argued both bills unfairly encroach on First Amendment rights. No action was taken on either bill Monday.