(UM Legislative News Service) A bill that would establish a Montana missing indigenous persons task force passed 18-1 Friday out of the House Judiciary Committee, where it was tabled earlier this month.
Sen. Jason Small, R-Busby, who’s sponsoring Senate Bill 312, said the bill would also combine missing persons data collected from tribes. He said there’s a huge effort to use social media to find missing persons, but it’s sporadic.
“Nobody ever updates. So you don’t know if they’re found or if they are not found. And it’s not centralized, I mean, there’s probably 20 such pages on social media right now,” Small said.
The bill is now a companion to House Bill 21, called Hanna’s Act, which would create a position in the Montana Department of Justice to investigate all missing persons cases across the state. Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer is sponsoring the bill.
“The people of Montana are counting on us. I cannot go into detail how many, from all parts of Montana, want this bill desperately,” Peppers said.
Hanna’s Act initially had its funding stripped while it was in the House back in February. Funding was restored in the Senate, but an amendment was added that stipulates if Senate Bill 312 dies, so does House Bill 21.
Tim Pierce is a reporter with the UM Legislative News Service, a partnership of the University of Montana School of Journalism, the Montana Broadcasters Association, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Montana Newspaper Association.