By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press
A measure introduced late last week by Sen. Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, that would have directed the Department of Justice to investigate environmental groups is likely dead after a free conference committee voted to strike it from House Bill 693. Among other things, Ankney’s amendment would have empowered the Department of Justice to investigate environmental groups’ membership lists, funding, engagement in political speech, and influence on the government’s regulatory or permitting actions.
On Tuesday, April 27, representatives Bill Mercer, Jimmy Patelis and Emma Kerr-Carpenter met with senators Ryan Osmundson, David Howard and Ryan Lynch to hash out differences between the House and Senate on HB 693, a subsidiary of the Legislature’s broader spending bill, House Bill 2. Within 20 minutes, a handful of amendments had been added or pulled from the bill and the committee voted to approve the bill as amended.
Rep. Bill Mercer, R-Billings, said he was concerned that the public didn’t have an opportunity to comment on Ankney’s amendment and that lawmakers who’d spent months working on HB 2 and HB 693 didn’t engage in meaningful discussion about the amendment prior to its introduction.
“I think we need to strike it for process reasons, without getting into a discussion about substance,” he said.