Although the federal budget is crucial in Indian Country, the state budget also impacts tribal communities. Representatives from across Montana convene in Helena to determine the state budget for fiscal years 2024 and 2025. Montana’s budget pays for the public services that protect us, help ensure community health and well-being, and create economic security for families. The budget they create ultimately prioritizes funding and has the potential to generate opportunities for new programs—Montana Budget & Policy Center tracks and shares information on bills affecting all Montanans during the session.
This blog summarizes some upcoming bills MBPC tracks that would impact tribal communities. They include topics such as Economic Infrastructure, Murdered and Missing Indigenous People, Child well-being, Education, and other issues.
Economic and Infrastructure:
It is essential to note the economic and tax contribution of tribal communities. As recently, as the 2021 biennium session, legislators still held the false misconception that American Indians do not pay taxes. Yet a 2009 study shows that tribal nations contribute roughly $1 billion dollars annually to the Montana economy. As tribal governments have invested in the state, so should the state invest in tribal communities.
Criminal Legal Reform:
MBPC is also tracking bills on criminal legal reform. In this biennium, two bills on law enforcement in Indian C
country have been heard. Each bill questions the allocation of funds for law enforcement agencies on tribal lands. Law enforcement funding on reservations highlights the federal government's trust responsibility to tribal nations.
Missing and Murdered Indigenous People:
Since 2019, American Indian representatives have brought and passed successful bills to address the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Peoples Epidemic affecting tribal communities in Montana—the bills during this session range from conducting studies, creating reports, and promoting government-to-government conversations. They also aim to extend preexisting programs and offer training opportunities for community members.
Several bills involving Indian Education are moving through the law-making process. Most education bills are revisions building off current Montana laws like Indian Education for All and Montana Indian language preservation programs. The revisions require creating reports that make communication between interim committees, schools, and tribal communities more transparent and will allow for more informed programs to grow in the future. It also improves the definitions of terms used in original bills.
Representatives are discussing multiple child well-being bills that would affect children across Montana. Many, are paying close attention to the Montana Child Welfare Act (MICWA) because of its historical and national significance. If passed, MICWA will effectively codify the Indian Child Welfare Act into state law. HB 317 protects American Indian children's rights to grow up connected to their families, communities, and cultures.
These are just a portion of the bills in Indian Country that MBPC is tracking. To learn more about specific bills listed visit the links.
How to get Involved:
MBPC is a nonprofit organization focused on providing credible and timely research and analysis on budget, tax, and economic issues that impact low- and moderate-income Montana families.