HELENA, Mont. (NMB) – Thirty people told the Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday the state needs to address Montana’s missing persons problem and pass “Hanna’s Act,” even after funding for the bill was cut.
House Bill 21, named for a murdered Northern Cheyenne woman, would create a position in the Montana Department of Justice for an investigator who would work on every missing persons case across the state. It passed the House unanimously.
Tim Pierce with the UM Legislative New Service reports, Representative Sharon Stewart Peregoy from Crow Agency says the yearly $100,000 appropriation that was cut in committee wasn’t a big ask.
“If we were to ask for a dollar for every murdered and missing in the state of Montana over the past 20 years, it would be more than $95,000. What is the cost of an individual’s life? It comes down to that. What is the cost of public safety?”
DOJ Communications Director John Barnes says the agency does not have enough resources to create the position.
“We continue to support the bill. We would have to re-prioritizes some of the work. We will do everything we can internally to make sure that the position and the work of the position is funded adequately. And, that the work is done.”
A motion to restore the funding failed in the House Appropriations Committee with a vote of 10 to 12.