HELENA — A legislative panel proposed major changes Wednesday to the way the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole operates.
Members of the Law and Justice Interim Committee adopted five bills to introduce during the 2015 legislative session, two of which would give the governor more control over the board.
One would let the governor grant clemency without the board’s recommendation, while the other would let the governor change the presiding officer of the board.
“Half of all states already allow a governor to give clemency, so we’re not reinventing the wheel,” said Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula.
The governor in Montana does not have the right to grant clemency under current law unless the board recommends it. The bill would give the governor discretion in clemency cases, while the board would be tasked with the investigative function.
Hill also said she supports giving the governor the ability to select the board’s leader as a way to check what she said is a “pretty powerful unfettered position.”
The committee has been looking at board operations since 2011. The proposed changes come nearly three months after the board denied Barry Beach’s fourth bid for executive clemency for the 1979 beating death of 17-year-old Kim Nees.
Gov. Steve Bullock had said he would look favorably on clemency for Beach and said he was disappointed with the board’s decision.
Other proposed bills would change parole criteria and require the board to record meetings.
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