News & Features

Senate Committee Revives Hanna’s Act at Legislature

Bill would allow DOJ to get involved in all missing persons cases, allows for creation of missing persons specialist

A bill seeking to address some of the jurisdictional issues related to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women has been revived at the Montana Legislature after considerable amendments.

House Bill 21, also known as Hanna’s Act, authorizes the U.S. Department of Justice to get involved in all missing persons cases in Montana, as well as creates the position of a missing persons specialist with the state.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Rae Peppers, D-Lame Deer, originally required the state to create this position, and listed the various tasks this job would oversee, including managing the state’s missing persons database and networking with other missing persons organizations to help find kids who have been illegally taken to or from Montana.

The original version of the bill also had $100,000 marked for this position. The House cut the funding before passing the bill with a vote of 99-0 to the state Senate, where it landed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

After a hearing, the Judiciary committee tabled the bill. Tabling a bill usually means it wouldn’t again see the light of day, but on March 29, the Senate Judiciary Committee brought it up from being tabled, and voted 8-2 to pass its amended version onto the Senate.

In the Senate’s version of the bill, the missing persons specialist would not be required, but instead allowed, per a change in the bill’s wording. It also removes all of the specific duties for the job listed in the original version.

Hanna’s Act is named for Hanna Harris, a 21-year-old member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe who went missing and was murdered in 2013.

If you enjoy stories like this one, please consider joining the Flathead Beacon Editor’s Club. For as little as $5 per month, Editor’s Club members support independent local journalism and earn a pipeline to Beacon journalists. Members also gain access to www.beaconeditorsclub.com, where they will find exclusive content like deep dives into our biggest stories and a behind-the-scenes look at our newsroom.