MISSOULA — State Attorney General Tim Fox detailed the laws passed by the 2013 Legislature and outlined his plans moving forward, including goals to reach out to Montana’s tribal governments to aid in their law enforcement needs.
Speaking at the Montana Newspaper Association convention in Missoula on Friday, Fox said the 13 bills he proposed to the Legislature all passed with bipartisan support, helping improve public safety across the state.
“We worked together across party lines to take great steps to improve public safety in Montana,” Fox said. “Six of my bills had Democrats for sponsors and seven had Republicans. I’m happy to report all my bills had solid bipartisan support.”
Two bills backed by Fox pertained to impaired drivers, one allowing judges to go deeper into the record of repeat DUI offenders to enact stiffer penalties, the other establishing THC impairment standards for drivers on Montana roads.
Fox said his office also introduced measures to protect children from sex offenders. One new law requires registered offenders moving to Montana to provide DNA samples to the State Crime Lab.
“Montana was one of only four states in the country lacking such a requirement,” Fox said. “We closed that loophole.”
Fox said district court judges can now designate the appropriate threat level for sex offenders who haven’t previously been assigned to one.
He said the move assures that offenders are assessed by professionals who can adequately measure their risk to the public. Doing so, he said, allows for the proper notification to communities where offenders live.
Fox also took a stand on synthetic drugs, such as bath salts and Spice. Once available at convenience stores, the drugs are now illegal, along with the chemical compounds used to manufacture them.
“Gov. (Steve) Bullock and I also announced in February that Montana was joining 11 other states against an outside special-interest group suing to force more regulations on waterways,” Fox said. “The governor and I believe Montanans know best how to develop flexible solutions that work at the local level on things like clean water.”
Fox touched on new laws aimed at child abuse and neglect, laws targeting scammers of the elderly and disabled, and efforts to keep up with law-enforcement needs in areas surrounding the Bakken oil play.
“Economic and population growth in eastern Montana has brought more law enforcement needs,” he said. “We fought hard for more resources in areas impacted by the Bakken oil boom – more highway patrol officers and improved public safety.”
Moving forward, Fox said his office is committed to improving public safety for all state residents, starting with a 24-7 sobriety program for more counties.
He also named his goals to improve the state’s sexual and violent offender registry, and efforts to build a mobile app making criminal justice information and motor vehicle services accessible online.
“I also hope to make progress improving law enforcement relationships with Montana’s Indian tribes,” he said. “I’ve already begun to meet with tribal leaders to discuss ways Montana law enforcement can be a resource for them as they work to improve public safety and living conditions in Indian country.”
Fox said a relationship in place between the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and surrounding jurisdictions could serve as a model for other tribal governments and their state counterparts.
“We have invited tribal leaders to my office, and it’s my intent to visit all our tribal councils and tribal law enforcement agencies over the next two months,” Fox said. “I think that will build relationships, trust and understanding, so we can go forward working together.”
The Montana Newspaper Association convention continues Saturday at the Holiday Inn downtown, where Gov. Steve Bullock is scheduled to speak at 1 p.m.