Police militarization reform bills advance in New Hampshire and Montana
On February 18th New Hampshire Rep. Hoell’s HB 407 and Montana Rep. Schwaderer’s HB 330 advanced, both passing state legislative chambers as amended. HB 407 is a repeat of Rep. Hoell’s bill from last session, HB 1307. HB 1307 failed in the NH House last year. However, the bill made national news, leading to the creation of Rep. Shwaderer’s bill, a similar bill in Tennessee, and a much more narrow federal bill.
The idea of police militarization reform legislation was inspired by the coalition of liberal activists and Free Staters that attempted to convince the Keene and Concord, New Hampshire city councils to vote against acquiring Department of Homeland Security BEARCATs. Despite Rep. Hoell neither being a liberal nor a Free Stater, he decided to lead the national legislative effort to bring about reform. The tragedies of Ferguson, Missouri further intensified the issue. Unfortunately, opposition to BEARCATs didn’t pick up much steam outside of NH and the University of Berkeley. Instead, critics were mostly concerned about a different federal program that distributed much larger military vehicles called MRAPs to local governments.
Rep. Hoell’s HB 407 was recommended Inexpedient to Legislate by the Municipal and County Government Committee. The NH House overturned the Committee recommendation 204 to 134. Committee member Rep. Ammon proposed to amend the bill so that it would create a committee to study police militarization reform. The amendment passed with the help of Rep. Hoell, Rep. Simmons, and the chair of the Committee, Rep. Belanger. The bill was sent to the NH Senate.
Rep. Shwaderer’s HB 330 originally called for reining in on the militarization of police in Montana, including MRAPs. On February 16th, the Judiciary Committee amended and passed the bill. The amendment weakened the bill, dropping opposition to MRAPs (remember, the bill never included opposition to BEARCATs). On February 18th, the MT House voted 88 to 12 to pass the bill. The bill was sent to the Appropriations Committee.