- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana House on Tuesday raced to beat a mid-session deadline to consider a final slate of bills before adjourning for a break later this week.

The state Senate is already in recess, after breaking Friday for a weeklong hiatus. The House reconvenes Wednesday to finalize several bills.

On Tuesday, House members spent more than four hours approving 18 more bills they will send to the Senate for consideration. The House gave preliminary approval to 19 other bills, some the subject of heated debate. The House moved to:

- Allow prosecutors to charge doctors with homicide who help terminally ill patients kill themselves. It moved forward for final consideration Wednesday by a 52-48 vote.

- Encourage the Montana Congressional delegation to seek the delisting of grizzly bears as a federally protected species.

- Rename Columbus Day to “Montana Heritage Day.” The bill had originally sought to rename the holiday “Indigenous Peoples Day,” but the proposal was amended to garner more support. Despite emotionally charged debate, the chamber overwhelmingly endorsed the measure, 73-27.

- Urge Montana’s three-member congressional delegation to seek delisting the grizzly as an endangered species. The resolution was pushed forward by a 63-37 vote.

- Give cities, counties and other local jurisdictions authority to act as first responders to combat wildfires on federal property. The measure was endorsed by a 61-39 vote.

- Push the U.S. Congress to release 663,000 acres placed off limits to recreation, logging and other uses because of their status as wilderness study areas.

- Extend rules protecting children from concussions to sporting events run by private schools and other youth athletic groups.

Both chambers will return from recess Monday to begin wading through a heap of legislation that survived the so-called transmittal deadline. Legislators also are expected to intensify debate over the state budget and cobble together an infrastructure package.

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