- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Montana legislators moved Wednesday to clear a slate of bills from its waning schedule, including proposals focused on abortion, guns, mail ballots and marijuana.

Some lawmakers want to gavel the current session to a close by the end of next week, but it’s unclear if they can do so because of the number of pressing issues that remain to be handled, including a possible vote on an infrastructure package and the state budget.

In recent days, both chambers have tried to pick up the pace.

- The House voted 65-35 on Wednesday to advance a bill to regulate medical marijuana, including product testing and provider licensing, after voters passed an initiative last fall expanding the availability of the drug. The bill is a stripped-down version of a proposal that sought to place a tax on sales that would have raised about $300,000 a year.

- The House advanced a Senate bill that would place a referendum before voters to limit who can collect ballots. Proponents say they are promoting the integrity of elections by banning door-to-door ballot harvesting, particularly among partisan groups. But critics argue the measure would suppress the voters who are poor, young and old.

- The Senate reaffirmed its support for allowing lawmakers to carry concealed firearms in the Capitol and other state property. The House had already approved the bill but rejected an amendment placed in the Senate that would allow the chamber’s sergeant-at-arms the same privilege. To send the bill to the governor, the Senate held another vote to rubber-stamp the House version.

- The House and Senate acted separately on two abortion measures. The House, on a 60-40 vote, moved to outlaw abortions involving fetuses capable of feeling pain, which proponents say happens when a fetus has developed beyond 20 weeks in a woman’s womb. The Senate had already given its approval.

Meanwhile, the Senate advanced, 30-20, a ballot referendum that would define a fertilized embryo as a person. The measure appears destined for defeat, however, unless it can pick up additional support when it returns to the chamber Thursday for a final vote. The House approved the measure 58-42 last month. It would require support from at least 42 senators on a final vote to garner the two-thirds legislative majority needed to be placed on the ballot.

The governor, who supports a woman’s right to choose an abortion, is expected to give especially deep scrutiny to any abortion bill that reaches his desk.

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