- Associated Press - Monday, January 23, 2017

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - State lawmakers heard testimony on a bill that would make it a felony to assault a health care worker or emergency responder.

Supporters of House Bill 268, including many nurses, argued Monday the enhanced penalties of a felony charge could deter assaults they have suffered at the hands of patients, who often aren’t prosecuted.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports opponents raised concerns the law could be applied to people with mental health issues or other diminished capacities.

The legislation says for an assault to fall under this proposed law, the person must act “purposely or knowingly.”

Opponents argued there are already assault laws on the books that would apply to such situations. Supporters have noted that assaulting a police dog brings more punishment than assaulting a nurse.

The House Judiciary Committee did not act on the bill.

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