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Local governments prepare for Marsy's Law

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KALISPELL, Mont. - Across Montana, local governments are preparing for the implementation of a victim's bill of rights law that takes effect July 1.

Voters approved Marsy's Law last year by a near 2-1 margin, with 325,934 votes for it and 167,261 against.

While he understands the concern, Kalispell City Attorney Rich Hickel says it's a problem for cities and counties. "A shortcoming as far as the law is concerned," says Hickel, "is the fact that it basically created an unfunded mandate on local governments this because all of the notifications, like you said, that takes man-power on it."

The Gallatin County Attorney's Office is asking for $179,000. Missoula County says they've already added two victim witness advocates at a cost of about $99,000.

Marsy's Law is considered the victim's bill of rights as it expands and protects the legal rights of crime victims.

Residents we spoke with say Marsy's Law is necessary.

"Victims of sexual assault need every protection they can get," Kalispell resident Clara Hazelwood said.

The Abbie Shelter executive director Hilary Shaw said she's not sure the law was a step in the right direction. "What victims struggle with aren't even necessarily things that the law could change," she said.

Shaw said she believes lawmakers should have reached out to more local victim advocacy groups for their opinion.

Hickel told NBC Montana he won't be surprised if the law is challenged in court.

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