SB65 is advertized as a bill designed to protect Montana businesses. It will do exactly the opposite.
Governor Greg Gianforte told Montanans that he would repeal Steve Bullock’s mask mandate as soon as the legislature passed a bill to protect Montana businesses from lawsuits in the event COVID-19 spread on the business’ property. However, the bill proposed by Senator Fitzpatrick and ostensibly supported by Governor Gianforte will force businesses to abide by local mask mandates in order to receive protections under the legislation.
In short, the legislation will actually make it harder for Montana businesses to respect the medical privacy of their customers and will penalize them if they refuse to treat the orders of unelected health officials as though they were laws.
The Big Sky Policy Institute issued a statement today, “Senator Steve Fitzpatrick (SD20 – Helena) is F-rated in party loyalty on Legistats and is the 8th most liberal Republican in the Montana Senate. It is a concern that the bill would be introduced by a Solutions Caucus member at all, least alone Fitzpatrick, who has repeatedly shown a commitment to increasing the size of state government at nearly every turn.”
They continue, “SB65, authored by Fitzpatrick, appears at first glance to protect businesses. But while the bill “sets limits on civil actions” against businesses, it actually requires businesses to obey mandates demanded originally by Governor Bullock (D) and the army of unelected local health boards who have carried out his orders. For businesses to receive immunity from lawsuits, they have to obey the very mandates that Gianforte says he wants to repeal.“
Several screenshots were provided, demonstrating the bill is misleading. The first is the bill’s description, which states that businesses will only receive protections if they follow “certain types of regulations” (see below).
What are those regulations?
Regulations businesses will be required to follow include “federal or state statute, regulation, order, or public health guidance related to COVID-19…” This includes the orders and directives of local governments and unelected health boards, including those made in places like Whitefish that far exceed even Governor Bullock’s orders.
Big Sky Policy Institute says, “Furthermore, even if Gianforte does lift the mask mandate after this bill is passed (he is not obligated to), it could in theory be imposed again at any time, leaving businesses vulnerable to the tyranny of emergency orders. And, as stated above, the language in the bill would require residents in more liberal cities like Whitefish, Bozeman, and Missoula to obey local health declarations (which will exceed the governor’s orders) as though the orders were law.”
You can read the bill here.