Bombshell: SB65 Is Being Pushed by D.C. Lobbyists and Mitch McConnell

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When Gianforte punted the mask issue to the legislature, few were aware the bill he wanted was the brainchild of Mitch McConnell and was born in the Washington Swamp

When Montanans elected Greg Gianforte as governor, they did so in good faith that he would repeal the unnecessary, unhealthy, and unconstitutional “mask mandate” decreed by the-Governor Steve Bullock. Gianforte broke hearts when he absconded on the issue of masks and instead demanded that the Montana legislature first pass a COVID-19 liability bill to protect businesses. As we pointed out at the time, this could be an uphill battle, considering that the Democrat Crossover Caucus seems to be controling the legislature.

Effectively, Gianforte handed control of the mask issue to Llew Jones (“R” – Conrad) and his Democrat compatriots who seem – thus far – to have gotten the best of House Speaker, Wylie Galt, who is still learning the ropes of his position. And at the time, the Big Sky Public Policy Institute pointed out that there is literally no reason whatsoever to provide a business liability waiver to Montana businesses because there have been zero lawsuits against businesses in Montana, despite the fact that more than 90% of businesses are not enforcing Bullock’s mask mandate. In addition, there have only been 234 such lawsuits filed nationwide (mostly against nursing homes and meat packers) and none of them have resulted in a monetary payout. And of those 234 lawsuits, only 37 were specifically by customers suing businesses over COVID exposure; most were of employees suing their employers for not enforcing mandates, which is something Montanans could do now if they wanted to (and they clearly don’t, or they would have by now).

So why on Earth would Gianforte punt the mask issue to a RINO-Democrat controlled legislature when Montana businesses are clearly not in jeopardy of being sued because someone thinks they contracted COVID-19 on their premises?

Unfortunately, a likely answer is unsettling. This isn’t about Montana’s needs at all. This bill, and variations like it, was contrived in the mind of Mitch McConnell and D.C. bureacrats. It’s not Montana born and Montana raised; it’s an illegitimate child born in the Washington swamp.

The New York Intelligencer explained the origins of such bills in their December 8 article entitled, Why is Mitch McConnell So Obsessed With Liability Shields? The author, Sarah Jones, reports…

Close your eyes and imagine the future. Do you see visions of a new stimulus package? Alas, an obstacle stands in the way of our dreams, and it takes the shape of one Mitch McConnell. The Senate majority leader has imposed several conditions on a new round of aid, which have in turn prevented both parties from reaching a workable agreement…As proof, look no further than McConnell’s battle to attach a “liability shield” to any stimulus package. 

So why would Mitch McConnell be pushing liability shields if so few lawsuits have been filed nationwide? Likely the answer is lobbyists.

Mitch McConnell is Brute’ to Trump’s Caesar

Timothy Lytton, a law professor at Georgia State University, said, “In most areas of public policy, there are groups that advocate for certain reforms. Then they wait around for some crisis to come along where they can present their reform as a solution to the problem of the day.”

He goes on, “With just such a crisis at hand, representatives for the hospital and nursing home industries have lobbied hard for liability protections at the state and federal level.”

Of course, nursing homes have been a major killer during the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020, having the only population seriously vulnerable to the disease (accounting for close to 90% of COVID-19 deaths nationwide). Unfortunately, many nursing homes volunteered to take positive COVID-19 patients – like the Whitefish Care and Rehabilitation Center, for example – in order to get rich quick. In other cases, it was the government that forced nursing homes to take COVID-19 patients in an act of malfeasance that rivals the British gifting smallpox blankets to Indigenous peoples in 1763.

It is worth noting that Gianforte has numerous healthcare lobbyists on his various COVID-19 and health transition teams. Are they holding up a repeal of the mask mandate as a bargaining chip to protect themselves from medical malpractice lawsuits?

States have been pressured by McConnell to pass business liability bills like SB65, and 14 states thus far have done so. It’s unclear why any of them have passed the laws, considering lawsuit figures are so low. Additionally, it should be stated that personal injury lawsuits are so expensive that the price alone is a sufficient deterrent to petty claims.

As Timothy Litton explains elsewhere…

To successfully sue a business for COVID-19 transmission, a patron would have to prove that he or she contracted COVID-19 from the business and not from some other source. However, most people infected with COVID-19 currently have no reliable way of identifying the source of their infection. The gap of three to 11 days between infection and illness, the difficulty of recalling all of one’s contacts during that interval and limited testing for the virus present formidable obstacles to establishing causation.

SB65 will ultimately increase the liability businesses face and codify into the law a legal precedent that we don’t want determining our future response to other pandemics. The fact is, Montana simply does not need a business liability law as the last 10 months of lockdowns and an absence of lawsuits demonstrates already.

And most importantly, even if a liability law were needed, there’s no good reason to hold a mask-repeal over the head of legislators until they pass it. While other states with massive infection rates in nursing homes (like New York, which has suffered under Governor Cuomo’s rule) might need tort reform, Montana needs Montana bills, not Washington bills.

Finally, remember the lesson that can be learned. The pet projects of Big Business lobbyists as far away as Washington D.C., lobbying on behalf of states like New York, can affect us as far away as Montana if our Governor and legislature aren’t discerning enough to know the bill comes from the Beltway rather than home.

One-size-fits-all rarely fits Montana.




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6 COMMENTS

  1. I have to disagree about the lawsuits–I think they ARE going to happen–a lot–if we don’t get this bill amended to protect small business owners who choose NOT to comply with the guidelines. Those are the ones who are going to get sued. THOSE are the ones who need this protection from liability and they are totally left out of this. And it will have a chilling effect on ALL small business re-openings, knowing that, as this bill essentially says, if they DON’T comply enough, they have no protection and can be sued.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Cindy. We value your opinion. You’ll see that Big Sky Public Policy Institute endorsed the legislation as significantly less awful after it went through revisions and amendments in the Senate.

  2. So let’s see, our new governor Gianforte, who promised to lift the unhealthy and ridiculous mask mandate wants to make legislation protecting businesses that don’t enforce the mask mandate from being sued??
    First of all a mandate is not a law. Let me say that once more…. a mandate is not a law.
    Second if our governor would just drop the mask mandate, as he said he would, he wouldn’t have to worry about anyone getting sued, because it wouldn’t matter anymore.
    Stop playing politics and get to work for the good of we the people. The people voted and you got in, we can vote next time and vote you out.
    P.S. rinos, pick a side. Stop running as one party and then working as the other party. Game over!
    You are all “public servants” and the “government” on all levels owns nothing. We the people own it all. We’ve paid for everything, continue to pay for everything and most importantly we pay each of you. Never forget your place.
    God bless we the people
    God bless Montana
    God bless America
    Sincerely,
    Tia Bastas Dear
    One of we the people

  3. I am beginning to think some of the so calked repubs are actually
    demo infiltrators. It is not too hard to believe.
    The main thing is for non compliance to any unconstitutional
    “mandate” or “edict”… PERIOD

  4. […] Montanans want to breathe freely, live freely, and conduct business freely in a post-COVID world. Gianforte, who won by approximately ten percent of the vote, won by such a margin because Montanans genuinely believed he would bring an end to the muzzling of our faces and the stifling of our businesses. Unfortunately, Gianforte began with a rough start, immediately punting the mask issue to the state legislature in a demand that they first pass a largely unnecessary business liability bill promoted out of Washington D.C. by Mitch McConnell. […]

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