Headlines Rep. Hinkle's HB257 Maximizes, Not Reduces, Local Control Over...

Rep. Hinkle’s HB257 Maximizes, Not Reduces, Local Control Over Masking


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[Big Sky Public Policy Institute] Few bills are more necessary than HB257, sponsored by Rep. Jedediah Hinkle (R-HD32). It might be, in the estimation of Big Sky Public Policy Institute, one of the best bills of the 2021 Legislative Session.

The bill, which you can find here, is entitled, “An Act Generally Revising Laws Related to Prohibiting Actions that Impede a Private Business’s Ability to Conduct Business; Prohibiting Certain Types of Local Government Ordinances and Resolutions, Prohibiting an Emergency Plan or Program that Restricts the Ability of a Private Business to Conduct Business, Prohibiting a Local Board of Health and Local Health Officer from Actions that Restrict the Ability of a Private Business to Conduct Business.

The lengthy title should not startle the reader; the bill is not that complicated. Although it has 11 sections and comprises a little more than 12 pages, it is easily understood and most of its content was carefully crafted by Rep. Hinkle for the purpose of clarity.

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Put in layman’s terms, the bill clarifies that local municipalities cannot coerce business owners to enforce the municipality’s health ordinances. In other words, it removes the obligation of businesses to enforce questionably derived declarations of unelected health officials.

To be clear, the bill does not restrict the right of private businesses to enforce local government mandates or their own mandates. Rather, it protects businesses from the burden of becoming mandate-enforcement for local governmental policies.

While reducing government control, the bill maximizes the MOST local (and individual) control over masking.

Do not believe the slanted reporting of Montana’s far-left legacy press corps. NBC Montana, for example, has characterized the bill as, “limiting local authority.” This, of course, could not be further from the truth. Hinkle’s bill maximizes local control, allowing each and every business owner to decide their own establishment’s policies. In other words, the bill empowers the most local of all control, that exercised by businesses and individuals.

Just as sheriffs throughout Montana notified Governor Bullock that they could not be burdened logistically with the task of enforcing his constitutionally dubious orders, local business owners are in no better position to enforce the unilateral health decrees of local governments. Government, and not citizens, are tasked with “law enforcement” (or mandate enforcement, as the case may be).

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Businesses, retail outlets, and restaurants do not have the manpower or training to provide bouncers at every exit who are willing to spar with clients and customers who have the basic literacy required to know that masking measures are more superstition than science. As the veil is lifted from absurdly inefficacious mask orders, and the science becomes clearer, fewer and fewer citizens will subject themselves to facial coverings that fly in the face of reason. To expect businesses to enforce such frivolous and largely worthless “safeguards” places upon them an undue burden.

Hinkle’s bill, HB257, has passed its second reading in the House and should receive the support of every Republican and Democrat with a modicum of common sense. Businesses exist to make money and, as a side benefit, act as a tax base to fund local and state infrastructure.

Businesses do not exist as an enforcement wing of whatever government agency has decided to place arbitrary restrictions on consumers.

Municipalities who want such orders enforced should provide the resources necessary to enforce their own inane policies and not expect businesses to serve as their knee-breakers or goons. And if local governments do not have the capacity to enforce their mandates, they shouldn’t decree them in the first place.

[Editor’s Note: This article was first published as a white paper at the Big Sky Public Policy Institute]


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