After being returned to the legislature for several changes to the legislation, HB257 has been signed by Governor Gianforte, allowing Montanans to breathe freely again.
Restaurant inspections and regular day-to-day duties of local health departments will remain the same, but the masks are now lifted. This will negate and nullify mask demands and occupancy restrictions, and other “pandemic” measures. It will invalidate mask requirements, occupancy limits, and other pandemic response systems acquired by local governments and health officials.
Lawmakers accepted and validated Governor Gianforte’s amendments and sent the bill back to Gianforte’s desk on Thursday afternoon (April 29), which was then signed this past Friday, May 7.
As expected, the Republicans mainly approved of the bill while the Democrats mostly disapproved.
Many thanks go out to Rep. Jedidiah Hinkle R-Belgrade, who sponsored this bill and many others throughout the legislative season.
“The bill would prohibit cities, counties, local health boards, and health officers from pressuring and forcing businesses to implement emergency health requirements and refuse service to customers who don’t comply, including those who decline to wear face coverings. The bill also would forbid local governments from taking any ‘retributive action’ against businesses for noncompliance with such ordinances, including fines, civil lawsuits, and criminal charges.”
Gianforte remarked, “It’s critical that we avoid fundamentally reshaping Montana’s local public health system as a consequence of actions taken in response to the current pandemic — but rather consider proposals that address the ongoing issues created by ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulations, orders, directives or mandates while allowing local public health officials to do their jobs.”
In other words, Health Depts. and Officers will still be able to continue operations such as checking up on restaurant sanitation and so forth.
Hinkle said the Governor’s amendments “retain the strength and purpose of the bill, but they provide a little more clarity for the health boards.”
In February of this year, the Whitefish City Council established its mask ordinance to the chagrin of many and the delight of others, anticipating that the Governor would overrule and revoke the statewide mask mandate issued by previous Governor Steven Bullock.
Just recently, however, and (before the signing of Bill 257 last Friday), Whitefish City Manager, Dana Smith, stated that the city’s face covering requirement “will effectively be unenforceable” once Gianforte signs HB 257 into law.”
And she’s right. Even before the official “Signing of 257” Whitefish Citizens stated, “No one in Whitefish is wearing a mask right now!”
Many cities in the state of Montana have issued mask ordinances and will now be rendered powerless.
One reporter for the Montana Daily Gazette was on the road this past Friday and when they informed business that Governor Gianforte had lifted mask ordinance, four out of five businesses responded with glee.
Most businesses do not want to keep the mask enforcement. They are losing customers and employees. It’s bad business. In combination with the new bill passed by the Governor in which the “Pandemic Unemployment Assistance” and other programs which will be severely cut, this means that Montanans will get back to work and unmasked. It’s a win-win for the state.
Private businesses can still require folks entering their place of establishment to wear a mask, but it won’t be very intelligent of them to do so. With so many privately owned businesses, restaurants, etc., dropping the masks as well as companies that receive government funding who must omit masks due to Bill 257, it’s effectively “game over.”
However, Health Officer of Lewis and Clark County, Drenda Niemann and Matt Kelley, of Gallatin County are now scrambling. They are both obtaining “guidance” with their local County Attorneys to help “interpret the law.” Both have reluctantly admitted their enforcement of mask mandates will be delayed until they find a work-around the law.
Niemann’s defense is that “This bill effectively removes nearly 100 years of basic, preventative public health measures used to contain and help prevent the spread of infectious disease.”
However, as usual, she’s not educated in either law or medicine (she has a degree in neither).
The real side-effects of COVID-19 masking and distancing – suicides, elderly abuse, job loss, Staph Infection, bacterial pneumonia, vomiting, fainting spells, face rashes, and on it goes – are now over.
It’s time. Take the masks off and go live your life free from irrational fears.