State Senator Steve Fitzpatrick from Great Falls introduced SB 65 last week. The bill has already passed the Senate and is making its way through the Montana House of Representatives.

Fitzpatrick described the bill.

“I sponsored Senate Bill 65,” said Fitzpatrick. “It provides COVID liability protection for basically anybody in the private sector. It's a way to stop what I think people anticipate may be coming, which are frivolous lawsuits arising from COVID exposure.”

Fitzpatrick further explained the protections the bill will provide to business owners.

“It increases the threshold for proving liability, so it makes it harder to prove one of these COVID claims, and then it also provides a defense that says if I've made a good faith effort to comply with federal guidance or state guidance on COVID, then that's a bar to a legal action.”

Fitzpatrick said SB 65 may even help convince Governor Gianforte to rescind the statewide mask mandate.

“If we can give people some liability protection, then I think that will go a long ways towards stopping the desire to have these very stringent mask mandates or any other kinds of regulations. I mean, it's just not masks. There could be a day coming where you get a lawsuit or somebody says, ‘Well, you know, you've started vaccinating people’. So we want to get away from that. We want to make sure we can protect freedoms for people while at the same time, make sure that people can open up their businesses and get going and feel comfortable about where they are in the state.”

Fitzpatrick said his bill is on its way to full passage.

“It did pass today,” he said. “It passed on second reading and third reading. We suspended the rules. Normally the third reading vote comes 24 hours later, so the bill is over in the house now, so it's passed the Senate and it's over in the House, so we're halfway through the process.”

Governor Gianforte said in his inauguration speech that the two conditions for ending the statewide mask mandate would be vaccinations and a bill to limit liability for the state’s small businesses, and Fitzpatrick said that SB 65 aims to fulfill the second part of that pledge.

 

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