Ignore National Association for Gun Rights; HB102 is a Good Bill

Despite attempts by the National Association of Gun Rights, Montana’s HB102 is a good bill and deserves the support of Second Amendment advocates in the state legislature.

Supporting HB102 is the NRA, NSSA, GOA, CCRKBA, and the MSSA (arguably the most faithful and consistent gun rights groups in Montana). The National Association of Gun Rights (NAGR) is alone in their rejection of the bill.

Continue reading “Ignore National Association for Gun Rights; HB102 is a Good Bill”

HB61 is a Pro-Abortion Bill Designed to Fund Montana Planned Parenthood

After years of trying to defund Planned Parenthood nationwide, Republican efforts eventually sizzled due to the disinterest in stopping tax-dollars from becoming blood money by a slim minority of the Republican Party who just don’t care about the issue. President Donald J. Trump, however, found a work-around the do-nothing congress and defunded Planned Parenthood via executive order.

Planned Parenthood has been funded with public tax dollars since 1970 and dispensed via the Title X Family Planning Program. In August of 2019, Trump implemented what abortion proponents call the “Domestic Gag Rule.” This executive decision of the president forbade organizations receiving Title X funding from referring patients to abortion services. Considering abortion is 95% (that’s a precise figure) of what Planned Parenthood ever does (don’t let them tell you otherwise), the organization chose to walk away from tax money rather than to walk away from their homicidal trade.

However, what is done via executive order by the U.S. president can be undone via executive order by the next U.S. president. And Joe Biden has promised to revoke Trump’s “gag rule” and again fund abortion with taxpayer money (see below).

This should come as little surprise to conservatives, as Biden made the policy reversal a central talking point in his presidential campaign.

However, in 2015, the Montana legislature passed HB606, which provides a special appropriation for Title X abortion funding that made the bill subject each session to approval by the State House. The funding of Title X was, and remains, a fight in the abortion wars that doesn’t often make the front page of the newspaper. But nonetheless, these obscure caveats in how funds are dispersed are important in trying to stop – or promote – the murder of Montana’s most vulnerable people.

Custer’s bill will be heard today (or very soon) and it will remove the sunset clause from Montana Law and thereby pave a clear path for public abortion funding via Title X as soon as Joe Biden removes Trump’s “gag rule,” which he will likely do (according to him) on his first day of office.

House Bill 61 is a pro-abortion bill at its very heart (see below).

Essentially, the bill will make Montana policy reflect federal policy, which currently seems as though it will be controlled by the most pro-abortion president in American history (see below).

This bill serves one primary purpose, and that’s to provide “family planning” Title X funds to Montana Planned Parenthood as soon as Joe Biden reverses President Trump’s policy. Considering that its author has a voting record that is more Democrat than Republican, and previously voted to provide abortion funding through Medicaid Expansion Renewal in 2018, it is yet another blight on the Montana GOP and evidence that the party has been commandeered by Democrats who deceive the public by running on the Republican ticket.

We pray that Montana voters will contact their legislators and ask them to defeat this bill. It is a pro-abortion Trojan Horse resting at the doors of state government.

Republican Business Liability Bill Will Turn Emergency Mandates Into Law

Yesterday (January 7), the Big Sky Policy Institue issued a memorandum on Gianforte’s misguided abdication of his executive power to the legislature, which currently seems to be under the power of the Democrat Crossover Caucus led by Llew Jones (“R”- Conrad). As we explained, instead of repealing Governor Bullock’s unconstitutional mask mandate and other Martial Law provisions (this is the term for when the executive branch suspends laws in an emergency), Gianforte announced he would repeal them only when the legislature passed a bill protecting businesses from lawsuits in the event someone contracts COVID-19 on their property.

But by punting his responsibility to the legislature, the governor might have ensured that Bullock’s order last long after his tenure. And as Big Sky Policy Institute (BSPI) explained, there have been zero lawsuits against businesses in Montana over COVID-19 exposure, and of the mere 270 such lawsuits filed across the nation, none have been lucratively successful.

Yesterday evening, we got a first glance at the bill Gianforte wants Republicans to sign in exchange for his promise to eventually lift the mask mandate. And, as you might expect, the bill will hurt small businesses and make them more liable than they currently are. Additionally, the bill will enshrine Governor Bullock’s mandate into actual law, giving the government teeth to go after businesses who respect their customer’s medical privacy.

FITZPATRICK’S BILL

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.

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.

More importantly, should the bill become law and Gianforte does not repeal the mandates, businesses will be forced to comply with the masking orders whereas previously they were free to ignore them previously.

The bill itself points this out in the heading (see below).

Notice that the bill says that there is ‘safe harbor’ for those “who comply with certain types of regulations.” And what are those regulations businesses must comply with in order to receive the benefits of the law?

According to the bill, the “certain types of regulations” include orders decreed outside the state legislature (see below).

The bill reads that a person shall not be held liable for civil damages for…exposure to covid-19 “if the act or omission alleged to violate a duty or care was in substantial compliance or was consistent with a federal or state statute, regulation, order, or public health guidance…”

SD65 HURTS BUSINESSES AND FORCES THEM TO TREAT MANDATES LIKE LAWS

If Governor Gianforte or GOP leadership gets behind this bill, it will accomplish precisely the opposite of what the governor states he wants to do, which is to repeal the mask mandate and protect businesses. If the bill passes, businesses will be forced to follow the decisions of local and unelected health boards or risk being sued, making the target smaller and easier to hit by opportunistic activists and attorneys.

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.

Gianforte’s Mask Mandate is Backwards Policy

Governor Greg Gianforte (R) has certainly ostracized a great many legislators, voters, and his supporters by not immediately repealing the ineffectual mask mandate unconstitutionally implemented by his predecessor, Governor Steve Bullock (D). But it is the aim of the Big Sky Policy Institute to provide impartial and factual policy evaluation despite party affiliation or political pragmatism.

BACKGROUND

Although we are pleased that Governor Gianforte has stated that the mask mandate will be “repealed in weeks, not months,” the governor punted his decision to reverse the emergency order to the legislature, which does not currently have a 51-vote conservative majority. Latest figures show that Llew Jones (“R”-Conrad) and his progressive Republican caucus appear to command the majority of the legislature when combined with the Democrats, which he has in times past regularly sided with.

By and large, the Solutions Caucus – led by Jones – are wearing masks alongside their Democrat counterparts in the Montana legislature while 40+ conservative Republicans remain with their faces uncovered. Numerous Solutions Caucus members have sided with Democrats in this debate, desiring a virtual session, masks, or social distancing.

In short, it is highly questionable if there are the votes necessary in the Montana legislature to provide a business liability bill to protect businesses and churches in the event someone contracts the mild respiratory virus on their property. And if there are not the votes possible to provide such a bill, then it is unknown how Gianforte can keep his promise to lift the mandate in “weeks, not months.”

THE POLICY PERSPECTIVE

Policy-wise, does it make sense for Governor Gianforte to wait on the Montana legislature to pass a business liability bill in order to remove Bullock’s unconstitutional mask mandate or forced lockdowns?

Gianforte’s decision to continue the mask mandate until the legislature acts would only make sense if liability over COVID-19 contraction indeed existed, or if there was a problematic or consistent pattern of using civil prosecution to punish mask violators.

However, if there is not a legitimate threat to small businesses because they respect the individual’s choice to wear a mask (or not), then it would seem that Gianforte’s decision to punt to the legislature is a pragmatic political move designed to shield him behind the status quo rather than to protect our rights and economic well-being.

THE REALITY REGARDING COVID BUSINESS LIABILITY

The statistics on this matter tell a story. Currently, 38 county sheriffs have signed onto a letter first published earlier in July, stating that they will not enforce Governor Bullock’s mask mandate. Out of 56 counties across the state, this accounts for 68% of the Montana counties that have already pledged not to enforce the mandate. However, only 6 counties have attempted prosecuting businesses that allow their customers to violate the unconstitutional mask or distancing orders. Out of 56 counties, this means that businesses in at least 88% of the counties in Montana have businesses that run afoul of the order.

However, statistics can be misleading. Although 6 counties have seen some kind of prosecution against businesses (largely unsuccessful), it’s not an exaggeration to say there are businesses and churches in every Montana county – even where prosecutions have been attempted – who regularly and defiantly break Bullock’s orders.

Surely then, there should be ample empirical evidence of the tort liability of businesses and churches who facilitate the spread of COVID-19 by not requiring masks or social distancing. The fear that releasing the mask mandate would make businesses vulnerable to tort liability is irrational, considering most businesses are already violating the mask mandate and not a single one has been sued for spreading COVID-19.

However, the number of lawsuits successfully brought against any business, church, club, establishment, or individual for spreading COVID-19 in Montana is zero. In short, it has never happened. The only legal harassment businesses have received in Montana for not wearing or demanding masks has been from the Montana Department of Health and Human Services and local health boards.

NATIONWIDE SURVEY OF BUSINESS LIABILITY IS SIMILAR TO MONTANA

With 328.2 million people in the United States, the number of lawsuits filed against businesses for spreading COVID-19 is limited to the hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands. Examples include a wedding venue in Maine, large meat-packing plants like Tyson Foods, large corporations like Wal-Mart and Carnival Cruise Lines.

More than 6 thousand complaints have been filed against businesses for not enforcing mask and distancing standards, but only 270 lawsuits have been filed among the 50 states. None of those lawsuits have led to significant financial rewards and almost all of them are against nursing homes or care facilities – not businesses engaging in public commerce.

The reason for this lack of lawsuits against businesses is fairly simple; testing is untrustworthy, contact-tracing is sparse and proving where you got COVID-19 is next to impossible. Businesses are naturally immune from liability because of the inability to pinpoint where or from whom someone obtained the virus to begin with.

TOWARDS A BETTER POLICY

Governor Gianforte should immediately repeal the mask and distancing mandates issued by Governor Bullock, which would in turn put pressure on the legislature to pass a business liability bill in the event they prioritize those protections. Removing the mandates first will put progressive Republicans and Democrats who are convinced the virus is more than a paper tiger to act to protect businesses who might be sued for spreading the virus.

Instead, Gianforte should issue common-sense health guidelines asking the vulnerable, immune-compromised, and ill to stay away from public businesses and places, instead of requiring businesses to treat the entire public as though they were vulnerable, immune-compromised, and ill. The legislature should then be pressured to pass a business liability law with the new-found pressure of urgency.

Ultimately, what gives liability to Montana businesses in regard to ambulance-chasing attorneys and opportunistic bad neighbors is if COVID-19 was spread inside a business that could not conscientiously enforce Bullock’s mandate while the mandate remains in force. Ironically, only if the mandate remains in place will businesses be vulnerable to lawsuits for COVID-19 spread.

SUMMARY

There appears no realistic threat thus far to Montana businesses regarding COVID-19 spread. Businesses have not been harassed legally for failure to require masks, except by Montana DPHHS and local health boards. Nationally, no lawsuits against storefront businesses or churches have led to large financial awards. The fear of such lawsuits against businesses seems to be a bugbear and an irrational one. Gianforte’s punt to the legislature will likely lead to no action on masks anytime soon, and furthermore, will probably delay action on business liability rather than hasten it.

An Open Letter to Gov. Gianforte Regarding His Upcoming COVID-19 Policy Announcements

Earlier today, Governor-Elect Greg Gianforte announced that his COVID-19 policies would be announced next week. The following is an open letter to Governor Gianforte with helpful encouragement to do what is right by the Montanans who elected him – and all Montanans – in regard to the Great Coronavirus Panic of 2020 that has so negatively affected our great state.

Governor Gianforte,

It is with the greatest respect and admiration that we write to you with input regarding the policies you will put into place at the beginning of your tenure as the 25th governor of our state.

Governor, our greatest hope and prayer is that you will exercise great caution – far more than shown by your predecessor – regarding the individual rights of our Citizens. We understand that if you do what is legitimately right by our populace, you will be in the minority (for now) among the governors in the 50 states. You will, should you do the right things, stand with Governor Noem of South Dakota in rejecting the alarmism and hysterics of a media that refuses to differentiate between science and conjecture, medicine and pseudo-science fanaticism.

We understand the dilemma. If you act according to the best possible and most current scientific studies on COVID-19, you will be acting against the advice of many within the medical community who have made a sacrilege of the Scientific Method and who have replaced genuine scientific inquiry with the conjecture of supposed consensus that is driven more by politics of Big Government than by sound medical research. Should you replace the draconian policies of your predecessor, Governor Bullock, you will be accused of devaluing human life for the sake of personal liberty.

While the medical community should be an important part of your counsel, it must not be your only counsel. You must also bend your ear to economists, clergy, mental health professionals, and business owners who all have an equal stake in the long-term wellbeing of our state.

Governor, the oath you will soon take binds your conscience to fulfill its vows to protect and uphold our Constitution. Caring for the physical safety of Montanans, while admirable, is not a part of the oath of your high office. And while public safety is certainly a concern of the governor, whatever measures you take to mitigate the threats of COVID-19 must be in keeping with your oath to uphold and defend our liberties as granted in the state constitution.

Your predecessor made clear in his many press conferences and public policy decisions that our liberties were not weighed into consideration regarding our public safety. This has not only been unconstitutional, but it has been immoral. God has placed you into a position to punish the wicked and praise the good (1 Peter 2:14). And contrary to the opinion of Helena bureaucrats and a number of unelected health officials around the state (particularly in Yellowstone, Gallatin, Missoula, Silver Bow, and Carter counties), it is not wicked to attend church, to run your small business, or visit your family.

We have seen in our great state these things – the ordinary but significant aspects of daily life – be discounted as selfish, cruel, heartless, or unloving. We have seen your predecessor blame – without an ounce of actual empirical evidence – freedom-loving Montanans for the spread of an illness that by all accounts is comparable in mortality figures to the seasonal flu. We have seen Governor Bullock’s public posture pit neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother, demonizing those with differing opinions on the severity of this virus or the wisest course of action to protect ourselves.

But Governor, please remember that your primary job is not to protect our lives, but to protect our liberties. While some will scoff at this notion, we make such a statement while standing upon the very foundations of our government and time-tested principles of Western Civilization. In short, you are honor-bound to first and foremost protect our freedoms even more so than our lives. You must be, unlike your predecessor, bound by the Constitution of the State of Montana.

We know Montanans because we are Montanans. And this intimate knowledge of our state and its fine people leads us to believe that every individual and every community is best suited to determine how to protect ourselves from the Wuhan Virus. What we need you to do is say no to government solutions that are much more dangerous than the virus itself.

We pray that you would avoid the obvious absurdities that have characterized Governor Bullock’s COVID-19 response. These absurdities include, but are not limited to, the idea that mass gatherings are okay in public schools but not churches, that Wal-Mart may remain open to sell products that small businesses provide but cannot because they have been shuttered via executive order, or that COVID-19 spreads worse after an arbitrarily-imposed curfew. We have endured, far beyond reason, policies that make little sense, built upon notions (for example) that the virus can spread inside establishments after 10PM worse than before 10PM or that the virus can be caught standing up in a restaurant more so than sitting down. None of these notions are scientific; they are instead superstitious and spurious.

We humbly ask that you immediately repeal the statewide mask mandate that is already largely unfollowed and equally unenforceable. There simply is no empirical and verified evidence that face-coverings prevent the spread of COVID-19 (as the warnings and disclaimers on their packaging admit). The same government that now tells us face coverings are the key to preventing COVID-19 is the same government that months into the pandemic told us that masks were unnecessary and should not be used.

Governor Bullock told the Montana people that the state Supreme Court has upheld both forced quarantines and forced vaccinations, a statement at roughly the six-minute mark of his initial mask declaration. As you are aware, the claim was not only dubious, but deceitful. Bullock referred, no doubt, to a 1905 ruling of the Montana Supreme Court upholding the requirement of a Billings woman to vaccinate her dog for rabies. But Governor, we are not dogs and COVID-19 is not rabies. Please repeal this mandate immediately.

Furthermore, numerous officials across our nation have recommended mandatory vaccinations for our citizenry. Please be aware, Governor Gianforte, that Montanans will not tolerate that discussion or suggestion and will receive it as terrorism at the hands of the government. We are armed and well prepared to guard our own personal autonomy when it comes to what we inject into our bodies and when. Simply put, this is not a decision of the state to make for its People who are prepared to invoke our Second Amendment liberties when tyranny demands it.

Additionally, it is most likely that the requirement for vaccination will be strongest not from government, but from private industry and Big Business. Airlines have suggested requiring proof of vaccination to travel, to give one example. Businesses have proposed requiring their employees to vaccinate in order to maintain employment. We need immediate action from the Governor’s Office to put Big Business on notice that any strong-arm coercion of Montana Citizens to inject unknown or hastily-tested substances into our body will not be tolerated. At no other time in American history has it been suggested that a specific medical decision must be made in order to conduct travel or business within our borders, and it is not an acceptable option in a free Republic.

Montana’s nickname has been bequeathed, “The Last Best Place.” Truly, so far as freedom is concerned, it might just be. And we elected you, our dear Governor, to preserve that heritage for our children.

We pledge to treat our neighbors with compassion, to protect the elderly and immune-compromised, and to not take health risks that are unnecessary. But with all due respect, those are decisions for us to make and not our elected (or all-too-often, unelected) officials.

In return, we desire that you pledge to diligently provide necessary public resources to our health departments and hospitals in a way that does not infringe upon our liberties.

Surely, as Patrick Henry would acknowledge, life without liberty is not worth living.