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Governor Gianforte Lifts Mask Mandate Signs SB 65

Governor Greg Gianforte today signed Senate Bill No. 65 into law. The new law shields businesses, health care providers, nonprofit organizations, and places of worship from coronavirus-related lawsuits, provided they take measures to protect individuals from COVID-19 and follow public health guidelines.

“On January 5th, I addressed how critical it is to protect businesses, nonprofit organizations, places of worship, and health care providers from lawsuits if they make a good faith effort to protect individuals from the spread of the coronavirus and follow clear public health guidelines,” Governor Gianforte said. “And the legislature delivered.”

Governor Gianforte continued, “On January 5th, Senator Fitzpatrick introduced SB 65, and within a month, it cleared the Legislature with bipartisan support. I want to thank every legislator – Republican and Democrat – who recognized the importance of protecting businesses, nonprofits, and others that protect their workers, their customers, and their clients.”

Senator Fitzpatrick, the bill’s primary sponsor, joined Governor Gianforte with Senate President Mark Blasdel, Speaker of the House Wylie Galt, and Rep. Mark Noland in celebrating the bill’s signing.

“As an attorney, I know how important it is for folks to be protected from frivolous lawsuits. If you’re taking reasonable and responsible precautions to protect your employees, your members, your customers from COVID-19, you shouldn’t have to worry about unnecessary litigation. At the same time, this bill doesn’t give anyone a free pass and it makes clear that Montanans are protected from bad actors. There’s no immunity from lawsuits in the event someone is intentionally or recklessly creating a situation that leads to serious COVID-19 problems,” Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, (R., SD-10) said.

“It’s fitting that the first major piece of legislation signed by our new Governor is key to getting Montanans back to work and kickstarting our recovery from the economic devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic. With Senate Bill 65 signed into law, we’re beginning the Montana Comeback,” Senate President Mark Blasdel (R., SD-4) said.

“The Montana House worked quickly to ensure that Senate Bill 65 was one of the first bills to reach Governor Gianforte’s desk. This is a priority bill for Republicans to get Montana’s economy opened up and protect businesses, churches, and individuals from COVID liability. I am glad to see the Governor signing it into law today,” Speaker of the Montana House Wylie Galt (R., HD-30) said.

“We need folks to be allowed to get back to work. In order to do this, businesses must have protections from frivolous lawsuits. That is why I was honored to carry Senate Bill 65 through the House and thank Governor Gianforte for signing it today,” Rep. Mark Noland (R., HD-10) said.

Organizations representing Montana businesses welcomed Governor Gianforte’s signing of SB 65.

Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce: “Liability protections related to COVID-19 emerged as a top issue for the Montana Chamber and the businesses we represent within weeks of the pandemic arriving in our state. On behalf of the business community, we'd like to extend our thanks to Governor Gianforte for his leadership in getting this bill to the finish line. SB 65 and its signing, is an important step in rebuilding our state’s economy.”

Brad Griffin, president of Montana Retail Association and Montana Restaurant Association: “Restaurants and retailers across Montana have worked hard over the last year to keep their doors open while also protecting the health of their staff and customers. SB 65 is a critical to getting our economy going again, and I thank Governor Gianforte and the bill’s sponsor, Senator Fitzpatrick, for getting this legislation across the finish line.”

Steve Snezek, executive director of Montana Building Industry Association: “Since the start of the pandemic, home building professionals have taken seriously their duties to protect their clients’ and employees’ health as we work in to keep folks safe and comfortable at home. SB 65 allows home builders to continue their work for Montanans with the assurance that observing best practices for COVID safety are a defense from unnecessary litigation.”

Cary Hegreberg, president and CEO of the Montana Bankers Association: “We are extremely grateful to the Legislature and to Gov. Gianforte for recognizing the importance of getting this bill passed and signed into law as quickly as possible. Bankers throughout the State have worked tirelessly for a year now working with families and business owners struggling to make financial ends meet, and SB 65 goes a long way in minimizing liabilities for just trying to do the right thing.”

Ronda Wiggers, on behalf of National Federation of Independent Business, Montana: “Montana’s Main Street businesses breathed a collective sigh of relief after Gov. Gianforte signed SB 65 into law today. The Governor’s action sends a clear message that he will not allow Montana small businesses to become victims of frivolous lawsuits. I commend Senator Fitzpatrick for shepherding this vital piece of legislation through the Legislature, and thank the Governor for signing it into law. Small businesses can now turn back to their normal, everyday struggles of keeping their doors open and working towards Montana’s economic recovery.”

After the signing of SB 65 Gianforte stated he will be lifting the state issued mask mandate on Friday, but stressed that county ordered mandates will be left up to the individual counties.

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