The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an unprecedented 67th Legislature. In addition to creating many legislative challenges and the first in-person and remote “hybrid” session in Montana history, the pandemic also highlighted many issues of government overreach.
In my opinion, the biggest issue needing attention going in this legislative session is the power that the executive branch and health boards possess. The legislature went to work addressing those with House Bill (HB) 121, limiting the powers of local health boards by making sure elected officials have the final say over its proposals.
HB 144 adds further protections by preserving the authority of sheriffs, ensuring local health officers can’t trump law enforcement officials.
HB 122 revises the governor’s power to extend states of emergency. If the executive branch wants an emergency declaration to last more than 30 days, it must request the legislature’s approval.
These bills are still in House committees but are expected to pass out shortly. I also expect more bills that add checks on the government to be introduced in the next couple weeks. The overreach by government in the last year has been unacceptable, it has unjustly closed businesses, prevented people from earning a living, and forced them into actions not everyone felt comfortable with. If these, and a balanced, conservative budget were the only pieces of legislation to pass it would be a successful session, so I look forward to supporting government power reforms once they get to the Senate.