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Montana 2021 Legislature

Lawmakers Consider Similar Bills Exempting Law Enforcement From Enforcing Health Orders

A screen capture shows Re. Paul Fielder speaking, unmasked, at a lecturn.
Montana Public Affairs Network
Montana Republican Rep. Paul Fielder introduces House Bill 144 during a House Judiciary Committee meeting Jan. 15, 2021.

Montana lawmakers on Friday considered two similar bills that would remove legal penalties for law enforcement who refuse to enforce public health orders.

Republican Rep. Paul Fielder of Thompson Falls introduced a bill to the House Judiciary Committee on Friday that would prevent law enforcement from being charged with a misdemeanor or removed from office if they don’t carry out a local or state health officer’s request to enforce a public health order.

“The fact that this language exists in statute may create an adversarial relationship between peace officers and health officers," Fielder said.

The committee hasn’t yet scheduled a vote on House Bill 144.

Meanwhile, the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday unanimously approved a nearly identical bill from Republican Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls. Fitzpatrick's Senate Bill 67 goes a step further than the House bill by striking the section of code that allows state health officers to request law enforcement help to enforce health orders.

A floor debate hasn’t been scheduled for Senate Bill 67 yet.