Law professor gives insight into new MT COVID-19 laws


MISSOULA – Montana’s new laws that seek to strike a new balance between public health, private business and government power have left the hands tied with local health leaders.

According to constitutional and legislative law expert Anthony Johnstone, Helen and David Mason professor of law at the University of Montana, this type of reaction is happening across the country.

“Partly, I think because we haven’t had a pandemic like this in a century, and a lot of people have been surprised to see for better or worse, what power we are offering to local policymakers. public health to protect us, ”explained Johnstone.

One law in Montana, in particular, goes further than any other state.

“There are parts of the Montana response that are unique, like House Bill 702, which goes beyond any other state and actually tells private companies that they are not even allowed to do with their own businesses. , their own property and their own employees. Johnstone said.

House Bill 702 broadly prohibits discrimination based on vaccination status. Earlier this week, a lawsuit challenged this law.

A coalition of medical providers and Montana patients say it violates federal law and Montana’s constitution. Lawsuits like this can clarify the limits of new laws.

“It is in this application of cases that you begin to understand where the limits are drawn in terms of what governments, businesses and employers can do,” Johnstone said, adding that no action to test the limits of the new legislation is a concern.

“But when you don’t see these laws tested. When you don’t see the jurisdictions, trying to push the boundaries of those laws a little bit, we’re never going to get that kind of clarity. I think the last thing we want to do is get out of this huge public health crisis that Montana is experiencing more than anywhere else in the country right now and look back and not think that we have done all that we have been doing. can within the framework of the law ”, Professor of Law at UM Anthony Johnstone

It remains to be seen who would take on additional challenges to these new laws and how they would go about it.

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