COVID-19 liability top
issue for MT Chamber

Submitted by Tim O’Hair, President & CEO, Montana Chamber of Commerce



Montana, along with the rest of the US, has suffered through almost an entire year filled with the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

The impact on our health can be quantified by infection rates, the number of hospitalizations, and COVID-19 related deaths.  Quantifying the effects on our economy is much more difficult.  While vaccines offer hope to the end of the pandemic, the gravity of the economic fallout is yet to be determined.

On his second day in office, Governor Gianforte took an important first step in curbing the economic fallout by prioritizing COVID-19 civil liability protections for businesses, healthcare providers, manufacturers, and others. Recognizing that litigation related to COVID-19 could haunt business long after the disease is history, the newly minted Governor pushed legislative relief to the top of his “to do” list by asking Montana’s legislature to pass Senate Bill 65 (SB65) and protecting those who comply with state and local safety guidelines.

Liability protection from COVID-19 emerged as a top issue for the Montana Chamber and the businesses we represent within weeks of the pandemic outbreak in our state.  As the pandemic persists, the exposure to business and the risk it presents to Montana’s economic health is unacceptable- especially as businesses look to survive and recover.

The threat of litigation to business is real.  Restaurants, car dealerships, health clubs, and retail establishments, to name a few, are genuinely concerned that despite the safety measures they employ, contact tracing could lead to high attorney fees or heavy civil judgments if there are not laws in place to protect them.

Still not convinced? Look no further than the cost of insurance, where we know COVID-19 liability is already starting to be included in some policies.

Over the last six months, the Montana Chamber has been working with business leaders, candidates, and elected officials, including Senator Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls and Representative Mark Noland of Bigfork, to craft SB65. This bill protects businesses from litigation if a customer claims to have contracted COVID-19 in their business.  It protects responsible organizations making appropriate safeguards, following CDC protocols for social distancing, sanitization, and wearing face masks.

SB65 does not give a pass to “bad actors.”  This legislation will not protect businesses that refuse to follow health guidelines for protecting customers and employees from possible infection. While we wait for widespread vaccine distribution, businesses need an additional shot of confidence in knowing they cannot be sued for doing their best to survive in these unprecedented times. “Business as usual” will not return until litigation risk is mitigated and business owners know their employees and customers are safe.

Our economy has been bottled up from its full potential as businesses and consumers have taken extraordinary steps to protect themselves and their neighbors. Mobilizing vaccines and providing common-sense protections for responsible businesses can uncork our constrained economy.

The Montana Chamber of Commerce, on behalf of the Montana business community, looks forward to working with Governor Gianforte and legislators of both political parties to re-open Montana’s economy safely and responsibly.

Tips for

Know Before You Go
Some areas can become dangerous with winter conditions. Research your destination, as roads and facilities may be closed in winter.

Plan Ahead
Check local conditions and prepare for the elements, packing extra layers, waterproof clothing, and avalanche gear for the backcountry.
Explore Locally
Consider exploring locally, as driving and parking may be more challenging in winter.  If you travel, be mindful of your impact on Native and local communities.
Practice Social Distancing
Be prepared to cover your nose and mouth.  When possible, opt to eat and rest outside. If you feel sick, stay home.
Play It Safe

Know your limits and your gear.  Slow down and choo lower-risk activities to reduce your risk of injury.
Leave No Trace
Remember that the snow is our water supply. Keep our winter playgrounds clean.

Pack out any human or pet

waste. Be respectful of the land.
Build An Inclusive

Everyone deserves to experience a winter wonderland.  Be an active part of making the outdoors safe, accessible and welcoming for all identities and abilities.

#Recreate Responsibly
Winter Edition

“Wild Read”

This January 2021 the USFWS Conservation Library has relaunched  America’s Wild Read, a virtual, quarterly book club centered on inspiring readers to engage with conservation literature and nature writing, both classic and contemporary.
All are invited to read along and follow the blog for more:

Courtesy of the

National Conservation Training Center

MSU to host virtual Marin Luther Kind Day, Jr, Event

Submitted by MSU News

Montana State University will host a virtual celebration of Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Friday, Jan. 15.

“A Celebration of Blackness” will take place from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and feature numerous panels and discussions with MSU campus leaders. The event is free and open to the public.

An itinerary of the day is listed below:

11:30 a.m. – “Rev. Dr. MLK Jr. Tribute and Kick-Off.” The opening event will be led by Jessica Brito and Anaya Paschal, leaders of the MSU Black Student Union, and will celebrate King’s birthday.

12 p.m. – “Black Student-Athlete Experience Panel.” The panel will be led by Kyla Bush, a freshman thrower for the women’s track and field team.

1 p.m. – “Black Students and Patients in Health Care Panel.” MSU alum Jamelle Phillips, MSU Diversity and Inclusion Student Commons student coordinator Lyla Brown and MSU graduate student Bukola Saliu will lead the panel.

2 p.m. – “Interactive African Names Presentation.” Student leaders from the MSU African Students Association, Elijah Adeniyi and David Lartey, will lead the presentation.

3 p.m. – “Exploring Our Identities and Profession Panel.” DISC program manager PJ Diamond, along with her sisters, Jasmine and Jade, will examine the intersection of work and identity.

The entire event will be hosted via Webex, and a link to join the webinar can be found at

It is hosted by DISC, the MSU Black Student Union and the MSU African Students Association.

For more information, contact PJ Diamond at 406-994-5801