Big Sky Roundup

House Judiciary passes bill protecting police who don’t enforce health orders

By: - February 1, 2021 12:00 pm

The House Judiciary Committee on Monday passed one of multiple bills this session to hold sheriffs and other law enforcement officials harmless if they fail to enforce an order from a local health officer.

The committee voted 16-3 to pass Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick’s SB67, which changes a part of code that would charge police that don’t enforce the orders with a misdemeanor and leave them open to dismissal.

“It isn’t good public policy rationale to have them checking on septic tanks when they have to be worrying about robberies and burglaries,” said Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls. Proponents of the proposal also worried that current statute could lead to elected officials like sheriffs being dismissed by appointed county health officers.

The Judiciary Committee had previously passed nearly identical legislation in the form of Rep. Paul Fielder’s HB144. That bill passed out of the full House last week, 73 votes to 26.

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Arren Kimbel-Sannit
Arren Kimbel-Sannit

Arren Kimbel-Sannit is an Arizona-bred journalist who has covered politics, policy and power building at every level of government. Before getting his dose of northern exposure, Arren worked as a reporter in all manner of Arizona newsrooms, for the Dallas Morning News and for POLITICO in Washington, D.C. He has a special interest in how land-use decisions affect working-class people, which he displayed through reporting on the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in the U.S. for the Los Angeles Times and PBS Newshour. He's also covered housing, agriculture, the Trump presidency and more.