Talking Points for HB 257 - URGE REFERRAL TO INTERIM COMMITTEE
HB 257: An act to Revise laws relating to government mandates and businesses
Talking points about the impacts of changing ability of local public health departments to enforce ordinances related to public health, specifically food, beverage, accommodations, drinking water, sewage and swimming pools.
- Local health departments are tasked with protecting consumers, which at times requires compelling business owners to deny customers access to their business or their goods and services because of unsafe conditions on the premises or because the specific goods or services offered are unsafe or unapproved for consumption.
- Any changes to local health department ability to keep consumers safe must keep in mind examples of existing ordinances that keep our community’s safe to residents and visitors alike. Without enforcement of public health laws at private businesses, unsafe premises or unsafe goods could continue to be present.
- Examples of these unsafe premises or goods include:
- Food prepared using unsanitary kitchen facilities, appliances and equipment;
- food associated with food-borne illness;
- food being sold with unapproved additives;
- a rodent infestation at a restaurant;
- cloudy, unsafe water at a pool
- sewage backing up in a bar; etc.
- These situations pose great risk to the community if the business owner cannot be compelled to resolve the issues.
- Any bills aiming to make changes that would allow a business to continue violating public health laws without repercussions, at the expense of innocent customers who visit that business not knowing conditions are unsafe to the public should ensure that safety guidelines that have kept consumers safe in the 21st century are not compromised.
- The tourism industry is one of the largest industries in the State of Montana and is an industry all Montanan’s will depend on for recovery. This bill puts our industry and its reputation at risk. Just like local consumers, our visitors have an expectation that hotels, restaurants, pools and hot tubs, etc. in Montana are clean and safe. 35.2% of the nonresident travel dollar is spent on food, beverage and accommodations which equates to $1.3 billion. If public health laws are not enforced for private businesses, the trustworthy reputation of our accommodations and tourism related businesses is at risk, putting a $3.7 billion industry in jeopardy.
- This pandemic has been a test of our laws and current systems in place. We encourage elected officials and stakeholders who are accountable to the public come together to address how to review and address issues that have arisen from this global issue instead of making changes that could have unforeseen consequences impact public safety.
- We urge consideration of legislation of this nature be assigned to an interim committee to create a thoughtful plan all parties can agree on.