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Great Falls business owner reacts to COVID-liability proposal

Inge Buchholz, owner of Inge's Fashion in downtown Great Falls
Posted at 10:51 AM, Jan 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-11 12:51:47-05

GREAT FALLS — Inge Buchholz, owner of Inge's Fashion in downtown Great Falls, has mixed feelings about Senate Bill 65 that is being considered in the Montana Legislature.

The bill is intended to protect businesses that are substantially complying with COVID-19 mandates from lawsuits from people who are exposed or potentially exposed to the virus in the business.

"I am happy to hear (about it.) It would be great to get more protection. It's about time somebody looks out for us. But yet, on the other hand, this morning I got an e-mail from a friend of mine. She thought, kind of, maybe it wasn't such a good idea. So now what? Who do you believe? Is it going to be a good deal, is it not going to be a good deal?” said Buchholz.

The bill's sponsor, state senator Steve Fitzpatrick of Great Falls, said the key word is 'substantially.' "It's back to the basic premise: I'm trying to follow the law, I'm doing the best that I can,” he said.

Buchholz said while any added protection would be nice, she's not worried about being sued. "We were pretty careful. When people came in, we would put on the masks. Some people say, 'Oh, I forgot my mask.' I say, 'Well, I have my mask on so I'm protecting both of us I think.' Most of the time, they put their mask on,” Buchholz explained.

Governor Greg Gianforte plans to end the state mask mandate if a bill such as Senate Bill 65 passes.

"I would feel that we should probably still be very careful and still do the masks until everybody gets their vaccines and the cases are going down,” said Buchholz.

Fitzpatrick said getting the bill passed may not be as easy as first thought, but he believes the bill’s committee hearing Friday was a successful first step.

"It seems like we've got some legislators who apparently don't understand the bill and are pushing back against it, but I'm just hoping that we have enough Republicans who follow our platform and stand up for reform like they're supposed to,” said Fitzpatrick.