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Guest opinion: Legislators' employers — the people — need to straighten them out

Guest opinion: Legislators' employers — the people — need to straighten them out


The prevailing Montana Republicans are enthralled with the Trump train, spurning others and proud of naïve and blatant disregard for science, apolitical fact and even common courtesy and common sense. Two recent articles among many others are indications of how those Republicans do spurn these things — and even the law: “Legislature will meet in person, defying pleas to meet entirely remotely” (Holly Michels, Billings Gazette, Dec. 16, 2020); “Montana lawmakers reject mask mandate ahead of session” (Iris Samuels, Associated Press/Report for America, Dec. 16, 2020).

Montana laws, rules and sensibleness suggest that some serious citizen action against this battalion of MT Republican elected officials is necessary. Use of masks and good, proven science and sense should not (cannot?) be ignored in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and the conduct of the business paid for by taxpayers. Unless of course one stubbornly disregards good science and sense (and law?).

MT Constitution article II Sec. 3 Inalienable rights. All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right to a clean and healthful environment and the rights of pursuing life's basic necessities, enjoying and defending their lives and liberties, acquiring, possessing and protecting property, and seeking their safety, health and happiness in all lawful ways. In enjoying these rights, all persons recognize corresponding responsibilities.

MCA Title 50, Chapter 71, Part 1

50-71-116. Duties of public sector employers and public sector employees. (1) Each public sector employer shall:

(a) furnish a place of employment that is free from recognized hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to public sector employees;

(b) adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations, and processes that are adequate to render the workplace safe; and

(c) take appropriate actions necessary to protect the life, health, and safety of public sector employees.

(2) Each public sector employee shall comply with the safety and health standards, rules, and orders issued pursuant to this part as they apply to the public sector employee's own actions and conduct.

MCA Title 50, Chapter 71, Part 2

50-71-201. Employer to provide safe workplace and to purchase, furnish, and require use of health and safety items -- safe practices. Each employer shall:

(1) furnish a place of employment that is safe for each of the employer's employees;

(2) with the exception of footwear, purchase, furnish, and require the use of health and safety devices, safeguards, protective safety clothing, or other health and safety items, including but not limited to air masks, hardhats, and protective gloves, that may be required by state or federal law, the employer, or the terms of an employment contract unless the terms of a collective bargaining agreement provide otherwise;

(3) adopt and use practices, means, methods, operations, and processes that are reasonably adequate to render the place of employment safe; and

(4) do any other thing reasonably necessary to protect the life, health, and safety of the employer's employees.

Montana Legislators and other elected officials work for us, the citizen voters and taxpayers. We are their employer. They administer law and government on our behalf and on our dime. A legion of Montana’s elected Republicans are exhibiting miserable consideration, judgment, and courtesy. We, their bosses, need to straighten this out. And not just for the negligent Republicans but also on behalf of Montana State employees and the countless citizens that serve, visit or testify before them, and for the students, health care workers and all Montanans affected by the terrible examples some Republicans are setting.

As said in Brady Wiseman’s Nov 20, 2020 Guest Opinion: “Montana, you've really stepped in it now”.

The courts and the court of public opinion may be the best or even only available avenues for the rest of Montanans to vigorously and effectively use law, science, courtesy and soundness in counteracting predominant Republican myopia, and in taking proper care of Montana.

Steve Regele is a lifelong Montana resident, retired State of Montana employee, independent business owner and NGO member and volunteer.      


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