One More Meeting for Working Group

Last month, the joint Judiciary Working Group concluded its work by voting to approve a piece of suggested legislation on liability reform and recommended that the governor call a special legislative session to pass the proposed legislation.  In early August, Sen. Todd Lakey and Rep. Greg Chaney, co-chairs of the joint Judiciary Working Group, submitted the committee report to House and Senate leadership.

Since then, several committee members have continued to comment on various details of the suggested legislation.  To permit these areas of input to receive a vote, Chairmen Lakey and Chaney have called an additional meeting of the working group for August 14, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. MDT via Zoom.

The agenda calls for working through 8 different proposed changes to the draft approved on July 30.  Formally, any adopted changes would be considered an amendment to the committee’s report.

“If there are any differences still to be worked out, the working group is the ideal vehicle to do it,” Chaney said.  He added, “working through the various items one-by-one in the working group is preferable to the avenues we’d have to overcome differences once we’re in session.”

Chaney went on to point out that the working group–comprised of the House and Senate Judiciary committees who each would need to sign off on liability legislation anyway–is the only available venue where members could work through suggestions item-by-item with all members of both committees present.

Once the legislature convenes, the only process that in any way resembles the item-by-item approach is the amending order in each chamber–but debate is limited and the two chambers can be left to guess whether their amendments will be well received by the other since each handles amendments independently.

In session, the only process that allows for a formal, decision-making, face-to-face discussion of differences between the House and the Senate is a conference committee. A conference committee is sometimes formed when a bill has passed both chambers, but only one side agrees with certain amendments.  A conference committee only has three members of each chamber assigned, and the committee members on the relevant committees don’t get to offer their input into a compromise bill until the compromise has been reached.

“This is a unique opportunity to work through each bullet point, include everyone on both committees in the discussion, and be able to explain our various opinions and points of view to members of the other chamber’s full committee as they are making their decisions,” Chaney said, “it will be harder once we convene to have this sort of discussion.”

Chaney says he’s happy with the draft the committee already approved, but that he and Lakey wanted to make sure that all angles had been discussed and the final product would have majority support when and if a special session convenes.

The proposed amendments are (click to review full text):

  1. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-1 limiting the scope of suggested legislation to emergency declarations arising from pandemics and epidemics.
  2. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Amendment to RS28044-2 limiting the scope of suggested legislation to emergency declarations arising from epidemics and pandemics arising from any variety of coronavirus.
  3. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-3 limiting the scope of suggested legislation to emergency declarations arising from epidemics and pandemics arising from COVID-19.

*Note: Amendments 1-3 are incompatible.  If one is adopted, the others are automatically rejected. 

  1. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-4 clarifying that suggested legislation is only to affect actions in tort and not contract law.
  2. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-5 exempting vaccine manufacturers from heightened immunity.
  3. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-6 exempting China and its proxies from heightened immunity.
  4. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-7 exempting actions to challenge legality and constitutionality of orders, rules, and declarations from new section of code.
  5. Consideration of proposed amendment to committee report: Proposed Amendment to RS28044-8 providing a sunset date of July 1, 2023.

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