SB 260 ‘Takings’ Bill Leaves Public Unprotected

With this and other bills, our current Legislature seems determined to reserve all powers unto itself

By Sue Rolfing

Eliminating excessively burdensome regulations is a good thing. Enforcing beneficial regulations created in the public interest is also a good thing. SB 260, a “takings” bill, does neither one. SB 260 would force Montana state and local governments to compensate owners whenever a regulation or law devalues by 25% any of their “property,” including actual, “tangible,” property and a long, fuzzy list of “intangible” property. Unfortunately, the bill “does not apply to decisions that cause a decrease in value of a neighboring parcel of land.” These property owners rely solely on the lawfully enacted regulations SB 260 attacks.

By making them fearful of endless lawsuits that could soon bankrupt them, SB 260 radically disrupts state and local governments’ ability to do their most important job: protecting public health, safety, and welfare. If a lawsuit appears likely and/or compensation too costly Montana, its cities, and counties would have little choice but to eliminate the regulation, leaving the general public unprotected. Far fewer radical takings bills have been voted down by past Montana legislatures, for good reason. Oregon passed one but repealed it three years later when almost 7,000 claims totaled $20 billion, all to be paid by state taxpayers.

We expect our elected officials, with great consideration for public input, to wisely apply fair and sensible limits to things like gravel pits, mining, subdivisions, pollution, building in flood plains, hunting, and fishing. SB 260 ties their hands on all this and more. With this and other bills, our current Legislature seems determined to reserve all powers unto itself. Would they wipe out over 100 years of good Montana government by strangulation and bankruptcy?

SB 260 has passed the Montana Senate. Please tell your House representative to VOTE NO. If it’s too late, let’s ask the governor not to sign it.

Sue Rolfing
Columbia Falls

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