By Amanda Eggert, Montana Free Press

A new ‘regulatory takings’ bill aims to give citizens a path to reimbursement for value lost due to government regulation. Critics say it could gut the state’s ability to enforce environmental and public health rules.

New legislation that zeroes in on the intersection of private property rights and government regulation is awaiting a hearing before the House of Representatives after passing through the Senate and the House Business and Labor Committee.

Proponents of Senate Bill 260 tout it as the most important property rights bill before lawmakers this session, while opponentsdescribe it as an extreme anti-regulation measure that would hamstring state agencies’ ability to protect Montana’s land, water and wildlife.

SB 260 is what’s known as a “regulatory takings” bill. If passed, it would allow a person who has experienced a 25% reduction in the market value of their private property due to a state action  to bring a lawsuit against the state. Property is broadly defined by the measure to include real property, water and mineral rights, and intellectual property including copyrights and patents. Such a lawsuit could be brought after a regulatory taking or eminent domain action has been “initiated” by the state, leading to questions about whether the law would apply only to new regulations or to the enforcement of existing ones as well.

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