By Sam Wilson, Helena Independent Record
A long-time goal for pro-business groups in Montana — requiring government reimbursement for the cost of regulations — is gaining ground in the Legislature, while alarming others who fear it will cripple the state’s budget and its ability to enforce measures that protect the public.
Senate Bill 260 would broadly expand how the state defines private property, while requiring that many regulations and rules that devalue property by 25% or more be compensated by the state or local government enforcing them. It passed the Senate on a party-line, 31-19 vote shortly before a midpoint-of-the-session deadline and faces its first House hearing Tuesday.
The concept of regulatory takings is similar to eminent domain, when the government must pay out the value of property it takes for public use. State and federal courts, however, have held that only applies to instances where the government removes the full value. SB 260 would expand the idea to a broad range of other circumstances, including state regulations on specific types of businesses and actions that devalue “intangible” property like intellectual property, licenses and reputations.
“Why should you have to have your property basically run down to nothing, where you can’t do anything with it before a taking comes along?” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Steve Fitzpatrick, R-Great Falls, in an interview last week. “And that’s basically the law. I mean, it has to be functionally rendered useless in order for you to have a taking.”