NOTE: A previous version of this story had an error, MTN News reported it was HB 257, vs. 121.
BOZEMAN - Last year House Bill 121 changed how mandates, like how a mask mandate, can affect business. Here in Gallatin County, the process of shifting power from the Health Department to elected officials is beginning as they work to coincide with state law.
“The contract we're working on today is kind of a replacement of the longstanding interlocal agreement between the city and the county,” says Scott MacFarlane, Gallatin County Commissioner.
The longstanding agreement has been in place since 1997, now with a new state law, Gallatin County Commissioners and the City of Bozeman and Belgrade are tasked with restructuring the Dept. of Health governing body.
“State laws changed the authorities of the board of health,” says MacFarlane.
In the past, a health department was able to make public health decisions without going through elected officials, now under this new law any major decision focused on policy and law would have to be approved by an elected governing body.
“How we are going to arrange that new board having jurisdiction which needs to be elected officials,” says MacFarlane.
This is where the City of Bozeman and Gallatin County have come to disagree.
“In the past, the City-County Health Department has been 50 percent Bozeman, 50 percent Gallatin County, so that's the expectation that we had, there are other expectations at the county,” says Terry Cunningham, Deputy Mayor of Bozeman.
Gallatin County proposed to have their three commissioners be the governing body but the City of Bozeman wants the county and the two cities to have equal say in the governing body.
“We think we are under-represented in terms of a voice at the table,” says Cunningham.
The goal is to have the three parties come to an agreement before the June 30th deadline for negotiation.
“The city, the county, and Belgrade, all come to terms with a structure that is seamless,” says Cunningham.
Both the City and the County want to reassure Gallatin County residents.
“No matter what happens it's very important to know no matter that they shouldn't experience any interruption to any of the services they can access,” says Macfarlane.