As is usually the case, things have picked up a little but the pace is still slower than usual as bills are not coming out quickly, amendments are causing delays and fiscal notes aren’t keeping up. I believe week three will show a major increase in activity. In my case, I have picked up three bills in the last two days so I will be busy with them.
My sub-Committee began in earnest, hearing from the Department of Livestock and the Department of Ag. I say hearing from them because in sub-committee we seldom work on bills but rather bring in the departments and have them discuss their responsibilities. Each department has things they would like to implement in the next two years, which they present to us in what we call decision packages. Our job is to understand the need for the requests and determine if what they are asking for fits within the budget restraints we work with. This year both increased number of employees and new programs are going to be difficult lifts to say the least.
Governor Gianforte has put a 4% vacancy savings into his budget so each department has to factor that into their planning. What the savings means is that the departments will have 4% less funding over the two year period beginning July 1 of this year. It is up to the department to determine where that savings will be applied. Other factors we must include in their budget are things like raises in salary, longevity and promotions that affect their personal services budget.
One of the big questions I am hearing is, “are you seeing any signs of violent protest at the Capitol?”. I spend several hours working in my office most weekends and have not seen anything approaching this anticipated activity. I’m writing this on Sunday afternoon and have found the entrance to house member parking blocked so I couldn’t park in my regular space but haven’t seen any protestors yet. The police and highway patrol are ready for any contingency so I feel quite safe.
The next most common question is, “are you wearing a mask?”. Yes, I have committed to wearing a mask in the common areas of the Capitol and on the floor and in meetings. We have had two house members test positive but neither were exposed to COVID in the Capitol and one has never even been here for any meetings. She has used zoom from the beginning due to other reasons.
Probably the most contentious bill to reach the house floor is HB 102, commonly referred to as constitutional carry. It allows for concealed carry in place where open carry has been allowed in the past and some other places like college campuses and bars. Several amendments were put on the bill and have made it more palatable to most legislators. The bill passed with a solid majority and is headed to the Senate where I believe it will pass as well.
I want to thank you for your outreach to me on bills and the questions asked. It helps to hear from both sides of the issue from my constituents. Please contact me at Ken.firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 951-6764.