I’m glad to report that the scare about violence during the week of the inauguration was greatly overstated. Although there were up to 30 law enforcement personnel in the Capitol, particularly on Wednesday, they were not dispatched because no protestors made an appearance. Cooler heads prevailed.
As for the week, a couple of major votes did take place. Number one in my mind was the pay plan for state employees. I am aware of the sentiment expressed concerning the plan being very poor optics for Governor Gianforte but this was a plan negotiated by the Governor and the unions and it was very favorable to the states budget. That is due in large part to when it was negotiated. During the time frame of the negotiations the revenue for the state looked very bleak and that was taken into consideration. If we would have to renegotiate the plan the state may not have come out as good as it did.
Number two was SB 65 passing the Senate. That bill simply raised the level of proof needed to sue for negligence concerning the spread of COVID-19. It is a legal description but it means the level was raised from negligence to gross negligence. The ability to sue is still there but the burden of proof is higher. Governor Gianforte wants that bill before he lifts the mask order. A second bill is coming to change the level for schools and government but it requires a 2/3 vote instead of the 51 vote from SB 65.
The number of bills coming before the House is still quite low due to software conflicts in drafting and legal. It is getting better but still may necessitate moving the date for transmittal back a couple of days. Transmittal is when general bills from the House have to be sent to the Senate and vice versa. It’s an important date on our calendar and occurs around the 45 day of the session. The final decision hasn’t been reach yet but it is my feeling we will be setting the day back a couple of days.
My sub committee in Approps continues to move right along. We are getting more accustomed to using Zoom for testimony and the bugs seem to be getting worked out so things are a little smoother. Like any big change in processes, this one took some time and patience. I’m sure some of the technology that has been put in place now will continue to be used in future sessions.
No new COVID-19 cases in the legislature but two of our top staff are out with it. One caught it from his family members but the other isn’t sure where he got his. Both are able to work and converse with Zoom and TEAMS but it isn’t the same as having them in the Capitol. It is impossible to overstate the importance of our staff to our success.
Again, thank you for reaching out to me about your opinions and concerns. It’s great to hear from you so keep it up, please. You can contact me at Ken.firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-951-6764. I probably won’t be able to answer the phone so leave a message if you like.