A week and a half into the 2021 session
Rep. Walsh on the learning curve, Covid procedures and safety protocols
Montana House District 71 Representative Kenneth Walsh, R-Twin Bridges, began his first Montana State Legislature session inside the Montana capitol this year. House District 71 encompasses Madison County and parts of Silver Bow and Jefferson Counties.
“It’s been a little crazy trying to get the hang of things,” Rep. Walsh said last Friday. The 2021 session convened on Jan. 4.
The way he described attending committee meetings and staying informed on what was going on in other committee meetings happening at the same time sounded similar to how it feels getting off of an airplane—you walk into the airport disoriented until you find the connection board with your next flight’s gate number. One gets used to the process, and Rep. Walsh is learning some tips and tricks for staying informed.
Face coverings and social distancing have been recommended during the legislative sessions. Rep. Walsh has been wearing a face covering and from his estimates, most Republican members attended physically and a third have been wearing face coverings. More Democrats attended via Zoom, he said.
Members of the public who feel passionate about a particular bill may testify via Zoom, Rep. Walsh explained. Individuals must register to testify by noon the day prior to the bill they are interested in. Members of the public interested in listening to sessions may access audio and video recordings. Both components may be found at leg.mt.gov.
Rep. Walsh will be on the state administrative committee, which is concerned with non-agency state government activity such as cosmetology or teachers’ retirement, the agricultural committee and the natural resources committee. Both the agricultural and natural resource committees held their organization meetings last week.
Rep. Walsh is interested in upcoming conversations regarding bills on social issues, such as abortion rights, and what he referred to as Second Amendment statutes. House Bill 102, a bill that would expand state gun laws in restaurants, government offices and college campuses, was expected to see executive action by the Judiciary Committee on Monday. He expects both to render a lot of discussion and looks forward to hearing other representatives’ perspectives.
After his time in Helena, Rep. Walsh will return to Twin Bridges, Mont. to help manage the family ranch.
“Just working with people,” is how he described what his job will involve after the session inside the Montana State Capitol ends. “If they have issues with state agencies or those type of things and seeing if we can help them get over some hurdles or bottlenecks,” he said. He will spend the early portion of his representative position listening to people’s concerns and considering, if reelected, how to adjust state law regulations to help his constituents.
Coincidentally, a Sergeantat-Arms provided legislators, representatives and senators with a prescheduled safety protocol debriefing the day after chaos erupted at the capitol in D.C.
“It was kind of a coincidence because it was very vivid in everybody’s mind,” Rep. Walsh said. Those within the capitol building were informed of exit locations and what to do during an emergency. Unarmed sergeant-at-arms in each room are responsible for controlling crowds, giving evacuation orders and instructions on how to hide if necessary.
Rep. Walsh noticed at one point around 100 protestors who he identified as Trump supporters outside the state capitol last Thursday. He described them standing outside the building with flags and signs, ‘quiet’ and ‘subdued.’ They left after about an hour.
Members of the public may contact Rep. Walsh at 406-596-0418 or firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or concerns.