67th Legislature update

Rep. Walsh discusses bills that put more power with local elected officials

Last week was transmittal week for the 2021 Montana State legislative session. Friday was the deadline for each House to pass bills and present to the opposite House.

House District 71 Rep. Kenneth Walsh got through his transmittal week last Wednesday.

“If you’re not aware, you think you have this time to work on putting a bill together and doing all that stuff, and actually, you need to start right after the election back in November,” Rep. Walsh explained. He is a part of the State Administration, Agriculture, Natural Resources and Legislative Administration Committees.

Rep. Walsh brought up a few ‘hot button’ deals going through the session that he felt were relevant to his constituents.

HB 230 and HB 121 focus on giving elected officials more say in rulemaking processes. HB 230 would give the legislature more power during a state of emergency declared by the governor. The governor would be able to declare a state of emergency when appropriate, but the legislature could chime in after 45 days and discuss whether the emergency needed to remain in place.

“It’s more checks and balances in that the governor still has the ability to do what they need to do when something happens,” Rep. Walsh said, but the legislature has more authority in making suggestions or recommendations.

HB 121 is similar but focused more on public health.

In this case, public health officials or boards of health can act quickly once a state of emergency is declared, but as things carry on, commissioners or other local-level elected officials can be involved in the decision-making process. Rep. Walsh described the effects of this bill as giving more power to the public, as local level officials are generally more responsive to their constituents.

Rep. Walsh saw both bills as putting elected officials back in the rulemaking process. HB 230 and HB 121 have been transmitted to the second House.

Speaking before the session reconvened, Rep. Walsh expected taxes to come up in discussion next.

“There’s going to just be some tweaks…and tax credits for different types of things,” he expected.

One of those credits would be for employers sending their employees to vocational school for continuing education. If an employer needed a welder, Rep. Walsh explained as an example, an employee could be sent to a vocational school and receive additional training and come back to provide it to their employer.

“There’s just a shortage of those type of people that we need out there,” Rep. Walsh said.

HB 282 would provide a tax credit to high school students age 16 and older in a supervised occupational experience, almost like a more structured work study. This bill is in the second House committee.

On Monday, the representatives began hearing bills in committees that came from the Senate.

Almost through his first session, Rep. Walsh brought up an important part of the process— how a bill or decision made may affect something else a few steps down the line. He also promoted local entities—schools, hospitals, individual counties—as knowing what is best for their particular communities.

“Less government is better government,” he said.

Individuals in Rep. Walsh’s District—Madison County and portions of Jefferson and Silver Bow Counties—may contact him with questions or concerns at

The Rotary Club of Twin Bridges/Ruby is hosting a virtual legislative update with Rep. Walsh on Tuesday, March 23 at 6 p.m. via Zoom. If you would like to join, email Laurie Bartoletti at laurie.

For more coverage on the 67th Montana State Legislature, use the Capitol Tracker created by Montana Free Press.

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