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Montana Nurses Association Asks Lawmakers to Heed Public Health Guidance

The Montana Nurses Association implored state lawmakers in a letter to heed public health guidance as they plan for the 2021 legislative session. It’s unclear how or if lawmakers will change their traditional gatherings amid the pandemic. 

Vicky Byrd, CEO of the Montana Nurses Association, said nurses' concerns over an in-person legislative session grew after seeing last week’s caucus meetings in the Capitol during which few Republican lawmakers wore masks.

“This is completely inexcusable behavior,” Byrd said. 

The nurses association is asking elected leaders of both political parties to consider holding at least some of the session virtually.

Newly-elected state Senate President Mark Blasdel, a Republican of Kalispell, said the concern about last week’s caucus meetings is overblown. He hadn’t yet seen the nurses association letter.

“Legislators have varying viewpoints on how they want to interact with the session and we need to take that into account so they can be as successful as they believe they should be,” Blasedel said. 

Blasdel said he believes lawmakers will be able to come to a consensus on session rules so everyone can participate comfortably.

Democratic Rep. Kim Abbott, who was elected House Minority Leader, said after last week’s caucuses that her party may pursue legal action if Republicans shrug off public health guidance during the session.

Copyright 2020 Montana Public Radio. To see more, visit Montana Public Radio.

Shaylee is a UM Journalism School student. She reports and helps produce Montana Evening News on MTPR.