A Republican lawmaker from Billings has left the Legislature for undisclosed medical issues, and there is no indication whether he’ll return.
Rep. Dale Mortensen has already been absent for several weeks and will continue to be, confirmed House Speaker Greg Hertz. Hertz, a Polson Republican, said for medical privacy reasons he would leave it up Mortensen to explain his departure. Attempts to contact Mortensen were unsuccessful.
This is the second time in this decade that Billings Heights residents have been without representation at the Legislature.
“You would need to contact Representative Mortensen to discuss his medical leave,” Hertz said in an email. “There is nothing in state law that allows seating someone else while a Representative is absent. An elected Representative can only be replaced if they resign or they are recalled.”
Mortensen hasn’t resigned, and according to Legislative Services he continues to receive $462.30 a week in wages and $120.11 a day for living expenses.
Voting records show that Mortensen was either absent or excused from voting 261 times, missing more than 33 percent of the votes taken on the House floor during the first half of the legislative session.
Yellowstone County Republicans say they won’t seek a replacement.
“Rep. Mortensen has been absent from the Legislature as he is dealing with a medical issue. There are no plans at this time to replace him,” said Tim Stark, Yellowstone County Republican chairman.
The lawmaker’s absence is on the radar of Yellowstone County commissioners. If Mortensen resigned, commissioners would select a replacement from three names provided by the local Republican Party. Lawmakers home for the mid-session bill transmittal break also told The Billings Gazette that Mortensen has been noticeably absent for a long period.
Mortensen was in the Legislature as recently as Feb. 13.
In 2011, former Billings Heights Rep. James Knox checked out of the Legislature shortly after it began for bypass surgery after having a heart attack. Knox did return later.