Berger provides legislative update

We have just one week left of the 67th General Session of the Wyoming Legislature. With our seventh week behind us, deadlines are approaching and debate is speeding up to ensure bills important to the people of Wyoming are heard.

I would like to touch on a few key bills we discussed recently.

SF-159 bans Wyoming government officials from contracting with businesses that have boycotted coal and oil and gas or are considering climate change in their investments. I like the idea behind this bill, but it also came with concerns about what the bill might mean for Wyoming’s permanent funds, which are basically Wyoming’s piggy banks that generate interest for the state.

These funds are important because they keep Wyoming’s taxes low. They provide the third largest source of revenue to help fund our state, towns and counties. In the House Appropriations Committee, the treasurer’s office testified that it had questions about how the legislation may negatively impact the state’s investment portfolio.

I want to be sure a bill like this does not cause problems for those funds. The House Appropriations Committee recommended that the bill should not pass. I am hopeful that the language in this policy is tightened up between now and the next session.

SF-169-State shooting complex task force. This bill forms a taskforce that could spend up to three years working out the specifics of a complex, including its size, scope and location. The taskforce would consist of 12 members, including two legislators, the governor or his proxy, Wyoming shooting sports enthusiasts, representatives from Wyoming-based firearms and others. The bill also sets aside $10 million for the complex — $5 million from the state’s general fund, $2.5 million from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department and $2.5 million from the Wyoming Office of Tourism. This bill passed the House with my support.

SF-80-Visitation rights. This bill requires that any healthcare facility that provides 24-hour service must allow visitation for a person receiving care in that facility. The facility can impose and enforce restrictions on visitation that limit the number or age of visitors, limit the location or time of visitation, require protective equipment or impose requirements otherwise required by the centers for Medicaid and Medicare services, the Centers for Disease Control or the Joint Commission on the Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations, but it cannot deny visitation completely. This bill moves on to a second reading.

SF-116-Protection of lawful commerce in firearms is a bill related to civil action against firearms entities. It codifies a federal statute into Wyoming law that prevents litigation from being pursued against entities who have lawfully sold a firearm to an individual who has then unlawfully misused the firearm or ammunition. This is an important bill that protects law-abiding gun sellers. This bill passed the House on Feb. 24.

SF-56-Prohibiting travel across private land for hunting purposes. This bill expands the existing prohibition for entering private property without permission to also prohibit traveling through or returning across the private property to take wildlife, hunt, fish, collect antlers or horns or trap. This bill passed.

SF0120-Restoration of civil rights. This bill would allow nonviolent felons to regain their civil rights, including the right to own and use guns, serve on a jury and hold public office. Individuals, and any others who can have their voting rights restored, would be allowed to have all other civil rights reinstated after five years.

If a person is a repeat offender, they are automatically ineligible for rights restoration. Those convicted of violent crimes such as murder, kidnapping and sexual assault are not eligible to have their civil rights restored without a pardon from the governor. I believe the restoration of rights for those with nonviolent conviction helps reduce recidivism. This bill moves on to a second reading.

SF0102-Food Freedom Act-amendments. This bill passed the House unanimously, allowing a producer to sell dairy products directly and expanding those who can already sell homemade food products to employ a designated agent for sales, marketing, transport, storage and delivery of food or drink products. I was a co-sponsor on this bill and was pleased to see it pass to expand the opportunities for Wyomingites to buy products from their neighbors. This bill has passed the legislature.

SF-98-Education-certificate of completion. This bill requires the State Board of Education to work with school districts to establish rules for students with disabilities to obtain a high school certificate of completion consistent with each student’s education program.

This certificate not only allows the students and their support team to be recognized for their achievement of accomplishing the goals set for them but also helps correctly record their efforts, so they are not counted as dropouts. This is a good bill that also passed.

SF-35-School crosswalks and pedestrian crossings-appropriation. This bill provides funding to improve the safety of school crosswalks in communities in Wyoming. This bill places first priority on funding crosswalks where someone has been killed within the last two years.

Funding for school crosswalks where someone was injured, or some other type of accident occurred in the last two years would receive the next level of priority. Any additional money would go toward improvements for any other school crosswalks. A Senate amendment to the bill adds a 25% match requirement on any funds expended for crosswalk projects.

I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to represent you. Please contact me at [email protected] with any questions or concerns you might have about the legislation we are discussing.