Legislative budget session set to begin next week

State legislators attend an opening ceremony for the House Chamber on July 10, 2019, after the Wyoming State Capitol in Cheyenne was renovated. (COURTESY PHOTO)

EVANSTON — The Wyoming Legislature convenes on Monday, Feb. 10, for the month-long budget session held in even-numbered years. As of Wednesday, Feb. 5, 183 bills had been filed dealing with a broad spectrum of topics. The deadline to submit bills to the Legislative Service Office (LSO) is Wednesday, Feb. 12.

Many of the bills submitted so far have nothing to do with the budget, which means the bar will be high to even introduce them for consideration. During a budget session, non-budget related items must be approved by a two-thirds majority in either the House or Senate to be introduced.

With declining revenues from extractive industries clouding Wyoming’s economic outlook, spending and revenue are sure to be prominently featured during the session. One bill, House Bill 64, the National Corporate Tax Recapture Bill, aims to institute a 7% income tax on corporations with more than 100 shareholders. A similar bill, known as the “big box” bill, failed to pass in 2019. This year’s bill would place a tax on large national and international corporations that receive substantial tax breaks from the federal government, with revenues directed to funding education. Proponents claim the bill could generate at least $45 million annually.

Bills that would increase the statewide fuel tax from 25 to 27 cents per gallon and to ensure a tax on nicotine products also includes electronic cigarettes have been introduced as well, and a lodging tax proposal is also expected to be considered. Senate File 6 would allow for tolling authority on I-80.

House Bill 75 aims to finally consider and give Governor Gordon authority to enact Medicaid expansion in Wyoming, which has been repeatedly struck down since the passage of the federal Affordable Care Act in 2010. Wyoming is one of the few states that has not accepted federal money to expand coverage to low-income adults.

Other legislation filed includes House Bill 4, which would create a Wyoming coal marketing program with a budget of $1 million; House Bill 44, which would change the state to daylight savings time permanently, provided surrounding states also enact the change; and House Bill 67, which would increase the legal marriage from 16 to 18. House Bill 105, titled the “Metal Mustache Freedom” bill, would repeal the requirement to have a license plate on both the front and back of motor vehicles, instead requiring only the back plate.

House Bill 54 would give state elected officials raises following the 2022 general election and would increase the governor’s salary from $105,000 to $150,000, and the four other statewide elected officials from $92,000 to $120,000. House Bill 74 would authorize the permitting of small modular nuclear reactors to replace coal generation capacity. House Bill 83 would require that selection of the University of Wyoming trustees be done through vote of the electorate selecting two candidates for each position and authorizing the governor to select one of the two.

Senate File 32 would allow security measures to be discussed in closed-door executive sessions of government agencies, and Senate Joint Resolution 1 would urge Wyoming Game and Fish to work with the Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Wyoming Dept. of Education to provide firearm and hunter education as a voluntary physical education elective in public schools.

Local legislators are listed as sponsors and co-sponsors of multiple bills that have been submitted. State Sen. Wendy Schuler (R – SD15) is listed as a co-sponsor of House Bill 28, which would make it illegal for any town, city, county, political subdivision or any other governmental entity to operate a firearm buyback program.

Schuler is also listed as a co-sponsor on a railroad safety bill that would require crews of at least two people and a youth entrepreneurship bill that would exempt businesses operated by minors under the age of 18 from local regulation and state sales and use taxes.

Sen. Fred Baldwin (R – SD14) is a sponsor on a couple of different bills related to medical practice, specifically optometry and rural health care districts. Baldwin is also a co-sponsor on a bill that would repeal exceptions that allow registered sex offenders to be in or near school facilities.

State Rep. Danny Eyre (R – HD19) is a co-sponsor on a bill that would ban sanctuary cities within the state as well as House Bill 90, which would require notification of private property owners of surface lands when the state intends to lease or sell the minerals located underneath the surface for extraction. Rep. Tom Crank (R – HD18) is also a sponsor on HB90, as well as House Bill 48, which amends the crime of voyeurism to clarify the term “intimate area.”

Rep. Garry Piiparinen (R – HD49) is not currently listed as a sponsor or co-sponsor of any legislation.

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