Wyo Legislature Roundup — Week 4 – Feb. 3

Cheyenne – I would like to first begin with an update on where property tax legislation is at. At last count there are 20 property tax bills on file. The above list includes Senate bills as well. We have only heard two at this point that have been sent to the Senate. We just finished up with the Supplemental Budget last night and we will be back on bills this week. We must find relief on this critical issue, and I intend to support these efforts for our citizens.

Committee Work

Minerals, Business & Economic Development. HB0213- Energy production inventory exemption. This bill provides an exemption for the storage of energy production equipment before installation in this state; and providing for an effective date. It has passed through the Committee. HB0239 - Vehicle idling-decriminalization. This bill eliminates a 1955 law that enabled a $200 fine and potential jail if an offender was found guilty of allowing their unattended vehicle to idle (think of remote start). Yes, we passed this bill out of Committee.

HB0253 - Credit card defense act. This bill, related to banks, banking and finance, prohibit the use of certain codes in financial transactions as specified. Specifically, the recording of a firearm or ammunition sale code within a credit card transaction. While I voted in favor, the bill failed in Committee. HB0286 - ETS consolidation. This bill relates to the administration of government; consolidating the department of enterprise technology services and the duties of the state chief information officer into the department of administration and information; making conforming amendments; providing applicability; transferring employees; transferring appropriations; providing rulemaking authority; requiring reports; and providing for an effective date and it did pass out of Committee. HB0132 - Wyoming housing trust fund. This bill was related to the public assistance and social services; creating the Wyoming housing trust fund; creating the Wyoming housing trust fund earnings account; providing legislative findings; requiring a study; providing an appropriation; and providing for an effective date. The bill failed in Committee (I voted Aye).

Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources. HB0095 - Working animal protection act. A bill relating to counties, cities and towns; prohibiting counties, cities and towns from enacting and enforcing policies on the use of animals as specified. This passed unanimously. HB0188 - Wolf depredation compensation. to agriculture; recreating a gray wolf depredation compensation program which passed unanimously. HB0180 - Brucellosis testing-notification requirements. A bill requiring the Wyoming livestock board to establish a communication protocol to provide information related to brucellosis testing; requiring the state veterinarian to provide information to livestock owners regarding brucellosis testing; making a conforming amendment. This passed unanimously. HB0175 - Excused absence-state fair events. This bill modifies the duties of local boards of trustees; modifying excused absences for events associated with the state fair; programming or competitions sponsored by nationally recognized organizations and clubs that promote youth agricultural education, This bill did pass out of Committee. I did vote No based on, 1) taking control out of the local school district Board of Directors, 2) the narrowness of events listed and the likelihood there are other worthy organizations that parents want their child to participate in. It is important to note that I am on the Wyoming Agriculture in the Classroom (WAIC) Steering Committee and continue to advocate/promote our agricultural heritage, student involvement and seeking funding for WAIC. The bill needs more work in my opinion to ensure our parents have a say in their children’s activities and what is excused or not. HB0222 - Colorado river advisory committee. This bill codifies the pre-existing Governor Gordon’s Colorado River Working Group to a Wyoming Colorado River advisory committee; establishing the purpose and duties of the committee; providing duties of the state engineer. This bill passed unanimously. HB0271 - College of agriculture endowment. 

This bill creates a University of Wyoming College of Agriculture endowment. This bill passed the Committee. HB013 - Law enforcement-canine detection grant. This well needed bill establishes a program to fund fentanyl drug-detection canines for county, city and town law enforcement agencies. The law enforcement fentanyl drug-detection canine program is hereby created. The attorney general shall establish and administer this temporary program for the purpose of providing grants to law enforcement agencies to purchase and train fentanyl drug-detection canines or train drug-detection canines currently in service to detect fentanyl. As we are likely aware, our I-80 corridor is a major thoroughfare for the movement of illicit drugs.

Synopsis for the Week

Cheyenne – The fourth week of the 2020 Budget Session came to a close this week. Friday we finished debate on HB0001 also known as the supplemental budget bill. We are focused on determining how the Legislature should allocate a nearly $2 billion budget surplus. Much of this is a one-time windfall, which owes to improved revenues from oil and gas production, smart investments, and federal stimulus spending. I am focused on saving, investing and meeting the needs of Wyoming citizens. Balancing fiscal prudence with strategic investments is a challenging balance to strike-- but the work so far is leading us in that direction. 

Highlights from HB0001 follow:

By adjusting the reimbursement rate to our dentists who provide critical dental health services to 40,000 children and senior citizens in the state, House Republicans are ensuring that these children and senior citizens who qualify for Medicaid will continue to have access to critical dental care. 

Those citizens of our state who have developmental, intellectual disabilities or acquired brain injuries are only able to live in our communities because of the community provider network whose dedicated employees ensure for the protection, wellbeing and happiness of these people. These dedicated and critical services continued services even after significant cuts were made to their budgets in 2021. We restored these cuts and adjusted their reimbursement rates to ensure they can continue to provide these essential services well into the future. 

$5 million to fully fund the property tax refund program.

Creation of an ombudsman position in the Department of Environmental Quality to enhance the ability and timeliness for industrial permitting processes.

Funding to assist with retention and recruitment of state agency employees. Wyoming state agencies report significant challenges with recruitment and retention of employees due to current salary rates. Current provisions in the budget increase state employee compensation to bring employee salaries from 83 percent to 98 percent of 2022 market rates.

Funding trust funds as a savings mechanism and utilizing the interest income to make our communities more livable, develop Wyoming’s workforce and to enhance the state’s wildlife.

With the House finishing the supplemental budget, it moves to conference committee for reconciliation. Although the supplemental budget takes up a fair amount of time and energy, during general sessions like this one, we consider hundreds of bills aimed at improving the lives of Wyoming citizens. 

By the Numbers 

As of Friday evening (2/3):

·      288 House bills have been introduced

·      183 Senate files have been introduced

·      271 active House bills

·      168 active Senate files

·      439 bills are currently active in the House and Senate

I am grateful for the opportunity and privilege to represent you. Please contact me at [email protected] or 307-871-3195 with any questions or concerns you might have about the legislation we are discussing during the 67th General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.