Legislative Update

 

Representative John Eklund spoke about the recent decisions in the Wyoming House of Representatives and was pleased with the congruency of the decisions between the communities, counties and legislature.

"The House approved $175,000 for the hardship model for communities," Eklund explained. "It was great to see the communities and counties agreeing with us for this model. Some of the bigger towns and counties could have overpowered the smaller ones but they didn't."

Eklund was also pleased with capitol building fund for the improvements of the Capitol and the Herschler Building.

"I was concerned and thought we should try to piece-meal the project to save some money," Eklund said. "But after looking at all the systems that need to be shut down to accommodate the work, it was less expensive to do it all at once."

The Legislature will meet at a new location during the work which will update the heating and other systems of the buildings while keeping the architecture and history of the facilities.

Week three of the four week 2014 budget session ends with a compromise on the budget bill and more bills going off to die, as Friday, February 28 is the last day for bills to get out of committee in the second house. At the start of the session, a total of 306 bills were numbered for introduction. With crossover this week, 158 bills remain active. The Senate introduced 101 pieces of legislation and 84 of those bills have moved to the House for consideration. The House introduced 128 bills and passed 74 bills on to the Senate for deliberation.


The budget joint conference committee met this week to work out differences between the two houses on the approximate $3.3 billion budget. To date of this summary, the committee successfully negotiated the issue of state employee raises but postponed the Medicaid expansion issue. The committee agreed to give executive branch employees pay raises of roughly 2.4% each year for the two year cycle, costing the state $40 million. The committee also agreed to increase funding for education salaries adding additional $38 million into K-12 education.

 

Prior to the conference committee, the two houses were fairly close together on most of the major spending amendments, including providing annual pay increases of 2% for most state employees, and $175 million for local government funding. However there were differences centering on pre-K funding, state employee retirement, and a plan for Medicaid expansion waivers, among others. Budget conferees include: Chairman Bebout, and Senators Perkins, Meier, Dockstader, and Hastert – Chairman Harshman, and Representatives Throne, Moniz, Stubson, and Brown.  Expect a full summary of the budget next week.


 

Remember, while there are several areas of difference in the amendments, the overall message on the budget remains one of fiscal prudency. Below is a reminder of suggested messaging on the budget:

The Legislature is committed to moving forward a fair, but conservative budget that prioritizes Wyoming needs and invests in Wyoming's people, jobs, communities, responsible mineral development and education.

This bill strikes an appropriate balance between current needs and long-term planning.

The budget appropriates $3.32 billion, a slight decrease from the previous biennium with nearly 300 fewer state employees. It also does not grow the size of state agencies. 

The budget contributes to the growth of the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA), commonly referred to as the "rainy day fund," while the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund (PWMTF) also continues to grow.

STATE EDUCATION ADMINISTRATION 

SF 106 – State education administration - provides for a process to address the 2014 Supreme Court decision relating to the structure and oversight of the state's public school system.  The bill passed third reading in the Senate this week by a vote of 18-12.  Several amendments were attempted to expand the scope of the super committee to include those who voted against SF104, yet ultimately failed to earn a majority vote.  Click here for the press release from the Majority Party.

 

Suggested talking points:

Management Council unanimously sponsored a bill, Senate File 106 that outlines the process by which a special session could occur and designates a study conducted by a legislative Super Committee.

With more than 37 statutes impacted by the passage of SF 104, including the Fiscal Year 2015/2016 budget, legislators need sufficient time to deconstruct all of the interwoven statues and work with the Joint Appropriations Committee and the Joint Education Committee to manage the workload.

The short, 20-day session is focused on delivering a conservative, forward-thinking budget that plans for Wyoming's future

As a result, a special session may be necessary to address the Supreme Court ruling on SF 104. 

KEY HOUSE BILLS/SENATE FILES OF INTEREST THIS WEEK 

HB 12 – Eighty miles per hour speed limit – the bills allows WYDOT to study where Wyoming's highways could handle increasing the speed limit to 80mph.    The bill passed the House by a vote of 53-6 and is heading to Senate Transportation.

 

HB 22-Mineral tax audit interest rate – Reduces the interest rate that counties may assess on mineral tax audits from 18% to 12%. Passed the House 54-5-1, and second reading in the Senate today.

 

HB 47 – Government royalty revenues – definition – Allows SLIB funds to be used to install natural gas pipelines, among other already defined essential services.  Passed the House and Senate Revenue with a vote of 3-2.

 

HB 53 – Wyoming lottery – definition AND HB 54 – Lottery board – The two bills work to clarify the definition of "vendor" for purposes of distribution of proceeds, that the net lottery proceeds are to be distributed under the same method that is used to distribute sales and use taxes to local governments, and also to clarify that lottery board members cannot participate in purchasing tickets from games run by the Wyoming Lottery Corporation.  Passed the House and are on second reading in the Senate today.

 

HB 78 – Environmental Protection Agency Actions – Pushes back on the Environmental Protection Agency and empowers the Governor to fight back.  Passed introduction on 2/12.  See the Majority's press release – Wyoming Legislature Takes on EPA. Passed House Minerals by a vote of 7-2 but died on CoW on Friday (was not considered).

 

HB 111 – School safety and security – The bill repeals the state's current law that says K-12 schools are "gun free" and allows each school district to develop its own regulations.  It would, however, limit people who can carry firearms on school property to employees who hold concealed carry permits.   Passed House Education by a vote of 6-3, but died on CoW on Friday (was not considered).

 

HB 147 – Infrastructure authority – energy transmission – The bill expands the facilities authorized under the authority to include energy transmission facilities, including coal distribution facilities and ports.  Passed the House unanimously and sits on general file in the Senate.

 

SF 13 – Hathaway scholarship program – enrollment expansion AND SF 55 – Hathaway student scholarship program – award increase – the bills propose to raise the Hathaway scholarship awards by 10% (the first increase for the awards since the program's start in 2005) and allow Hathaway money to pay for up to six hours of summer classes.  Both passed the Senate and are successfully working their way through the House.

 

SF 14 – Court security funding – Creates a court security assistance fund.  Placed on General File.  Passed the Senate unanimously and is headed to House Appropriations.

 

SF 40 – Involuntary hospitalization and treatment – The bill alters the rules for the involuntary hospitalization and treatment of the mentally ill.  The bill died on a third reading vote of 6-24.

 

SF 45 – Game and Fish Department – general fund budget requests - Requires the department to submit general fund budget requests for grizzly bear management program and employee health insurance costs.  Game and Fish Commission expenditures for the FY 2013 Group Insurance premiums were $4,747,530. For Grizzly Bear management, expenditures for FY 2013 were $1,965,750.  These budget items are not usually funded from the General Fund.  Passed the Senate 17-13, and was stripped of the grizzly funding in the House Travel Committee and has passed CoW.

 

SF 47 – Katie's Law – The bill would have changed statute to require the collection of DNA from anyone charged with a felony.  The bill died on a third reading vote of 12-18.

 

SF 103 – State Buildings-Construction –  A bill for the rehabilitation and restoration of the Wyoming State Capitol Building. Passed the Senate by a vote of 27-3 and the House unanimously.

 

SF 109 - Freedom of teachers in protecting students – The bill would allow school districts to decide if teachers can carry firearms in classrooms.  The bill passed Senate Education this week by a vote of 3-2, however died on CoW on 2/21 (did not consider).

 

SJ0001 - Regulation of carbon dioxide emissions - Requests Congress to require the federal Environmental Protection Agency to respect the primacy of Wyoming in developing guidelines for regulating dioxide emissions.  Passed the Senate and is on second reading in the House.  See the Majority's press release – Wyoming Legislature Takes on EPA. 

BILLS THAT DIED 

HB 23 – Landowner's duty to a trespasser

HB 27 – Article V constitutional convention

HB 44 – Credit card fraud

HB 77 – Student religious liberties

HB 79 – Critical access hospital endowment challenge program

HB 93 – Shipment of wine

HB 97 – Education – state administration

HB 99 – Worker's compensation for special education teachers

HB 100 – Investigative subpoenas

HB 101 – Elections – vote centers and electronic pollbooks

HB 105 – Unmanned aerial surveillance

HB 115 – Determination of highways rights-of-way on federal lands

HB 120 – Employee drug testing – vulnerable adults

HB 121 – Admissibility of evidence in sex offense cases

HB 122 – Cigarette certification

HB 124 – Education – content and performance standards

HB 125 – Local option tax – municipalities

HB 137 – County road construction – competitive bidding

HB 141 – Collection costs for debts owed to the state

HB 143 – Health inflation study

HB 148 – limited partnership - certificates

HB 152 – Water research

HB 156 – Brewery and microbrewery licenses – definition

HB 159 – Workplace safety grant program

HB 163 – Game and fish – restitution values

HB 165 – Game road kill

SF 32 – Education – professional development and training

SF 35 – Wearable computers – prohibition while driving

SF 109 – Freedom of teachers in protecting students.

 

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