by HD20 Representative Albert Sommers
March 1, 2014
Friday, February 28, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Friday. HB3, the Alternative School bill that the Pinedale School District has lobbied for, passed the Senate. My HB86, giving hiring authority to rural health care districts passed second reading in the Senate today. The big news out of the Capital today is the fact the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled NOT to rehear their decision on the constitutionality of SF104, the bill last session which stripped the duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. The Supreme Court ruled prior to the session that SF104 was unconstitutional. In this denial to rehear the case the Supreme Court stated; "We also reject any suggestion that jurisdiction of this matter should remain with this Court for further action. Such an approach would only result in further delay and continuation of the status quo, which is unconstitutional. It would also have the practical effect of "running out the clock" until the current Superintendent’s term of office expires. The unconstitutional statutory scheme has now been in place a year. Efforts should be made to achieve constitutional compliance as quickly as possible." On Monday, we are scheduled to hear SF106, which would create a special session. I believe we should stay in session, do our job, and clean this mess up. Stay posted, because this issue seems to have a life of its own. Goodnight for now.
Click on this link to hear the audio of this report: Friday, February 28, 2014 Report (1:47 min, 1.66MB mp3 audio file)
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Capital on Thursday. My HB146 which dealt with state employed human resource officers died in committee this morning, in the Senate. That is part of the process, and I learned a great deal in the bill’s defeat. SF45, the Game and Fish funding bill, had an amendment to strip out much of the funding the bill would have provided, but the amendment failed. I support this effort to place Game and Fish health insurance and the Grizzly Bear Program under the General Budget, and not continue funding these through sportsman’s dollars. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department continues to develop greater responsibilities due to endangered and sensitive species, and we need to ensure the department can work on these issues if we hope to continue our current use of the landscape. SF41 passed final reading today, and it would charge the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee with the task of following western efforts to transfer federal lands back to the states. There were two bills this session on that topic, the other would have created a separate Select Committee just for the public lands transfer issue, and I do not support the creation of more Select Committees. It is already hard enough to schedule the work of our standing committees, without creating more committees. The Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee is capable of following this issue. Bills that passed Committee of the Whole today included: SF 21 which is an Insurance-Own risk solvency act; SF57 which eliminated certain archaic boards that were no longer utilized; SF66 which is the Omnibus water construction bill, and SF93 which lengthens the time agricultural producers have to submit their gas tax form. SF106 is the special session bill, and it will likely be heard on General File tomorrow or Monday. Goodnight for now.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Wednesday evening. This afternoon in the Education Committee we heard SF106, which is the bill that paves the way to convening a special session to deal with the duties of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, after SF104 from last year was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. We heard testimony from Management Council, which is comprised primarily of the legislature’s leadership, on the intricacies of the Supreme Court ruling. The bill will allow a super committee to convene a special session to address the issues revolving around a final court decree on the unconstitutionality issue. I had some concerns about this bill, because the super committee was comprised primarily of the same individuals who drafted SF104, and my fear was the public would perceive this committee as more of the same. I voted against SF104 last session, because I could not support the process and the fact that the citizens would not get to make the decision through a constitutional amendment. I brought three amendments to SF106 during the committee debate, and all three passed committee. The first amendment would expand the super committee to include the Joint Education Committee, which will allow the committee involved in education to be at the table in all of the discussions. The Joint Education Committee includes members who did not vote for SF104, and should make the process more inclusive. I brought another amendment to SF106 that would ensure a constitutional amendment on this issue could be part of discussion in this special session. The final amendment I brought, would allow any member of legislature the ability to bring their own bills to this special session, provided they are germane to the discussion about the duties of State Superintendent. I voted for SF106 in committee, but if my amendment on the makeup of the super committee does not hold on the floor, then I will vote against the bill in the end. We have to clean up the mess that was created last session by SF104, but for me that means we ultimately need to go back to the voters with a constitutional amendment. Today, I supported the Game and Fish funding bill that puts their employee insurance under the General Fund, as well as the Grizzly Bear Program. I believe these two items should be state funded, and not placed on the backs of sportsmen. Goodbye for now.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Capital. On Tuesday, we heard several Senate Files in Committee of the Whole. SF78 passed Committee of the Whole, and would require school districts to provide 8 hours of suicide prevention training to teachers and administrators over a 4 year period. Suicide is a huge problem in Wyoming, and child suicide is catastrophic to parents and communities. Despite local districts and communities already addressing this issue, I believe we need to ensure suicide prevention training occurs in our schools. SF79 passed COW, and requires a study to ensure that student data is secure. I placed an amendment on the bill that would look at what information is collected on students, who requires the information to be collected, and is there any data currently collected that does not need to be. This study should give the legislature a good sense of what might be needed to protect student data, if anything, and then policy can be developed from this study. I believe this study is a prudent way to investigate citizens’ concerns about this issue. We also passed SF51, which allows members of partnerships and LLCs to be eligible for the Worker’s Compensation Program if they do not have any employees. This could be very relevant to small ranching operations that are structured into these types of business entities. Tomorrow my education committee might hear SF106, which is the legislation that prescribes how a special session may be called to deal with the Supreme Court ruling on the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction. I have some concerns about how this bill is written, and will likely bring some amendments. Goodbye for now.
Monday, February 24, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Monday. Today we finished up our House bills, and both of my bills passed third reading, and will be headed to the Senate. We also started debating Senate bills in Committee of the Whole, and the most notable bill was SF103, which will set the process and the budget for reconstructing our state capital. Our state capital is over one hundred years old, and the structure has some major issues. We also need more space and better committee rooms, because our current committee rooms are not very friendly to the public. This renovation will include upgrading the Herschler building, and adding an addition to the building. The legislature will likely use the Herschler building for the next two sessions, while the capital is remodeled. Architects have been hired, whose job is to ensure that these renovations occur in a manner that preserves the historical context of the Capital. The price tag for this remodel is projected to be around 259 million dollars, which is huge expense, but we must remember the Capital is the show piece for state government and one of Wyoming’s historical gems. Good night for now.