Wyoming Legislature update
by Albert Sommers, House District 20 Representative
February 6, 2016
Saturday, Feb. 6, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on the eve of the 2016 Budget Session of the 63rd legislature. The session officially convenes on Monday, February 8, and will end in approximately 20 working days. Wyoming’s economy hinges on our mineral industry, which has seen major price declines. As a result, estimated revenues for the State of Wyoming, during fiscal years 2016, 2017, and 2018, have declined by over 700 million dollars since January 2015. Due to these declines, portions of the state budget will likely be reduced significantly.
There will be a great debate on what programs should be cut, and regarding how much capital construction the State should fund.
Governor Mead’s budget has been drastically changed by the Joint Appropriations Committee. The Governor included Medicaid Expansion, but the JAC cut that program. Medicaid Expansion has been a hotly debated topic. The Affordable Care Act allowed states to apply for Medicaid Expansion, but Wyoming has refused to participate. Medicaid Expansion covers what is often referred to as "the working poor," and much of this population gets its health care through the emergency room, which has resulted in increasing uncompensated care from health providers. There is a need to cover this population, but the economic effects of Medicaid Expansion upon the State of Wyoming have not been easy to follow. I remain concerned for this population who are stuck in a donut hole created by Obama Care, but I need more consistent program cost information before I can support expansion. Medicaid Expansion will likely resurfacethis session, and I would be interested in what the citizens of Sublette County think about this issue.
The Appropriations Committee has made other cuts to the Governor’s budget that will be hotly contested, including cuts to K12 education, family literacy programs, property tax relief for low income seniors, and early childhood education grants. We will also debate how much capital construction should be conducted with state dollars, when other budgets are seeing significant declines.
I am working on three or four bills of my own. One bill would allow electronic notification of assessment schedules, if a property owner chooses to participate. A second bill will make some revisions in Title 25 (involuntary hospitalization for those who are a threat to themselves or others), to help local authorities in the early detention process. The third bill is a joint resolution asking Congress to seek delisting of grizzly bears and gray wolves from Endangered Species Act designation.
This session, I hope to provide daily updates on KPIN Radio (101.1 FM) and Pinedale Online, while providing the same updates to the Roundup and the Examiner for printing. My updates will also be posted to my website, albertsommers.com, and to my facebook page. If you have questions or concerns, I can be reached at email@example.com.