Wyoming Legislature update – Feb 22 & 23
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 24, 2017
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from snowy Cheyenne on Thursday, Feb. 23. I had the good fortune to eat breakfast with the Sublette County Conservation District crew this morning, and get an update on the happenings in the home county. It is always good to see Sublette County folks while in Cheyenne, and I encourage you to contact me if you are headed to Cheyenne while I am in session.
The Joint Appropriation Conference Committee met on the budget today, and we agreed upon the most difficult items where there had been disagreement. We negotiated the Senate’s position of a $91.5 million cut to K12 education as of July 1, 2017, down to a $25 million cut in fiscal year 2018 and $20 million in fiscal year 2019. In essence we agreed to half the cut, with an extended implementation. We also agreed to a recalibration of the funding model this summer. However, one education funding bill is left alive in both the Senate and the House. If one of those survives the process, it will supersede the decisions made in the budget bill.
The Appropriations Conference Committee also agreed to eliminate the Senate’s position on the 4 percent pay cut to state employees, and replace it with an increase in state position eliminations through an attrition process the Governor would control. We firmly believe that cutting state employee salaries, at a time when we are asking them to do more, was simply unfair.
We still have two issues to resolve. They are how to handle funding for providers of developmentally disabled services, and retiree Medicare compensation. We expect to resolve those issues tomorrow. I have been doubtful that the House and Senate could reach resolution so soon, and we still have a long way to go to solve the K12 funding crisis, but today gave me hope that we can reach some compromises in the next year. Wyomingites do know how to roll up their sleeves and solve differences. Good night for now.
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Wednesday, February 22. Today on final reading, SF147 passed the House without amendments. SF147 would allow the Wyoming Livestock Board to increase fees, including brand fees, up to 25 percent per year. Current law allows the WLB to increase fees by 20 percent per year. The Appropriations Committee proposed this bill to compensate for moving a portion of brand inspector expenditures from General Fund dollars to fee dollars collected by the Wyoming Livestock Board. Without this change in statute, the WLB might be unable to absorb the loss of General Fund dollars, and might have to lay off brand inspectors. The board does not have a history of abusing its current authority to raise fees, so I am confident that this producer-controlled board will manage fees and expenses in a conservative manner.
Related to the Livestock Board issue, the Supplemental Budget, if passed, proposes to eliminate four of five livestock investigators. The Appropriations Committee had to either agree to this personnel cut, or transfer all (rather than some) brand inspector costs away from General Fund dollars to fees collected by the Wyoming Livestock Board. The extra reliance on WLB fees would have required a fee increase of 50 percent to livestock producers, an increase I was unwilling to support. There are livestock producers in our county who have benefitted from these investigators, but with decreasing state revenues, cuts had to be made.
Today in Committee of the Whole, we killed two Senate Files: a bill that would have changed the taxation laws around lease-backs of equipment, and a bill that would have allowed depositions to occur by phone. Senate File 113, which makes a felon of someone driving recklessly while eluding a police officer, passed Committee of the Whole. In my opinion this bill goes too far. It could open the possibility for a scared youth, running from law enforcement, to be charged with a felony.
I can be reached at email@example.com.
Good night for now.