Wyoming Legislature updates – end of February
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
March 2, 2018
February 28, 2018:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Wednesday the 28th. Today we debated HB140, 168, 186, and 194, and the debate took all day. These bills involved all of the hot topics including guns, school funding, capital construction funding, and the spending policy on the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. HB140 passed third reading, and this bill provided various amendments to school finance. The bill was an attempt to provide a comprehensive solution to school funding, by incorporating about $30 million in cuts, guaranteeing 45% of the SIPA account for K12 major maintenance, diverting online sales taxes to education, diverting ½ of the corporate filing fee to education, moving some Severance Tax and Federal Mineral Royalties on years that exceed current projections, modifying the freeze on bus reimbursements, and freezing special education funding. This bill was heavily debated, and had 17 amendments attempted on it. Many of these amendments were designed to cut more out of education, but they were soundly defeated by the body. I support most of what was in the bill, but do not agree with freezing special education at current levels. The bill requires a study on Special Education, which I agree with. I believe we need to reduce the increasing costs of Special Education, but I worry about the unintended consequences of freezing funding for two years. I voted no on the bill for that reason, but I do support the efforts in the bill to find a broad solution to education funding.
HB168 passed third reading today, and was the "Stand Your Ground" bill that has been in the newspapers. This bill provides that a person who uses reasonable defensive force pursuant to W.S. 6-2-602 shall be immune from any arrest, detention, charging, citation or prosecution for using defensive force. Law enforcement is very worried about the implications of this bill, and I have heard this from our own sheriff’s office. If this law were enacted, a police officer could come up on two gangs fighting each other, and not be able to detain anyone to investigate, because self-defense could be claimed. We do not want to create a law that would forbid an officer from detaining a gang member to determine if a murder had been committed. I have been told that this proposed legislation fundamentally upends the normal criminal prosecution process by granting the criminal defendant a new right to a bench trial prior to his or constitutional right to a jury trial. I could not support this bill, but the Senate has apparently amended a similar bill, which appears to eliminate many of the most egregious provisions.
I supported both the State Capital Construction bill, HB194, and HB186, which further refines our spending policy on the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund. I can be reached at email@example.com
February 27, 2018:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Tuesday, February 27, after a day off on Monday. Today, we voted on more than sixty House bills on third and final reading in the House. HB39 passed with my support. It will allow a license plate to be created and sold to help support efforts to protect wildlife that is crossing highways. HB163 passed with my support; it will prohibit a non-compete clause in a newly hired physician’s contract. HB164 passed with my support; it eliminates the weight restriction on vehicles used for agricultural purposes. HJ05, my bill, passed; it would begin a discussion between Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, and the National Park Service to create a wildlife conservation fee in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, to help support wildlife management in the three states.
A few controversial bills were heard in third reading. HB133 passed. This bill would allow public entities to post the national motto "In God We Trust" in their buildings. Originally, the bill would have required the motto to be posted if the funds were raised, but the bill is now permissive, meaning an entity may choose to post the motto. I could support this permissive language.
HB141 passed with my support; it would eliminate the ban on concealed weapons in a place of worship. A place of worship would still have the authority to ban weapons on its private property, if it chooses. The decision should rest with the place of worship. I was worried that a place of worship could not ban a weapon, but federal case law has held that your private property right is the equal to or greater than your right to bear arms. In fact the quote out of federal case law is, "an individual's right to bear arms as enshrined in the Second Amendment, whatever its full scope, certainly must be limited by the equally fundamental right of a private property owner to exercise exclusive dominion and control over its land."
HB168 was laid back one day. This bill is the "Stand Your Ground Bill," which expands current Wyoming law with regard to self-protection. The bill states "A person who uses reasonable defensive force pursuant to W.S. 6-2-602 shall be immune from any arrest, detention, charging, citation or prosecution for using defensive force." The problem with this bill is that a police officer could come up on two gangs fighting, and he could not detain anyone, because they could all claim self-defense. This could eliminate law enforcement’s ability to investigate murder. I cannot support the bill as currently written, but it is my understanding the Senate has found solid language to clean up a similar bill they are working on. Law enforcement in Sublette County did not like the original bill. I will wait to see how the bill is amended going forward.
HB86 passed without my support. It would go after the fathers of Medicaid birth babies, in an attempt to get fathers to pay a share of birth costs. I support the concept behind this bill, but not its practical application. The Departments of Health and Family Services estimated it could cost the state $1.25 million dollars to implement for a biennium, with little expectation that the money collected would let the effort break even. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org