Wyoming Legislature update: February 3, 2015
by Albert Sommers, House District #20
March 3, 2015
Hello Sublette County this is Albert Sommers reporting from the Capital on March 3rd. Yesterday, I was chairman of Committee of the Whole, and we finished Committee of the Whole very late in day, as we wanted to get through all twenty Senate Files on our docket. Bills that passed Committee of the Whole yesterday included a bill giving terminally ill patients the right to try certain investigation, unapproved drugs or devices to fight their diseases, a bill defining our right to farm, a bill authorizing a study on state management, NOT transfer, of public lands, a bill which would give the Wyoming High School Activities Association governmental immunity, a bill increasing legislative per diem to equal federal guidelines, a bill clarifying that irrigation diversions could not be the sole cause of a stream being declared a point source for water quality issues, a bill creating a grant program for career and technical training, and a bill providing grants to critical care hospitals for a portion of the cost of charity care.
We also passed SF8, amendments to the Accountability Act, in Committee of the Whole yesterday, which will reduce some of the current burdens of the Act. The Accountability Act, which was enacted 4 years ago, was a huge overreach by state government, and has resulted in an erosion of local control of education. SF8 eliminates the arduous Body of Evidence requirements for proof of graduation, and creates a simple checklist process to replace it. The bill pushes back the dates for Phase II, the teacher and leader portions of the Accountability Act. If we do not push these dates back, the State Board of Education will be required to implement Phase II next year, and that system has not been fully fleshed out. The education committee brought substantial revisions to the original bill in the form of a substitute bill, which relaxes the requirements of the Accountability Act even further. On Second Reading today, an amendment was successful which would eliminate teacher accountability from the Act altogether. Teacher accountability should be a local district function, and the state does not need another overly complicated accountability model. I do believe a scaled back version of the school accountability model is beneficial to parents in Wyoming, but the current model is too complex. The revisions to SF8 in the House show the progress that is being made to bring more control back to local districts.
The most contentious bill to pass the House today was SF132, the Wyoming Fair Housing Act. This bill would give Wyoming primacy over fair housing regulations, by adopting federal law. The feds would also provide grant money to make this endeavor revenue neutral. Initially, I supported this bill, because dealing with regulators in Wyoming versus out-of-state federal regulators would be an advantage for Wyoming citizens. In the end, I voted against the bill, because I am concerned about how the third party regulator, which the bill created, would interact with our Attorney General. The Attorney General would be required to enforce regulations administered by a non-profit organization. We have little understanding how much involvement will be required by the Attorney Generalís office, and how much money they will need. This bill was 42 pages long, and had not been vetted through an interim committee, where some of these questions would have been answered. This sounds like a good idea, but I was hesitant to vote for it. The bill passed the House by a very narrow vote.
We should wind up the session either on Wednesday or Thursday, depending on conference committees finishing their work. Wednesday will be our last day to hear bills on Third Reading. If you have any questions or concerns involving any of these bills, please contact me at email@example.com.