Wyoming Legislature update: 2/11/2016
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 12, 2016
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers, reporting to you from the Jonah Building in Cheyenne on Thursday, February 11. In the morning we heard 22 bills go through the introduction process.
Bills which passed introduction in the House, and which I voted for, included: HB43, Concealed weapons – military applicant; HB80, Community College budget request recalibration; and HB117, Pesticide applicator certification program funding. I co-sponsored HB104, Food freedom cooked meat products, which passed introduction today. This bill would allow an individual to sell his home-raised cooked meat, like a taco, if the beef has been butchered through a plant that has a certified inspection process.
I also co-sponsored HB97, Wolf depredation compensation, which passed introduction today. It would allow for compensation of livestock killed by wolves, until wolves are delisted from the Endangered Species Act or for two years, whichever comes first. This bill is important because livestock producers in the Gray Wolf predator area are currently not eligible for compensation for damages and have no authority to protect their livestock.
Bills that failed introduction in the House this morning included: HB98 – Government Nondiscrimination Act; HB100 – Felony unlawful possession of controlled substances; HB109 – Sentencing enhancement, bias motivated crimes; and HB115 – Death penalty repeal. I had voted for introduction of HB115, because the death penalty does not deter murderers and is very costly to administer. The state of Wyoming, we were told, has budgeted 1.5 million dollars for ongoing costs of death penalty litigation, even though we haven’t used the death penalty since 1992, and the next prior use was in 1966.
I voted against introduction of HB100, HB109, and HB98. I have heard some concern about my vote against HB98, which would have granted protections to individuals based upon their religious beliefs. This bill appeared to violate the US Constitution, as it seemed to violate a recent Supreme Court ruling on gay marriage. Moreover, the US Constitution prohibits the making of any law impeding the free exercise of religion, thus HB98 does not seem necessary.
I have voted in favor of two bills asking for a constitutional amendment to require a federal balanced budget, through a constitutional convention. I have concerns with a federal balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution in times of war or disaster, but this seems like the only way to send a message to Congress that we must balance the federal budget, like we do in Wyoming. I have heard from Sublette County residents on both sides of this issue, and I share concerns about a runaway constitutional convention, if one were ever held.
There are two bills that would further define abortion laws, and I have heard both support and reservations about these bills. HB70 would not allow an abortion if the fetus can feel pain. HB121 would require further reporting requirements for abortions conducted in Wyoming, and seems to hover very close to breaking patient-doctor confidentiality. I do not believe these bills will be heard for introduction, as they do not appear on the introduction list for tomorrow.
I appreciate all of the comments I have heard from Sublette County residents, on both sides of the issues.