Wyoming Legislature updates Feb 19-21, 2020
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 23, 2020
Friday, February 21, 2020
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on the tenth day of the 2020 Budget Session. Budget Sessions are typically 20 days. We have four extra days we can use this year if the House and Senate have not completed business.
As of Friday afternoon, 44 bills had been passed out of the House and await consideration in the Senate. The Senate has passed 39 bills that the House may now consider. All bills must be passed by a Committee in their house of origin by this Monday, February 24, in order to move forward. Thursday, February 27 is "crossover," when any bill that has not been passed out of its chamber of origin will not be further considered.
A few interesting bills include:
HJ0004 - Legislative sessions This bill, of which I am a co-sponsor, would amend the Wyoming Constitution by repealing the introductory vote requirement for bills in a legislative budget session. For non-budget related bills to even be introduced during a Budget Session, they must receive a 2/3 majority vote. Voting to introduce every single bill takes a tremendous amount of time during an already short session. The bill was unanimously approved by the House Appropriations Committee today and awaits further consideration by the House.
HB0249 - Investment of state funds This bill would authorize the State Loan and Investment Board to purchase land and mineral assets for investment that are located within the state of Wyoming or within states with contiguous borders to Wyoming. This could occur only after fully examining impacts to funds utilized for purchase as well as impacts to the state. The purchase would also need to meet the Wyoming Uniform Prudent Investor Act. The State of Wyoming is contemplating purchasing the checkerboard railroad lands in Southern Wyoming, because they have recently sold to a corporation that in turn wishes to sell them. Should Wyoming buy these lands? How would they be managed? How would they be paid for as revenues decline? What will be the approval process? These are questions I have.
Today we also concluded Third Reading of the Budget in both the House and Senate. Members in their respective chambers had the opportunity to offer additional amendments to the Budget. Fifty-two budget amendments were filed in the House, and 37 in the Senate. One budget amendment of interest was the following:
H3028.01 This amendment would require a third-party consultant to conduct a study, provide recommendations, and provide a report on the University of Wyoming's governance structure and administrative practices. The firing of UWfs previous President was likely the motive for the amendment. I voted against the amendment, because UW's governance structure is in Wyoming's constitution, and should be debated through a constitutional amendment. This clearly is legislating in the budget.
Thursday, February 20, 2020
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on the ninth day of the 2020 Budget Session. As of Thursday afternoon, 43 bills had been passed out of the House to await consideration in the Senate. The Senate has passed 35 bills that the House may now consider. All bills must be passed by a Committee in their house of origin by Monday, February 24, in order to move forward this session. Thursday, February 27 is "crossover," meaning that any bill that has not been passed out of its chamber of origin will not be further considered.
A few of the bills that passed Committee of the Whole, and which I supported, included the following: a bill that allows for donations to construct wildlife conservation efforts, a bill that taxes vapes, a bill that funds multiple water projects, and a bill that creates a Select Committee on Tribal Relations.
A few of the interesting bills we considered today include:
HB 13, Sage Grouse Mitigation Credits This bill would establish a statutory program for compensatory mitigation credits for conservation of the greater sage grouse. Currently, sage grouse mitigation is required for some industrial activities through an executive order. This bill allows the people of Wyoming to debate the concept, and design a program that fits Wyoming. I support this bill.
HB 68, Sex offender - prohibited access to school facilities This bill would repeal exceptions that allow registered sex offenders to be in, on, or near school buildings and grounds under certain specific circumstances. While I support the intent, the original version was so broad in scope it would have prohibited a registered sex offender parent from picking up their own child from school. An amendment was offered to address this issue and improve the bill.
HB 194 Wyoming department of agriculture fees This bill would increase certain Department of Agriculture fees that havenft been increased in many years. The Department of Agriculture had a couple of large budget requests, and its fees were not keeping up. Among other fee increases, this bill would increase license fees for companies that sell feed products. Both Colorado and Montana have much higher fees for licensing feed products. This was a Joint Appropriations Committee bill, and I was selected to present the bill on the House floor today. It passed Committee of the Whole.
Tomorrow we will have Third Reading of the Budget. This is the final opportunity for members to offer amendments. I expect this to be a long day. As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I will spend a good deal of time defending the Budget on the House floor.
Wednesday, February 19, 2020
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on the eighth day of the 2020 Budget Session. This was an especially long day; we debated more than 40 amendments to the Budget, and ended the day at 10 pm.
During the morning, we worked through Third Reading on nearly ten bills. One of the more interesting bills we discussed was House Bill 8, Digital expression. This bill would provide limitations on criminal liability for digital expression. The question at the core of this bill is whether an individual should be held responsible when a piece of code they created is used for illegal and nefarious purposed. HB 8 says an individual is not responsible. I supported this bill because I think it helps facilitate an important conversation about how we regulate in the digital world. The bill passed the House of Representatives and will now be considered by the Senate.
This afternoon, we moved on to the Budget. Representatives had the opportunity to offer amendments to the Budget on a wide range of topics, from funding for University of Wyoming athletics, and directing tourism funding to shooting sports, to Medicaid expansion and more. We filed 108 amendments this year, and debated more than 40 of them (others were withdrawn for consideration before we debated). A full list of the amendments offered today can be viewed here.
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee that helped craft this Budget, it was my job to defend the Budget on the House floor today. The committee has spent the past several months going through every agency and department to fine tune and cut expenses where we can. I feel confident in the work we have done and hope the Budget will remain largely intact as it makes its way through the legislative process.
As always, I can be reached with questions or concerns at email@example.com.