Gov. Gordon signs bills, expresses disappointment

WYOMING – Gov. Mark Gordon put pen to paper this week, signing dozes of bills approved by the Wyoming Legislature during the 66th Session into law.

Between Friday, April 2, and Tuesday, April 6, Gordon signed 77 bills into law. There was also one bill that Gordon did not sign that will go into law regardless.

On April 2, hours after the General Session ended, Gordon signed nearly a dozen bills. HB0091, Removal of unenforceable property covenants, HB0057, Advance enrollment, HB0107, Retirement system-efficient disbursement method, HB0122, Hunting and fishing access-reliable funding, HB0052, Wyoming school protein enhancement project, SF0088, Ownership of fossils and artifacts, SF0074, Athletic trainer revisions, SF0124, Defending Wyoming business-trade and commerce amendments and HB0039, Optometrist practice act amendments all received the governor’s signature.

The governor also vetoed SF0093, WICHE repayment program-veterinary medicine students, on April 2. Gordon, in a letter to the State Senate, said he supported the bill and found it appropriate but found the impact of the bill would fall onto one class of graduating students who prepared for veterinary school for four years.

“I would like the legislature to bring this bill back at its next session after having considered a way to ease the burden on students whose course work has been predicated on taking a veterinary track at UW while clearly outlining the changed circumstances of the modified WICHE requirements,” Gordon’s letter states. “This will provide remaining students adequate time to weigh their options and understand the changes that will be imposed.”

On Monday, Gordon signed: HB0115, Big or trophy game animal-minimum hunting age, HB0144, Electric vehicle fee updates, HB0133, Online sports wagering, HB0112, Pioneer trapper license, HB0101, Elk feedground closings-requirements, HB0085, Unlawful dissemination of an intimate image, HB0068, Wyoming Statutory Foundation Act-amendments, HB0010, COVID-19 large business relief program, HB0038, Community behavioral health-priority populations, HB0073, Birth certificates-gestational agreements, HB0095, Game road kill, HB0102, Wyoming Preference Act of 1971-amendments, HB0041, Intrastate crowdfunding exemption-amendments, HB0043, Digital assets-amendments, HB0179, Optional municipal tax-election, HB0195, Wyoming medical review panel-repeal, HB0197, Connect Wyoming program-federal funding, HB0198, University water system, SF0117, Speech and hearing specialist licensing amendments, SF0148, Requirements relating to depositors-amendments, SF0047, Clinical laboratory regulation, SF0044, Solid waste cease and transfer program funding, SF0033, Physician assistants amendments, SF0013, Abandoned vehicles-towing service liens and titles, SF0155, Limiting firearm seizure and regulation during emergencies, SF0120, Investment of state non-permanent funds, SF0115, Education-pupil teacher contact time, SF0109, Board of dental examiners-amendments, SF0056, Wyoming gaming commission-modifications and corrections, SF0052, Insurance-mental health and substance use parity and SF0089, Public utility safety lights.

That day Gordon also allowed SF0050, COVID-19 business relief programs agriculture into law without his signature. In a letter to the State Senate, Gordon said his decision came because it directly refers to last year’s CARES Act but does not differentiate between allocated CARES funding, American Recovery Plan Act money or existing state funds. He also highlighted the issues this raises among the state’s agricultural producers.

“While I wholeheartedly support my colleagues in agriculture, I cannot see a clear nexus between COVID-19, this bill, and addressing COVID-related issues faced by producers,” Gordon’s letter to the Senate said. “I encourage the Legislature to clarify and strengthen this program, as well as investigate whether USDA relief funding is, or will be available, directly to our farmers and ranchers, during the anticipated special session this summer.”

On Tuesday Gordon signed HB0229, Livestock identification choice act, HB0207, Coal fired generation facility closures-litigation funding, HB0017, Range management at military training areas, HB0049, Agency fee revisions, HB0116, Concealed carry-residency requirement-2, HB0188, Irrigation and water conservancy district loans, HB0075, Voter identification, HJ0009, Local government investment equities, HJ0011, State sovereignty impacted by federal actions, HB0150, State budgeting and expenditure authority, HB0007, Air ambulance membership organizations-regulation, HB0156, Alcoholic beverage permits, HB0190, Vehicle titles for nonresident owners, SF0083, Gillette community college district, SF0102, Unclaimed cooperative utility deposits and payments, SF0136, Public service commission considerations, SF0096, Homicide amendments, SF0078, Real estate appraisers-continuing education, SF0126, Real estate subdivisions-easement requirements, SF0139, Community based in-home services program, SF0111, School of energy resources budget submittal, SF0066, Slayer rule-amendments, SF0019, Public health emergencies-immunity amendments, SF0002, School facilities-project prioritization, SJ0003, Federal suspension and orders on oil and gas production, SF0025, Animal impound proceedings – bond and disposition, SF0058, Wyoming investment in nursing funding, SF0034, Born alive infant-means of care, SF0028, Motor vehicles-security interest perfection, SF0015, Temporary licensing and permitting authority-2, SF0112, Insurance discount for accident prevention training and SF0076, Broadband development program-amendments.

That same day Gordon outright vetoed SF0114, State land leases, because he believed it unnecessarily hindered the State Board of Land Commissioners. Gordon thanked the Joint Agriculture Committee for its work on the bill with numerous amendments to get the bill passed the State Senate.

“I believe the implications of eliminating the Board’s discretion within its inherent decision making authority is improper and contrary to the intent of the SBLC’s Consitutional duties,” Gordon said in his veto.

As of Thursday morning, the House and Senate came to agreement on a public health order bill that awaited Gordon’s signature. That bill would limit initial local public health orders to no more than 10 days and any extension would require approval by a corresponding elected body, such as a county commission.

An education-funding bill died on Wednesday after Senate leadership declined to continue negotiations with the House of Representatives. So the current education budget will remain unchanged and not address the budget’s $300 million deficit.

During a press conference on Thursday, Gordon expressed his disappointment with the Senate and House for not coming to a consensus. He also said he plans to take a more involved role in education funding going forward.

Gordon also stated his concern for how much national politics played into the General Session.