Legislative Update – March 12, 16


Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 12, 2021. Today, three bills passed third reading in the House, including HB0001, General Government Appropriations - 2, which was the supplemental budget bill for the general appropriations of government. This supplemental budget contained about $450 million in General Fund reductions to state agencies, which is nearly a 16-percent cut. According to a Bloomberg article, Wyoming had the nation’s largest drop in state revenues during the pandemic, with nearly a 21-percent reduction.

The Senate and the House start mirror bills for the budget on each side and work them simultaneously. When the budget bill hits second and third readings, both bodies can bring amendments. This allows individual legislators to bring needs from their constituents into the budget or propose deeper budget reductions. This past week, the House debated 42 budget amendments on second reading and 27 on third reading.

The House passed four major budget amendments during second and third reading. There was general concern from the public and in the Legislature that these cuts had too deeply impacted critical programs in the Department of Health and Department of Family Services. These programs serve the most vulnerable people in Wyoming. In response, the House adopted a budget amendment that put about $19 million from our “Rainy Day” fund back into these programs.

The House also passed an amendment to invest $10 million from our “Rainy Day” account in carbon-capture research and technology, subject to matching dollars from other entities. Carbon capture is being promoted by the federal government and the Legislature hopes Wyoming can be a leader in this field.

The University of Wyoming and Wyoming’s community colleges were subject to very large budget reductions; an amendment passed the House to return a total of about $14 million to these institutions. The most interesting budget amendment to pass the House appropriated $4 million to the University of Wyoming to be expended on operating and maintaining blockchain technologies to support cryptocurrency.

Each of these amendments passing the House today support the most vulnerable citizens of Wyoming, new and legacy industries to make Wyoming competitive into the future and post-secondary education in Wyoming. I supported these amendments.

Now that the House and the Senate have each debated and amended their separate budgets, members of a conference committee will be appointed from each body to work out their differences. Even though both sides start with identical budget bills, the two bodies amend those bills into very different budgets. This conference committee will have five legislators from each body and their debates will be long and difficult.

You can find more details about all the 2021 bills here: https://wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2021.

I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

Thank you.

March 16

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 16, 2021. The long-awaited blizzard hit Cheyenne Saturday night through Sunday. The storm left over 2 feet of snow in Cheyenne and up to 4 feet in other parts of the state. This was the “snowmageddon” that had been predicted. Between snow and wind, the city of Cheyenne froze up and nothing moved but snowmachines. By midday on Monday, some traffic was beginning to move, but even through Tuesday morning the city was still a quagmire of stranded vehicles and one-lane traffic.

Needless to say, the Legislature canceled its calendar for Monday and Tuesday, but we hope to resume work on Wednesday if enough staff can make it to the Capitol to facilitate the work. We will make up the days by extending the session further into April or by working weekends.

It is likely we will push back second reading on HB0173, School Finance Funding-2, until Thursday. This bill is the multifaceted solution to Wyoming’s K-12 funding shortfall and it includes funding reductions, revenue diversions and a penny sales tax for education when Wyoming’s “Rainy Day” fund drops below $650 million.

Amendments have been drafted that will debate central office salaries, activities, revenue flows, reserves, phased-in cuts and whether this last COVID year should be removed from the ADM calculations.

This debate is too important to occur with legislators absent due to the storm, and that is why we will likely move the bill out another day.

I really worry about the livestock producers where this storm hit. We have reports of ranchers not being able to reach their animals to feed them. For those producers who haven’t been able to reach their cattle or who are calving or lambing during this storm, it is a nightmare come true. My heart goes out to all those folks battling its aftermath.

I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

Thank you.

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