On Feb. 23, the Revenue Committee met via Zoom. We worked on four bills and voted on those bills. HB088 was a bill to extend the sales and use tax for purchases made by data processing service centers. We heard from the Wyoming Business Council and industry on this bill and competition to locate data centers in states is severe. This bill passed out of committee in order to support the location of this industry in Wyoming.
HJ003 (House Joint Resolution) proposes to amend the Wyoming Constitution to provide two-thirds of state mineral royalties on the lease of state lands – to appropriate these funds to support public education for six years; this passed out of committee.
HB099, which proposes a cap to property tax increase to 3 percent per annum but was amended to 20 percent – which was brought forth to help those who buy into a community and then retire – however, it was pointed out that this only works when property taxes are going up. This bill could potentially limit support for public education.
HB114, property tax assessment, proposes that county assessor would no longer be elected but rather appointed by county commissioners. This bill was tabled, which means it will not go out of committee.
Corporations Committee met on Feb. 24 via Zoom. HB091, removal of unenforceable property covenants, is a “cleanup” that removes unenforceable, restrictive covenants on properties. These covenants are outdated and no longer in line with current law – some of these covenants were discriminatory and no longer legal. This passed out of committee.
HB039, the age-old optometrist versus ophthalmologist battle, seeks to increase the scope of operations for optometrists. As a gesture of conciliation, the ophthalmologists amended this bill slightly and this bill passed after many years.
HB072, transfer of water and sewer district operations, can transfer water and sewer districts to cities and towns if that district lies within their boundaries.
HB075, voter fraud prevention, relates to elections and modifies what is considered acceptable identification. It requires a picture I.D., such as a Wyoming driver’s license, a tribal identification card, a Wyoming identification card, a valid U.S. passport, a U.S. military I.D., or a Medicare card. It was amended three times to allow a driver license from any state or a college photo I.D. The Heartland Institute, a conservative organization, has published that no voter fraud has been verified in Wyoming in the last six years; despite this, this bill passed on. It seems to me that we are trying to fix and conflate a problem that does not exist in a time of serious budgetary difficulties. This bill may end up costing Wyomingites taxpayer money.
On Friday, Feb. 25, we had a House Zoom meeting, which was to outline protective procedures and practices that will be employed during our March session. In the next month, I hope that we can iron out education funding, revenue shortfalls and manage the budgetary cuts, which are currently mandated. We have been cutting government for the last three years or more and it is time for Wyoming to generate new streams of revenue.
I look forward to being back in the Capitol, and digging into these issues.
Stay well and stay safe.