Wyoming 66th Legislature – Update No. 5
House Bill 10 – Now House Enrolled Act 55, COVID-19 Large Business Relief Program. This bill crossed back over from the Senate and passed concurrence. This act is designed to provide financial relief to businesses with over 100 employees impacted by the pandemic.
HB 15 – YDOT Communication Facilities. It amends the leasing process for state-funded communication infrastructure operated by WYDOT. This allows WYDOT to lease excess capacity for broadband expansion. This bill became law.
HB 43 – Digital Assets Amendments. This bill further clarifies what a digital asset is – specifically whether it is a digital consumer asset, digital security or virtual currency. This law helps Wyoming become better able to encourage block chain banking in Wyoming. This bill became law.
HB 51, HB 52 & HB 54. All bills that work to protect and promote local meat production and encourage local processing and consumption; all passed and have become law.
HB 62 – Suicide Prevention failed. This bill was to provide suicide prevention training in public schools to students. The failure of this bill is disappointing. It was testified that there are signs that youth exhibit who are suicidal, and that those who would notice those signs are most often close friends. This would train youth to recognize these signs and take the appropriate steps to notify teachers and counselors. Wyoming has the fourth-highest rate of suicide in the adolescent population in the country.
HB 66 – 2021 Large Project Funding. This was a product of the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, of which I am a member. This passed giving funding to three large projects – the Dry Piney Mule Deer Crossings, and the Kaycee Mule Deer Crossings, which are aimed at reducing the potential for catastrophic collisions. The other was the Sheridan Invasive Grasses project.
HB 75 – Voter Identification. This bill requires a voter to present acceptable forms of identification immediately before voting even though she or he has already verified citizenship and identification upon registration. In spite of the fact that there has not been a case of voter fraud since 2014 where there was a single case of an individual who had a criminal conviction and was not allowed to vote, this passed. This will cost the state and the taxpayers money and increase the size of government to address a problem that does not exist.
HB 109 – Local Health Officers Education Requirements. This bill allows the appointing of a local health officer and widens the pool of candidates from which to choose. Prior to this bill, a local health officer was required to be an M.D. Now, the candidates can be a physician’s assistant or an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse as well.
HB 128 – County Option Real Estate Transfer Tax. This bill died in committee. This bill would have allowed counties the option voting upon a local real-estate transfer tax on properties over $1 million. This bill would have generated revenue without affecting the common person. This income could have benefitted the elderly population on fixed incomes who are facing exorbitant property taxes.
SF 130 – Charter Schools. This passed. The intent of this bill was to provide state funding for charter schools. While the idea of charters is not new or objectionable, the use of public funding in a time of budgetary cuts to public education does not seem wise. It was amended, however, to require the communities in which the charter schools will reside to approve of the charter school through a vote. This would not go into effect until 2022, and the bill requires that it be studied by the Joint Education Committee.
Overall, 264 bills were proposed in the House. Ninety-six of those bills passed on their way to become law – 36 percent. What this 36 percent did not do, in my opinion, is to address the present and pressing need of Wyoming to find a way to correct its structural budgetary deficit and earn revenue.
The Legislature cut the budget by $430 million this session. The abundance of federal funding for COVID relief has reduced the immediate impact of our deficit. Wyoming must face the fact that without structures to increase revenue, eventually these cuts will affect the stability of our infrastructure. To make Wyoming solvent and strong, we must find revenue to replace our loss of mineral revenue.
We will reconvene in Cheyenne in July to address the COVID relief package and how to distribute these funds. I will have Revenue and Corporations Committee meetings throughout the summer.
You can always go to wyoleg.gov for full details about all legislation and committee meetings.
It was wonderful to have the Legislature be able to meet in person, largely due to the enormous effort to get all legislators and staff vaccinated.
Stay well and stay safe!