By Reps Landon Brown, Jared Olsen
Now that ink is dry on the signature line of the last of the 67th General Legislative Session bills, it is timely to review some of the critical work accomplished on behalf of Wyomingities, specifically for our Wyoming children.
Protecting Wyoming’s children starts with protecting the unborn. Two key pieces of legislation that made the headlines from the session were related to abortion. HB152 – Life is a Human Right Act passed with wide-ranging support.
The bill bans abortion except for rape, incest or dire risks to the pregnant woman’s life. It aims to answer many of the legal questions that arose with last year’s abortion ban legislation. The bill also establishes life begins at conception and should be recognized in Wyoming law as such.
The second abortion bill, SF109 – Prohibiting chemical abortions, made history. It is the first law in the United States to outlaw the use of any drug to procure or perform an abortion, which includes securing pills that could be used for an abortion.
Although both laws are already facing legal challenges, working on and passing this legislation is essential for protecting life. Now, we await the court’s decisions.
While these two laws certainly make Wyoming one of the most pro-life states in the country, supporting pro-life is broader than just these pieces of legislation. In Wyoming, we look out for our neighbors, and we live by the adage that if we can help, we do help. This means helping children and young families in ways that further protect children and support young families throughout our state.
Bills like SF79, which requires care providers to develop safe care plans when the newborn has been affected by substance abuse, HB111 that prohibits anyone from allowing children to ingest or be around fentanyl, and SF94, which codifies into state law The Indian Child Welfare Act that provides procedures for states to follow regarding child abuse cases, neglect cases and adoption proceedings involving Native American children are all bills that we passed this legislative session. Each of these measures does better for our Wyoming children.
When it came to legislation where we put money into programs for children and families, we did so thoughtfully.
We passed the supplemental budget that included more money for the Developmentally Disabled Waiver program and preschools, helping populations of children with significant needs. Operating from the conservative principle of fiscal accountability, bills that passed included sideboards to ensure the dollars spent are done so wisely.
One of those bills was HB04 which extends postpartum coverage for mothers who qualify for Medicaid from 60 days to 12 months. Providing this extended coverage helps create a safety net and stable home environment for those mothers who make less than $16,000 a year.
The extension takes advantage of federal match dollars, making state dollars go further, and has a sunset date of 2027.
Passage of these bills demonstrates not only a fight for the unborn – but also the born. In our state, we make it a priority to invest in our kids because we know they are Wyoming’s tomorrow. Ensuring that Wyoming’s children, regardless of their circumstances, have the best shot at a bright future is the goal behind these measures. So, it must be noted, however, that SF79 and SF94 had limited support from the Freedom Caucus, and HB1 and HB4 had no support from members of the Freedom Caucus.
Unfortunately, this disconnect continued throughout the session, resulting in the failure to pass key pro-child, pro-family bills.
Three committee-sponsored bills, SF19 – Highway safety-child restraints, SF35 – School crosswalks and pedestrian crossings-appropriation, SF49 – Safe school and climate act amendments, and the fourth bill – the highly watched SF144 – Chloe’s law, which sought to prohibit doctors from offering gender-affirming surgery to anyone under the age of 18 were not heard by the required deadline.
Despite the Speaker of the House making it clear to the body he was prepared to stay until midnight to hear all of these bills, a motion was made by the Majority Floor Leader to cease debate and end Committee of the Whole. The 25 Freedom Caucus voting bloc joined House Democrats to form a majority alliance that ended Committee of the Whole, thus ending the debate on these pro-child bills.
When the Majority Floor Leader, a member of the Freedom Caucus, was asked by Cowboy State Daily why he stopped debating bills before Chloe’s Law could be heard, he said another bill that died alongside Chloe’s Law, SF 35, had a $10 million price tag, and was the main reason he called for the end. SF 35 was a Transportation Committee bill that was drafted to help build crosswalks and save children’s lives.
As we move into the interim work of the Legislature, we are hopeful that all will engage in meaningful discussions to find the solutions that best serve and support our most valuable resource – our Wyoming children.
Representative Landon Brown (HD-09) has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives since 2017.
Representative Jared Olsen (HD-11) has served in the Wyoming House of Representatives since 2017.