Guest Column: A Good Idea Does Not Automatically Make A Good Bill

Rep. Barry Crago writes, "[Rep. Allemand's] bill required all business entities in the state to report all ownership interests to their local clerks and the Secretary of State. This is an unprecedented invasion of privacy. Who owns stock in any particular entity is none of the State’s business."

CS
CSD Staff

September 09, 20234 min read

Crago 7 18 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

In a recent opinion piece, Freedom Caucus member Representative Bill Allemand from Midwest lamented that the Wyoming House of Representatives did not pass his bill – HB 116 Foreign Ownership of Land – during our last legislative session. 

Representative Allemand blames all members of the Legislature who are not card-carrying members of the Freedom Caucus, including myself, for the bill’s failure. In reality, the bill failed because it was a bad bill. Simply because the basis of a bill is a good idea does not automatically make the bill good. 

We agree that the Chinese and Russian governments should not own property around sensitive installations. I also agree that we should not let foreign governments buy up all of our agricultural production land. 

I concur with the underlying premise of Representative Allemand’s bill.  However, the language of a bill matters. There are practical effects to the words on the page and the words in HB 116 would have had devastating effects in Wyoming.

The bill required all business entities in the state to report all ownership interests to their local clerks and the Secretary of State. This is an unprecedented invasion of privacy. Who owns stock in any particular entity is none of the State’s business. 

Yet, Representative Allemand and the Freedom Caucus wanted to take that freedom away from the people of Wyoming and require us to hand over this sensitive information to the government. Obviously, not a good idea.

Second, the bill would grow the size of government. When asked about the effects of the bills, the county clerks testified that they did not have the technology nor staff to implement the requirements of the bill. The size and cost of government would have to increase to implement this bill. This is the real reason amendments were put on the bill – to cover the costs created by the bill itself. 

Third, the bill would negatively affect many of our oil, gas, coal, and trona producing companies because the language of the bill affected ownership of minerals as well. Simply put, the bill may have evicted many good businesses from Wyoming and cost hundreds if not thousands of jobs in these industries. Wyoming cannot afford an economic hit of this type.

Finally, and most importantly, the bill would have taken land away from any current foreign owners that Representative Allemand does not want in Wyoming. According to the bill language, it didn’t matter if you have been a great business partner with the State of Wyoming for the last twenty years or not. The message was clear in the words of the bill: get out of Wyoming and take your jobs with you.  

To the citizens of Wyoming, I submit this is a very slippery slope and a scary way for the State of Wyoming to do business. Not to mention, it directly violates Article I, Section 29 of the Wyoming Constitution.

Despite House Bill 116 having fundamental flaws, the issue of foreign ownership of land is a topic we should address as a State. We just need to do it the right way. 

To that end, earlier this summer I offered to help Representative Allemand find a constitutionally sound resolution to this issue. Based on his current opinion piece, it is clear that he is not interested in working together to solve the problem. 

Instead, he would rather follow the lead of his Freedom Caucus puppet masters in Washington, D.C. and attack fellow legislators for their attempts to fix a bad bill. 

It is clear that the Freedom Caucus brain trust located in our nation’s Capital does not care about our State. If they did, they would tell their members here in Wyoming to work with others to solve problems, not attack them for trying to protect the people of Wyoming from bad bills originating from good intentions.  

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