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Wyoming Legislators Reviewing Ten Bills During Special Session

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

Nine bills aimed at reducing the impact of the federal coronavirus vaccination mandate on Wyoming residents and businesses have been selected for further review during the Legislature’s special session.

Lawmakers on Tuesday referred 10 of the 20 bills filed for consideration during the session to committees for review. The original schedule for the special session called for all of those bills to be reviewed by committees Tuesday and returned to the floor of each chamber for final action on Wednesday.

However, the special rules drafted to allow a faster legislative process were killed Tuesday and only a few of the bills referred to committees for review were sent back to the floor for action Wednesday.

Nine of the 10 bills introduced referenced the vaccine mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.

The tenth bill would correct an error in legislation approved in 2020 that prevented Wyoming Gaming Commission law enforcement officers from participating in the state’s retirement system.

The vaccine mandate, which has not yet taken effect, would require federal employees, health care workers and workers at businesses that employ more than 100 to receive the coronavirus vaccine or undergo weekly testing for the illness.

The nine bills related to the mandate propose different approaches to limiting its effectiveness, from prohibiting its enforcement to specifying that employees who quit or are fired from a private sector job because they are unwilling or unable to get a vaccine are eligible for severance benefits.

Here is a list and brief explanation of the bills relating to the proposed vaccination mandate that are being examined:

HB1001 — Prohibiting employers from requiring COVID vaccination as a condition of employment and requiring a severance package for employees who are fired or quit because of vaccine mandates.

HB1002 — Prohibiting the enforcement of the vaccine mandate and setting aside $1 million for legal action against the mandate.

HB1005 — Requiring employers to grant exemptions from the vaccine mandate requested by employees and making employers who fail to grant exemptions liable for damages of up to $5,000.

HB1006 — Requiring health care facilities, government entities and providers of essential services to offer reasonable options for those unwilling or unable to get the vaccination as a condition of obtaining essential products or services or visiting certain areas. The bill would also require employers who require their employees to get the vaccine to prove that any employee not getting the vaccine would create a hardship for or pose a threat to others in the business.

HB1009 — Requiring severance pay for employees who are fired or quit from their jobs because they decline the vaccination. Also requiring employers to grant exemptions from the mandate for medical or religious grounds. Also allows employees who suffer an injury because of a required COVID vaccination to seek workers’ compensation benefits.

HB1013 — Specifies that anyone who quits a job because their employer is not complying with the vaccine mandate is eligible for unemployment benefits.

SF1003 — Prohibiting discrimination against any person because he or she has not received the coronavirus vaccine or does not have a COVID “immunity passport.” Any acts of discrimination, such as keeping a person from obtaining servies or good or entering a public space, could be punished by a fine of up to $750 and six months in jail.

SF1004 — Making it a crime (blackmail) to threaten a person’s livelihood, employment or educational opportunities to compel that person to get the COVID vaccination.

SF9 — Requiring severance pay for employees who are fired or quit from their jobs because they decline the vaccination. Also requiring employers to grant exemptions from the mandate for medical or religious grounds. Also allows employees who suffer an injury because of a required COVID vaccination to seek workers’ compensation benefits.

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Wyoming Legislators Continue With Anti-Vaccine Mandate Special Session, Kill Special Rules

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By Ellen Fike and Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The special session of Wyoming’s Legislature dealing with the proposed federal coronavirus mandate will proceed, but without special rules drafted to speed up the process, lawmakers decided Tuesday.

Members of both the House and Senate rejected the special rules, but also voted against adjourning the session, expressing a preference to stay and work out a state response to the vaccine mandate proposed by the administration of President Joe Biden.

“We fought to get out from under British rule because we said ‘You can’t make me do that, I want representation,’” said Rep. Chip Neiman, R-Hulett. “I want to be able to hear all the information. We have a right to our health care choices. Freedom is choices.”

Biden has issued a mandate that all health care workers, all federal employees and all workers for companies that employ 100 or more either get the coronavirus vaccine or be tested weekly for the illness.

The federal rules needed to put the mandate in place have not yet been issued.

The session, originally scheduled to run three days, was called to let legislators adopt measures spelling out how the state will respond to the mandate.

Twenty pieces of legislation were filed for consideration during the session and special rules were proposed to speed up the process.

Under the proposed rules, the state House and Senate would have reviewed legislation at the same time and then resolved any differences in bills members of both approved in joint conference committees. Usually, a bill begins in one chamber, is reviewed and sent to the second on approval, where the review begins again.

But the rules were opposed by a number of legislators who said they would improperly limit debate and public input on the bills to be considered.

“The whole deliberative process is gone,” said House Minority Floor Leader Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie. “The steps that are cut out are really, really important. We’re not listening to the people well enough.”

“The problem I have here is we are compressing what would normally take us a couple of weeks into three days,” said. Rep. Lloyd Larsen, R-Lander. “I don’t want to be here, but if I am going to be here, I think we ought to do it right.”

The rules were rejected despite arguments they would allow the Legislature to work more efficiently.

“I think these rules provide us an opportunity to do the people’s work,” said Sen. Larry Hicks, R-Baggs. “These rules, while they are not perfect, afford us the opportunity to have a debate and some limited public participation.”

Votes in both chambers fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to approve the change, with the House voting 37-20 to adopt the special rules and the Senate voting 18-11 to do so.

Legislative leaders had promised lawmakers that if they rejected the special rules, they would offer legislators a chance to adjourn the special session.

Both chambers voted against adjourning the session, the Senate by a vote of 6-23 and the House by 21-35.There was no debate over the motion in the Senate, but House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette gave representatives a chance to express their opinions on the session.

Several legislators expressed concern because if the mandate takes effect, it could mean a loss of jobs for anyone who chooses not to get a vaccine.

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, noted that one private employer, Banner Health, has already imposed a vaccine mandate on its employees effective Nov. 1. Several of the bills awaiting review by the Legislature would prohibit private companies from discriminating against those who have not received the vaccine.

Others argued legislators need to protect the rights of the state’s residents by at least reviewing the proposed solutions to the mandate.

“I don’t know what the result’s going to be,” said Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan. “Let’s look at these bills and look at these people. I don’t know if we strike back at the (federal) overreach or not. I do know we were elected to stand between the federal government and the businesses and people of Wyoming.

Opponents to the session unsuccessfully argued the federal mandate can only be stopped in court, not in the Legislature, and added the session’s schedule of three days would not allow a thorough review of all the issues.

“We have to figure out a way to do this and do it right and I would have to respectfully submit we can’t do it in two days,” said Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne. “Let’s do this right with the right data and the right information.”

Without the special rules, bills introduced for consideration will be reviewed by one chamber of the Legislature and, if approved, sent to the other chamber for review. Any differences between the two chambers will be settled in a joint conference committee.

Committees began their reviews of bills on Tuesday afternoon and both chambers were scheduled to return to the floor for debate on Wednesday.

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Busloads of Anti-Vaccine Mandate Citizens Attend Special Session in Cheyenne

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Hundreds of Wyoming citizens showed up at the Capitol on Tuesday morning to attend the first day of the Legislature’s special session on President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

At least three buses filled with constituents from eastern Wyoming counties arrived in Cheyenne early Tuesday and the passengers quickly filled the galleries in both the House and Senate.

When capacity limits were reached, others were taken to overflow rooms on the main floor, which quickly reached near-capacity crowds as well.

The organizer of the event, Kristy Tyrney, said she put the gathering together after her health freedom advocacy group received many phone calls from individuals who were worried about losing their jobs because of the federal mandate.

“We were flooded with messages on a daily and weekly basis,” Tyrney told Cowboy State Daily. “Families all across the state afraid of losing their jobs and their livelihoods.

“There are a lot of people who are concerned that there hasn’t been enough research and want to wait for that before they consent to something,” she continued. “And we think that that choice should be respected.”

James Barth, a Laramie County resident who is also running for sheriff in next year’s election, said the main message of Tuesday’s rally was to let legislators know the importance of preserving constitutional freedoms.

“If somebody wishes to go get the vaccine, fine, we’ll get the vaccine, but it should never be forced under the Wyoming constitution and the United States Constitution,” Barth said.

If elected Laramie County Sheriff, Barth said he would “be there to support citizens’ freedoms and liberties.”

Critics of the special session have said it is a waste of time as federal vaccine rules have yet to be presented and because federal law supersedes state law, any attempt to block the administration’s mandate would be futile.

No matter, said the attendees. What’s important, they said, is to send a message that Wyoming won’t stand for it and ultimately victory could be achieved either through the legislative or judicial process.

“We gotta play the long game,” said Chris Robarge, who provided the audio/visual equipment for the rally.  “There’s going to be fights in the courts so hopefully what we can do is slow the process down until we can get some national legislation to address it.”

Cheyenne resident Jeanette Leishman agreed that the debate over federal mandates will end up in court but there was another important reason to attend the rally — to keep an eye on their legislators.

“We’re watching how you’re voting because we will make sure that you are removed and someone else is voted in in your place if you choose to be tyrannical about medical choices for Wyoming,” she said.

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Explainer: How Wyoming’s Three-Day Special Session Will Work

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A three-day special legislative session to consider possible state responses to a proposed federal coronavirus vaccine mandate will begin Tuesday with what legislative leaders hope will be an accelerated schedule.

Before lawmakers can review any legislation, however, they must approve the special rules proposed to govern the session. And while some have said a failure to adopt the rules could mean the end of the session, Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton said other options could be available to lawmakers.

“There may be a fallback,” he told Cowboy State Daily on Monday.

The special session has been called to develop Wyoming’s response to President Joe Biden’s proposed coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal employees, health care workers and employees at companies with more than 100 workers.

The rules that would put the mandate in place have not yet been issued by the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

Legislators have already filed 20 bills for consideration during the special session that would take steps such as prohibiting employers from discriminating against those who do not get vaccines or creating exemptions to the federal mandate.

But before lawmakers consider any of those bills, they must approve special rules for the session designed to speed up the process.

Usually, after a bill is introduced in one chamber, it is sent to a committee for review and then returned to the floor for amendments in three separate readings over three days. If approved, it moves to the second chamber, where the process begins again.

Under the rules proposed for this week’s session, identical versions of the bills are to be reviewed at the same time by House and Senate committees on the first day of the session.

On the second day, each chamber will review the bills three more times. If approved in the separate chambers, differences in proposed amendments to the bills will be ironed out by joint conference committees made up of members of each chamber. Those committees are scheduled to meet on the third day of the session, Thursday.

Finished legislation is to be sent to Gov. Mark Gordon for his signature on Thursday.

The special rules, which must be approved in the first day of the session, have generated opposition among some legislators who say the rules will make the legislative process less transparent and will prevent the public from having sufficient say in the bills being considered.

The Wyoming Republican Party, in an email to its members Monday, said if the rules are not approved by two-thirds of the legislators, they could then vote to adjourn the session.

Dockstader said leaders hope the rules are adopted because they have been designed to address the specific needs of this special session.

“We don’t want a situation where we venture into something not charted and these rules are designed specifically for this session,” he said. “This is all very unique.”

If legislators do reject the rules, leaders could call for a vote on adjournment or regroup to develop another plan, he added.

“We’ll recess, discuss our options and come back,” he said.

The recess probably would not last long enough for legislators in Cheyenne to return to their homes, Dockstader said.

“We’re trying to avoid that,” he said. “We’re trying to get some work done.”

Legislators could also consider suspending their normal rules to allow the multiple reviews of bills in one day, said Matt Obrecht, director of the Legislative Service Office.

“The real need for the special rules is to allow the mirror bill process,” he said. “Everything else could be accomplished by suspending rules.”

If the “mirror” bill process was not allowed, that would mean bills would move from one chamber to the other, perhaps adding another day to the session, Obrecht said.

“We’ve got a three-day session planned,” he said. “If we went with a suspension of existing rules, I think the shortest amount of time they could do it in is four days.”

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Wyoming to Hold Anti-Biden Vaccine Special Session

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

Although the paper votes have yet to be certified, it appears as though enough legislators have voted in favor of holding a special session later this month.

Several Wyoming lawmakers on Thursday announced they had received word that a majority of both Houses voted (electronically) for a three-day session designed to address President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

If the paper ballots sync-up with the electronic votes, then the session scheduled for October 26 – 28 will occur.

It was a close vote. 36 members of the House and 18 members of the Senate voted yes on the session. The threshold necessary to commence was 30 and 16 respectively.

“What a huge moment for our state!”, Rep. Chuck Gray (R-Casper) tweeted. “I continue to work on bills for the session.”

“Just got notice there are enough unofficial electronic ‘aye’ votes in both houses to call a special session,” Rep. Dan Laursen (R-Powell) said. “Leadership will wait to officially send a letter stating we are having a special session to the Governor until enough hard copy official ballots are received.  This is good news!”

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Ogden Driskill (R-Devils Tower) said he was 90% certain the special session would occur because President Biden’s vaccine mandate was an “egregious overreach” of the Biden administration and and it was worthy of “whatever expense to fight for Wyoming citizens’ rights.”

Bills are already being worked on to address the mandate which stipulates that employees who work for companies of more than 100 people must be vaccinated or receive weekly testing.

Gray said his bill would subject companies who follow the federal mandate and penalize an employee to a $500,000 fine per victim.

Sen. Tom James (R-Rock Springs) said he will introduce a bill that targets a “public servant” with fines and prison time for attempting to enforce the mandate.

“This would allow us to prevent the feds from coming in and implementing any vaccine mandates and it would also forbid  any public servant from enforcing federal vaccine mandates,” James said. “I am currently working on adding teeth to the local public servant part of this statute.”

Last month Driskill said he was more interested in “out-of-the-box” solutions like using federal COVID funds to pay for federal fines imposed on businesses that don’t follow the mandate.

He also said the state could “widen the window” for exemptions to the federal law.

“There’s always been a history that you can’t be challenged if you are using a religious exemption,” he said.  “You can’t challenge it.”

Other Republican leaders weren’t convinced that a special session was a good idea.

“I think there’s a legal fix in the courts,” Sen. Cale Case (R-Lander) said during a hearing earlier this week. “But I don’t see a way the Legislature can fix this.”

Rep. Landon Brown (R-Cheyenne) was equally pessimistic.

“Our President’s mandate has no place in Wyoming. Unfortunately, we have no clue what his mandate looks like under rule making process and we would be fighting against a rule that doesn’t exist yet,” Brown said.

Brown went further the state shouldn’t be involved in the first place.

“If a private business wishes to impose hiring protocols that an employee is uncomfortable with, they have the choice to not enter into that employment,” Brown said.

“Likewise, the business should be ready to suffer the consequences of the choices they choose to impose or not impose on their employees and the response from the public,” he said.

An official announcement after the paper vote is expected on Friday.

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Rep. Hans Hunt Steps Down From Legislature To Join Lummis’ Staff in DC

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By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

State Rep. Hans Hunt, R-Newcastle, on Thursday announced he is resigning from the Wyoming Legislature to join U.S. Sen. Cynthia Lummis’ staff in Washington, DC.

Hunt, who has served for six terms in the House representing Weston, Niobrara, and Goshen counties, will serve as Lummis’ agriculture and trade policy advisor.

“It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the voters of House District 2 for the past 10 years,” Hunt said. “Thank you for putting your trust in me to represent you in Cheyenne for six terms. I cannot thank my family and friends enough for all the support they’ve given since day one.”

Hunt was greeted by a bipartisan display of good wishes on Facebook from many members of the Legislature including State Sens. R.J. Kost, R-Powell and Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Mike Gierau, D-Jackson, and Reps. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, Shelley Duncan, R-Lingle, and Jared Olson, R-Cheyenne.

Many former legislators thanked Hunt for his service as well, including former Sen. Tony Ross, and former Reps. Mary Throne, Lori Garrison, Tom Lubnau, and Tom Jones.

Looking back at his 11 years in the House, Hunt told Cowboy State Daily he was proud of serving as Chair of the House Ag Committee and the Select Water Committee.

In terms of legislative accomplishments, he said House Bill 187 was his favorite. The legislation clarifies residency requirements for most elected county officials.

“I’ve passed other legislation over the years of course, but I personally feel that one had the most impact and did the most good in working to solve a problem,” he said.

Hunt’s addition to Lummis’ staff gives it even more legislative firepower, with three former members of the Legislature working alongside the senator.

Hunt will join former Sen. Leland Christensen and former Rep. Tyler Lindholm — although both of them work here in Wyoming.

Lummis herself was a member of the Legislature. At age 24, she became the youngest woman to be elected to the body. She served in both the House and the Senate before joining Gov. Jim Geringer’s office as general counsel.

Note: There’s only one member still serving in the Legislature who was a freshman with Lummis. That’s State Sen. Charlie Scott, R-Casper, who has the most seniority of the entire body.

Both he and Lummis were elected when Jimmy Carter was the president, Ed Herschler was Wyoming’s governor, Warren Morton was the incoming Speaker of the House, and Neal Stafford was the incoming President of the Senate.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl in their first year of office. The Atari 2600 was considered state-of-the-art and Löwenbräu was enjoying its peak of success.

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Park County GOP Disavows Violent Email Telling Wyoming State Senator To Kill Herself

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A strongly-worded email suggesting a state senator kill herself written by an official with the Park County Republican Party does not reflect the party’s opinions, according to the party’s chairman.

However, Martin Kimmet, in a statement issued Wednesday, said there is no way to remove an official such as Park County Republican Precinct Committeeman Troy Bray from his elected office under state law.

“Despite calls for the precinct committee person’s resignation/removal there are no Wyoming state statutes providing for the removal of an elected person,” Kimmet wrote. “We welcome efforts by the Wyoming Legislature to provide a statutory and constitutional process to remove an elected person from their position.”

Kimmet’s comments are in response to an email written by Bray to state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, criticizing the way the legislative committee she chairs handled a bill.

The Senate Judiciary Committee rejected a proposed bill that would have prohibited the state from requiring its employees to obtain the coronavirus vaccine.

“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” said the email, a copy of which was obtained by the Casper Star-Tribune. “You sicken me. Thank you for ensuring that the people of Wyoming are subjected to tyranny once again. F— YOU C—.” 

Kimmet had said earlier that while Bray signed his email as a precinct committeeman, his statements were not made as a party official.

In Wednesday’s statement, Kimmet specified the party does not support the language used by Bray.

“The Park County Republican Party does not condone the language used in a recent email from one of our precinct committeepersons to a Wyoming state senator,” the statement said. “Furthermore, that email is not reflective of the opinion of the Park County Republican Party.”

Kimmet said after he learned of the email, he sent a letter to and called Nethercott to apologize.

The Park County Republican Party’s executive committee has met to discuss the issue and will take up the matter again at a regular meting of the central committee, he said.

“We believe in constructive dialog with our elected persons,” he wrote. “However, we believe such dialog should be respectful.”

State Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Rep. Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, issued a joint statement Tuesday calling for Bray’s resignation.

The two said they would also support efforts to develop “appropriate statutory means” to remove elected officials for such behavior.

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Legislative Leaders Call For Resignation Of Park County GOP Official Who Told Senator To Kill Herself

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The leaders of Wyoming’s Legislature on Wednesday called for the immediate resignation of a Park County Republican Party official who sent a state senator a vulgar email.

Senate President Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, and House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, issued a joint statement condemning the email sent by Troy Bray, a Park County Republican precinct committeeman, to state Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.

“The statements made by Mr. Bray are the antithesis to constructive discourse in a civil society and are especially repugnant and intolerable when made by an elected official,” the two said in the statement. “We therefore call for the immediate resignation of Troy Bray from his position as a Park County precinct committeeman.”

Bray on Sept. 12 sent an email to Nethercott criticizing her handling of a bill that would have prohibited the state from requiring employees to get the coronavirus vaccine.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which Nethercott chairs, rejected the proposed bill.

The email, obtained by the Casper Star-Tribune, attacked Nethercott for what it called her “shortsightedness and ignorance” and closed with a suggestion she kill herself.

“If I were as despicable a person as you, I would kill myself to rid the world of myself,” the Star-Tribune quoted the email as saying. “You sicken me. Thank you for ensuring that the people of Wyoming are subjected to tyranny once again. F— YOU C—.”

Bray signed the email with his name and official party titles, including his precinct committeeman position.

Martin Kimmet, chair of the Park County Republican Party, told the Star-Tribune Bray did not send the mail in his official capacity.

Dockstader and Barlow said such communications cannot be tolerated.

“Attacking a state legislator through use of violent, lewd and derogatory language cannot and will not go unanswered in Wyoming,” they said. 

The two asked the leadership of the Wyoming and Park County Republican parties to help them seek Bray’s immediate resignation and said they will work to develop “appropriate statutory means” to remove elected officials for such behavior.

“Such a unified response will be a clear signal to all that Mr. Bray’s bullying and intimidation have no place in Wyoming,” the statement said.

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Wyoming Tax Revenues Up $73 Million From Projections

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By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

The tax revenues that pay for Wyoming’s government programs are coming in a bit higher than predicted earlier this year, according to a state report.

An update on the state’s revenues prepared by the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group showed that as of the end of March, income for the state’s “general fund,” the main bank account used to pay for state operations, was $45.5 million above what had been predicted in January.

In addition, revenues for the state’s “Budget Reserve Account,” an account used to provide funds for government agencies if money from the general fund runs short, has increased by $25.7 million over projections, the report said.

“Combined, revenue collections are $71.3 million ahead of pace or 6.2% higher than projected at this point in the fiscal year,” the report said.

The CREG is a group of fiscal analysts from various state agencies who track and predict state income. The group’s projections form the basis for the governor’s office and the Legislature as they prepare the state’s two-year budget.

After the Legislature approved a budget for the 2021-22 cycle in 2020, CREG predicted the state would run short of funds by up to $1.5 billion because of slumps in the state’s energy industry and business closures caused by the coronavirus that would reduce tax income.

Gov. Mark Gordon and the Legislature cut the state’s budget by more than $500 million to address the shortfall.

CREG updated its projections in January and predicted growth in some of the state’s tax revenue.

The report released Friday said revenues had grown even more than predicted in January, with sales and use tax collections for the state’s general fund exceeding projections by $18 million through the end of March to total $322.4 million, a 4% increase.

Those numbers could run even higher, the report said, thanks to federal coronavirus relief programs.

“Recent collections do not yet account for potentially increased consumer spending, stimulated by the most recent round of direct individual payments from the American Rescue Plan,” it said.

The biggest gain in sales taxes was from the retail sector, where collections actually exceeded collections by the same point last year by 1.8%.

However, sales taxes paid by the mining sector dropped by 61.4% from last year, the report said.

Despite the slump in the state’s energy industry, severance taxes paid to the state also exceeded projections by $13.6 million, about 10.8%, the report said. Revenues generated by oil production, natural gas production and trona production were all above earlier estimates.

Also topping projections were revenues for the state’s schools, which totaled $264.8 million through the end of March, $11.4 million over earlier estimates.

The report should only be seen as an update to revenue projections and will not be used to make any adjustments in the CREG’s earlier report, said Michael Swank, a senior fiscal analyst with the Legislative Service Office.

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Wyo Legislator: Wyoming Legislative Special Session Will Start July 12

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A state representative told a Cheyenne radio station over the weekend that the Wyoming Legislature’s special session will likely take place in mid-July.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, spoke with KGAB over the weekend and told host Doug Randall that he expected the latest legislative special session to convene July 12 and run for one week. Zwonitzer said all of the state’s legislators have been contacted and told to block out that particular week.

The Legislature is to use the session to discuss the appropriation and distribution of federal coronavirus relief funds.

“It’s about $1.3 billion coming in for municipalities, education, rental assistance, all types of things,” Zwonitzer said during his interview.

Legislative Service Office spokesman Ryan Frost could not confirm the dates of the ses to Cowboy State Daily on Monday, but said the week was being eyed as a possibility for the special session.

Last month, Gov. Mark Gordon announced a program for rental assistance in the state that would use $200 million in federal funding to cover rent and utility costs for Wyomingites struggling financially due to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

His office also announced last month that the state was expected to receive around $1.2 billion in federal funding, close to Zwonitzer’s own estimate for the special session.

Gordon wanted to identify needs and opportunities that could be addressed with the COVID funds, as well as develop a budget to optimize the distribution.

“Wyoming will survive the impacts of COVID, drive through our period of recovery and set up the conditions for us to thrive in the long-term,” he said. “It is imperative to emphasize long-term benefits because this funding has increased the debt for future generations.”

He stressed collaboration between the Legislature and the executive branch will be required to maximize the benefits of these resources for the people of Wyoming.

“I am committed to working with the Legislature to ensure that we use the funds effectively and responsibly, and that we seek to develop big ideas that will have significant and long-lasting impacts” Gordon said. “Wyoming won’t see these funds for some time, allowing us to develop a plan to ensure these dollars benefit citizens for years to come.”

The American Rescue Plan included $350 billion in aid to states and local governments.

Guidance from the federal government on the use of the funds is expected to be issued sometime this month, but unlike the federal CARES Act funding distributed last year, Wyoming will have nearly four years to spend the money.

The governor wants to focus on three areas in identifying the most significant problems Wyoming is facing due to this pandemic and then use the federal money to address the highest priorities within those areas. The areas are:

  • Health and Social Services
  • Education and Workforce
  • Economic Diversity and Economic Development

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