Category archive

Legislature - page 8

Daylight Saving Time: Wyoming Getting Rid of Changing Times Will Take At Least Another Year

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Wendy Corr, Cowboy State Daily

On Saturday night, before we go to sleep, we will all participate in the twice-annual clock ritual — “spring” ahead, or “fall” back.

But there’s a movement afoot, both statewide and nationally, to eliminate the time change routine.

Daylight saving time was first enacted during World War I as a way to conserve fuel, and it became federal law in 1966 under the Uniform Time Act. The legislation was necessary, according to lawmakers at the time, because of the random way states had been observing daylight saving time up until then. 

But as time marches on, the hassle seems to be outweighing the benefits, according to Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell, who successfully sponsored legislation last year to permanently move the state to daylight saving Time and eliminate the twice-yearly disruption to our sleep schedules.

“It’s just so hard on people,” Laursen said. “It’s hard on me, it’s hard on the elderly. Your school kids. It’s hard on your dogs. They want fed and you’re not ready.”

Last year, Laursen’s bill to permanently move the state to daylight savings time was approved and was signed into law by Gov. Mark Gordon in March.

The caveat is, surrounding states must make the same change before the federal government would allow the change to occur. 

“Three other states would have to do it before we would ask the federal government to change over,” Laursen said.

Of the seven states surrounding Wyoming — Utah, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Colorado — three are very close to adopting such a change, he said.

“Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota – I’ve heard their bills are running pretty hard, they’re getting close to passing their bills for daylight saving year round,” he said.

Laursen added he’s already gotten calls to testify in Montana to support its bill as well.

Another bill was introduced in this year’s legislative session that would have moved the state permanently to Mountain Standard Time year-round, also freeing residents from the obligation to change their clocks twice a year. This year’s bill, sponsored by Rep. John Bear, R-Gillette, would have eliminated the spring time change rather than the autumn change as Laursen’s bill did. 

The bill also differed from Laursen’s legislation in that the state would not have to wait for other states to make adopt similar law to make the change. 

Arizona, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have all opted out of daylight saving time.

But the bill failed on a vote of 24-31 in its first full review on the floor of the House.

“This one would have gotten rid of mine,” Laursen laughs. “I think people knew we’d already voted on this last year, and (they) would rather go to daylight savings [than stay on standard time].”

According to the United States Department of Transportation, daylight saving is observed because it saves energy, saves lives by preventing traffic accidents and reduces crime. 

Laursen said from his perspective, it’s simpler than that.

“I think 70%, 80% want the extra hours in the summer,” he said. “I’d think that they’d much rather have light in the afternoons, when it’s warmer, to be working outside.” 

Laursen admitted year-round daylight saving time might be difficult for schools.

“It would be darker in the morning longer, but they could change their schedule, they could start at 9.”

Wyoming is one of 15 states to pass laws to make daylight saving time permanent. California, Florida, Delaware, Louisiana, Maine, Oregon, Idaho, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, Arkansas, Georgia, and Ohio have all expressed their exasperation with the switch between Daylight and Standard times.

According to CNN, two bills have been introduced in Congress this year that call for daylight saving time to become permanent throughout the country: House Bill 69, also known as the Sunshine Protection Act, and House Bill 214, called the Daylight Act. However, both have stalled in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyo House Committee Backs Bill Allowing Concealed Carry Without Permit To Out-Of-Staters

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would allow law-abiding residents of other states to carry concealed weapons in Wyoming without a permit would benefit tourism in the state, its sponsor said Wednesday.

Rep. Robert Wharff, R-Evanston, successfully urged members of the House Judiciary Committee to approve HB116, which would extend Wyoming’s privilege for law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons without permits to visitors of the state, saying the change would be important for visitors who like to carry weapons.

“I know there’s a lot of people who travel, a lot who like to be able to … know that they can do so … without worries,” he said. “People love to come to our state … because we afford those constitutional rights.”

In the past, to carry a concealed weapon, Wyoming residents had to obtain a permit from law enforcement officers. Several years ago, the Legislature lifted the requirement for a permit for Wyoming residents who were at least 21 and legally eligible to possess a firearm. The bill would extend that privilege to law-abiding residents of the United States.

\Wyoming is one of 18 states to allow the carrying of concealed weapons without a permit and16 of those states extend the same privilege to visitors who meet their requirements, said Nephi Cole, director of government relations for the National Shooting Sports Foundation.

Cole said his organization backs the change because now, concealed weapons permits from some states are not recognized by Wyoming, so the holders of those permits cannot carry a concealed weapon in the state.

“We don’t like the loophole,” he said. “We think it is appropriate that we treat everybody the same in this regard.”

Cole added that some states that have extended to visitors the right to carry a concealed weapon without a permit, such as Utah, have become destinations for people seeking to training and permits for concealed weapons.

The bill was approved for floor debate on a vote of 8-1 despite reservations voiced by Byron Oedekoven, executive director of the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chief of Police.

Oedekoven said while his organization agrees law-abiding citizens should be able to carry weapons, members are worried that the bill could leave law enforcement officers unable to take action against those who may not be law-abiding.

“I hope at some point in the future, you help us in the matter of dealing with those who are up to no good,” he said. “At three in the morning, the three guys who are riding with a dope dealer … who are carrying the gun, upon this bill passing, as near as I can tell, I just get to compliment them on their style of weapon and their manner of carry and wish them a fond good day.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyoming Legislature Considers Bills Limiting Health Orders, Officers

in News/Coronavirus/Legislature/politics
Doctor showing patient image on laptop, ALT=Medicaid study bill nears last House vote

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

The Wyoming Legislature is considering multiple bills to limit public health orders in the state in a reaction to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Legislature is considering at least five bills related to public health orders and the authority of state and county health officers in the wake of the pandemic.

SF80, which would have originally required at least 48 hours notice and a public comment period before a health order goes into effect, was approved in its third reading in the Senate on Wednesday morning by a vote of 21-9.

However, the bill was amended so public health officers could act immediately to issue health orders rather than waiting for the public notice or comment period.

“There’s not a delay of 48 hours, but it does put a requirement for the health officer or person putting in the mandate to seek public comments,” said Sen. Troy McKeown, R-Gillette, the amendment’s sponsor.

The amendment also would allow health orders to be implemented for 60 days, up from the 30-day period outlined in the original bill.

Finally, the bill will allow for the Legislature to call a special session in the event of a situation like the pandemic.

Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, spoke in favor of the amendments in the bill.

“It incorporates the lessons we learned just a year ago and avoids some of the constitutional minefields and traps,” he said. “I think this bill strikes a pretty decent balance and has some very practical applications that seem reasonable to me.”

Sens. Fred Baldwin, R-Kemmerer, and Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie, both supported the amendments, although the latter still had questions about implementing the legislation in the “real world.”

However, one senator was less enthusiastic about the bill.

“These amendments make a bad bill less bad, so I think we should probably go ahead and pass them,” Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, said.

Another of the bills on public health orders, HB127, which was approved by the House Corporations Committee on Tuesday, would limit the duration of local public health orders to 10 days, which could be extended with a majority vote from the city or county’s governing body.

For a statewide order, the state health officer could issue an order that would be in effect for 10 days, but all subsequent orders would have to be issued by the governor. The bill also requires that the state public health officer will be a doctor licensed in Wyoming and can be removed by either the governor or the Department of Health director.

This bill is slated for general file, its first full House floor debate, on Thursday, meaning it could be soon headed to the Wyoming Senate for consideration.

Three additional three health-related bills being discussed in legislative committees. They are:

  • HB98, which would limit the duration of public health orders to 10 days unless ratified by the Legislature. If the Legislature isn’t in session, the governor can extend the health order for seven days, but a special legislative session would have to be called for ratification. Local health orders would have to be ratified by a majority vote of the local governing board;
  • HB113, which would limit the duration of public health orders to 30 days unless ratified by the local government or an “applicable governing body,”
  • And HB56, which would limit the duration of public health orders forcing the closure of buildings or businesses to 15 days, unless the order is ratified by the Legislature. Ratified orders would go into effect for 15 days and have to be ratified again in order to be extended. Local health orders will also be in place for 15 days, unless ratified by the local governing body. Orders would have to be ratified every 15 days.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Online Sports Wagering Bill Comes Back From Dead; Passes 32 – 28 After Reconsideration

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

A bill that would allow online gambling in Wyoming was brought back to life in the House of Representatives on Wednesday and given final approval by a vote of 32 – 28.

Originally, the bill was defeated Tuesday by a 32 – 28 margin, but Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, who originally voted against the bill, introduced a measure for its reconsideration.

House Bill 133, which will now be considered by the Wyoming Senate, would legalize online sports gambling, allowing allow bettors who are physically in the state of Wyoming to place bets on sporting contests. It would also set up a regulatory framework under the Wyoming Gaming Commission.

Debate over the bill was passionate on Tuesday with proponents and opponents alike referencing family and freedom to make their points.

Newly-elected Libertarian Marshall Burt of Green River said there could be individuals who gamble irresponsibly as a result of the legislation, but that shouldn’t mean peoples’ freedoms should be taken away.

“If someone wants to gamble on a sports game, why is it that our choice to decide whether or not they can or can’t do that?” Burt asked. 

“Many of us ran on the commitment to freedom. I swore an oath to defend our freedoms both as a military vet as well as in these chambers. I don’t take these oaths lightly,” he said.

Rep. Mark Jennings, R-Sheridan, mentioned the oath he took as well — but used it to urge his colleagues to vote against the measure.

He said the oath he took — referencing Section 20 of Wyoming’s Constitution — was to protect and promote health and morality of the people.

“It shall be the duty of the Legislature to protect and promote these vital interests by such measures for the encouragement of temperance and virtue and such restrictions upon vice and immorality of every sort as deem necessary to the public welfare,” Jennings said, quoting the Constitution.

“Think about your oath to this constitution and think, well, maybe, maybe those extra dollars that we shove in there is not worth what it costs to our society,” he said.

Rep. Bill Henderson, R-Cheyenne, said the benefits of legalizing online sports gambling outweighs negative costs to society. 

“I cast my vote for this bill I’m thinking about the greater good for Wyoming,” Henderson said. “What is the greater good here? The greater good is what we can do with the funds that are going to be generated.”

The Wyoming Gaming Commission estimates Wyoming’s online sports gambling market is worth $449 million.

According to the Action Network, a popular gambling news site, Wyoming would be one of the first online-only sports betting markets if the bill passes.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Despite Debate Over Additional Capitol Building Funds, $140M State Construction/Maintenance Bill Passes

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Despite being only a small fraction of the $140 million bill needed to fund maintenance and construction projects for state-owned buildings, continued funding for work on the State Capitol building took up a large amount of the Legislature’s time on Tuesday.

The $4.5 million allocated to the Capitol in the “capital construction” budget bill — which funds state maintenance and construction projects — was a point of contention. especially for Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, who said the $300-plus million restoration project needed to be considered finished.

“I think at some point, we need to just accept that the building is completed,” Gray said during House floor debate on House Bill 121. “I don’t think this is ever going to end. It’s becoming a little bit odd, to be honest with you, the number of times we have heard that they need one more traunch to finish this building. It’s it’s getting odd.”

Gray said hearing requests for additional money for the State Capitol was “like an out of body experience” 

“It’s repeated over and over and over again,” he said. “I think we need to move forward and accept that the project is completed.”

Gray also said he didn’t accept the idea that just because there might be some good projects in the state’s Capital Construction bill, the legislation should be passed. To him, funding for the State Capitol and the University of Wyoming College of Law (something he said the university should raise money for on its own) was enough to kill it altogether.

“We’ve heard a number of arguments. One is that there’s some good stuff in the bill and therefore the premise is it should be accepted because there’s some good things in here,” he said. “But where do we draw the line? Do we ever draw the line?”

But Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne said the restoration project was not finished and “we need to finish it.”

Further he said, squashing the entire bill over $4.5 million allocated to the State Capitol was akin to “throwing out the baby with the bathwater.”

“If you don’t keep up with your major maintenance, and with new construction and replacing buildings, when they’re out of date, you get behind and then it gets more and more expensive to fix,” Nicholas said.

There was also a disagreement over state spending altogether. Gray said the state couldn’t afford this bill and added he would rather the dollars be allocated for other needs.

“This bill is profligate and unsustainable,” Gray said. “It needs to stop. Whether it’s a $300 million deficit and education or a $700 million, one, based on the capital gains, money’s fungible, and every dollar spent is another dollar that we’re not able to plug a deficit or to fill in needed services.”

Rep. Steve Harshman R-Casper, disagreed with the premise that funding state capitol projects meant not funding something else.

“This is not a choice between construction workers all around the state and the elderly or schoolchildren, it’s not,” he said. “So again, we pay hard cash. We don’t owe anybody any money. And we’re going to keep building the state. That’s what we do.”

The legislation passed on third reading by a 41 – 19 vote.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Wyo Legislator Says Budget Cuts Near Half Billion Needed

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A supplemental state budget that reflects cuts of almost $450 million in state spending must be adopted to put the state in good fiscal condition moving forward, a legislative leader told fellow lawmakers Monday.

Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, said during his presentation of the budget on the Senate floor that the proposed cuts will help the state weather the financial difficulties it found itself in immediately after the Legislature approved the state’s budget for the 2021-22 biennium during its session last year.

“If we don’t pass the budget bill, we leave the state exposed with a major deficit,” said Perkins, chairman of the Senate Appropriation Committee. “If we don’t pass the budget, there’s not enough money in the General Fund to pay the expenses of the state.”

The Legislature on Monday began its review of the supplemental budget, which reflects cuts of $446 million made and proposed by Gov. Mark Gordon. A supplemental budget is proposed in the middle of a fiscal biennium to make adjustments to the regular budget approved by the Legislature the previous year.

A combination of slumping mineral income and sales tax declines created by business closures linked to the coronavirus left the state with a projected $877 million deficit in its current “General Fund” budget for the fiscal 2021-2022 year, which began in July. The General Fund is the state’s main banking account.

When the projections were first issued in May of 2020, Gordon put a hiring freeze in place and stopped large state contracts. Later in the year, he cut state spending by $335 million and in the supplemental budget, he proposed another $111 million in cuts.

The cuts, in addition to improved revenue projections, leave the state with a balanced budget, said Perkins and Rep. Bob Nicholas, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.

Nicholas said the supplemental budget, as approved by the Joint Appropriations Committee, is only $1.5 million less than what was proposed by Gordon.

“He did a good job at what he did, he did it in a responsible fashion and he presented us a balanced budget,” Nicholas said. “We commend the governor on his actions.”

The Legislature will spend most of this week reviewing the budget.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Senate President Dockstader Clarifies He Was Not Attacked by House Members

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jimmy Orr, Cowboy State Daily

If you were attending the proceedings of the Wyoming State Senate on Monday morning, you may have thought from a distance that Mikhail Gorbachev was in charge.

Not because of any policy discussion he was leading but because of the mysterious spot on his forehead that looked strikingly similar to that of the former leader of the Soviet Union.

It turns out that the senate was not overrun by the Russian Army but rather Senate President Don Dockstader was just involved in an accident with his garage door.

Natrona County Sen. Bill Landen, R-Casper, was curious about the mark and asked Dockstader if he got in an altercation with members of the Wyoming House.

“Mr. President, I know you had a meeting on Friday after many of us had left and you were headed down to the House. I just want to apologize for whatever happened to you,” Landen said, drawing laughs from the chamber.

“If you need us to go down there and do some light work, I’ll grab some of these big old boys and head down there,” he said.

Not missing a beat, Dockstader laughed and said he would appreciate an escort the next time he goes to the House.

Then he explained what really happened.

He said his garage door wasn’t fully up and while he was moving some things around in his garage, he walked into said garage door “at full speed”

“You’ll get to enjoy this look for the week,” he said to laughter.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Teton County Democrat Introduces State Income Tax Bill

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily

A Teton County legislator is hoping his proposed legislation to create a state income tax will at least encourage discussion about ways to help Wyoming through its current fiscal problems.

Rep. Mike Yin, D-Jackson, is the primary sponsor for House Bill 182, which proposes a flat 4% income tax for all Wyoming residents, which would raise an estimated $337 million a year for education funding.

Yin said his goal with the bill, which has not yet been introduced or referred to a committee, is to get legislators discussing funding options for the state.

“The intent is to move the conversation along and see what it takes to get bipartisan support,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “The goal is to have the conversation without tying anyone down.”

A state-level income tax has been proposed a number of times in the past, but has been regularly rejected by the Legislature. In 2020, Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, sponsored legislation that would have imposed a 4% income tax on those making more than $200,000 per year.

But Yin said a number of organizations asked about an income tax favored an equal tax on all wage earners.

“A lot of folks that we’ve heard from before want a broader based tax,” said Yin, whose co-sponsors on the bill are Connolly and Sen. Chris Rothfuss, D-Laramie. “This is a bill written so people can’t dismiss it out-of-hand.”

With lawmakers eyeing millions of dollars in cuts for the state’s schools, officials have to look at doing anything they can to maintain needed services, Yin said.

“My thought is my community wants to make sure they have their great education system and tackle other problems in the community and we can’t do that with cuts,” he said.

Yin admitted his idea has not been popular with everyone.

“I have gotten a few emails, including one that said I was acting like a communist,” he said. “But I think our charge is to figure out how to solve problems. This bill by itself closes the deficit in the School Foundation Program fund.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

A Virus Hangs Over The Capitol

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Nick Reynolds, WyoFile

In normal years, the first day of the legislative session in the Wyoming Capitol has certain hallmarks.

Lawmakers smile from their seats, applauding speeches from leadership. School children, lawmakers’ families and sharp-eyed lobbyists crowd the galleries to watch the first “easy” day of the legislative session.

In the hallways, hundreds of footsteps reverberate from the marble checkerboard floors. In one well-loved tradition, former lawmaker and Sweetwater County Democrat Stan Blake would yell out “play ball!” after the Pledge of Allegiance in a refrain that would echo throughout the House floor.

But the last time Blake made his utterance, and the last time those familiar scenes played out, was before COVID-19 arrived.

This year, another scene unfolded. The typically crowded galleries sat mostly empty, just a handful of masked staff and onlookers to bear witness. Blake — along with a handful of other long-serving lawmakers — had been swept out in an election in which the pandemic played a prominent role, leaving other members to take up the tradition instead.

Few children roamed the halls, and just a handful of chairs scattered through the once-packed committee rooms were occupied, with plexiglass barriers separating them from the lawmakers at the front of the room. 

Lobbyists, members of the public and journalists could no longer send slips of paper to legislators on the floor to arrange a meeting in the hallway — a longstanding practice. They were instructed instead to text or email the lawmakers directly.

In normal years, an electricity hums through the air. But as Wyoming and the world at large entered the second spring of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was hard to ignore that energy was missing in the Wyoming Capitol, and even harder to ignore the cloud of a virus hanging over the proceedings.

In the House chamber, the Rev. Bob Thomson opened the session with a prayer for those who had contracted the virus, those the virus had taken away, for frontline workers and for the vaccines that are hastily being administered throughout the state — as well as for the health and strength of the Legislature itself as it begins a fast-paced, month-long session.

As the House began to work through bills, Gov. Mark Gordon — who himself contracted COVID-19 in November — rehearsed his State of the State address in the Historic Supreme Court Chamber as the rest of his staff isolated from one another after being exposed to a staffer in the office who had recently contracted the virus.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee gently joked with Sen. Drew Perkins, R-Casper, about his mobility around the Capitol following his own serious bout with the virus earlier this year. During the interim, the virus caused some lawmakers to miss meetings, including Sen. Bo Biteman, (R-Ranchester) while others — like Sen. Jim Anderson, (R-Casper) — worked through interim committee work from home while grappling with symptoms. One House lawmaker— Rep. Roy Edwards, (R-Gillette)  — died from complications of the virus in November.

The virus had made its presence felt in other ways, including in the dynamic of the Legislature. Lobbyists who once relied on in-person relationships and working closely with the legislators on paper amendments have had to rely instead on video meetings, phone conversations and other measures that have robbed their discussions of nuance and personality. Complicating things further is the fact that much of the Legislature is new this year. 

But in all those virtual meetings — and despite the endless tech challenges like reminding people to unmute themselves — the lawmaking has plodded forward. 

“From my perspective, we’re on day 55 of the legislative session,” said Jerimiah Rieman, the executive director of the Wyoming County Commissioners’ Association. “The reality of the remote session committee meetings is that what looks like downtime to everybody on the outside of the process really isn’t downtime. You’re working different bills and amendments over the course of weeks, and we’ve been doing that since January. This is just the in-person part of that session.”

The virus’ presence has also seeped into the policies the body is considering. As of this writing, seven bills had been filed looking to reform the scope of Wyoming’s public health orders. One bill sought to politicize the position of the state health officer. And the state Legislature prepared to ratify tens of millions of dollars in budget cuts drafted in response to the crisis the pandemic had wrought.

“It takes a strong mind to know the balance between your values, to know the values of your neighbors, know the values that represent the state of Wyoming,” Rep. Mike Greear, (R-Worland), said in a speech on the House floor Monday morning. “It takes a strong mind in this political environment. It takes a strong mind not to listen to the loudest voices. Listen to that inner voice.”

That advice holds more weight than ever now, several lawmakers noted, as Wyoming prepares for deep cuts to its budget that — in many cases — will hurt back in their home districts. In other remarks, members of leadership preached unity in times of division.

At a time of deep cuts, Rep. Cathy Connolly, (D-Laramie), said in her own speech, the Legislature’s obligation to its citizens involves providing good healthcare and a robust education system. It means broadband access, infrastructure and a corrections system that accomplishes what it intends to do. This session, many of those programs now find themselves on the chopping block.

Achieving that tricky balance, she said, would require all factions working together to “build a Wyoming our neighbors don’t want to leave.”

“As state lawmakers who are duly elected, what’s our response when our people ask for help?” Connolly asked. “I think we need to listen.”

But it also requires vision. In an address to members of the House, newly-elected House Speaker Eric Barlow, (R-Gillette) — who, on the floor, announced his retirement after the conclusion of his current term — said he had read 10 speeches by former speakers, only to find similar themes running through all of them. Education, economic diversity, the need for new revenue, the budget, infrastructure, health care, individual liberties, “They keep reoccurring,” Barlow said.

It now falls on the 66th Legislature to come up with its own solutions. Which survive and which fail will become apparent in the coming weeks.

“Some will rise. Some will fall. Some will be gut-wrenching,” Barlow said. “So let’s continue to listen, learn and consider possibilities and, most important, take care of each other.”

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Legislator Introduces Bill To Recall Elected Officials

in News/Legislature

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

The power to recall elected officials of all levels could be placed in the hands of the Wyoming people, if a bill and a resolution granting such power advances through the Wyoming State Legislature.

House Bill 74, along with a non-numbered resolution, both of which are sponsored by House Representative John Bear (R-Gillette), are currently in the works within the state legislatures’ 2021 general session.

“It’s really important to be able to hold our elected officials accountable and recalling them is one way that the people can do that,” Bear said.

The legislation applies to city and town officials only and establishes a way for elected officials in Wyoming cities and towns to be removed from office via public petition.

Any such petition would need to include grounds for removal and an appropriate number of signatures based on a percentage of the local population.

Cities and towns with 4,000 or more residents would need a petition signed by 25% of the population, 30% for municipalities with 500 to 3,999 residents, and 35% for cities and towns with 499 or fewer residents.

With the right number of signatures for the municipality’s population, the petition would need to be filed with the city or town clerk and would kick off a special removal election that would need to take place within 30 days.

The bill would enable the official sought after for removal to participate as a candidate for the special removal election, though any other candidate would need to be nominated via application and potentially through a special primary election, according to the bill’s text.

Combined with the resolution, the result is a legal mechanism allowing Wyoming residents to recall and replace elected officials from the governor’s office all the way down the ladder to city and town councilmen.

The resolution would apply to state senators as well but would not extend to officials elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, which would require an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, according to Bear.

Similarly, Bear’s resolution would also entail a change in a constitutional amendment, but only at the state level. There are several hurdles the resolution must leap in the coming days within the state legislature, including a two-thirds vote of approval in both the House and the Senate.

Bear acknowledged that some legislators may not be comfortable with the idea of putting forth a legal mechanism that could cost them their jobs should they do something their district doesn’t approve of.

“There are reasons people don’t want to be recalled, I understand that,” Bear said. “But it’s about accountability for me.”

If the resolution passes both the Senate and the House, it would go on the ballot for the Wyoming people to decide in 2022.

Should it be approved, the resolution would go back to the state legislature to have all the final rules and regulations for removal established.

All told, it could be up to four years from the point the resolution passes to the point it becomes law through a constitutional amendment, and that is the best-case scenario, according to Bear.

HB0074 is a slightly different situation. A legal mechanism for recalling city and town elected officials already exists in state statute, but it only applies to cities and towns with a commission-style government in place which currently doesn’t exist.

Bear’s bill could be enacted much quicker than the resolution.

“Here’s the bottom line. If this passes, you could hold a recall at the mayor or lower level in your cities and towns by this summer,” Bear said.

***For All Things Wyoming, Sign-Up For Our Daily Newsletter***

Go to Top