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Bonus plan for investment pros good way to build team, Meier says

in News/Taxes
Interview with Wyoming State Treasurer Curt Meier

A plan to reward the state’s investment officials for good decisions will help the state build and maintain a team of skilled investment professionals, according to state Treasurer Curt Meier.

Meier, in an interview with Cowboy State Daily, said Friday the plan put forward by HB 222 would encourage smarter investments of state money, which in turn could help the state weather the fluctuations in energy prices.

“We need to attract and maintain a great team of investment people for the state of Wyoming,” he said. “If we can do our just to get (investment returns) to the median of what other states are doing, we can fix the budget crisis in our state.”

HB 222, which is awaiting the signature of Gov. Mark Gordon to become law, would reward investment professionals with a bonus equal to a percentage of their salaries if their investments exceed certain market benchmarks.

The bonus size would fluctuate based on the investment professional’s position. For instance, the state’s top investment officer, Patrick Fleming, could double his salary of $250,000 for good performance.

The bonuses would be paid out over three years to encourage investors to remain with the state. If they left state employment before the end of the three-year period, they would forfeit the remainder of their bonuses.

“We don’t want people to get into the hit and run attitude,” Meier said. You can have somebody … run way out on the risk cycle just to get his bonus and pick up his check and leave.” The arrangement will also help encourage investment officers to make prudent decisions so they are not fired, Meier said.

Good investment officers look not only at returns, Meier said, but the risks involved. For instance, he noted some corporation in recent years have been borrowing money so they could buy back their own stock.

“You have to figure out what those underlying things are that aren’t apparent to everyone,” he said. “You have to get the right people to do the right study, the right analysis. It’s not just the returns, it’s the risk-balanced returns.”

The bonus plan could eventually allow the state to reduce the fees it pays to investment firms, now estimated at $60 million to $80 million a year, Meier said, by increasing the number of talented investment professionals inside the state.

“We’re probably in the bottom 2 percent of what people are paid (nationally),” he said. “That’s why we’re trying to build the team with in-state people. We’re trying to grow our own here. Because it’s har to get somebody from outside who doesn’t like the bright lights and big city.”

Wyoming Legislative Week-in-Review

in News

Bills to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty and impose a 48-hour waiting period for abortions both died in the state’s Legislature this week, while a bill that would provide bonuses for state investment professionals who make good investments is headed to the governor’s office for his signature.

Cowboy State Daily’s Robert Geha has the rundown on the legislative winners and losers for the week.

Wyoming Legislature: Where they are

in News/Taxes/Education
Wyoming Legislature bill analysis where they are

By Cowboy State Daily

Here is a look at the status of some of the bills being considered by Wyoming’s Legislature during its general session:

  • HB 14 — Creating the “Mountain Daylight Savings Time” zone for Wyoming. Defeated in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”
  • HB 38 — Raising legislative expense reimbursements from $109 per day to $149. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 52 — Giving preference to Wyoming-made products in furnishing state buildings. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 66 — Setting a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent. Introduced in Senate, referred to Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee.
  • HB 71 — Raising the penalty for violating equal pay rules to $500 per day. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • HB 140 — Imposing a 48-hour waiting period to perform abortions. No action will be taken in Senate committee before the end of session.
  • HB 145 — Eliminating the death penalty. Killed in Senate “Committee of the Whole.”
  • HB 192 — Requiring photo ID to vote. Killed on third reading in House.
  • HB 220 — Imposing an income tax on out-of-state companies with business locations in Wyoming. Introduced in Senate, referred to Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Comittee.
  • HB 251 — Authorizing Wyoming to sue the state of Washington over it refusal to allow the construction of a coal port. Introduced in Senate, referred to Senate Minerals Committee.
  • HJ 1 — Asking the federal government to delist the grizzly bear. Awaiting governor’s signature.
  • SF 46 — Limiting the length of a prescription of opioids to 14 days. Introduced by House, referred to Labor, Health and Social Services Committee.
  • SF 57 — Setting a deadline for the release of public documents by government agencies. Approved on second reading in House.
  • SF 119 — Making all expenditures by the state auditor’s office public and available for review. Introduced in House, referred to House Appropriations Committee.
  • SF 129 — Repealing requirements for reports from the state Department of Education. Joint conference committee appointed to resolve House and Senate differences.
  • SF 148 — Allowing the state to seize and operate federal facilities — including national parks — under certain conditions. Killed in House Minerals Committee.
  • SF 149 — Creating a “Capitol Complex” around the state Capitol and giving the state building commission authority for planning in the area. Approved by House Rules Committee.
  • SF 160 — Requiring changes in voter party affiliation to take place two weeks before absentee ballots are distributed. Introduced in House, referred to House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee.
  • SJ 3 — Declaring Dec. 10, 2019, as Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day. Signed into law by governor.

Senator predicts effort to repeal death penalty will continue

in News/Criminal justice
Wyoming death penalty repeal Senator Brian Boner

By Cowboy State Daily

Efforts to repeal Wyoming’s death penalty will probably continue despite the Legislature’s decision this week to kill a bill that would have eliminated the penalty, according to a Douglas legislator.

HB 145 would have made life without parole the harshest sentence that could be handed down in criminal cases. The bill was approved by Wyoming’s House, but defeated by the Senate in an 18-12 vote.

Bill co-sponsor Sen. Brian Boner, R-Douglas, said he believes the repeal effort will continue and gain more support in the future.

“As time goes on, I’m sure that we will continue to gain ground and eventually the death penalty will be repealed,” he said.

Supports of the bill had argued that the death penalty is too expensive for the state, given the number of appeals that generally accompany such cases.

Boner attributed the death of the measure this year to legislators who may remember when the death penalty was an effective deterrent to violent crime.

“Especially some of our older members probably remember when the death penalty was effective, when we did use it,” he said. “But that’s no longer the case.”

Governor vetoes first bill, measure adjusting legislator reimbursement

in News
Governor Gordon veto, ALT=Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon vetos first bill

By Cowboy State Daily

Gov. Mark Gordon on Friday vetoed his first bill, a measure designed to increase the amount legislators are reimbursed for expenses while taking part in legislative work from $109 to $149 per day.

Gordon, in his veto letter to House Speaker Steve Harshman, R-Casper, said while he believes the bill is well-intentioned, it is flawed.

Gordon said the bill would actually reduce the expense reimbursement or “per diem” for legislators living within 25 miles of the Capitol during legislative sessions.

“While the apparent intent of the bill seeks to admit that those living proximate to the State Capitol building most likely do not have to absorb the additional costs of temporary accommodation because they can stay in their homes, the bill does not recognize that other legislators might also be able to avoid those same additional costs by staying with friends or family, for example,” he wrote.

The governor praised legislators for taking the issue up during their general session.

“I want to recognize the Legislature’s diligence in scrutinizing its expenses and providing for a reasonable recognition of the changing costs associated with serving in the Legislature,” he wrote.

If legislators want to reverse the governor’s veto, each chamber must vote for an “override” motion by a two-thirds majority.

In Brief: Bill for year-round Daylight Savings Time dies

in News

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have put Wyoming on Daylight Savings Time throughout the year died in the Senate on Thursday.

HB 14 was killed on a 15-15 vote in the Senate in its first review by the full body. The bill needed at least 16 positive votes to move forward in the process.

The bill would have put Wyoming on Daylight Savings Time year-round only if three neighboring states had agreed to make the same change.

Committee approves bill setting out “Capitol Complex” area

in News

By Cowboy State Daily

Wyoming’s House will get a look at a bill that would create a four square-block area for planning future development in the state’s Capitol Complex.

The House Rules Committee on Thursday approved HB 149, which officially sets the boundaries of the area considered the “Capitol Complex” in Cheyenne. The bill is headed for the House for a review by the full body.

The bill would give the state Capitol Commission the authority to develop a master plan for the area, including construction, maintenance and restoration. The area already includes a number of state buildings and facilities, however, it also contains some private property.

The bill would give the Capitol Commission permission to only make plans for the area. 

The bill does not call for the creation of an area inside Cheyenne similar to the National Mall in Washington, D.C., said Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie.

“I do know there are members in leadership who eventually envision turning that into a small version of the mall in Washington and that woudl cut out traffic on (area) roads,” he said. “That’s not in the bill and that’s going to be a subject for heated discussion, I can imagine, in future legislatures.”

While the measure would have an impact on planning for a portion of Cheyenne, it is fitting that the state government has some say over what its facilities look like near the Capitol, said Cheyenne Mayor Marian Orr.

“Really, the state Capitol belongs to the citizens of the state and while we talk about local control … I also believe that when it comes to the state Capitol, the citizens of the state of Wyoming should have a say,” she said.

Orr also noted that the bill would only give the state the authority to make plans for the area.

“It gives them planning ability,” she said. “It’s hard to plan for something if you don’t own it. This will allow for … planning well into the future.”

Bill providing bonus for good investment performance approved by Senate

in News
Pulling $100 bills from a wallet, ALT= money, economy, bills, investment

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would reward the state’s investment professionals for making decisions that boost the state’s revenue won final approval from the Senate in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

HB 222 would provide bonuses for investment professionals in the state treasurer’s office. The state’s top investment professional could double his annual salary of $250,000, while other bonuses would range from 25 percent to 75 percent of an investment official’s salary.

The bonuses would only kick in if the investments made by the officials did better than certain market benchmarks. And the bonuses would be paid out over three years — and would be forfeited if the employee left state government at any point during those three years.

The program seems like a good way to encourage wise decisions in the treasurer’s office, said Sen. Hank Coe, R-Cody.

“If you start telling somebody in there ‘You’re going to get rewarded when you help make good decisions,’ I think that makes a difference,” he said.

Gordon signs 19 measures into law

in News
Wyoming Legislature bills signed by Governor Gordon

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure creating a Wyoming National Guard museum in Cheyenne was among 19 signed into law on Thursday by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Gordon signed what had been HB 39 on Thursday, designating the historic National Guard armory in Cheyenne as the Wyoming National Guard museum.

The bills signed by Gordon were the second batch to come from the Legislature’s 2019 session. Others signed included:

HB 25, clarifying the credentials required by teachers handling virtual education classes;

HB 71, raising penalties for violation of equal pay provisions to $500, and,

HB 21, creating an “election readiness account” with federal funds to replace and maintain voting systems.

In Brief: Death penalty repeal killed in first Senate review

in News/Criminal justice

By Cowboy State Daily

A measure that would have repealed Wyoming’s death penalty failed to pass its first review by the full Senate on Thursday.

HB 145 would have made life without the possibility of parole the harshest penalty that could be handed down in a Wyoming criminal case. It died in the Senate on a vote of 12-18 in its review in “Committee of the Whole,” the first reading of a bill by the full body.

Proponents of the bill argued that the death penalty is too expensive for the state, given the large number of appeals usually surrounding such cases and the cost of housing death row inmates.

The bill cleared the House last week on a vote of 36-21 and won unanimous approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee before being rejected on the Senate floor.

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