Tag archive

Senator Cale Case

Future Of Rape, Incest Exemptions In Wyoming Abortion Law Unsure, Wyo Senator Says

in abortion/News/Legislature
Photo by Matthew Idler
21557

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A state senator from Lander could not speculate Wednesday on whether legislators will revisit the law banning abortions in Wyoming to remove the exemptions for rape and incest.

Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday that when he added the exemptions to the bill creating a “trigger abortion ban” in the case Roe vs. Wade was ever overturned, the vote to adopt it in the Senate was split almost down the middle.

“It passed 15 to 14 in the Senate,” Case said. “With bills, you have to have the majority of those elected, but with amendments, it just has to the majority of those present. One senator was not there, but had she been, the vote would have been divided, 15-15, and my amendment wouldn’t have passed.”

The Legislature, during its budget session earlier this year, approved legislation to outlaw abortions in case the U.S. Supreme Court ever overturned Roe vs. Wade the landmark court ruling from 1973 that declared abortion a protected right across the country. Under the law, abortions must become illegal in Wyoming within 35 days of such a ruling.

When the law was making its way through the Legislature, it did not allow exemptions in the cases of rape. That language was added by Case in the bill’s final Senate review.

Case said he felt strongly about adding the rape and incest exemptions to the abortion bill. While the senator said he understood his colleagues’ moral intent in crafting abortion legislation, he said it was important to have exceptions for rape and incest in the bill.

“Rape and incest exemptions have traditionally existed and there’s good reason,” he said. “If you don’t have it, you’re literally telling women that they will be carrying a child conceived from rape or incest and they have no choice in the matter. I look at the burden that we placed on women and autonomy over their bodies and decisions they can make in their lives.”

Removing the language would require the development of a new bill, which would then have win legislative approval.

However, he said he did not know what future Legislatures will look like and would not speculate on the possibility of removing the exemptions.

The abortion bill’s sponsor, Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams, R-Cody, did not return Cowboy State Daily’s repeated requests for comment this week, nor did several of her bill co-sponsors: Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, Rep. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, Sen. Lynn Huchings, R-Cheyenne, Rep. Jamie Flitner, R-Greybull and Rep. Jeremy Haroldson, R-Wheatland.

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

State Senator Thinks Special Session On Vaccine Mandate Is Bad Idea

in News/Coronavirus/politics
14429

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

By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Longtime state Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, thinks that next week’s legislative special session regarding vaccine mandates is a bad idea, he told Cowboy State Daily on Wednesday.

“I don’t agree with the federal mandates on employers and I want to be clear about that,” Case said. “But I don’t see a legislative path to fix that.”

The Legislature is to begin a three-day special session on Tuesday to formulate the state’s response to President Joe Biden’s mandate that government workers, health care employees and employees at companies employing more than 100 people receive the corronavirus vaccine or be tested regularly for the illness.

Before any work can begin, the rules spelling out how the session will proceed will have to be approved by two-thirds of the legislators.

Thirty-five Wyoming representatives and 17 senators voted in favor of holding a special session, while 12 representatives and seven senators voted against holding one. Case was one of the senators who voted against the session.

The Biden administration has not yet issued the rules that will be required to put the mandate into effect and Case said that is the biggest argument against holding a special session.

“I think we run the risk of putting our Wyoming employers in a squeeze between state and federal policy,” he said.

Case added that the Wyoming Legislature cannot hold a special session every time “a bunch of people get mad at something that happens.” He said many Wyoming voters who have pushed for the special session do not fully understand how the legislative process works.

“I’ve actually had people tell me that we can nullify a federal law, because all we have to do is pass a law that nullifies it,” Case said. “I assure you, we can’t do that.”

Gov. Mark Gordon and Attorney General Bridget Hill are preparing to file a legal challenge on Wyoming’s behalf once the rules are completed, which Case totally supported.

“I think we are in the realm of overreach by the federal government and I think in the end, it is the legal efforts that we join with other states that will be successful, not these special sessions,” he said.

Case’s stance is in opposition to that taken by many of his colleagues.

Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, was one of the senators who voted to hold the session and he announced his position by posting a photo of his ballot to social media, along with a post-it note containing a message to legislative leadership.

“We now need a special session because the Republican establishment killed my bill on the same subject,” Bouchard wrote on the ballot. “Of course I will vote yes on the special session. Don’t Fauci our Wyoming!”

Rep. Chuck Gray, R-Casper, also voted for the session.

“The dates of October 26-28 have also been scheduled for the special session, which would allow us to pass a bill banning mandates before the Banner Health deadline goes into effect,” Gray wrote on social media. “This is great news for our state! We must stop these radical vaccine mandates.”

Banner Health, one of the largest U.S. health system employers, is requiring its employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus by Nov. 1 to keep their jobs. The organization announced this mandate in July.

Banner Health operates multiple health care facilities in Wyoming, including the Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and clinics in Torrington, Wheatland, Guernsey, Douglas, Worland and more.

No other Wyoming-owned hospitals or health care systems in the state have implemented a vaccine mandate, although some, such as Cheyenne Regional Medical Center, have created incentive programs for employees who do get vaccinated.

Banner officials said the company is implementing the requirement for several reasons, including the rise of the Delta variant of coronavirus, the need to protect its patients and workforce and to prepare for flu season.

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

Customer-generated power electrifies calls for net metering reform

in Energy/News
solar power
2471

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

Dr. Jason Bloomberg spent more than $100,000 on his home’s solar and wind energy system with the idea he could recoup the costs through energy savings during the next 20 years.

“The goal is to reduce how much power we are using from the grid,” Bloomberg said.

But his repayment schedule could be put at risk if a plan to make renewable energy system owners pay a larger share of the costs faced by electric power providers is adopted by the state.

While renewable energy system owners can generate a large portion of their yearly power needs, most are still connected to power grids for supplemental power and as backup in case of system failure.

When they generate more power than needed at their location, the surplus is transferred to the power company’s system. For that power, the customer earns credits toward his total power bill. 

This billing mechanism is called “net metering” and is regulated by state statute. 

A net metering proposal brought before the Legislature’s Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee on Nov. 19 could have increased Bloomberg’s timeline to recoup his system’s costs to about 84 years, he said. 

“They are trying to fix something that isn’t broken,” Bloomberg said. “It’s a numbers shell game, it’s a Ponzi scheme that’s being presented by power companies, because the real competition of residential renewable energy is it’s hurting their monopoly on power production.”

While the proposal failed in a tie vote, committee Senate chair Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, said legislators would likely continue to seek reforms in the state’s net metering policies at a later date to eliminate what he described as a subsidy for those generating their own power.

“This next session is a budget session, so I don’t think that’s the place for it,” Case said. “But, we’re going to be talking about this for a long time.”

Nickels and dimes

The debate centers around how much power customers who do not generate their own electricity have to pay compared to the costs paid by those who do have their own power generation systems.

At the Legislature’s request, the Public Service Commission’s Office of Consumer Advocate this year analyzed fixed and variable costs for three private power companies: Rocky Mountain Power, Montana Dakota Utilities and Cheyenne Light, Fuel and Power. 

The results, while varied, showed customers who do not generate their own power could spend 9 to 71 cents per month more on their power bill than those with generating systems.

“This is the amount Sen. Case is going on about when he says there is a subsidy being paid by regular rate payers to net metered customers,” Bloomberg said.

For Case, the amount — no matter how small — proves net metered customers are not self-sufficient and rely on their neighbors to foot a portion of their bill. 

“If nobody had net metering, there would be no cost shift, no subsidies,” Case said.

Case explained the cost shift occurs because private power companies wrap many of their infrastructure costs into the variable fees that net metering customers avoid paying by using credits earned through generation of their own power.

“In the utility industry, when you buy electricity, part of the price per kilowatt hour covers the energy,” Case explained. “But two-thirds of the amount per kilowatt hour covers fixed costs, including transmission lines, power plants and the other costs.”

Rocky Mountain Power spokesperson Spencer Hall said all the power company’s customers pay an interconnection fee, about $20 a month, but that only covers the maintenance of transmission lines, not necessarily additional infrastructure costs.

While the OCA report indicated fewer than 1,000 of the 200,000 customers served by the power companies studied used net metering, Case said that number could grow as people become more carbon conscious, increasing the potential subsidy to regular customers exponentially.

“There’s a lot of commitment here by people putting their own money on the line to make the planet a better place,” Case said. “These are very good people here. They’re very motivated. And, they really don’t believe there’s a subsidy, or if they do, they think it’s offset by them combatting carbon.”

Batteries required

Because the net metered customers are using renewable energy sources, they produce less power at night and during the winter, Case said.

“You might think net metering customers reduce cost on the system, because they are generating,” he said. “But the trouble is they don’t produce all the time.”

During those lulls, Case explained the power companies are experiencing the same problems, so they switch over to providing energy through other means, such as coal-fired power plants.

Essentially, net metered customers create a surplus of power when the company needs it least, generating credits to buy power back when it is most costly for the company to create, he said.

Bloomberg said power companies are installing more solar and wind power generation facilities, which would be counter-intuitive to Case’s peak-time usage argument.

“The reality is these industries are switching to solar and wind, because it makes financial sense,” he said. “There’s less costs associated with natural gas, solar and wind.”

According to Hall, Rocky Mountain Power is the largest renewable energy producer in the West.

“Once you build the windmill, you don’t have to pay for the wind and the sun,” he explained. “That’s a real value to our customers.”

But Hall said the company’s coal generation fleet still ramps up when needed.

“Coal generation is still an important part of our fleet,” he said. “But certainly, the future is renewables and low emissions.”

One of the reasons the power company can rely on renewable energy is the developing field of battery technology.

“Right now, battery technology is still expensive, and most folks can’t afford to incorporate that into their (net metered) system,” Hall said. “A lot of people think when they see those windmills turning, they are storing energy. That’s not the case.”

Because they can’t store the power, it is pushed onto the grid, Case said.

“When I’m producing excess electricity, the utility has to take it,” he explained. “It can’t stop it. So the utility will reduce its other sources of power, which are sometimes cheaper.”

As long as that remains the situation, Case there will be a call for net metering reforms.

Legislators on dwindling state revenues: ‘It’s real, it’s bad’

in Energy/News/Taxes
Silhouette of a Pump Jack
2450

By Ike Fredregill, Cowboy State Daily

As coal, oil and natural gas revenues decline, state legislators could have some hard decisions ahead, according to information generated by a strategic planning effort created by Gov. Mark Gordon. 

Dubbed “Power Wyoming,” the planning effort forecasts several scenarios for mineral-based state revenue streams during the next five years, all of which predict a deficit in coming years. 

The information compiled by Power Wyoming was presented to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee on Nov. 11. 

“The best projections in this model are very unlikely, and the worst are the most likely,” said Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander, the Senate committee’s chair. “That’s very scary.”

Case worked on Power Wyoming with Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, chairman of the House Revenue Committee. Also on the team were members of the executive branch and economists familiar with the state’s energy sector such as Rob Godby, the University of Wyoming director for Energy Economics and Public Policies Center and a College of Business associate professor. 

Zwonitzer said the planning effort is the starting point to prepare for diminishing mineral revenues. 

“Power Wyoming is just the first step of saying, ‘Here’s what’s going to happen to Wyoming,’” he said. “The group was formed to get the message out there: ’It’s real, and it’s bad.’”

Renny MacKay, Gordon’s policy adviser, said Power Wyoming was not established to be a group of individuals working on potential solutions to the state’s revenue problems, but rather a group of experts working to gather to analyze data.

“This is a cone of different scenarios for both revenue and energy production,” MacKay said.

In its current iteration, Power Wyoming provides insight by compiling information from the state’s Consensus Revenue Estimating Group and the U.S. Energy Information Administration, among others.   

“Energy production is declining … and if there is production decline, the traditional jobs we have in Wyoming would be impacted,” MacKay said. “Information gives us power. The more we look at it, the more we talk about it, we can figure out what our opportunities are as a state.”

Worst case scenarios

While the coal industry’s struggles are being felt across the state, Case said Power Wyoming illuminated potential problems with the natural gas sector as well.

“I did not realize the issues with natural gas were as serious as they are,” he said. “Everybody else is thinking natural gas is doing great, and it’s not.”

The planning effort’s initial simulation results highlight some scenarios where the state’s total mineral revenue drops by 10 percent as early as 2020-2022 before a potential partial recovery by 2024. Some scenarios show a full recovery to expansion in revenues, but Power Wyoming reports they are the least likely cases within the current market conditions and expectations.

Most scenarios predicted a decrease in both Wyoming’s total employment and population, but in the worst case scenarios, the state’s total employment could decrease by about 20,000 jobs by 2024, followed by a similar decrease in population.

“In the next five years, there’s no way to absorb those (lost) jobs,” Zwonitzer said. “That means we’ll either have to have an increase in taxes, or a decrease in government services.”

In the worst case scenarios, he said the state would most likely need to pursue both. 

“We’ve lived a certain way in this state for 100 years with minerals paying the taxes,” Zwonitzer said. “That major revenue source is going away. So what does that look like for our future, and what do we want to do about it?”

Unreliable oil

Some of the scenarios, including those in the best case category, relied heavily on increased oil production balancing decreased coal and natural gas production. But Case warned against putting faith in the oil market.

“I think oil is very susceptible to environmental and carbon risk,” he said. “Changes in policy from Washington, D.C., and from other states could make it impossible to grow petroleum.”

A low-carbon policy consideration was also provided for the Revenue Committee as part of the Power Wyoming data package. Case said the presentation offered a more realistic outlook of oil than the initial simulation results put together by Godby.

In the policy consideration, Shell Global estimates a high usage of liquid hydrocarbon fuels, such as gasoline, in 2020 by about 25 million barrels a day. After the peak, however, the oil company predicts a gradual decrease down to 10 million barrels a day in 2060 and about 2 million barrels in 2100 as part of its strategy to comply with the Paris Climate Accord.

Most scenarios presented by Power Wyoming indicate the mineral sector is going to take a significant hit in the next five years, but even if the best case scenarios come true, Case said the future of energy is moving away from Wyoming’s traditional mineral offerings.

“This will tell you that the bad times are here,” Case said. “This is not just a tool for the Revenue Committee, but it’s also a tool for us. If you’re an employee in the coal industry, it’s probably time for you to get your own house in order.”

MacKay said Gordon is already working on the next steps of the planning effort. 

“We are bringing folks from the private industry now,” he explained. “Power Wyoming will definitely stick around for the foreseeable future.”

What if coal production drops to zero? Legislature looking for new revenues

in Government spending/Energy/News/Taxes
Electricity
2270

By Laura Hancock, Cowboy State Daily

Coal production in Wyoming has dropped by over 100 million tons in the past decade, and state Sen. Cale Case doesn’t think the downward slide is close to finished.

“There isn’t a scenario where it turns around, where the decline stops,” said Case, R-Lander, a co-chair of the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Revenue Committee. “No one can articulate that.”

That will likely spell trouble for state coffers, which are dependent on coal revenue to pay the bills.

What if coal production trickled down to zero? It’s not entirely a hypothetical question these days, considering PacifiCorp’s recently announced draft plan to retire coal plants early.

Fueling state accounts

Wyoming coal producers pay severance taxes, federal mineral royalties, coal lease bonus revenues and ad valorem taxes at various points of the mining process, which flow to different state, education and local government funds. But each revenue source has decreased in the past 10 years:·      

  • Severance taxes: In 2009, mining companies paid the state $273.3 million. In 2018, they paid $198.8 million. In 2024, state projections show they could pay $185.9 million.·      
  • Federal mineral royalties, which are divided between the federal and state governments by 51% and 49% respectively: Wyoming received $262.5 million in 2009 and $198.1 million in 2018. Federal data didn’t contain royalty projections for the future.·      
  • Coal lease bonuses, which have funded Wyoming’s ambitious school construction program, were $213.6 million in 2009 and $5.3 million in 2018. From 2019 to 2024, the state estimates $0 from the bonuses, collected when mining companies pay for expanding operations on federal land. There are no expectations that mines will expand operations in the near future. ·      
  • Ad valorem taxes, assessed on the value of coal and paid a year after the assessment: Coal companies paid taxes on $3.8 billion in 2009 assessed valuations. They are expected to pay taxes on $2.8 billion in 2018 assessed valuations. By 2024, state projections show valuations falling by another $100 million to $2.7 billion.

The total income from severance taxes, federal mineral royalties and coal lease bonuses dropped from $749.4 million in 2009 to $402.2 million in 2018.

Case notes these figures don’t include sales and use taxes companies pay for items small and large — ranging from paper for copiers to tires for haul trucks.

“We don’t get the sales tax on stuff they buy,” he said. “Because they’re not buying much anymore.”

Replacement revenues

As Revenue Committee co-chair, it’s Case’s job to consider ways to make up for lost coal revenue.

“That’s a big lift,” he said. “It’s a lot of money.”

True, oil and gas continue to bring Wyoming revenue – but not enough to replace coal. And it’s entirely possible, with market concerns about global climate change, that new restrictions could kill demand for those fossil fuels.

Among proposals before the Joint Revenue Committee:      

  • The committee advanced a proposal in September that would create a corporate income tax of 7 percent on companies with at least 100 shareholders – in other words, businesses not generally headquartered in the state. The revenue created would be around $20 million to $25 million a year, Case said. It’s not a replacement for coal, but a start. A similar measure failed earlier this year in the Legislature.
  • Changes to property taxes, including: An increase in the statewide mill levy for schools, increases in some property taxes, and creating a new property tax class for multi-million dollar homes.
  • Wyoming taxes wind $1 per megawatt hour. Case would like to see it increased. Case would, in general, like to impose an electricity export tax. “Wyoming’s biggest export is electricity,” he said. At this point, there is no bill draft before lawmakers.

Many conservatives have said they want to see cuts to state government before looking to raise taxes.

“Here’s what I tell people: you’ll get your cuts,” Case said. “We’re going to have to cut like crazy. And we’re still going to need revenues. This is very serious. We’ve never faced anything like this.”

Ongoing discussions

The Wyoming Taxpayers Association, which represents many of the companies that would be affected by a corporate income tax, didn’t support the idea in the Legislature earlier this year. Its leadership hasn’t yet decided on its position on the bill currently under consideration, said Ashley Harpstreith, the organization’s executive director.

The Wyoming Taxpayers Association will be discussing the state’s revenue picture at its annual meeting next month. 

“The point is we’re going to have to have those hard conversations,” Harpstreith said. “It’s coming to a head. Industry has been paying the bills for a long time.”

Go to Top