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Wyoming Legislature

Wyoming Legislature: Week in Review

The Wyoming Legislature is in recess for Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday.

Before lawmakers reconvene Tuesday morning we bring you a review of where a number of key bills – including Hathaway scholarships for career technical education, opioid abuse prevention, and limits on switching political parties – stand. #wyleg

Resolution would declare “Women’s Suffrage Day” in Wyoming

By Cowboy State Daily

An official “Women’s Suffrage Day” would be commemorated in December under legislation approved in its first Senate review Friday.

SJR 3 would declare Dec. 10 as Women’s Suffrage Day. Senator Affie Ellis, R-Cheyenne, tells Cowboy State Daily’s Bob Geha that the bill’s sponsors include every woman serving in the Legislature.

Ellis said she hopes the resolution will lead to conversations about the values behind Wyoming’s nickname of “The Equality State.”

“In this last year, I’ve done a lot of research on suffrage and I was shocked at all the things I didn’t know about,” she said. “So hopefully this resolution kind of prompts some conversations so we can better understand that really important history.”

Bill would limit amount of information provided on public pay

By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would limit the amount of information provided in official notices about how much public employees are paid cleared a House committee Thursday.

HB 146 would remove the names of county and city public employees from a list that is published in the state’s newspapers.

Under current law, that list now must contain the name of each employee, their position and their salary. The bill would limit that information to positions and salaries only.

The House Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee approved the bill on a 5-4 vote for discussion by all members of the House.

However, the bill is opposed by “Foster’s Outriders,” a group formed by former GOP gubernatorial candidate Foster Friess to pursue various interests in government including transparency.

“We view this as an extremely anti-transparency measure and it’s designed to hide from the public the names and salary information,” said Parker Jackson, a spokesman for the group. “They’re trying to separate those two from the public.”

In the interest of disclosure, it must be noted that Foster Friess is an investor in the Cowboy State Daily.

Party switch bill gets first committee review

By Cowboy State Daily

A bill that would put limits on when voters can change their party affiliations got mixed reviews Thursday in its first session in a Senate committee.

The Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee began its work on SF 32, which would require voters changing party affiliation to do so before the filing period opens for political candidates — usually in May.

Currently, voters can change their affiliations as late as the day of the primary. In last year’s election, the Secretary of State’s office reported an estimated 12,500 voters changed their party affiliations.

After last year’s primary election, Wyoming Republicans made the issue of party switching a top priority.

Frank Eathorne, Wyoming Republican Party chairman, said the bill would make sure political parties can select their own nominees without interference.

“It’s about party integrity,” he said. “Parties are not governmental entities. We are private entities. And we have that destiny in our hands and that decision making is up to us.”

However, Nina Herbert, communications director for the Wyoming Democratic Party, said voters need to be given the chance to vote for the candidate they feel is best suited for office, regardless of party affiliation.

“The Wyoming Democratic Party supports open elections that are easily accessible to every eligible voter,” she said. “Jut throwing up another roadblock on party affiliation changes is not going to accomplish that.”

The committee was unable to complete its work on the bill Thursday and will continue its review next week.

Legislators take up a host of education bills

By Cowboy State Daily

Support for a plan to expand eligibility for the state’s Hathaway Scholarship is being voiced by groups that have not spoken out on the scholarship program before, according to the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

SF 43, a bill that gained final Senate approval on Wednesday, would allow students taking technical and trade classes rather than foreign language classes to be eligible for the state-sponsored scholarship.

Coe said during debate on the bill, he’s heard from groups that have never testified on the program before, largely because the state needs more students trained through Career Technical Education programs or CTE.

“The (Wyoming) Stockgrowers (Association), the Business Alliance, the (Wyoming) Contractors (Association), all the people that support CTE” he said. “It’s a signficant problem in the state of Wyoming. There’s jobs that exist out there, but they can’t get skilled people to fill those jobs.”

The bill was approved on a vote of 28-2 in its third reading in the Senate. The bill now heads to the House for review by the state’s representatives.

On the House side, the House Education Committee is preparing to take up another education bill — one that would allow local school districts to set standards for the evaluation of their teachers.

The bill, HB 22, would require teachers to be evaluated annually until they meet performance standards two years in a row. After that, a teacher would only need to be evaluated once every three years at a principal’s discretion.

The evaluation every three years would provide a welcome relief for principals, said Kathy Vetter of the Wyoming Education Association 

“It frees up some time for our principals to be instructional leaders and not just be doing the paperwork on teachers they feel are  master teachers already,” she said.

Another House Committee, the Appropriations Committee, is looking at a bill that would repeal the state’s Family College Savings Program.

HB 118, proposed by Rep. Tom Walters, R-Casper, does away with a program that is not necessary, he said.

State law calls for the state treasurer to set up and administer a statewide college savings program as a trust to hold money deposited in it by Wyoming residents.

However, Walters said the issue was more about tax savings than paying for education. Federal programs already exist that allow people to get a tax break for money they put into special savings accounts. 

But Wyoming has no income tax, so the program had no benefit and was not being used, Walters said.

“Wyoming just didn’t have a need to set that up,” he said. “Somebody at one point thought we may, so we put it on the books. It was looked into, but never taken advantage of. No one wanted to use it because there already other mechanisms out there. Folks all over the state … are taking advantage of these plans. They’re just not using the Wyoming plan.”

Lodging tax clears first full House review

By Cowboy State Daily

A proposal for a statewide lodging tax cleared an early hurdle in Wyoming’s House on Tuesday, while the Senate killed a bill that would have stiffened the penalties for animal cruelty.

Representatives, in their first full review of HB 66, agreed to move it forward to a second reading on Wednesday.

The bill would impose a statewide lodging tax of 5 percent, with 3 percent to be used to finance the state Tourism Division and 2 percent to go to local governments.

During its review of the bill, the House amended the measure to remove an exemption from the tax granted in the past for guides and outfitters.

Rep. Bucky Loucks, a member of the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee which reviewed the bill prior to its debate on the House floor, said he likes the fact that the measure would make the state Tourism Division self-supporting.

“The bottom line is tourism is a great part of Wyoming,” he said. “It’s our second leading industry and it needs to be there. I’d like to see (the Tourism Division) supported by the industry it benefits.”

In the Senate, members defeated by a vote of 21-7 a measure that would have doubled some of the penalties handed down for people convicted of animal abuse.

Senate File 33 would have increased the fine for misdemeanor animal cruelty from $750 to $1,500, with that fine rising to $7,500 for a second conviction.

The Senate did give final approval to a bill that would limit opioid prescriptions for some patients.

Senate File 46, approved on a vote of 27-3, limits doctors to providing a 14-day prescription for opioids for patients who have not had an opioid prescription for 45 days. Cancer patients and those with chronic pain would be exempt from the limits.

The bill now heads to the House for review by representatives.

Primer: How a bill moves through the Legislature

By the Cowboy State Daily

The journey of a bill through Wyoming’s Legislature involves several reviews by both the Senate and House, along with reviews by committees, after it is filed with the Legislative Service Office. It will be sent to the governor for his approval to become law only if approved at each step. Here are the steps for a bill to become law:

1. Introduction — The first review or “First Reading” of a bill in its originating chamber. If approved by a majority of the chamber’s members, the bill is sent to a committee for review.

2. Committee review — The members of the committee review and vote on whether the bill should move forward. They can also recommend changes or “amendments” to the bill.

3. Committee of the Whole — After committee approval, the bill is discussed in front of all members of the chamber in what is called the “Committee of the Whole.” Legislators then decide whether to proceed with the bill, kill it or amend it.

4. Second Reading — After being approved by the Committee of the Whole, legislators decide during the Second Reading whether the bill should proceed to a third and final reading.

5. Third Reading — The final review of a bill in either the House or Senate. The bill can be amended, killed or passed.When a bill is approved in its third reading in one chamber, it is sent to the other and the review process begins again.After its review in the second chamber, the bill must clear several more steps:

Concurrence — When a bill has cleared its second chamber, it is sent back to its originating chamber for review. Any changes made in the second chamber must be approved by members of the first. If no changes have been made or if the changes are approved, the bill is sent to the governor for his signature, when it becomes law.

Conference Committee — If changes made by the second chamber are rejected, a Conference Committee — made up of three senators and three representatives — can be formed to iron out any differences. Each chamber is then asked to approve the Conference Committee’s report. If the report is rejected, another conference committee can formed. If accepted, the bill is sent to the governor for his signature.

Veto and Override — If the governor vetoes a bill, the veto can be “overridden” by a two-thirds vote of each chamber, meaning the bill will become law without the governor’s signature.

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