Legislative Update – March 10-11

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 10, 2021. On Tuesday, March 9, six bills passed third reading in the House, including my bill, HB0101, Elk Feedground Closings - Requirements, which would move the decision to close an elk feedground from the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to the governor.

I drafted this bill because I am worried that the federal government will refuse to reauthorize elk feedgrounds that exist on federal land and that it may become convenient to close elk feedgrounds rather than look for new locations. Closure of elk feedgrounds could have a devastating effect on elk numbers, hunter opportunity and livestock producers in Sublette County. Brucellosis is endemic in the elk herds in Sublette County. Without elk feedgrounds, elk would likely spread the disease to cattle when they commingle with cattle on cattle feedlines to keep from starving. This bill just puts in place a thoughtful process of review and public comment if the Commission were to recommend closure of an elk feedground, before the governor makes a final decision.

Today, a bill was brought back from the dead on a reconsideration vote. The bill was HB0133, Online Sports Wagering, which would regulate and authorize online sports wagering in Wyoming. Currently, you can go online and offshore to wager on sporting events illegally. This bill would regulate that activity but make certain types of online wagering legal. This would generate money for the state of Wyoming but could increase gambling addiction in the state.

I passed an amendment on second reading to put $100,000 from the proceeds towards prevention of gambling addiction. An amendment passed on third reading to increase the amount to $300,000 for prevention of gambling addiction, to be administered by local prevention specialists in our communities.

I voted for this bill because you can currently gamble online illegally, and I would rather see this industry regulated.

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 11, 2021. Today, three bills passed third reading in the House, including HB0122, Hunting and Fishing Access - Reliable Funding, which would raise the price of a Wyoming Game and Fish Conservation stamp by $9, primarily to help pay for access programs around the state. Fifteen percent of the money can be used to provide for wildlife conservation efforts related to the transportation system including signage, wildlife corridors, wildlife crossings, fish passages and game fences. This bill seemed to have broad support from the hunter and conservation organizations. I supported the bill with some concern on the level of the increase; however, the bill has a long way to go.

The House debated 12 bills on Committee of the Whole. It passed a substitute version of HB0173, School Finance Funding that incorporated a standing committee amendment. This bill proposes a solution to the $300-million annual shortfall in K-12 education funding. It diverts one-third of a statutory flow of severance tax away from the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund (PWMTF) to the School Foundation Program (SFP). It diverts investment income off the PWMTF that would normally grow the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account (LSRA) and sends it to the SFP instead. The bill also incorporates modest reductions to the K-12 funding model and as an insurance policy it institutes a 1-cent sales tax when the LSRA drops below $650 million. Under current projections, the LSRA would not drop below $650 million until 2025. I supported this bill.

We must solve our education shortfall through a constitutionally crafted solution, recognizing that every child in Wyoming has the right to an equal and adequate education. HB0174, Local Government Sales and Use Taxes, would memorialize the local government fifth penny only if the sales tax in HB173 were to be implemented. This safeguards local government sales tax options.

HB0163, Federal Congressional Elections - Residency, would ensure that Wyoming candidates seeking election to the office of United States senator or representative in Congress cannot also claim residency in another state.

HB0109, Local Health Officers - Education Requirements, would allow advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants the ability to hold the title of county health officer. Some small counties have a hard time recruiting a doctor for this position. I supported all of these bills in Committee of the Whole.

All 2021 bills can be viewed here: https://wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2021.

I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

Thank you.