Legislative Update – March 17-18

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 17, 2021. The city of Cheyenne is slowly digging its way out of the record-breaking storm that hit on Saturday and Sunday.

Today, the House passed nine bills on third reading, including HB0079, Subdivisions, which provides more flexibility for family member land divisions. HB0112, Lifetime Pioneer Trapper License, creates a reduced priced pioneer license for trappers over 65 years of age with 30 years of residency. HB0116, Concealed Carry-Residency Requirement - 2, allows nonresidents with conceal-carry permits from other states to conceal-carry in Wyoming. I supported all of these bills on third reading.

The House heard three bills on second reading, including HB0173, School Finance Funding - 2, the complete solution for Wyoming’s K-12 funding shortfall. This bill includes reductions, revenue diversions and a penny sales tax for education when Wyoming’s “Rainy Day” fund hits $650 million. We started the day with about $31 million in annual reductions to K-12 funding, and I think we ended by cutting around $70 million.

An amendment was brought to take central office personnel and activities out of the block grant, which will make it harder for local school boards to pay their superintendents above what the funding model allows. This amendment also takes away local school boards’ authority to spend more for activities than the model provides. Another amendment eliminated a proposed diversion of a revenue flow from savings to K-12 funding.

I will try to bring back a part of this revenue flow tomorrow in a third reading amendment. I am also contemplating an amendment that would put activities back in the block grant. This bill was debated for hours today, and I expect it will be heavily debated again tomorrow. I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments.

Thank you. 

March 18

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 18, 2021. Today in third reading, the House passed two bills, including HB0109, Local Health Officers - Requirements, which would make advanced practice registered nurses and physician assistants eligible to serve as local health officers. This ensures that small counties have more options to fill these important positions. I supported this bill.

The House debated 11 bills in Committee of the Whole and all but one passed. HB0132, Casper State Office Building - Naming, failed to pass COW. Wyoming is currently erecting a new office building in Casper. A Natrona County contingent felt that the building should be named after John Wold. John Wold was a great man. He was a Wyoming state legislator, a U.S. Congressman, a pioneer in the energy industry in Campbell County, a pioneer in the trona patch in Sweetwater County and tremendous civic leader.

So, why did this bill fail? Well, the job of naming state office buildings belongs to the executive branch of government. In our entire history the Legislature has never named an office building. The Wyoming Building Commission – comprising the governor, secretary of state, state treasurer, state auditor and the superintendent of public instruction – is the entity that names state buildings. This commission chose to name the building after Thyra Thomson, also a great leader, whose service to Wyoming is unequaled. She served 24 years as Wyoming’s secretary of state and was one of the most respected individuals of her time. She was also the first woman to hold the number-two position in state government. Both Thomson and Wold contributed greatly to Wyoming, and we value their service and legacies.

HB0236, Firearms Transactions - Financial Discrimination, passed COW today. This bill would prohibit a financial institution from discriminating against a firearm entity due to the firearm entity engaging in the lawful commerce of firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition products. I supported this bill in COW, but there are concerns that this bill violates the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.

HB0165, Wyoming’s Tomorrow Scholarship Program, diverts $100 million from the corpus of the Hathaway Scholarship Fund and creates a scholarship for adults over the age of 24. Unlike the Hathaway, this new scholarship would be “last money,” meaning that other scholarships, grants and loans would be counted before a person is considered eligible. HB0165 is designed as a workforce development scholarship and would serve a real need in Wyoming. I cosponsored the bill because it reaches a population that needs assistance for retraining. HB0165 will not harm the Hathaway, as the Hathaway is spending less than it is earning in investment income.

These and all other 2021 bills are described in detail at https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2021

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

Thank you