Legislative Update – March 3-4

Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on March 3, 2021. Today was the last day that bills could be numbered for potential introduction. Friday is the deadline for bill introduction in the House. The House finalized and passed the House Rules for the 66th Legislature today, after hours of debate and several attempted amendments.

You might ask yourself, why would a body debate its rules for hours? Rules are the governing documents on how the Legislature conducts its activities, including what committees we work from, how we vote, what motions can be made and even what clothes we can wear. Rules of a deliberative body are the glue that holds the body together, and these procedural rules are the very basis of democracy. The Wyoming Legislature bases its rules on Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, not Robert’s Rules of Order commonly used by local government.

Today on third reading, 16 bills passed third and final reading in the House. Bills of interest that passed the House included HB0007, Air Ambulance Membership Organizations - Regulation, which amended statutes created two years ago regulating air ambulance providers that sell memberships. Air ambulance services canceled memberships a year ago, because they felt overregulated by the state. This bill is an attempt to find a balance between consumer protection and government overreach. The bill passed today, but I voted against it because I am not sure it did enough to protect the consumer. Even though I voted no, this bill will strike a balance. HB0075, Voter Fraud - Prevention, requires voters to provide an ID when they vote. I was a co-sponsor of this bill. I supported amendments to the bill that would allow IDs used for voter identification to be the same as what the federal government requires for voter registration. I also sponsored and passed an amendment that would require the state to pay for an ID if someone did not have a driver’s license or other approved ID. The U.S. Constitution forbids a poll tax, so requiring someone to purchase an ID explicitly for voting would likely be unconstitutional.

Today in Committee of the Whole, HB0095, Game Road Kill, allows people with a pre-approved registration to pick up and utilize certain road-killed wildlife. This bill has been run nearly every year that I have been in Cheyenne, and today it passed COW. I supported it. I don’t like that it could create more work for game wardens, but I do like the aspect that people might find a use for some of these dead animals.

March 4

My bill, HB0039, Optometrist Practice Act Amendments, passed third reading today in the House by a vote of 47-11, and now will head to the Senate. This bill will expand eye-care opportunities for more Wyomingites.

Today, the House debated and passed 12 bills in Committee of Whole, including HB0103, Journalists - Privileged Communications, which is a shield law for journalists. This bill would protect journalists from having to reveal their sources of information, unless failure to disclose the information will create an imminent risk of death or serious bodily harm. I think the right of journalists to protect their sources is a fundamental protection of the First Amendment.

HJ0003, State Lands Mineral Royalties - Constitutional Amendment, would redirect a stream of money that currently goes to a constitutionally protected fund, the Common School Land Account, putting it instead into the School Foundation Program for a six-year period. This is a constitutional amendment that would redirect money from savings and make it available for K-12 funding now. We have a $300-million annual shortfall in education, so this action could be a small piece of the puzzle solving our education funding challenges in Wyoming.

HB0046, Crime of Bestiality, would make bestiality a crime in Wyoming. This arises from an infamous case from Sweetwater County.

HB0085, Unlawful Dissemination of an Intimate Image, makes revenge porn illegal. This is a dicey subject, because much depends on who sent the image, who holds the image and how they got the image. Just because you were sent one of these images doesn’t mean you should be a criminal. An amendment brought out of the Judiciary Committee specified that for someone to have committed a crime they must intend to humiliate, harm, harass, threaten or coerce another, or for sexual gratification. I supported all of these bills in COW.

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

Thank you.