I hope this update finds all of you enjoying summer and family. Happy Fourth of July!
On May 10 and 11, the Joint Revenue Committee met in Riverton.
Day 1: We were briefed and discussed the revenue challenges for Wyoming. Wyoming is still the lowest taxed state in the nation on almost all fronts. The idea of no new taxes and no tax increases has left Wyoming with a structural deficit according to the Director of the Department of Revenue. He brought up the fact that the idea of a lower tax structure stimulating the economy has not proven to be true over the last 10 to 15 years. Significant cuts have been made statewide over the last five years – we cannot cut our way to prosperity.
Day 2: We tackled Medicaid expansion in Wyoming. We addressed the current arguments against it – one being that this expansion will fund elective abortions. Since Wyoming follows the Hyde Amendment, Wyoming Medicaid will not fund elective abortions. We also addressed the unfounded belief that Montana's expansion was an economic disaster. In consultation with Montana, the department found this was not true. The belief that hospitals will go broke, and doctors will leave the state as a result of this expansion was also proven false as testified by the medical society representing doctors, and the Wyoming Hospitals Association: both of these organization are in support of expansion. This bill was passed by committee and will become a Revenue Committee Bill, which gives it more clout.
On May 21, I attended a groundbreaking ceremony in Alpine for their new critical access hospital.
On June 7 and 8, the Joint Corporations committee met at the Capitol — this venue was moved at the last moment from Casper.
Day 1: We were briefed by the Wyoming Secretary of State on campaign finance rules. The rules are for organizations and PACs on how they can contribute to candidates. We also discussed absentee polling sites and how it worked in the last election. There was a review of election methods, which also included an overview of the 2021 legislation to establish a primary run-off process. Interestingly, we discussed the options of an open primary and ranked-choice voting. Both ideas moved forward to our next committee meeting to gather input from the Legislative Service Office (L.S.O.). After lunch, we focused on redistricting, which is the primary responsibility of this committee for 2021. This happens every 10 years after the national Census. I happened to be part of the last redistricting process. This process is tedious and arduous. Although there are concerns about gerrymandering, I did not witness any of this 10 years ago. Because of the slow Census results from 2020, we are still awaiting the necessary information we need to begin the process. We have been told that information will be available Aug. 16.
Day 2: We got an update from the Wyoming Department of Insurance. We reviewed the creation of specials districts, and the relationship between municipalities and special districts. This was a shorter day and we adjourned at lunch.
My upcoming commitments include Joint Revenue — the next meeting to be decided. I will be meeting with Director Reiner of WYDOT in Wilson on July 14 to discuss transportation, wildlife and pedestrian issues in Teton County. The next Joint Corporations Committee meeting is scheduled for Aug. 6 in Casper. The next Select Natural Resource Funding Committee is scheduled for Aug. 24 in Buffalo. The Investment Conference, which is scheduled to take place in Saratoga on Aug. 30, consists of presentations and discussion about Wyoming’s Sovereign Funds. As some of you may be aware, Leadership decided that the general session that had been tentatively planned for July did not need to happen.
Wyoming finds itself in national news, not for the progress and hard work the majority of the Legislature seeks to accomplish, but for a shady, premeditated attempt to infiltrate parties and attempts to entrap legislators, as well as the political drama centered around our federal legislators. What I would like for all of my constituents to know is that Wyoming representatives and senators, as well as legal support staff, are showing up and making sure that the daily work of Wyoming is being accomplished to keep us running and afloat.