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Wyoming LWV 2016 Wyoming Legislative Report
Week 2, Feb. 15, 2016
LWV Lobbyist Marguerite Herman
marguerite.herman@gmail.com, 307-630-8095

The second week of the 2016 Wyoming Legislature opens with scores of bills dead for having failed to get a 2/3 vote for introduction, plus a few dead in committee and on the floor. Seventy-seven non-budget proposals couldn’t muster enough votes to be heard this budget session, or they ran out of time by the deadline Friday afternoon. Legislators are supposed to file only the most urgent and important non-budget proposals during budget sessions, but the urgency of some bills was pretty hard to see. Introduction roll call votes consumed a lot of time the first week.

Read the Bill Status Report on the Legislative Service Office Website http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/BillsInfo.aspx to find out the most recent action on a bill. It includes the introduction roll call votes. Go to a bill’s “Digest” http://legisweb.state.wy.us/2016/billreference/BillReference.aspx?type=ALL to get the roll call vote specifics. You may want to thank or criticize some lawmakers.

Keep track of the session calendar and the deadlines. This is week #2 of a 4-week session, and debate will begin in the full House and Senate on the general appropriations mirror bills. The Joint Appropriations Committee made some controversial changes in the governor’s recommended budget for 2017-2018, and there will be plenty of amendments to add, delete and change line items.

The last day for bills to be reported out of committee in the house of origin is Thursday (2-18) and bills have to be heard on General File by Friday (2-19) or they are dead for the year. The session ends Monday, Feb. 8.

For those frustrated at legislative practice to use the main budget bill as a catch-all for non-budget ideas (e.g., the science standard footnote in 2014), the LSO suggests that practice can be unconstitutional. The LSO General Appropriations Bill Content Memo (link on LSO home page) references the Wyoming Constitution’s requirement to include appropriations for the “ordinary expenses of the legislative, executive and judicial departments of the state, interest on the public debt, and for public schools.” It also addresses constitutional issues of the single subject rule and separation of governmental powers in the context of including appropriations and permissible conditions on appropriations in the general appropriations bill.

Information about the session
The Legislature and public are coping with temporary quarters in the Jonah Business Center, 3001 E. Pershing Blvd., during construction work on the Capitol and Herschler Building, Use the Jonah Guidebook by the LSO for maps, seating charts, session calendar and other information. http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/docs/2016JonahGuidebook.pdf

The LSO Website (http://legisweb.state.wy.us) has links on its home page for information about the session, the bills and the legislators. There is a direct link to the “online hotline” to get brief messages about individual bills to all House and Senate members. If you want to target messages
to certain lawmakers, find their email addresses and phone numbers on the “Legislator Information” link.

Click on 2016 Bill Tracking Information for action on bills, including failed votes in committee and conference committee meetings (when they occur later in the session).

LSO is streaming audio of JAC meetings and House and Senate floor debate, as in the Capitol. Click on the Audio Broadcasts of the 2016 Session link on the LSO Web home page to hear current or archived debate.

Use information on the Session Activities link on the LSO home page to keep track of bills as they are worked in committee and debated on the House and Senate floor.

The Budget

Lawmakers will fight over whether to spend money from one of our savings accounts or divert mineral revenue from savings to the General Fund to get us through the next two years, hoping the market prices of coal, oil and gas recover – along with the property and severance taxes they generate. They also will fight over budget cuts, line by line, so if you want something restored or cut, let the legislators know right now. They may get to amendments this week.

Some contentious items in the general appropriations budget proposed by the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC):

  • A $44 million cut in funding for K-12 public schools
  • A recommendation to use about $200 million from the so-called $1.8 billion “rainy day” legislative budget reserve account for local governments and some one-time expenses. Gov. Mead recommends spending $450 million from that account.
  • A cut and then substantial restoration of an adult literacy program in the Wyoming Community College Commission budget
  • $8 million for University of Wyoming athletes
  • Cut funding for drug courts

The JAC is running individual budget legislation for capital construction.

Medicaid Expansion – Tell legislators to support expansion

LWV continues to lobby for inclusion of Medicaid expansion in the budget for the Wyoming Department of Health. It would let an estimated 20,000 low-income adults apply for Medicaid health coverage, with just 10 percent of the cost coming from the state and 90 percent from the federal government. It would save the state about $33.5 million over the next two years, while sparing hospitals and others in Wyoming hundreds of millions of dollars in uncompensated care and cost-shifting. LWV is a member of the Healthy Wyoming coalition, whose Facebook page and Website www.healthywyoming.org describe the Medicaid expansion issues.

The Liberty Group is lobbying against Medicaid expansion, relying on unreliable reports, unsupported opinion and claims about the undeserving poor. Also, the governor’s challenge to expand Medicaid is ruffling some legislative feathers. The result is SF 86 Medicaid Assistance Program Design by Sen. Scott, which purports to be a home-grown version of Medicaid expansion but is not (very similar to the Healthy Frontiers medical care experiment abandoned by the Legislature a few years ago. This is a red herring and should be defeated.

Other Issues in the 2016 Session:

  • LWV opposes SF37 Boards and Commissions Party Affiliation, by the Joint Corporations Committee in response to a complaint by the governor’s office that it was too hard to meet the statutory requirements of party diversity for various boards and commissions. The bill puts the party affiliation requirement at 75 percent majority party for most boards and commissions and deletes the diversity requirement completely for some.
  • SF30 Initiative Review Process is from the leadership Management Council to require that proposed ballot initiatives be in bill form when they are submitted to the Secretary of State. This is a good idea for the initiative sponsor, the voters and the Legislature.
  • SF35 Referendum – Circulator Payment by Joint Corporations tried to remove a prohibition against paying petition circulators by the signature. It died on final reading in the Senate 10-20. Some lawmakers think the prohibition is unconstitutional.
  • SF54 Appropriation to Local Governments-Codification by Joint Corporations Committee to codify (and perhaps avoid rancorous and time-consuming future debate) on a distribution formula for cities, towns and counties.
  • SJ1 Right of Privacy and Right to Know constitutional amendment by Joint Corporations Committee to assert people’s right to privacy, limited by the public’s right to open public meetings and records.
  • SF14 Student Data Privacy and Transparency by the Joint Education Committee failed 13-17 on third reading in the Senate, after principals and administrators complained they needed access to cell phones and other sources that would be made “private” by this bill, in order to keep schools and students safe.
  • SF2 Attorney General Opinions – Legislative Request specifies that requests for opinions do not come from individual legislators, but from the House or Senate during sessions and by the Management Council during interims.
  • SF48 Criminal Justice Reform by Joint Judiciary provides alternatives to incarceration for non-violent crimes, including probation with substance abuse treatment, to better use state resources for truly violent criminals. It has a price tag of about $5.5 million, but the argument is that it saves spending on prison beds (at $175,000 per bed per year).