Wyoming LWV 2016 Wyoming Legislative Report
Week 4, Feb. 29, 2016
LWV Lobbyist Marguerite Herman
Conference committee members on the $3 billion budget bill for 2017-2018 reached agreement on Friday on a compromise version of the bill, which will be submitted to the full House and Senate for their approval. In the highly unlikely event, it doesn’t get a majority vote by both houses, it will go back to conference committee again, this time a “free” committee unrestrained by House and Senate actions when they worked their bills separately. This has a lot of hazards, so the House and Senate are highly motivated to swallow hard and approve the conference committee report.
Monday is the last day to pass Committee of the Whole. Then Tuesday is the deadline for second reading and Wednesday for third reading. Bills will go back to their original chambers to accept amendments. Otherwise, the bills go to conference committees for compromises that can be approved by both chambers by Friday. Bills can die in conference committees.
Among the most hard-fought, hotly debated and heavily lobbied of the compromises is over cuts to the school funding formula, especially for small districts that will be losing funding anyway as they lose enrollment. The governor recommended maintaining full funding of $45 million for an external cost adjustment (ECA). The compromise is about half that. Education advocates argued that schools will be losing millions anyway, with declining enrollment, and they asked for cuts to be delayed. On the other side, legislators complained that everyone was taking cuts in this budget, and education had to share the pain.
It seems the Legislature has no more opportunity this session to expand Medicaid to cover low-income adults. (Statutes require Legislative authorization.) Stung by criticism from the public and the governor, the House speaker, Senate president and chairmen of the House and Senate Labor committees are sponsoring SF86 – Medical Assistance -- a decoy that purports to look for a way to care for the poor. It sets up an underfunded study to duplicate the defunct Healthy Frontiers effort of several years ago. It also forbids Medicaid expansion until this study is done. This bill will be on General File in the House Monday. Critics are expected to offer many amendments or ask that it become an interim study. This bill has nothing to do with Medicaid expansion, except as a distraction.
Wyoming LWV is a member of the Healthy Wyoming coalition that has been working for Medicaid expansion for about four years. With the apparent loss of expansion this session, work will continue during the election season and for the 2017 legislative session.
Two other controversial bills are on deadline on General File in House Monday: SF14 – Student Data Privacy and Transparency and SF96 – Marihuana Edibles. Senate and House committee votes have been close. The controversy of SF14 is whether school administrators can demand access to students’ digital information. This bill protects usernames and passwords. Some administrators protested that they needed access to all information to keep students and schools safe. The controversy of SF14 is how punitive to be about possession of edibles and how to measure the strength of THC – by the concentration or gross weight of the edible. Law enforcement say they don’t have the tools to test potency.
Go to the Legislative Service Office Website http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/BillsInfo.aspx to get the latest on all the bills – including all the amendments, the “engrossed” amended versions as they leave one house and go to the other, the “fiscal note” that estimates personnel and budget impact and the “digest” that records all the action and roll call votes.
The deadlines come fast this week, headed to the end of the 20th day on Friday. Find the session schedule and daily floor calendars at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/Schedules.aspx. Standing committees have met for the last time to work on bills, but they meet this week to discuss possible interim study topics. The Management Council of legislative leaders will make the assignments on Friday.
The Legislature is using up all 20 days available for this budget session but still has three days spared from the 2015 session, if they were needed.
Information about the session
The Legislature and LSO are in the Jonah Business Center, 3001 E. Pershing Blvd., for the next three years, as work proceeds 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
Use the LSO Website (http://legisweb.state.wy.us) to get contact information for the legislators and follow the committee’s interim work. Also, listen to live and archived audio of House and Senate floor debate.