Legislative Updates – Jan 16 through Jan. 19
Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you on Jan. 16, the fifth day of the 2023 General Session of the 67th Legislature.
As a citizen legislature, there is limited time to discuss all the ideas brought forward by legislators. Today, we spent time discussing the rules for this legislative session with the aim of deciding on procedures that will allow us to run a smooth and effective legislative process. The House considered several rule changes today. There has been a great deal of discussion about how large a majority it requires to bring a bill out of the Speaker’s desk, or move a bill up on the Majority Floor Leader’s bill order for the day.
• HR 001: The proposed changes to the rule would have allowed a simple majority vote to change the order of the bills set by the Majority Floor Leader, except on the day the bills will be heard. It would then require a two-thirds majority to change the order. This amendment also would have established that a simple majority vote is required to pull a bill out of the Speaker’s desk. Our legal staff believes this was the existing procedure according to our rules and the Manual of Legislative Procedures. This amendment failed.
• HR 003: This amendment held that moving a bill out of the Speaker’s desk or moving a bill up on the Majority Floor Leader’s order needs a two-thirds majority vote. This amendment was adopted by the body, in a very split vote, as a compromise to ensure both leaders’ decisions were respected. There was a lot of passionate debate about the rights of the majority to overrule decisions. This rule was designed to last just two years, to ensure the rule is re-debated in the 68th Legislature. Unspoken power has always resided in these leadership positions, and I am not sure there is any right answer.
- HR 005: This amendment prevented cell phone use on the House floor during the final reading of a bill. It failed.
The House discussed the following bill in Committee of the Whole, which may also be of interest:
- HB0061 Source material associated with mining ─ agreement: Aimed at rare earth mineral development in Wyoming, this bill would allow Wyoming to work with the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission to gain permitting and licensing authority over rare earth mining operations in the state. Wyoming is home to several rare earth sites considered to be the best in the world and this bill seeks to draw more industry to the state.
Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is the sixth day of the 2023 General Session of the 67th Legislature. Today, we heard bills on Second Reading, and voted on bills on Third Reading consent list. We also debated bills on General File.
- HB0017 State lands - grazing of non-owned livestock, is sponsored by the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee. The bill would provide that a lessee of state lands whose lease authorizes grazing on state lands shall not be required to obtain the approval of the director prior to allowing livestock the lessee does not own, but for which the lessee retains full management and responsibility, to graze on the lands. I supported this bill and it passed the House on Third Reading today.
- HB0062 Open banking was developed by the Select Committee on Blockchain, Financial Technology and Digital Innovation Technology and is sponsored by the Minerals Committee. The bill allows banks to provide customer data to third-party financial service providers with the expressed written permission of the customer. This legislation would give the Division of Banking rule-making authority and give banks clarity and explicit guardrails for this existing process. The bill passed Committee of the Whole with my support.
- HB0055 Election ballot order and party affiliation would allow independent candidates to include their party affiliation on a ballot. It would also randomize the names of candidates for elected office on a general election ballot. This legislation failed in the Committee of the Whole and I voted against it. I believe the Wyoming election system works well for the citizens.
- HB0069 Coal-fired facility closures litigation funding - amendments is sponsored by Rep. Lloyd Larsen and gives Gov. Gordon a broader range of tools to take legal action against the federal government, its agencies and other states that impede Wyoming coal production or its export. The bill also gives the governor the ability to initiate litigation against the federal government, other states or third parties whose actions result in the decreased use of Wyoming coal or the closure of coal-fired electric generation facilities that use Wyoming coal. The bill passed Committee of the Whole with my support.
Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is Albert Sommers reporting on the seventh day of the 2023 General Session of the 67th Legislature. Today, the House heard bills on Second Reading, had final vote on bills in Third Reading, and voted on bills in Committee of the Whole.
- HB0050 Solid waste cease and transfer program funding is a recurring bill. Before 2013, the federal government required landfills with groundwater contamination issues to close. The cost associated with complying with federal regulations was high. In 2013, the Legislature created an act to help smaller communities comply with the federal mandate of closing landfills and transferring waste to regional facilities. The Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality maintains a prioritized list of qualified projects. The initial list had 52 eligible projects. Each year the list is revised and updated to reflect qualified projects. House Bill 50 amends the list to 18 projects: eight transfer projects and 10 closure projects. There were also three modifications to projects – two facilities increased in price for the scope of work, and the third modification was the removal of a facility from the list that had already received all the necessary funding. This act has a full appropriation and the bill does not require additional funding. House Bill 50 passed the House on Third Reading with my support.
- HB0011 State park rangers - retirement passed the Committee of the Whole with my support. This bill allows current full-time Wyoming park rangers to participate in the law enforcement plan under the Wyoming Retirement Act. These park ranger positions are certified peace officers, just like other law enforcement in the state. The bill would not require park rangers to use the law enforcement retirement plan but would allow these individuals to choose which retirement pool they would like to participate in.
- HB0033 School finance - career technical education grants creates a competitive Career Technical Education (CTE) grant program that school districts could utilize once they have exhausted their current CTE funding. The program, which provides up to $50,000 per school district, would incentivize districts to help kids learn more about viable, in-demand career paths in the construction trades. The bill passed the Committee of the Whole. I supported this bill in the interim and today.
Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you on January 19, the eighth day of the 2023 General Session of the 67th Legislature. Today, the House continued to hear bills in the Committee of the Whole, Second Reading, and on Third reading.
- HB0007 - Underage marriage - amendment amends the minimum marriageable age to 16 in the state of Wyoming. The bill had significant debate on the floor centered around the role of government in defining at what age a person should be able to marry. Points were made on both sides; arguments were heard that government should not be involved in this personal decision. I believe the role of government is to protect minors who may not be of developmental age to make a decision of this magnitude, as well as concerns over marriages disguising human trafficking. The bill has passed Second Reading of the House, keeping the original bill language at the age of 16.
- HB0018 - Missing person alert systems passed the House today on Third Reading. The bill integrates federal, tribal and local law enforcement agencies in Wyoming under a standard Amber-alert-like system called the Ashanti alert. The alert system gives law enforcement agencies another tool to locate missing Wyoming adults. I support this bill.
- HB0065 - 988 suicide prevention is enabling legislation to set up and fund the 988 suicide prevention hotline within the Wyoming Department of Health. The 988 hotline was originally set up as a national hotline for individuals in crisis to connect to suicide prevention and mental health crisis counselors. Wyoming currently funds this hotline with American Rescue Plan Act dollars and that money will run out in 2024. We heard testimony on the floor that the Wyoming hotline fielded over 500 calls in December 2022. This bill would permanently set up and fund the program through a trust fund account. This bill passed Committee of the Whole with my support.
I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or comments. Thank you.