Wyoming Legislative Session Concluded Friday

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The following is a news release from the Majority of the Wyoming State Legislature:

Cheyenne, Wyoming – The General Session of the 64th Wyoming State Legislature concluded Friday after 37-days of work focused on diversifying Wyoming’s economy, balancing Wyoming’s budget, addressing education funding shortfalls and passing measures aimed at improving the quality of life for Wyoming families, seniors and young people.

“From day one of this legislative session, our focus has been on working for Wyoming,” said Senate President Eli Bebout. “In the Senate, we have worked hard and vigorously debated legislation to produce the best results for Wyoming families, Wyoming businesses, Wyoming agriculture producers, Wyoming taxpayers and the Wyoming economy. I am tremendously proud of the focus, commitment and integrity shown by every Wyoming Senator this session. While there remains much to be done, I’m proud of the Wyoming Senate’s work to do the right thing and deliver positive results for Wyoming.”

“Members of the House of Representatives have been a credit to the institution and the people they represent in every neighborhood across the state. We have strived every day to 1) do the right thing, 2) work hard and 3) treat others the way you want to be treated. Every member has worked hard, cared deeply and demonstrated incredible dedication,” said House Speaker Steve Harshman. “We’ve had a number of tough issues before us, had spirited debate and will continue this work during the interim. Our work was focused on the next generation; we tried to leave two blades of grass where we found one. We have made significant strides in passing bills that will grow and diversify Wyoming’s economy for the long-term, help small business owners, reduce the size of government and position Wyoming well for the future.”

The House and Senate passed a budget compromise that addresses the revenue shortfall for Wyoming’s general operations and puts Wyoming on a path to fiscal stability. A decline in energy prices coupled with heavy-handed energy regulations from the federal government have resulted in a severe drop in state revenues.

This budget addresses Wyoming’s revenue shortfall head-on by reducing the size of government to 2005 levels, cutting more than $275 million from Wyoming’s operating budget. More than 300 positions have been eliminated between last’s year budget session and this year’s general session, largely through attrition.

With 65 percent of the funding for the daily operations of Wyoming schools coming from taxes paid by mineral producers, the state is currently facing the largest education funding deficit in Wyoming’s history – between $360 and $400 million per year. To address this shortfall, the legislature passed a bill that authorizes the appointment of a select committee to study education issues, recalibrate the model and makes an additional $34 million in reductions above the reductions approved in the current biennial budget.

The House and Senate are committed to working through the legislative process in the interim to bring forward long-term solutions to the state’s education funding challenges. Both chambers plan to build off recommendations developed by the Education Subcommittee on Deficit Reduction Options.

In addition to addressing the budget and education funding, the House and Senate moved forward a number of key measures to help diversify the state’s economy, support Wyoming businesses and attract new ones, and improve government efficiencies. These include:

  • Senate File 132, ENDOW initiative. A comprehensive approach to diversify the Wyoming economy. ENDOW is a 20-year strategy to capitalize on the knowledge and insights of private sector leaders in conjunction of the executive branch, the legislature, the University of Wyoming and Wyoming’s community colleges as well as private sector leaders from a diverse set of businesses and industries.
  • House Bill 253, Economic Development Account Funding. This bill will help promote economic development and diversification across Wyoming by offering low-interest loans to well-established Wyoming businesses and well-vetted projects and returns those dollars plus interest back to the state. A portion of funds in this bill are to be used to improve broadband access in underserved communities across Wyoming.
  • House Bill 254, Public Purpose Investments. This bill increases the overall cap for investment of state funds that may be invested in “public purpose investments” from $600 million to $1 billion. These investments include particular projects or programs identified by the legislature for investment that are not necessarily intended to be solely for the highest direct return possible, but which might have other public purposes.
  • Senate File 156, State Government Efficiencies. This legislation establishes the Wyoming Spending and Government Efficiency Commission to identify opportunities to increase efficiencies and reduce costs; make recommendation for areas with a high likelihood for potential savings; eliminate obsolete or overlapping programs; and examine opportunities for savings in the Medicaid program.
  • Senate File 167, Worker’s Compensation-Rate Discount, Modification & Credit. This legislation repays all employers in Wyoming for the solvency of our Worker’s Comp fund and allows one-time credits for those who have paid into it.
  • House Bill 19, Sales from Remote Sellers. This legislation aims to level the playing field for Wyoming’s brick-and-mortar, main street businesses while generating additional revenue for Wyoming.

A number of other important measures aimed at aiding Wyoming citizens, families and businesses were also signed into law this session.

  • HB 80, Transportation Network Companies. This legislation will allow ridesharing services including Uber and Lyft.
  • SF 115, Malicious Cruelty to Animals. This bill will make various cruel acts that injure or abuse domesticated or farm animals a felony.
  • HB 76, American Indian Education Program. This bill provides for educational opportunities on the history, heritage and contributions of regional American Indian tribes, with emphasis on the Northern Arapaho and Eastern Shoshone, to be included by the state board of education.
  • HJ 8, Federal Responsibility for American Indian Health Care. This joint resolution urges the United States Congress to continue to provide 100% federal coverage through Medicaid for American Indians.
  • HJ Resolution 2, Balanced Budget Amendment. This bill calls on Congress to convene an Article V Convention of States for the specific purpose of passing a balanced budget amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • HB 116, Abortion amendments. This pro-life bill makes it a felony to  sell or transport tissue or body parts from an aborted baby.
  • HB182, Abortion–Ultrasound Information. This pro-life bill  require s that a physician offer an ultrasound to a patient before an abortion procedure is performed.