Wyoming Legislative Updates – Feb. 26 & 27, 2013
by Representative Albert Sommers, House District 20
February 27, 2013
Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013:
Hello, this is Albert Sommers coming to you on Wednesday from the capital, the final day of the legislative session.
Senate File 118, the eminent domain bill, hit a pothole in the road on Tuesday evening when the Senate did not concur with the House amendments. However, the Senate fearing the bill was in jeopardy, initiated a reconsideration of the concurrence, and upon a second vote the Senate concurred with the House amendments. This means SF118 has passed both houses and is headed for the governor. He will then decide whether to sign or veto the bill.
House Bill 177, a bill which puts arts and career tech classes in the mix for the Hathaway scholarship, passed the House with concurrence of Senate amendments. The Hathaway scholarships inherently choose winners and losers due to the importance of the scholarship to high school students, and small districts along with supporters of the arts and vocational education were worried that art and career tech programs could wither on the vine without Hathaway recognition. Concurrence failed in the House this morning, but a reconsideration vote moved the bill to the governor’s desk this afternoon. I was a supporter of this effort throughout the process.
The general session ended at about 4pm on Wednesday. It will be good to get back to God’s side of the mountain. This session we addressed the Supplemental Budget for the 2013-2014 biennium, and the total budget for the biennium is over 8 billion dollars. The Supplemental Budget included budget reductions in the general fund exceeding 62 million dollars, but there were supplemental appropriations in excess of 140 million. This was the smallest Supplemental Budget in 10 years, and the legislature left 6.3 million dollars unappropriated, according to the January 2013 CREG revenue forecast. Remember, we base our budget on what our anticipated revenues WILL be.
Some of the major budget actions include creation of Enterprise Technology Services, which moves all agency technology positions into a separate stand-alone agency. Major appropriations include $55 million for the University of Wyoming College of Engineering building, a project which has had significant monetary donations from private industry. Reimbursement for last year’s fire season totaled $31 million, and $20 million was set aside in anticipation of the 2013 fire season.
Local towns and counties received an additional $20 million in the supplemental, which brings the total for the biennium to $155 million. $15 million was appropriated for landfill remediation, which will help local governments fix and close leaky landfills around the state.
We appropriated $9 million from the general fund and $10 million from federal funds for the Department of Health’s new Medicaid management information system, mandatory participation in the federal Affordable Care Act eligibility revisions, and childhood immunizations.
$5 million went to renovations for UW’s Arena Auditorium, and $1 million for Pine Bark Beetle mitigation.
The supplemental budget added $250,000 to the Public Library Endowment account, which gives them a biennial budget of over $3 million. $200,000 was reinstated to Senior Centers for cuts from previous years.
The legislature created another savings coffee can called the Strategic Investments and Projects Account, which is funded through earnings off of the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund that exceeds the projections of the GREG revenue forecast. This coffee can of savings will be available for appropriation next session for one-time funded projects, like a capital construction project. These savings accounts and how they are added to and subtracted from are hard to follow, but I am beginning to understand how they function.
The most expensive bills passed this session were the Omnibus Water bills and the K12 school capital construction bill.
I will be at the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s meeting on Saturday - see you there.
Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne.
On Tuesday, the final day for third reading in the House this session, we passed eight bills. Senate File 47, a school finance amendment bill, had a significant amendment placed upon it on third reading. This amendment updated the Hedonic Wage Index to current conditions, but left in place the system by which a district can choose between the highest calculator for determining teacher salaries. Sublette County school districts utilize the Wyoming Cost-of-Living Index (WCLI), and that option would remain under the amended House version. The argument for the amendment was that many large districts were not seeing an update in their cost of living index, which could be problematic if taken to court. I supported the amendment, as that argument made sense. The Senate will now have to decide whether to concur.
Senate File 118, the eminent domain bill, passed the House with only minor amendments. I supported the bill throughout the process, and spoke in favor of it on the floor in an earlier reading. The section of SF118 which dealt with attorney fee reimbursement if the condemnor’s final offer was less than fair market value generated the greatest discussion, and I can see where this section could lead to unnecessary litigation, and perhaps some abuse. I voted for a third reading amendment that I felt ameliorated that concern, but the amendment failed. Senate File 136, which placed higher bonding requirements on seismic companies, passed with little debate. Both of these bills were solid private property rights bills, which I supported, and I do not believe they will hamper either the private or public sector during good faith condemnation proceedings.
Senate File 66, a bill which placed restrictions on state funded conservation easements, passed the House. SF66 put into statute practices which were already occurring, but are important. This bill would give the state of Wyoming enforcement authority on conservation easements they fund, and the ability to recover the state’s money if an easement is extinguished, for example if a property were condemned through eminent domain. Language in this bill would not allow state money to be spent if a conservation easement mandates certain livestock or crop management practices, or prohibits the use of the land for ranching or farming, or prohibits hunting, fishing, or trapping. I supported this bill.
Senate File 160, dealt with pesticide application, and created provisions related to direct supervision of applicators by those carrying the pesticide applicator license. The certified applicator must be within a reasonable time and distance of the individuals actually involved in applying the chemicals. I supported this legislation after conferring with Sublette County Weed and Pest.