State of the State address marks Wyo as strong
Cheyenne – On Jan. 8, the 62nd Wyoming Legislature convened at 12 p.m. for their 2013 General Session.
The following morning, Governor Matt Mead addressed the body and Wyoming citizens in his State of the State address.
“We begin 2013 with optimism,” stated Mead. “With this new legislature, our 62nd, we have another opportunity to work on the 2013-14 budget and other issues that we face.”
“I am pleased to report that the state of the state is strong,” Mead commented. “That is a simple, but significant, observation. We are fortunate to be able to say that, because I can assure you, not everyone can.”
One of the most significant topics Mead addressed in his speech was the budget for fiscal year 2014.
“Unlike the federal government, we continue to live within our means. We will keep the budget as flat as possible – not doubling every 10 years as it did the past decade,” Mead said. “We will fund important items and draw the line at overspending. There will be difficult decisions to be sure.”
He explained that last year, he asked for an eight percent reduction in agency budgets – double what the legislature was looking for, and in preparing the supplemental budget, noted that agencies saw an average reduction of about six percent.
“These cuts reduce spending by $60 million a year,” he commented. “I took the cuts agency by agency.”
Not only do cuts allow for savings, Mead also noted that they eliminate vacant positions and also provide for salary increases and one-time bonuses for employees.
Cuts additionally help to compensate for the loss of federal Abandoned Mine Land money.
“My budget recommendations leave about $19.8 million available for legislatively-derived priorities,” Mead added, noting that he also would ask the legislature to make several other changes.
In his recommendations for the legislature, Mead noted that good decisions aren’t easy.
“What we do this session is all about progress for our state – not about personal popularity,” Mead continued. “By making difficult decisions, we have a chance to leave a better legacy for Wyoming.”
Mead recommended that the legislature build savings, reduce the ongoing budget, cut the size of government, streamline state regulations, decide on the funding mechanisms for our highways, change fiscal policies to build up the rainy-day account, and provide funding for major items, including wildfires, landfills, local government, the Gillette-Madison water project, the UW School of Engineering and employee performance pay.
Bills of interest
Along with those issues, the Wyoming Legislature is faced with a number of important bills to consider during this session, a number of which are of importance to agriculture.
As the legislative session began a number of bills were introduced and referred to committees in the legislature.
Included in bills that were referred to the Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee are House Bill (H.B.) 4 on brands; H.B. 12 on contagious and infectious diseases among livestock; H.B. 13 on livestock revisions; H.B. 38 on use of water outside the state; H.B. 84 on livestock fence repairs; Senate File (S.F.) 4 on livestock disease reporting and liability; S.F. 7 on conservation districts special expertise; S.F. 20 on state land transactions; S.F. 31 on the Wyoming Veterinary Medical Practice Act; S.F. 66 on state funded conservation easement restrictions; S.F. 69 on the omnibus water bill for construction; S.F. 75 on the Honor Farm horse program; and S.F. 89 on veterinary technicians.
Other bills of importance to Wyoming agriculture include S.F. 76, a bill on bighorn sheep reloction; S.F. 32 on Wyoming Game and Fish Department license fees; H.B. 84 on livestock fence repairs; H.B. 69 on highway funding; H.B. 42 on land use planning; and H.B. 40 on eminent domain for wind energy collector systems.
As the session has just begun, there are a number of bills that have been received for introduction or assigned a bill number that have not been assigned to a committee as of the printing of this article.
Each week during the legislative session, the Wyoming Livestock Roundup will print a list of bills of importance and where they stand in the legislative process.
With the session off to a rolling start, Mead also mentioned that he appreciates the role Wyoming citizens play in the continued success of our state.
“We are thankful for energy resources, tourism, agriculture, small business and our greatest strength – our citizens,” Mead noted. “When I say the state of the state is strong, it is more than dollars and cents. It is because of tremendous people. We are small in population, but we are big in talent, we are big in potential, and we know our people are Wyoming’s best resource.”
As the Wyoming Legislature continues in session through the end of February, there are a number of opportunities for Wyoming citizens to be involved in the legislative process.
All sessions of the House of Representatives and the Senate are broadcast via live audio feed online. In addition, meetings of the Joint Appropriations Committee appear online as audio broadcasts.
Citizens can also weigh in on a specific bill using the legislature’s online hotline, which submits short comments and support or opposition of bills to all legislators.
For the most current status of bills and for other ways to contact your legislators, visit legisweb.state.wy.us.
See Governor Matt Mead’s State of the State address atgovernor.wy.gov/media/Pages/VideoGallery.aspx.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at email@example.com.