2015 General Session – Agriculture sees big wins for trespassing in Wyo Legislature
Cheyenne – After 37 days in session, the 63rd Wyoming Legislature tackled 410 bills, with over 150 bills going to Governor Matt Mead for his signature.
“Legislators spent 37 days in session, held 385 committee meetings and provided opportunities for all legislators to give voice to their constituents concerns,” says House Speaker Pro Tempore Tim Stubson. “The Legislative leadership began this session with the goals of strengthening our economy, improving our infrastructure, carefully developing our natural resources, keeping state decisions in state hands, maintaining a controlled budget and investing our human and financial resources wisely. They delivered on these goals.”
“The Legislature worked incredibly hard this session,” says Senate President Phil Nicholas, “and we accomplished a great deal. We have worked on bills that will increase jobs, improve infrastructure and enhance our education system.”
For Wyoming’s agriculture industry, Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton, Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank and Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union Lobbyist and Government Affairs Representative Scott Zimmerman all mentioned that the session was, overall, positive for the industry.
“The session took a while to get rolling, and it didn’t run at the feverish pace that we’ve seen before,” Zimmerman says. “It seemed like there was a lot more reserve from our legislators in introducing bills, and that helped a lot.”
With a variety of social issues – from anti-discrimination to Medicare – as the highlight of the session, he also mentioned that many bills seemed to go under the radar.
“Every time we get done with the session, we have bills that we were really pushing that died, but we can work them and bring them back,” Hamilton says. “Overall, it was a decent year for agriculture, at least from our standpoint.”
A trio of bills related to trespassing passed both the House and Senate and were signed by Governor Mead after some uncertainty in the middle of the session.
“Senate File 12 Trespass to Collect Data was supported by a fairly large ag coalition,” Hamilton says.
Frank emphasizes, “Our big priority was Senate File 12. We were very happy that the package of trespass bills passed, and we were pleased to see the legislature and the Governor supported that bill, as well as the civil trespass bill, Senate File 80.”
She continues, “We really would like to give a big ‘Thank you’ to those who championed Senate File 12. It will give landowners a lot of relief and empower them to protect their property rights. This bill brings integrity to the data collection process.”
“The Trespass to Collect Data bill was important for us,” Zimmerman says, “and the bill on landowner liability to a trespasser was also important.”
Hamilton notes that trespass laws as a whole need to be considered in the future, however.
“In the past, bills about our general trespass law as a whole have never gotten traction,” he says. “When we got into the discussions on Senate File 12, we started to see that some things could benefit by amending trespass statutes.”
The final bill in the trespass package was House Bill 108 Trespass – Landowner Liability, which provides protections for landowners if trespassers are injured on their property.
Water and land
“Water development is also important,” Zimmerman comments. “Those bills don’t garner a lot of publicity, but the omnibus bills – both construction and planning – help to renovate important water structures and are important.”
Magagna also noted that another bill, House Bill 8, passed that would protect landowners from any liability if something happens to a pipeline that they were not involved with during construction.
“That bill frees landowners and subsequent landowners from liability,” he explains.
Another important bill for the agriculture industry, Senate File 29, looked at commercial driver’s license requirements.
Magagna mentions that the bill starts by eliminating the three-tiered class system on driver’s license, limiting licenses to just a Class C.
Hamilton adds, “The gross vehicle weight was also raised to 39,001 pounds for folks. It is really good for people with pickups and goosenecks.”
“The other part of the bill dealt with the guys who drive bigger tandem-axle trucks,” he says. “Those exemptions weren’t as good as we had hoped, but we will have to see what rules and regulations come out of the bill.”
Magagna further notes that to obtain a commercial driver’s license, an endorsement can be obtained by either taking written and driving tests or bringing in an affidavit to certify qualifications to drive a commercial vehicle.
“That bill will help ag, especially producers on the border communities,” Zimmerman says.
For Wyoming Farm Bureau, the Wyoming Telecommunications Act was an important win.
“We were anxious to get that bill passed as it was agreed to by the various sundry participants,” Hamilton says. “We were nervous when we saw efforts to go beyond the agreements made between the parties, but the bill came out pretty much as it went in.”
Hamilton also mentions the bill looking at the transfer of federal lands.
“It is good that we had the discussion on transfer of federal lands,” Hamilton mentions, “but naturally there are strong feeling on both sides.”
Hamilton and Magagna both marked House Bill 56 Wyoming Food Freedom Act as being important for their membership.
Additionally, Senate Files 133 and 134, two bills addressing Bighorn sheep in Wyoming were also important. The bills, discussed in an early edition of the Roundup both passed.
Until next year
“Overall, the session went very, very well,” Magagna commented. “We had 85 to 90 percent of the bills we were supporting pass.”
Only a handful of bills did not pass during the session.
Agriculture groups are preparing for the interim session now. Look for more in next week’s Roundup on the interim topics and what the next year will look like for the Wyoming Legislature.
The 2015 General Session adjourned on March 6. The 2016 Budget Session is scheduled to convene on Feb. 8, 2016.
A selection of the bills important to Wyoming’s agriculture groups are listed below, along with their status as of March 13.
HB 4 – Prohibited Livestock Grazing – House Do Pass Failed
HB 18 – Drone Protection Act – Senate Do Pass Failed
HB 35 – Boards and Commissions – Senate Do Pass Failed
HB 75 – Balanced Budget Compact – Senate Died in Committee
HB 95 – Heavy Vehicle and Commercial Driver’s License – House Died in Committee
HB 121 – Constitutional Convention – Limitations – House Postponed Indefinitely
HB 124 – Determination of Highway Rights-of-Way on Federal Land – Senate Did Not Consider for Introduction
HB 133 – United National Agenda 21 – Prohibition on Implementation – House Died in Committee
HB 165 – Access to Public Land – House Do Pass Failed
HB 203 – Livestock Brands – Reciprocity – House Failed CoW
HB 209 – Transfer of Federal Lands – Senate Died in Committee
HJ 2 – State Superintendent of Public Instruction – House Do Pass Failed
HJ 4 – Balanced Budget Amendment – Senate Failed on Third Reading
SF 7 – Tethering Dogs – Senate No Report Prior to CoW Cutoff
SF 30 – Camp Guernsey – Range Management Fund – Senate Postponed Indefinitely
SF 63 – Predator Ownership – Senate Postponed Indefinitely
SF 68 – Property Rights Ombudsman – Senate Did Not Consider in CoW
SF 69 – Nonresident Allocation of Game Licenses – Senate Do Pass Failed
SJ 1 – Right of Privacy – Constitutional Amendment – Failed Senate CoW
SJ 4 – Constitutional Convention – Senate No Report Prior to CoW Cutoff
SJ 5 – State Superintendent of Public Instruction – Senate No Report Prior to CoW Cutoff
SJ 6 – Sage Grouse – Senate No Report Prior to CoW Cutoff
Signed by Governor Mead
HEA 1 – HB 8 – Landowner indemnification
HEA 77 – HB 56 – Wyoming Food Freedom Act
HB 70 – Omnibus Water Bill – Construction
HEA 100 – HB 100 – Highway Funding
HEA 89 – HB 108 – Trespass – Landowner Liability
HJ 1 – Regulation of Freedom
HJ 3 – Free-Roaming Wild Horses
HEJR 4 – HJ 6 – Wyoming Local Food Production
SF 1/HB 1 – General Government Appropriations
SF 10 – Education Administration
SEA 31 – SF 29 – Motor Vehicle Drivers License Exemptions
SF 36 – Personal Identifying Information – Definitions
SEA 19 – SF 37 – State Protection of Date Privacy
SEA 26 – SF 43 – Wyoming Telecommunications
SF 44 – Large Project Funding
SEA 45 – SF 46 – Fire Misdemeanors
SEA 24 – SF 137 – Farm License Plates
SEA 61 – SF 12 – Trespassing to Collect Data
SEA 76 – SF 4 – Dry Bean Research
SEA 77 – SF 9 – Right to Farm
SEA 67 – SF 51 – Water Development – Amendments
SEA 69 – SF 55 – Omnibus Water Bill – Planning
SEA 78 – SF 56 – Study on Transfer of Public Lands
SEA 82 – SF 80 – Trespassing to Collect Data – Civil Cause of Action
SEA 75 – SF 126 – Water Quality
SF 133 – Bighorn Sheep Relocation
SF 134 – Bighorn Sheep Plan
For more information on these bills and the rest of the bills discussed during the 2015 General Session, visit wyoleg.gov.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.