Budget session reaches crossover, fiscal issues still top priority list
Feb. 23 marked the midway point of the 2016 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature, meaning it was the last day for third reading on bills in the house of origin.
Legislation that had not successfully passed third reading after that day in the primary house will not go further.
“At the start of the session, a total of 279 bills and resolutions were numbered for introduction. With two weeks remaining in this year’s session, 157 bills remain active,” said Legislative Information Officer Anthony Sara. “The Senate introduced 96 pieces of legislation and 80 of those bills have moved to the House for consideration. The House introduced 91 bills and passed 77 bills on to the Senate for deliberation.”
Eighty-two of the numbered bills were not considered or failed the introduction vote.
The last day for bills to be reported out of committee in the second house was Feb. 26, and Feb. 29 is the last day for Committee of the Whole on bills in the second house. Legislators are expected to wrap up the 2016 Budget Session by March 4.
Issues in the session
Both the Senate and House have addressed a broad range of issues affecting Wyoming residents, and now the second house will get a chance to make changes and pass or vote down those bills sent from the house of origin, Sara added, commenting, “Although these bills have passed in their primary house, the legislation still must gain approval of the second house and be sent to the Governor for consideration before becoming state law.”
In addition to the bills currently being considered, legislators are also finishing work on the State’s 2017-18 biennial budget. The bodies will spend this week reconciling the differences between the final Senate and House versions of the budget bill through a joint conference committee. After each Chamber votes to concur on the conference committee’s action, the bill will be sent to the Governor for his consideration.
“Bills haven’t moved as quickly as they have in the past,” commented Scott Zimmerman of Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union on this year’s legislative session. “It seems like there has been more of a focus on budget issues rather than other bills.”
He added, “We may be pushing the limit to get bills out of the second house.”
From inside the legislature
Representative Hans Hunt, Majority Whip of Newcastle commented, “The Ag committee had relatively few issues come across its desk this session. Aside from standard bills that are brought before it, such as water omnibus funding and large projects funding, we passed a resolution calling on Congress to standardize labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) nationwide on Feb. 25.”
The GMO bill is the second version of a bill that failed introduction in the House originally.
“The bill was brought back, slightly modified, in a version from the Senate,” Hunt explained. “The second version is a little shorter and more precise. It asks Congress to create law based strictly on science-based guidance and limiting the amount of rulemaking agency can undertake.”
Hunt also noted that a bill to make the sagebrush Wyoming’s official state shrub has also passed the Ag Committee, and a bill adding meat products to the Food Freedom Act of 2015 were also included.
“House Bill 97 creates a compensation fund for livestock that has been lost to wolf predation,” he said, noting that the measure is moving forward.
Ag group perspective
Zimmerman said, “Things are moving right along this session. We haven’t had any of the bills we support come undone, and I don’t know that anything earth-shaking has happened.”
He also noted that the budget is coming together.
“Early next week we’ll be discussing interim topics,” he added. “Those topics will determine what will be important over the next year.”
In the last week of the session, Wyoming Legislature encourages the public to be actively involved and participate in the session.
Visit wyoleg.gov to track bills, listen in on session or contact legislators.
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.