Legislature breaks after 2021 general session
After a productive eight-day session, albeit in an unusual fashion, the Wyoming Legislature considered a number of bills, moving a handful forward to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk to be signed into law.
Now, legislators across the state have adjourned for a two-week recess, preparing for even bigger conversations to be held in a hybrid fashion beginning March 1 at the Wyoming Capitol.
Gordon signed the first two bills following the eight-day virtual session on Feb. 8, providing support for two of the state’s top three industries – agriculture and energy. For the agriculture industry, he signed House Bill 53, Invasive plant species, which implements recommendations following the final report of the Governor’s Invasive Species Initiative, allowing more local control to implement special management programs for invasive species.
Gordon noted, “Invasive species are a concern for our producers, managers and indeed our land. This bill gives Weed and Pest districts more ability to work with state, federal and private managers and increase our impact on invasive plant species throughout the state.”
Additionally, Gordon signed Senate File 37, Omnibus water bill – planning, and House Bill 44, Omnibus water bill – construction, both of which provide for large water development projects to yield long-term benefits supporting wildlife, tourism, agriculture and more.
House Bill 66, 2021 large project funding, also supports these industries by funding large projects related to the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Funding Act.
“These bills improve the quality of life for all Wyoming citizens and directly support two of the pillars of our economy – tourism and agriculture,” Gordon said. “In addition to the long-term benefits of improved habitat, water and irrigation infrastructure in the coming years, they use special revenue to provide additional economic stimulus to the communities where the work is being performed.”
Other bills signed by Gordon which may impact Wyoming’s agriculture industry include House Bill 45, Changes to water right – notice requirements for hearing and Senate File 32, Water permit notice requirements.
In total, the governor signed 33 pieces of legislation following the eight-day virtual session.
While the Wyoming Legislature takes a two-week break, legislators are still actively studying bills which were assigned to committees on the last day of session. Committees will meet the week of Feb. 22, and importantly, the Budget Bill will be available to the public no later than Feb. 22.
As of the date of printing, no schedule had been proposed for committee meetings, nor had agendas been released.
A hybrid session of the Wyoming Legislature will re-convene on March 1, and the state’s budget will be considered beginning March 8.
Safety in proceeding
In discussing actions moving forward, Gordon, President of the Senate Dan Dockstader and Speaker of the House Eric Barlow committed to a joint plan to ensure increased safety for the session, explaining, “Our priority is keeping people safe and preventing COVID-19 infections while fulfilling the constitutional functions of the Wyoming Legislature.”
In a hybrid session, legislators will be permitted and able to participate virtually, if they so desire. Additionally members of the public and Executive Branch will have access to virtual platforms.
However, despite the virtual nature of the first half of session, many legislators opted to move their offices to the Wyoming Capitol, and it is expected more will attend in person during the March session. Masking and social distancing will be required in public spaces.
“The virtual session format has served us well through the initial work of this legislature as we completed our constitutional requirements and considered well-vetted interim committee bills,” Dockstader said. “We are now entering a phase where the general appropriations bill and individually sponsored bills will be considered. Limited in-person interaction between legislators and staff members is critical to working these bills and optimizing the legislative response to the difficult issues facing the State of Wyoming.”
Information in this article was compiled from the Wyoming Legislature’s website and press releases from Gov. Mark Gordon’s office.
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.