Legislative sessions continues
Despite delays caused by Winter Storm Xylia, which hit the southeast quadrant of the state, the Wyoming Legislature convened on March 17 to continue their work as crossover approached. March 19 was the last day for bills to be reported out of committee in their house of origin.
As of March 18 at 8 a.m., 264 bills and 16 joint resolutions had been introduced in the House, while the Senate saw 157 bills and four joint resolutions.
During the week of March 8, the Wyoming House and Senate separately considered House Bill One and mirror bill Senate File One, General government appropriations. Both bodies passed the legislation, with the House voting 49-10-1 and the Senate 18-11-1.
Sen. Brian Boner (R-Douglas) reflected on budget discussions from the week.
“It’s been great to meet in person again,” Boner commented. “We needed to have an in-person component for discussions like the budget.”
He added, “I’m also glad we’ve been able to get the vaccine out to those who wanted or needed it, so we could get back and do the people’s work in the Wyoming Legislature.”
Boner continued, noting the budget didn’t bring any particular challenges for the Wyoming ag community specifically, but rather the largest budget discussions dealt with agencies and impact the state as a whole.
“The most challenging decisions we made deal with the Department of Health and mental service programs,” he continued. “We saw reductions in programs which support waiver programs for Medicaid and other programs supporting our state’s vulnerable populations.”
Boner noted work done ahead of time alleviated any particular strain on the agriculture industry, commenting, “This year, we were able to get away from the trend where cuts were pushed out to the counties.”
In the past, he described cuts in ag were simply passed on to county agencies, like Weed and Pest, predator boards and others, rather than seeing significant cuts at the state level. This year, however, the trend was different, which was a positive result.
“Right now, we’re really still focused on getting Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funds out to increase the beef processing capacity of the state,” Boner explained. “We’re focused on the immediate to medium-term work which has to happen, using as much federal aid as possible to increase capacity.”
“Senate File 122, the Agriculture authority bill, is also moving forward,” he continued. “I’m looking forward to seeing this bill advance.”
Boner noted the bill was received by the House for introduction, but has not been introduced or referred to committee as or March 18 at 8 a.m.
Senate File 135, Water rights – livestock on federal land, has also created some conversation, and Boner explained the Senate placed the bill on General File as of March 10 after passing out of committee with a 5-0 vote.
“This bill represents an idea which has been successful in other states like Nevada and Utah,” he noted. “It states on federal land, the lessee has to be on any water permits alongside the federal government, recognizing the lessee has rights, too, in the process.”
He continued, “It also recognizes the state of Wyoming controls all water resources in the state, not the federal government, and emphasizes the basic fact that we must have a real, live person putting water to better use, not an agency.”
The bill ensures consistency in development of water rights in the states, as well.
The Senate Agriculture Committee focused on a handful of bills which came from their counterparts in the House, and they won’t plan to meet again until they are assigned additional bills.
While legislators continue to work through bills, the Wyoming Legislature is also looking forward to their work for the remainder of 2021 and is seeking interim topic requests from citizens.
While requested topics may originate from any source, the Wyoming Legislative Services Office (LSO) notes topics should be submitted or sponsored by a legislator and presented to committee by a legislator.
LSO encourages all submissions consider the limited time, budget and staffing of the legislature, as well as the logical jurisdiction of legislative committees.
“Committees must identify, prioritize and select the most significant topics for interim study,” explains LSO. “Topics and concerns should be big enough or complicated enough to warrant committee ‘study.'”
Interim topics are assigned by Management Council and must be submitted by March 26 at close of business. To learn more about submitting interim topics, visit wyoleg.gov/Committees/Topics.
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.