Wyoming Legislature adjourns 2021 General Session
Cheyenne – With the passage of a motion to indefinitely postpone all bills remaining before the Wyoming Legislature and a motion to adjourn, the Wyoming House of Representatives and Senate adjourned for the year on the evening of April 7.
“At the end of this legislative session, we’re grateful for the hard work and dedication of our staff, and we’re grateful for each other, for the work, dedication and opinions that we all have,” concluded Rep. Lloyd Larsen (R-Lander) in a closing prayer in the Wyoming House of Representatives. “As we prepare to leave, we acknowledge there is much to do.”
Larsen also noted the work of the legislature isn’t perfect, but the body has strived to address the needs of the state of Wyoming and will continue to do so in the coming year.
With a busy session, both online and in person, held over the first four months of 2021, the Wyoming Legislature passed a number of bills supporting the Wyoming agriculture industry.
The Omnibus water bill – construction, House Bill 44, and Omnibus water bill – planning, Senate File 37, both passed, allowing for the continued efforts of the Wyoming Water Development Program to both plan and build water infrastructure throughout the state.
An additional bill related to water, House Bill 45, Changes to water right – notice requirements for hearing, modifies the notice requirements for hearings related to petitions to change points of diversion and means of conveyance. Senate File 32, Water permit notice requirements, was also passed, modifying notice requirement to allow for notice by electronic means, as well as specifying ability to use generally accepted mail delivery methods.
House Bill 53, Invasive plant species, implements recommendations from the Governor’s Invasive Species Initiative and creates duties for the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council related to management and control of invasive species.
Food freedom act amendments, House Bill 118, allows for the sale of eggs in grocery stores, excepting turkey eggs, as well as allowing for the sale of homemade foods.
On the Senate side, Senate File 26 updates animal abuse statutes and reorganized the statutes, amending offenses and modifying reimbursements for counties.
House Bill 51, Meat processing programs, passed and was signed into law as House Enrolled Act 82. The bill authorizes a program to expand and enhance meat processing capability in the state administered by the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
Notably, House Bill 52, the Wyoming school protein enhancement project, passed both bodies and was signed by Gov. Gordon on April 2 as House Enrolled Act 47. The bill codifies a pilot program allowing school districts to purchase local protein for consumption in cafeterias.
The Wyoming meat packing initiative, House Bill 54, similarly allows for support of producers in agriculture and meat processing through the Wyoming Business Council. The bill allows the Business Council to expand its loan and granting authority to include Wyoming meat producers and processors.
Senate File 50
Senate File 50, COVID-19 business relief programs agriculture, was allowed to go into law without the signature of Gov. Gordon.
Gordon commented in a letter to Senate President Dan Dockstader, “After further review of Senate File 50/Senate Enrolled Act 35, I want to highlight a number of issues with this legislation.”
Gordon specifically cited the bill does not differentiate between use of money from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the American Recovery Plan Act or state funds. Further, he noted the program identified in the legislation likely is not eligible to be funded through the CARES Act.
“Rather than reimburse individuals or business for impacts related to an emergency, the program created in this legislation seems to seek some way to give money to agricultural producers simply because they are producers,” he wrote. “As such, in my mind, this pro-rate approach does not fit within the confines, nor meet the spirit of, the CARES Act.”
Further, Gordon commented he is concerned about the ramifications of such a program, noting, “If producers are willing to take advantage of this program, they should be prepared to possibly have to pay back the grants – a decision that could cripple additional Wyoming industries.”
Gordon concluded, “While I wholeheartedly support my colleagues in agriculture, I cannot see a clear nexus between COVID-19, this bill and addressing COVID-related issued faced by producers.”
A special session of the Wyoming Legislature will be held in July, after July 4 and prior to Cheyenne Frontier Days, at the direction of the Senate President and Speaker of the House. The session will convene for five days in person in Cheyenne, with a virtual option available for the public to participate online.
The session will focus on allocation of federal funding related to American Recovery Plan Act funding.
The Management Council of the Wyoming Legislature, a committee tasked with ensuring the legislative committees are efficiently conducted, will meet on April 16 beginning at 8:30 a.m. in Cheyenne and online for the purpose of assigning interim committee topics.
The committee will also confirm the dates agreed upon by the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee. Currently, the committee is scheduled to meet May 24-25, Sept. 9-10 and Oct. 21-22. More information on the locations for these meetings will be distributed following the Management Council meeting.
The 2022 Budget Session for the 66th Wyoming State Legislature is tentatively scheduled to convene on Feb. 14, 2022 at 10 a.m.
Saige Zespy is a corresponding writer for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.