Legislature wraps up session, begins interim conversations
Cheyenne – “The 2022 Budget Session was very successful,” comments Sen. Brian Boner, co-chair of the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee, following the conclusion of the Budget Session of the 66th Wyoming Legislature. “We were able to get the budget and redistricting done, which were our two main tasks. I’m proud of how much our citizen legislature can accomplish in only 20 days.”
Boner, along with representatives of ag groups across the state, note this year’s session was largely uneventful for the agriculture industry, with several wins seen during the session. While a handful of bills are still awaiting Gov. Mark Gordon’s signature, the ag community expects the bills relating to agriculture will be signed.
Brett Moline of Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) notes, “By and large, there wasn’t a mood to increase taxes this year, which is always good.”
Executive Vice President Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association adds, “Nothing passed we were opposed to, but I think some bills passed will prove to be helpful.”
With the completion of the 2022 Budget Session by the Wyoming Legislature, the state’s citizen legislators are gearing up for the interim session, where each committee will conduct meetings around the state to dive deeper into a select set of topics and to hear updates from agencies under their purview.
Interim topics were discussed during joint committee meetings in the final week of the 2022 Budget Session, but they will not be formally assigned until April 8, when Management Council meets to discuss and divvy out topics.
“We’ll know more about our interim after April 8 when Management Council meets,” comments Boner.
State lands were discussed in several capacities during the session, and both Boner and members of the Wyoming ag community believe discussions of state lands will continue through the interim, as well.
“We reformed leasing for vacant lots on state lands,” Boner says. “The process needed more clarity and more defined rules.”
He continues, “We’ll be looking at state lands through the interim, as well. The statutes governing state lands are old and could benefit from updates. I suspect our primary topic this interim will deal with state lands.”
Magagna notes the bills passed in the 2022 session related to state lands provide progress.
Boner also notes the ag committee is likely to follow up with their work on wild horses in the interim.
“There’s a surplus of wild horses on Bureau Land Management (BLM) lands and on the Wind River Reservation,” he comments. “Even though BLM has gathered over 3,500 wild horses, there are still too many. We’re looking at ways to assist and increase capacity to adopt horses, working with the tribes.”
During the session, one bill was passed to monetize the damage caused by over-populations of wild horses on state and private lands.
“The bill gives us the ability to catalog those costs to the state and to private individuals,” Boner explains. “It also establishes the opportunity for cooperative agreements between the government, private individuals, non-governmental organizations and tribes to do more work to manage horses.”
He continues, “We’re going to focus moving forward and make sure these agreements are established. We have a half a million dollars to spend, and if agreements are successful, we’re hopeful funding can be increased in the future.”
Rosenthal notes the Select Water Committee will pursue a handful of water related topics, including a topic on ditch conveyance, but she says Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts did not request any specific interim topics this year.
WyFB’s members have indicated interest in looking at veterinary technicians and why Wyoming does not have vet techs. Moline notes the issue has been discussed in the past, but there may be opportunities moving forward.
Magagna notes he submitted a topic to the Travel, Recreation and Wildlife Committee related to managing excess elk populations, which is a very important topic.
“There were a lot of little topics we discussed this session which were important,” Moline says. “We had a few disappointments we hope to see discussed in the interim.”
Namely, Moline notes two trespass bills did not move forward, and he hopes to see those topics discussed further in the interim. Trespass by drone and trespass across private lands for hunting are both important topics to discuss moving forward.
Boner concludes, “We’re just focused on making sure we have more opportunities to market our products as farmers and ranchers to ensure stability of the supply chain and manage our water and natural resources.”
Saige Zespy is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.