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Stay Informed and Engaged

Written by Dennis Sun

    We tend to forget our state legislators this time of the year, as our minds usually tune out anything about the state’s lawmakers as soon as the legislative session ends. But in reality, our state lawmakers’ work never ends. They are tuned in and working for us year-round. They are at their day jobs at home and are not bunched up in Cheyenne, though.

This past week, I attended one day of the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee meeting held in Hulett. The purpose of the meeting, as the notice said, was to begin the committee’s interim work as assigned by the Legislature’s Management Council. The committee discussed various topics, including stranded state lands inventory, the prior appropriation statutory of water allocation, state-led collaboration for federal lands management, the state fire suppression account and the Black Hills National Forest. In addition, the committee received agency updates from the Office of State Lands and Investments, the Wyoming Water Development Office, the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Livestock Board, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming State Forestry Division and staff from the Wyoming congressional delegation.

Also, Harriet Hageman, an attorney from Cheyenne who is an authority on Wyoming’s water issues, and Jim Neiman from Neiman Enterprises in Hulett, who owns most of the large lumber mills in the region, were asked to present testimony.

If you are involved in any type of agriculture in Wyoming, you were affected or had chips on the table at this meeting.

As you know, our state agencies now have to complete their normal tasks, plus deal with new issues as they are directed or arise, all under a state budget that is tight and getting tighter. I would guess there are numerous bottles of stomach acid reliever in most desks in state government these days.

The co-chairs of this committee are Rep. Robert McKim from Afton and Sen. Larry Hicks from Baggs. Both are very knowledgeable men. The committee is made up of five Senators and nine Representatives. Some of the members are involved in agriculture or the natural resources field, but there are some appointed who have no background in agriculture or natural resources, and they are undergoing a steep learning curve. They all know, as members of this committee, that they have responsibility to the committee and the issues, so are all engaged in the issues.

The Management Council selects the issues that need to be addressed while the Legislature is out of session and assigns those issues to committees, with a goal in mind to bring some legislation back to the full body, if needed. These issues need explored, with expert testimony coming from those who know from all sides of the issue. Importantly, comments from you, the citizens who are affected by the final outcome, is also heard during the meetings. Our government is a democracy, which is what makes our state and this country great.

It is not an easy task to be on an interim committee, as you can’t make everyone happy while not spending a lot of money. We thank these legislators for the good job they do, even though we don’t always agree with them. They have to do the job with the well-being of the state in mind. We can help them and ourselves by staying informed.