The 2019 Wyoming Legislative General Session came to a close in the wee hours of last Thursday morning with the legislature adjourning Sine Die around 2:00 am. The delay in adjournment was due to a number of issues between the House and Senate including state funded capitol construction, the bill to allow for community colleges to award bachelor of applied science degrees, party ratios on the Legislative Management Council, and a debate over funding for new dorms at the University of Wyoming. Both Houses suspended their rules (in the case of the House, multiple times) to get through their work.
Governor Gordon approved the supplemental budget funding bill with 14 line-item vetoes. In his letter to the Legislature, the Governor clearly laid down markers on what he expects from future budgets. Of the 14 vetoes, the body overrode 4.
“Recognizing that legislators are knowledgeable about the Constitution, I will take the 26 examples of the use of 'shall' or 'shall not' that are contrary to Article 4, Section 4 encompassed in this bill to be reasoned suggestions as I cannot imagine any legislator intentionally meant to infringe on the authority of the executive branch,” Governor Gordon wrote, in a letter to the legislature. “I have attached a list of the 26 examples. I imagine reviews of future budgets will avoid this sort of awkward vocabulary.”
The Wyoming State Chamber of Commerce's priority this session was career and technical education (CTE), and three bills were passed that will go far in addressing industry need for skilled worker education. In the end, the bills adopted will provide work training and degree options for those who did not finish high school to those who plan to earn an advanced degree.
SF43 expands the Hathaway Scholarship program to include taking 2 CTE courses to qualify in addition to the foreign language and fine arts requirements.
SF111 authorizes a bachelor of applied science degree program to be offered by any of Wyoming's 7 community colleges. Concentrations are to be determined by each college individually, based on the workforce needs of their respective communities.
SF122 authorizes Community Colleges to stand up short courses to train CTE workforce employees to meet industry demands. This will include grant funding for student tuition.
The Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition's primary goal heading into the session was HB 66, the Statewide Lodging Tax. For more than 2 years the WTIC board of directors in collaboration with the Wyoming Lodging and Restaurant Association Board and Wyoming Tourism Board have been working on an alternative funding model to get Wyoming’s statewide marketing program off of the state’s general fund and onto a more dedicated, stable funding stream.
While a statewide lodging tax was not the first choice, there was significant drive within the legislature last session to pass one. The boards met this past spring and decided that a 3% statewide lodging tax would generate about $19 million annually, placing Wyoming on significantly more competitive footing with our competing neighboring states.
HB 66 also had a 2% guarantee back to local option lodging tax boards to act as a safety net the next time the local tax went before the voters. While the bill was not perfect, it was better than the status quo associated with being on the state’s general fund. Despite the support of leadership in the legislature, after passing the Wyoming House of Representatives fairly easily, the bill was met with some unfortunate opposition in the senate, ultimately killing the effort.
Efforts to pass legislation to allow the creation of Tourism Improvement Districts also fell short. The concept was presented to the Joint Revenue Committee for consideration as an interim topic. The WTIC board of directors will meet later this spring to discuss the path forward.
Governor Gordon’s recommended supplemental budget request of $2.5 million for the Wyoming Office of Tourism was approved. Wyoming’s marketing program currently ranks 29th in the nation, well below most of our competing surrounding states. This funding is a stopgap that will aid in elevating marketing resources and driving more visitor traffic to Wyoming until an alternative funding source is passed. Status-Joint Appropriations Committee denied the $2.5 million request and approved adding $500,000 per year to the budget.
Some of the supported bills that passed:
HB0097 Taxation of broadband internet infrastructure. Maintains the opportunity for telecom to stay in the right aways as they become a deregulated industry (as current right away is for public utility). This does NOT mandate what they pay or allow anyone in for free as that is up to the local control.
HB098 Right of ways-communications services. Is a sales tax exemption on equipment and incentive for broadband providers to serve unserved areas (as by our unserved definition). Another incentive to get connectivity to unserved areas. Both this and HB97 were sponsored by Crook County representative Tyler Lindholm.
HB 99 Public Lands Day. Creates a Public Lands Day state holiday. Currently proposed for the fourth Saturday in September.
Bills that failed:
HB 67 Sales Tax Revisions. Would have removed the sales tax exemption on home-prepared foods, data centers and manufacturing. The bill would have reduced the state sales tax to 3.5% and create a tax on most services.
HB 72 Wage Transparency. Would have prohibited employers from barring employees from disclosing wage information and employers from requiring employees to waive wage disclosure rights.
HB 164 Wyoming Film Production Incentive. Would have allowed the Wyoming Office of Tourism to offer incentives to film companies that shoot in and feature Wyoming in their productions. The bill had no appropriation attached and would have enabled legislation to give the Office of Tourism an additional tool in the event that an opportunity presents itself.
HB 273- Minimum Wage. Would have increased the state minimum wage to $8.50/hr and increased it to $10.00 over a 5-year period.
Legislative committees are now working to determine topics for the interim. It is important to stay in touch with your local legislators throughout the year, as they continue work in government. You can meet with Senators and Representatives March 19 at our Legislative Wrap-Up.
The fourth week for the legislative session ended Friday. Much of the week was dedicated to supplemental budget appropriations bills. Both houses spent a couple of long days and nights working through their versions, ending up roughly $70 million apart. There were a variety of amendments to the budget that were considered in both the house and senate budget discussions.
House passed amendments
Senate passed amendments
February 1 was the final day for bills to be reported out of committee in their respective houses of origin, meaning many of the House Bills, Senate Files and Resolutions will not be considered any further this legislative session. Monday, February 4 was the final day for bills to be heard by the Committee of the Whole in their house of origin. Tuesday, February 5 and Wednesday, February 6 are the final days for second and third readings, respectively.
Senate File 43, which passed the Senate on January 16 and has been sent to the House Committee for Education, is the Hathaway Scholarship Eligibility Act, supported by the Wyoming State Chamber of Commerce. The Hathaway Scholarship bill would help raise awareness for Career and Technical Education. Governor Mark Gordon signed a proclamation for Career and Technical Education on Monday.
House Bill 93 would create a tourism improvement district (TID). An assessment is placed on tourism businesses within a designated geographic area and the funds raised through the assessment are used for specific tourism marketing purposes. The bill will be written as enabling legislation, meaning that it allows for the conversation about Tourism Improvement Districts in your communities but it does not create or mandate anyone to utilize a TID. That bill passed the House on February 1 and was introduced to the Senate, then referred to the Senate Committee for Corporations on Tuesday, February 5.
Bills that have died:
House Bill 67, the Sales Tax Revision bill that would have removed the sales tax exemption on home-prepared foods, data centers and manufacturing, and reduced the state sales tax to 3.5%. The Wyoming Taxpayer's Association opposed this bill.
House Bill 72, Wage Transparency, that would have prohibited employers from barring employees from disclosing wage information and would have prohibited employers from requiring employees to waive wage disclosure rights.
House Bill 167, the severance tax reduction on coal, has been postponed indefinitely. It was introduced by Gillette Representative Hallinan and supported by Represenatives Clem and Edwards.
The 2019 general session is scheduled to run through Wednesday, February 27, 2019, with five additional days available if needed.
As of today there are 499 bills and resolutions listed on the Wyoming Legislature website. The total expected bill load was 500. Bills can be found here.
A number of these bills could impact economic development and diversification. It is more important now than ever to promote our economy at both the state and local level by letting represenatives know your thoughts on legislation currently being discussed. You can use the "comments" section of any bill to have your voice heard on these initiatives. You can also contact a legislator to leave a message by calling the Senate receptionist at 307-777-7711 or the House receptionist at 307-777-7852.
Tuesday, January 29 was the last day for House Bills to be submitted for introduction. Tomorrow, Friday, February 1, is the last day for Bills to be reported out of Committee in their house of origin.
Tuesday, February 4 will be the last day for a Second Reading on legislation in their house of origin, and February 6 will be the last day for a Third Reading.
A lot will be happening in the upcoming weeks. We will be following bills of interest, as well as those of interest to the Wyoming Economic Development Association (WEDA) and the Wyoming Taxpayer's Association (WTA).
From WEDA, a Wyoming Business Council JAC Update:
"During the Joint Appropriations Committee supplemental budget discussions last week there was significant action taken on the Wyoming Business Councils administrative and business ready community accounts. Please see below for a summary. We will be monitoring the floor discussion very closely to ensure no cuts are made to the Wyoming Business Council.
$100k from WBC for international agriculture marketing in the "south rim." Legislature wants to continue relationship and be sure that Mainland China is included since they're the largest import market in the world.
$250k in operations and $2mm from BRC shall not be expended until further legislative authorization. Requires WBC to report by 11/1/19 on other ED activities in other agencies. Not intended to be punitive - Their perception is that there is a lot economic development related funds committed through various programs and their legislature wants a report detailing everything so that funds are being used in an efficient manner.
$250k from BRC to local economic developers with matching funds for aerospace manufacturing projects
$3 million from broadband account (created through endow last year) to BRC account earmarked for rural underserved broadband areas"
Bills we are following:
House Bill 66, the Statewide Lodging Tax, passed the House by a vote of 44-16, and was introduced to the Senate on January 22. Senate File 42, the Hathaway Scholarship Eligibility bill, also has not seen movement since passing the Senate on January 22.
A bill being opposed by WEDA and the WTA, House Bill 67, would remove the sales tax exemption on home-prepared foods, data centers, and manufacturing. It has not moved from the House Appropriations committee since January 15. The last day for it to be sent out of committee would be Friday, February 1. The Sales Tax Revisions bill would reduce the state sales tax to 3.5% and would create a tax on most services.
A bill being monitored by the WTA, House Bill 166, would increase the annual decal fee for a plug-in electric vehicle from $50 to $200; and would establish a $100 required decal for a hybrid electric vehicle. The change is projected to increase revenue from approximately $12,000 a year to a projected $140,900 a year. That bill passed its second reading in the House this morning. It is Co-Sponsored by Senator Ogden Driskill.
House Bill 96, an 80% tax increase on wind energy production, was not introduced to the House. A similar bill, House Bill 239, would have increased the tax on wind energy production 75%. It was sponsored by Gillette's Representative Edwards and also failed to be introduced in the House. House Bill 260 would have increased tax on wind energy production by 80%, but incrementally over a period of 5 years. That bill also was not introduced to the House.
House Bill 167 relates to the severance tax rate on surface coal, it would reduce the tax rate from 7% to 6.5%. The Wyoming Taxpayer's Association is monitoring this bill, which was referred to the Revenue committe on January 18.
Governor-Elect Mark Gordon was sworn in this past week and delivered his first State of the State Address on Wednesday. In his remarks, he laid out his general priorities.
The legislative session has kicked off and is underway. As of this writing, 226 bills have been filed, and the Wyoming State Chamber expects many more. One of the bills we are tracking has moved very fast this week. SF0043, which add a career-vocational pathway to Hathaway Scholarship eligibility passed 2nd Reading in the Senate on Friday.
Other bills being tracked:
Prepared by: Charlene Murdock, Executive Director
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce
The Wyoming Legislature is in full swing, having concluded two weeks of work on the state's business. At this time just over 350 bills and resolutions have been filed for consideration.
There are a number of issues we are following, as outlined in the bill tracking report below. A few measures that are worthy of mentioning:
Governor’s State of the State Address:
The Honorable Governor Matthew H. Mead addressed the Wyoming Legislature on January 11, 2017, to kick off the 64th legislative session. His address conveyed a tone of optimism for how well the state has managed so far during the economic downturn, along with prompting for the Legislature to address budget shortfalls in a prudent and responsible fashion and to maintain an attitude of progressive investment in economic diversification measures.
The Governor reported that the State of Wyoming, although facing challenging times of lower revenues, remains strong. The state has $1.59 billion in the Legislative Stabilization and Reserve Account (LSRA), the state’s rainy day fund; and another $7.4 billion in the Permanent Mineral Trust Fund, an in volatile fund that generates considerable income to the state via interest.
You can find a synopsis of the Governor’s State of the State Address here.
Listen to the State of the State audio here:
Link to a written copy of the State of the State address here:
Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Charlene Murdock will be monitoring legislation and engaging as needed to serve as the “Voice of Business” for Campbell County. If you have questions or concerns on any bill, email CharleneM@GilletteChamber.com.
63rd Wyoming Legislature