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 2019 general session passed the half way mark last week and is scheduled to run through Wednesday, February 27, 2019, with five additional days available if needed. The Legislature will not convene February 18 in observance of Presidents' Day.
The final count for bills and resolutions listed on the Wyoming Legislature website this session is 499. Bills can be found here.
This year's Gillette Area Leadership Institute class headed to Cheyenne for their yearly visit to the Legislature. Governor Mark Gordon met with the class as they toured the Governor's Mansion, and then signed Senate Resolution 1, declaring December 10, 2019 as the official 150th anniversary of Wyoming Women's Suffrage.
The class will continue to visit with lawmakers and explore Cheyenne through Friday.
There were a variety of amendments to the Wyoming Business Council budget that were considered in both the house and senate budget discussions. Please find a summary below of those that passed. Any amendments that passed one chamber but not the other will need to be worked out in a conference committee assigned to work through proposed differences in the budget.
House passed amendments:
The house and senate differ by about $80 million on their marked up supplemental budgets and are continuing to meet and discuss ways to close the gap. A conference committee(s) will be assigned to work out the differences between the house and senate versions of the budget.
House Bill 66, the Statewide Lodging Tax, was introduced to the Senate on Monday and has been referred to the Senate Committee for Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources. (Senator Driskill is Committee Chairman, Gillette Senator Wasserburger is also a member of the Travel Committee.)
Senate File 43, the Hathaway Scholarship bill that will modify the Hathaway Scholarship Program to allow for a career technical aptitude test to satisfy Hathaway Scholarship eligibility requirements, has passed both the House and Senate. It awaits Governor Gordon's signature.
Don't forget that March 19 is our Legislative Wrap-Up Breakfast. You can register online or by calling 307-682-3673. We will once again be hosting our local legislators at the Gillette College Technical Education Center at 7 a.m. Breakfast from Pokey's BBQ starts at 6:30 a.m.
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.
As of today, January 23, there are 379 bills and resolutions on the floor of the Legislature, with 10 being introduced in the last day alone. Many of our associated organizations are tracking legislation they support, and we are sharing a few of those bills, and their status, with you:
On Friday, January 18, Senate Joint Resolution 8, a piece of legislation asking that Congress write a constitutional amendment to regulate Super PACs, was introduced to the Wyoming Senate by local Senator Jeff Wasserburger. On Tuesday, January 22, SJ0008 was referred for consideration to the Senate Minerals, Business & Economic Development committee, which Senator Wasserberger is a member of.
Senate File 55, the Optometrists practice act supported by local optometrists in Campbell County, as well as Senators Von Flatern and Wasserburger, has passed its third reading in the Senate. It moved on to the House on January 23.
The bill includes an amendment from Senator Wasserburger assuring patients that optometrists seeking to perform advanced procedures in Wyoming have received training from "a college of optometry accredited by the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education."
Senate File 43, the Hathaway scholarship bill, has passed the Senate and was received by the House on Tuesday. Senators Driskill, Von Flatern, and Wasserburger voted for the final version of the bill in the Senate. The bill is supported by the Wyoming Economic Development Association.
House Bill 96, which is sponsored by Gillette Representatives Scott Clem and Tim Hallinan -- and would increase the tax on wind energy from $1 per megawatt hour to $5 per megawatt hour -- is still awaiting introduction to the Legislature. The Wyoming Economic Development Association opposes the bill, as does the Wyoming Taxpayer's Association.
House Bill 66, the statewide lodging tax legislation, has passed the House and was received in the Senate Tuesday afternoon. The bill is supported by the Wyoming Taxpayers Association and the Wyoming Economic Development Association, as well as the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition. It creates a 5% statewide lodging tax, with 3% of revenue dedicated to funding the Wyoming Office of Tourism, and the other 2% replacing local option lodging taxes, eliminating the need to vote on them every four years.
The addition of this local funding piece, along with the ability for individual counties to still vote on up to an additional 2% every four years if they require it in their locality, is an alternative to previous legislation, and a funding initiative that has been worked on by the tourism industry and the legislature for more than 2 years.
According to the Wyoming Travel Industry Coalition, they are "supporting this bill as long as the funding derived from the tax remains dedicated to funding tourism at a significantly more competitive level with our surrounding states."
Gillette Representatives Barlow and Pownell voted for the third version of the bill, which was sent to the Senate. Representatives Clem, Edwards, and Hallinan voted against it.
Chamber Member (and winner of the 2018 Award of Excellence for Small Business) Gillette Optometric Clinic, sent the following in regards to Senate File 55, Optometrists Practice Act Amendments:
"We are contacting you today because we want you to be aware of important changes the Wyoming Legislature is considering regarding the procedures that we can provide you or your family here in our offices. You may have heard on the news there has been a debate in the State Capitol on what we are trying to accomplish with supporting changes to the Wyoming Optometrists Practice Act.
Through the Wyoming Optometric Association, we asked the legislature to study advances in the practice of optometry through the Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Service Committee. After about a year’s worth of work the committee drafted and sponsored Senate File 55, Optometrists Practice Act Amendments.
The legislation recognizes that Doctors of Optometry deliver essential components of patients’ overall primary health that goes beyond prescribing glasses or contact lenses. Current curriculum being taught in accredited optometry schools across the country and for which current Doctors of Optometry receive during continuing education has made significant advances. However, we have not been able to use these new advances in Wyoming due to limits in state law on what services we may provide for your eye health. These limits have not been looked at in 25 years.
Wyoming Doctors of Optometry currently provide 98% of eye care in 21 counties in Wyoming. Allowing the updates to our scope of practice to include procedures we are trained in will improve patient care and patient access.
We strive to provide you with leading solutions and the best available procedures which keep your eyes healthy. Our request to the Legislature has been simple, let your local eye doctor provide you with the quality eyecare services for which we are trained. Passage of original Senate File 55 will help us accomplish those goals.
We need your help and the Legislators need to hear from you as citizens. They need to hear that you support original Senate File 55 which will allow us to provide you with the best eye care we can with the most updated and safe procedures for which we have been trained and certified.
Dr. Roger L. Jordan, OD
Dr. Joseph L. Fischer, OD
Dr. Joseph C. Maycock, OD
Dr. Ashlee Mills-Fischer, OD
Dr. Melissa M. Younger, OD"
You can voice your support for the bill online here, or contact one of your local Senators and ask that they support the bill.
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:
The Wyoming Legislative Session convenes today at Noon. Here are the best ways to contact your representative while the legislature is in session:
Representative for District 3 (includes Converse county) Eric Barlow: email Eric.Barlow@wyoleg.gov
Representative for District 31, Scott Clem: email Scott.Clem@wyoleg.gov, or text (307) 660-7141
Representative for District 53, Roy Edwards: email Roy.Edwards@wyoleg.gov
Representative for District 32, Tim Hallinan: email Tim.Hallinan@wyoleg.gov
Representative for District 52, Bill Pownall: email Bill.Pownall@wyoleg.gov
For a full contact list of House Representatives, click here.
Senator for District 24, Michael Von Flatern: email Michael.VonFlatern@wyoleg.gov or text (307) 680-4744
Senator for District 23, Jeff Wasserburger: text (307) 680-2943
Senator for District 1 (includes Crook and Weston counties) Ogden Driskill: text (307) 680-5555
Mr. Driskill has been elected Senate Vice President for the current Legislative Session.
For a full contact list of Senators, click here.
You can listen live to the Joint Session of the Legislature and Governor's State of the State address today at 10 a.m. by clicking here.
We'll be keeping up to date with events during the session right here on our Legislative Monitoring blog. Please check back for updates!
The 64th Legislature concluded the 2018 Legislative Budget Session on March 15. Starting the session with a slate of 330 House and Senate bills, by its conclusion, 150 had met their fate, and 136 have been signed into law by Governor Mead.
While the final budget was very close to the respective versions submitted by the House and Senate in terms of spending levels, they differed substantially on funding methodologies. Remaining divided on their respective philosophies on funding methodologies, the two sides settled on a budget bill deal that would allow both approaches as a trial measure, each for one year during the two-year biennium. The Legislature will adopt the House’s plan for FY 2019, and the following year it will then be the Senate’s turn. The two sides passed the general government appropriations budget on Saturday morning, March 10, but went late into the evening debating K-12 spending reductions and state capital construction projects.
The Legislative Policy Committee (PC) held its final meeting on Monday, February 26th, to review and discuss the 37 proposed bills on the WTA Budget Session Tracking Sheet accompanying this report. Below is a quick review of the major bills that WTA was following.
According to Gillette representative Eric Barlow, the budget session being extended was simply a matter of needing more time, and having three extra days on the books.
“It’s not common, but it’s not unusual,” Barlow told the Gillette News Record. “There’s nothing nefarious going on.”
The main budget bill, which funds most state agencies, was passed by roughly two-thirds of lawmakers in the House and Senate after reaching a deal to remove both construction and education cuts from the budget. The idea was that those two topics would then be addressed in separate pieces of legislation. The extension is in order to address the remaining education and construction bills.
The House will reconvene at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, the Senate on Thursday, meaning the Chamber has had to push their March 13 Legislative Wrap-Up breakfast to March 22.
In interim between now and the next general session in 2019, legislative committees will meet at least three times. The Wyoming State Chamber of Commerce will be tracking committee topic assignments. For now, they've issued their final report on the session:
63rd Wyoming Legislature