Wyoming Legislature update – Feb. 23, 2014
by Wyoming HD#20 Representative Albert Sommers
February 23, 2014
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Capital on Sunday. The last two weeks have been a blur of issues and voting, with early mornings and late nights, but I expect the next two weeks will be somewhat slower, as we begin to address Senate bills that are headed for the House.
On Monday, we will clean up the last of the House bills on third reading. Both of my bills, including the statutory fix for the rural health care district, are on the third and final reading consent list, which means they are expected to pass without much discussion. If my bills pass the House on Monday, they will be headed for the Senate. Both of these bills are a long way from final approval of the legislature.
Other bills of interest to our area, and on the consent list, include: HB102 which puts in statute the Wyoming Sage Grouse Implementation Team, and defines the makeup of the committee; HB12 which allows for an increase in the speed limit on interstates to 80 MPH; HB106 which gives county commissioners the authority to restrict the use of fireworks in a drought; and HB154 which ensures that gratuities are not included in the calculation of sales tax. Currently some businesses that automatically add gratuities for staff have to pay sales tax to the state based on a total that includes those gratuities. If you were to go to a resort and the resort added a mandatory gratuity for staff to your bill, HB154 says that the business (and the customer) do not pay sales tax on the gratuity portion.
One bill on the regular third reading list for Monday, which is quite interesting, is HB76. HB76 discusses how property is subject to forfeiture in a drug bust. Current law states that in a drug bust not only property used in the crime can be seized, but that property "intended for use" can be seized. "Intended for use" could be a highly subjective decision, and there was much debate around that wording. However, in the end that wording was left alone. Another section of the Wyoming Controlled Substance Act allowed that property could be seized from a "common carrier" if "it appears" they are a consenting party in the crime. Once again, "it appears" is hard to define, and the legislation now states that there needs to be "clear and convincing evidence" to take someone’s property. This was a great debate on how much authority do we give the courts to seize private property. I support HB76 in its current form.
We will hear two bills in the House Education Committee on Monday that deal with the Hathaway Scholarship. One bill expands the scholarship to include summer school and the other gives a slight increase to the scholarship amounts. So long for now.