Wyoming Legislature update – January 31, 2015
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
January 31, 2015
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Saturday the 31st (January 31, 2015).
On Friday, my bill HB 87 passed Committee of the Whole in the House. This bill is a result of concerns I heard from parents, teachers, administrators, and the State Board of Education regarding the K12 standard setting process. The bill will provide in statute that the State Board must hold 4 public hearings, around the state, on proposed standards, and that these meetings must occur before official rulemaking begins. This requirement is current State Board policy, but was only recently put in place. After the concerns I heard from the public regarding adoption of the Common Core standards, I believe it is important to statutorily require broad public comment.
I further amended my bill in Committee of the Whole to ensure the Superintendent of Public Instruction and the State Board work together to develop a protocol to receive input from parents, teachers, and administrators. My bill also changes the time frame for review of standards from at least once every five years to at least once every 10 years, and does not allow any of the big three standards (science, math, and language/arts) to be reviewed concurrently. This does not preclude the State Board from reviewing standards sooner than that, but does not mandate their review until 10 years. The primary concern I heard from teachers, when the Common Core was implemented, was that adopting two major standards at the same time was too heavy a lift. Small districts often do not have specialized curriculum directors to accomplish this task, putting a greater burden on them than large districts, which have specialized personnel. The bill also was amended to give districts at least three years to implement standards, which is a time frame I heard was necessary in some instances. My bill will now travel through second and third reading in the House, and with any luck will head to the Senate.
I am bringing another education bill, HB147, which would create the Wyoming Education Council. I do not believe we need to change our education governance structure, but I do believe we need better communication and coordination between the separate bureaucratic entities that oversee education. It is my hope that providing an education council, with representation from parents and local districts, will help create a vision for the future of education in Wyoming, and help smooth the transitions students face as they move through the system. This is NOT an attempt to create more bureaucracy, but is an attempt to bridge current bureaucracies, by creating better communication. This bill has passed through two committees, and is on its way to the floor of the House.
During the interim, I had brought a bill to the Transportation Committee to provide exemptions from Wyoming’s Class A&B driver’s license requirements for those classes of drivers exempted by federal regulation from the CDL requirements. These exempted drivers include farmers, ranchers, military, firefighters/emergency, and recreational drivers. This bill, SF29, was introduced to the Senate as a committee bill.
Prior to the session I drafted another bill, which eliminates the Wyoming Class A&B driver’s licenses, leaving only the CDL Class A, B, and C, as well as the Wyoming Class C. The Wyoming Class C is the license carried by most drivers of cars and pickups. The new bill addresses safety by not allowing anyone younger than 18 years of age to drive a vehicle over 26,001 lb. GVWR with a Class C license. Further, the bill requires anyone using a Wyoming Class C license driving a vehicle over 39,000 lb. GVWR to have a newly-created "Z" endorsement. This endorsement would require anyone driving such vehicles to either pass a test or obtain an affidavit of competency from someone who currently has a valid license to drive these vehicles. This affidavit system was in place in Wyoming until the 1980s, when the CDL program was established by the federal government. This endorsement is good only for individuals exempted from the CDL statutes and regulations. This is still more restrictive than our neighboring states, but it was the best deal I could cut.
The Senate replaced my old bill SF29 with this new bill, still titled SF29, and it has passed the Senate, headed for the House. SF29 was a product of a lot of work − by me and by other legislators from farming counties.
If you have any concerns or questions, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. All of my updates can be found at www.albertsommers.com, where you will also find a link to my facebook page.