Wyoming Legislature updates
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 27, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Legislature on Friday the 26th. On third reading we passed SF45, which amended the maximum percentage of seats that any one political party can occupy on a state board. Most state boards have multiple requirements about whom may be appointed. The first and most important requirement is that individuals must have expertise in the duties of the board. Many boards also have a geographic requirement, or appointment districts, which further restrict the applicant pool. Boards may observe requirements regarding diversity in interest groups, and there is an unwritten requirement to balance boards based on gender. When all of these requirements line up in an area where there are few individuals qualified from a minority party, then it can become difficult to fill vacancies. For several boards, the amended language would allow no more than 75 percent of board members to be from one party, which would result in no more than one additional member from the current majority party on a nine member board. I offered an amendment to make the Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust Fund board a non-partisan board, because the board has a requirement for both interest group representation and geographic representation. My amendment failed, but the bill passed, and I voted for the bill.
Senate File 45 passed both bodies today. This bill gives rural health care districts the same authority as hospital districts. I supported this bill, because rural health care districts need the same access and opportunity under the law that hospital districts have.
SF32 passed Committee of the Whole today. It would create a more equitable way to judge alternative schools. This accountability system will be developed by alternative school professionals.
Next week, the week of Feb. 29, will be our last week in session. I still have two bills in play, and we will see if they get through the process.
Thursday, February 25, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Thursday the 25th. Today in third and final reading in the House we passed, with my vote, a number of Senate Files, including a bill that would allow someone who has gone bankrupt the ability to protect from forfeiture a few firearms, a bill that reauthorized the Youth Challenge Program for troubled youth, and a bill that repealed archaic mineral taxation provisions.
In Committee of the Whole we passed Senate Files to second reading, including a bill that repealed obsolete health care statutes, a bill that would require sales and use tax that had been erroneously collected be returned to the individual who got taxed inappropriately, a bill that gives limited lifetime game and fish licenses to Purple Heart recipients, and a "beer freedom" bill giving home brewers the ability to compete in local beerfest competitions.
Last year you may remember that we passed a data trespass bill, which I supported. The bill lacked clarity due to a change that occurred very late in the process, and it created quite a stir around the state, ending up in court. SF75, which passed out of Committee of the Whole today, was written to fix the problems created by the original legislation. This bill would make trespass on or across private property a higher order of trespass, if related to collecting data. I co-sponsored this bill, because I believe it is our duty as legislators to fix problems we have created, and because it is wrong to trespass on private property.
We had a lesson in parliamentary procedure today when a bill was resurrected from the dead by an obscure maneuver, which cited prior House precedent rather than an official rule of the House. These parliamentary tricks are part of the legislative process, and always result in a learning experience. The bill that created the fuss would establish a Select Committee to evaluate our prison system, and what new construction we might need. In the end, I voted to resurrect the bill.
All of my legislative updates can be found at my website, http://www.albertsommers.com.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016:
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Legislature on Wednesday the 24th.This was the first day that the House concentrated totally on Senate Files, as the last of the House Bills left our chamber yesterday. Remember, each bill must move through both the House and the Senate before it is presented to Governor Mead for his consideration. It is an arduous process to get a bill signed into law, as it should be.
Senate files that passed on third reading, and which I supported, included a bill that prioritized landfill remediation projects in the state, a bill that refined statutes to ensure the state of Wyoming can gain regulatory primacy from the federal government on uranium mining, a bill that creates a higher standard for law enforcement to seize property after an arrest, and a bill that creates a risk assessment for juvenile sex offenders.
The senate file on third and final reading that generated the greatest debate was a bill that creates a task force to help coordinate local efforts to develop bicycle paths and trails around the state. This task force includes representatives from a variety of interest groups, including local government and agriculture. The Highway Commission has a similar board, but it is focused on federal grants for pathways. The argument was made that the task force was duplicative, but I didnít support that argument. I think a task force, made up of different interest groups, is essential in coordinating multijurisdictional trail systems, and in ensuring that bicycle trail systems are managed to respect a variety of uses.
Senate File 45, which gives rural health care districts the same authority in statute as hospital districts, passed Committee of the Whole today. Regardless of Sublette Countyís final decision on the creation of a Critical Access Hospital, it is important that rural health care districts have the same access under the law as do hospital districts. This bill does not allow rural health care districts to tax more mills than currently allowed.
To view all my press releases to date, at any time, visit http://www.albertsommers.com.