Legislature takes up social bills

Rally set for equality in relationships

House panel will consider marriage equality, partnerships bills

First gun and abortion bills in other House committees Monday

Marriage equality, domestic partnerships, abortion, and gun legislation stand out among several controversial social bills the Wyoming House will take up on Monday. Our friends at Wyoming Equality have worked hard to organize around several bills aimed at ending discrimination that deprives people of their civil rights because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. With support from the Human Rights Campaign, they’ve hired an experienced lobbyist, Marian Schulz, to assist them. There’s a marriage equality rally at the Capitol Monday morning at 9. Called the Dress for Success Rally, the group will demonstrate to support the legislation through the morning. “Come dressed in your best business casual because we mean business!” the organizers say.

Rep. Cathy Connolly

Two of the Wyoming Equality-backed bills will be heard by the House Corporations, Elections & Political Subdivisions Committee upon the noon recess. They include HB 169 Marriage-definition, and HB 168 Domestic partnerships-rights and responsibilities. Both are sponsored by Rep. Cathy Connolly, D-HD13, Laramie. The House Judiciary Committee will hear two gun bills on the noon recess. The first bill, HB200 Concealed weapons-government meetings, requires people with concealed carry permits to get permission to take a concealed firearm into a government meeting. The second bill, HB 216 Deadly weapons in a courtroom prohibits taking a deadly weapon into a courtroom though it expressly permits a judge doing so. Topping off the social legislation hearings on Monday is a HB 97 No abortion after heartbeat. The measure outlaws abortion after detection of a fetal heartbeat. The House Labor, Health & Social Services Committee will hear the bill 10 minutes after the House adjourns for the day. The hearing is in Room H-17, a small venue so people should arrive early if they want a seat. Chairman Elaine Harvey has scheduled 90 minutes of testimony, 45 minutes each for opponents and proponents of the bill.

But wait, there’s more …

A successful media lawsuit that forces the University of Wyoming to disclose the names of applicants for the UW president’s job spawned HB 223, Public records-institutions of higher education. It will make secret applications, references, and “records or information relating to the process of searching” for a president if the information could be used to identify a candidate. The gag rule applies to the university and Wyoming’s seven community colleges. If approved, the law takes effect immediately and will negate the media’s court victory. Worker safety – The Speaker’s job safety bill will be considered in Senate Minerals Monday. House Bill 52 Workplace safety initiatives offers another carrot to entice employers to participate in courtesy job safety inspections. If passed, participating employers will get a discount of up to 10% on their workers compensation insurance premiums. Medicaid Expansion – After getting out of the Senate Labor Committee on a “Do Not Pass” motion, SF 122 Expansion of Medicaid was heard by the Senate Appropriations Committee over the lunch hour Friday. Members of the Wyoming Coalition for the Medicaid Expansion spoke in both venues. There has been no testimony opposing the bill. Sen. President Ross has said he wants to get the bill up on the floor for a full debate. (See  “Medicaid Expansion negatory” for an explanation of this unusual procedural maneuver.) We understand that the ideological opposition to federal health care reform means the bill has virtually no chance this year – unless the public speaks up and demands doing what’s best for Wyoming citizens. The expansion saves the state about $125 million over seven years while improving population health. Pensions – The House Appropriations Committee decided Friday to draft a bill that would require an overall .5% increase in employee contributions to the big state plan, the Fire Fighters Plan B and the Game Wardens plan. Employers would be required to make the contribution. (The committee did not specify how this is done, although Chairman Steve Harshman, R-HD37, Casper, said it costs the state less to pay a .5% retirement contribution than to give a .5% raise.) A similar contribution increase will be imposed on employers in 2014. The bill structures the contributions so the contribution to the Big Plan is .5%; to the FF plan it is .225% and to the Game Wardens plan .9%. In another public employee pay move, the supplemental budget proposal bill includes a 1% “retention incentive” for all employees. The raise for employees making more than $125,000 will be held at $1,250. (So the football coach’s 2013 retention incentive will not be complicated by the base pay and incentives that brought him more than $800,000 in 2010.) Meanwhile, HB 45 Fireman pension plan A, was killed in House Appropriations on Thursday. It would have taken the mandatory COLA provision out of the plan.  

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