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The People’s Review: 2018

The People's Review: ESPC's Accountability Project
65TH WYOMING LEGISLATURE: 2018 BUDGET SESSION

The People’s Review is a tool for you to understand your elected official’s values and vision for Wyoming while placing the power of government back in your hands. Through this project, we want to inspire you to learn more about governmental process and to ignite discourse between you and those who represent you in office. These bills were chosen by our coalition to represent the issues most relevant to our vision for Wyoming.
Our future is dependent on informed and engaged voters like you, holding our elected officials accountable to their decisions.

2018 Legislation

To find vote records for the below legislation, click on the county regions in the list or map above.

LEGISLATOR COMMUNICATIONS ON RECORDINGS AND BROADCASTS

(HB 192 — Bill Passed — ESPC Supported)

Changed the statute to allow legislative interim committee meetings to be recorded and archived for public access. This gesture shows institutional support for transparent government and allows all Wyomingites equal access to engage in the important discussions and decisions determining the future of our state that occur during the interim period.

SEVERANCE TAX-EXEMPTION

(SF 98 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

Would have provided a 50% severance-tax exemption for new crude oil and natural gas wells after their first two years of production. This bill was couched as an attempt to stimulate the industry; however, study after study has shown that tax exemptions do nothing to increase production and cannot influence the real driver of the market – commodity prices. Given our current economy, we cannot afford to turn away our already limited revenue streams.

CRIMES AGAINST CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE

(SF 74 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

This bill aimed to criminalize protests by attaching excessive fines and penalties to individuals or organizations exercising their first amendment right to oppose ‘critical infrastructure’ facilities. This cookie-cutter legislation was written by the American Legislative Exchange Council in response to the indigenous-led protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, and failed to recognize Wyoming’s existing laws that already address trespassing on or damaging critical infrastructure. The bill would have targeted an array of individuals, from conservation groups that often organize public campaigns to affect policy regarding energy development and the environment, to churches who may send bottled water to demonstrators, to indigenous water protectors who stand up to fossil fuel companies and their infrastructure.

GAME AND FISH AGREEMENTS WITH FEDERAL AGENCIES

(HB 20 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

Would have required that any memorandum of understanding or cooperative agreement between the Game and Fish Department and federal agencies related to the management of endangered or sensitive species be subject to legislative review, suggested revision, approval, or cancellation. This bill inserted the Wyoming Legislature into the administrative wildlife operations of the department, politicizing and micro-managing the department’s professional wildlife management decisions.

WILDLIFE CONSERVATION LICENSE PLATES

(HB 39 – Bill Passed – ESPC Supported)
Authorizes the sale of specialty wildlife conservation plates to those who wish to voluntarily pay an extra fee. This funding contributes to migration corridor conservation efforts, such as wildlife crossings, which create habitat connectivity in historic migration pathways. The plates express widespread public support for Wyoming’s wildlife and open spaces, and create public awareness around the importance of these migration corridors to our most iconic species, such as mule deer and pronghorn.

LIMITED AND SMALL MINES-AMENDMENTS-2

(HB 25 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

Would have eroded our environmental reclamation and air quality standards, and it would have reduced public notice, comment, and hearing opportunities for Wyomingites impacted by small mines, including controversial sand and gravel mines. The bill was opposed by landowners and conservation groups, and earlier drafts were even opposed by mining trade associations. The bill, which narrowly passed through the Minerals Committee during the 2018 interim, was soundly defeated during the introduction vote in the House.

CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE EDUCATION AND PREVENTION

(SF 93 – Bill Passed — ESPC Supported)

Permits school districts, who have not otherwise acted, to provide education and develop community-based strategies to promote education, collaboration, and accountability among persons and entities who are responsible for child sexual abuse education, prevention, and response for children and adolescents in our K-12 school system. Preventing sexual violence is as important as intervening and stopping it. This bill helps to ensure each child has the same opportunity to understand their personal boundaries, and have safe and supportive people to tell when those boundaries have been violated.

PROPERTY OFFENSES

(HB 55 — Bill Failed — ESPC Supported)

Would have increased the amount of property damage from $1,000 to $1,500 in order for the damage to be considered a felony offense. The bill would have contributed to much-needed incremental criminal justice reforms, reducing the number of people incarcerated in Wyoming for non-violent crimes.

GOVERNMENT CONTRACTS-LABOR ORGANIZATION

(SF 91 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

Would have limited the ability of state agencies from entering into construction-based contracts with labor organizations. In turn this would have resulted in a reduction of pay for workers who work on state construction projects because they would no longer have had a baseline pay set to compete with union contracts.

SCHOOL FINANCE AMENDMENTS-4

(HB 140 — Bill Passed — ESPC Opposed)

Created an additional $27.2 million in education cuts over the next two years, compounding the $77 million already made in cuts to school funding last year. A recalculation of the Average Daily Membership and a reduction in money for groundskeepers resulted in major cuts to operating funds for schools. Special education funding will be capped at the SY 2018-2019 expenditures, which will force school districts to reduce or limit services to special needs students.

PUBLIC SCHOOL FINANCING

(SJ 4 — Bill Failed — ESPC Opposed)

The Wyoming Constitution grants students a fundamental right to an equitable and adequate education, no matter where a student lives or attends school in the state. When the legislature inequitably funds education, school districts may file lawsuits against the state to meet this constitutional standard. This bill would have asked voters to amend Wyoming’s constitution, giving Wyoming’s Legislature authority to cut education without fear of lawsuits from school districts, and thus denying students a fundamental right.

Notes

ON THE BUDGET

Our Wyoming Constitution requires a balanced state budget. This created some conflict between the state’s House and Senate this session. The Senate had a more conservative outlook on our state’s finances and sought to balance the budget through further reductions in government. Despite efforts by some conservative members to cut vital community funding, the House looked to maintain programs through supplemental funding through our state’s saving accounts and with the surplus of recent projected revenue.

After countless amendments and hours of debate, the budget moved forward with much dissent, passing with a 19-11 vote in the Senate and 38-20 vote in the House. Many senators, including Senate President Eli Bebout, expressed disappointment in the lack of funding cuts, especially those related to education.

The approved budget mirrors Governor Mead’s recommendation for funding state agencies, increases spending on social services, and invests money in the state’s economic diversification initiative–ENDOW. Steep cuts to education were avoided in the main budget bill, but were reflected in a separate school finance legislation.

Steff Kessler, Wyoming Outdoor Council, ESPC Board President

ON SCHOOL FINANCE

Once again education funding dominated the legislature in the 2018 Budget Session. Recent state financial projections, which showed a favorable upswing in investment earnings, fanned the flames against the need for any new revenue streams. Instead, the legislature chose to get out the knives and hack away at education funding. Although the state Senate planned to pass $100 million in cuts to education, the House stood firm, and eventually the Senate was coerced into signing this bill, School Finance Amendments – 4 (HB 140), which implemented $27 million in cuts over the next two years. Wyoming Education Association recently polled voters, who said they are willing to pay increased taxes if the revenue generated is used to fund public education. It is time for the voters to speak up at the polls and elect legislators who are willing to find long-term solutions to Wyoming’s funding problems.

Tammy Schroeder, Wyoming Education Association, ESPC Board Member

ON CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM

Property Offenses (HB 55) was not introduced in the Senate. Several bills, which would have reformed various parts of Wyoming’s criminal justice system, passed the House in 2017 and 2018, only to be held and not voted on in the Senate this session. The Senate’s unwillingness to even bring these bills to a vote is a significant barrier to urgently needed reform.

Sabrina King, ACLU-Wyoming, ESPC Board Member

ON CONSERVATION BILLS

Several important environmental bills came up in the 2018 session. Some positive wildlife-related bills passed (including Wildlife Conservation License Plates bill (HB 39), outlined in this report) as well as other legislation helping to protect our environmental quality, including polluted site cleanup funding, bonding for injection wells associated with oil and gas development, and prioritizing landfill remediation. Efforts to undermine environmental protections or the integrity of the state’s Environmental Quality Council were soundly defeated. Public lands advocates were able to quickly defeat a lands transfer bill (HB 94), but the broadly-supported bill Wyoming Public Lands Day (SF 67) became politicized due to disruptive amendments and thus stalled and died in the House without a vote. Additionally, since Crimes Against Critical Infrastructure (SF 74) was primarily aimed at silencing protest and dissent of energy infrastructure projects, the defeat of this bill became a high priority for most conservation groups.

Casey Quinn, Powder River Basin Resource Council, ESPC Board Member

SPECIAL NOTE ON COUNTY REGIONS AND VOTE RECORDS

While some legislators have multiple counties in their district, we organized county regions based upon the county predominately located within a legislator’s district.

In almost all cases, the third-reading vote was used as the featured vote in The People’s Review. We believe this vote is the most accurate reflection of the lawmaker’s position. However, it is important to note that in some cases, when amendments are presented in one house and not another, the content of the third-reading version of the same bill can be different in both the House and the Senate.

In addition, there were two cases in which using the third-reading vote was not possible. Game and Fish Agreements With Federal Agencies (HB 20) died on first-reading in the House, so a third-reading vote was not possible. We still wanted to feature this bill, so we highlighted the first-reading House vote.

Limited And Small Mines – Amendments – 2 (HB 25) failed to be introduced, so a third-reading vote was not possible. However, we wanted to highlight the bill, so the introduction vote was used. It is important to note that in some cases, lawmakers view introduction votes as different than floor votes. A lawmaker could be motivated to hear more about a bill or to have further discussion, which might motivate a supportive vote for introduction, but may not reflect support of the issue overall.

The best way to understand the motivation behind a vote is to contact your lawmaker and inquire with them about why the voted the way they did. Remember, they work for you!

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