2019 Interim Legislative Update
By Jerimiah Rieman, Executive Director
There is supposed to be a honeymoon period when you start a new job right? When I walked in to Senate Education Committee hearing in my first hour of employment with the WCCA to observe my friend and your past executive director testify on SF49, I understood quickly the legislature wanted to skip the traditional period of harmony and goodwill and enter marriage counseling. Humor aside, although there were moments of frustration this legislative session, there were a number of accomplishments. Notably, in the budget, the legislature established a position in the Office of State Lands and Investments to offer technical expertise, infrastructure planning and great development to political subdivisions and appropriated $15 million to the emergency fire suppression account. HB54 – Federal natural resource policy account amendments. appropriates $50,000 per county to develop or revise comprehensive natural resource management plans prepared by counties.
With the 2019 legislative session behind us, it is time to turn our attention to interim committee work. Management Council has established interim topics, of which relevant topics are discussed below. The interim session starts in early May and runs steadily through November. Recall, the WCCA Board of Directors set a goal that at least two commissioners attend every interim meeting. WCCA staff have started outreach to commissioners regarding upcoming meetings and will continue outreach as committee agendas are released. We appreciate your support and look forward to seeing you in committee hearings.
Speaking of May, our spring meeting is May 8th through 10th in Cody. For more information and to register visit http://wyo-wcca.org/index.php/events/2019-wcca-spring-meeting/. On May 9th we have set aside time for WCCA committees to review and discuss interim topics discussed below. Your input concerning these topics is critical to our success.
Judiciary: Moving from the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee, the Judiciary Committee will undertake a two year study of public meetings and public record statutes. This continues the work completed this session on SF57 – Public records. Also look for work to study and consider agency location of the guardian ad litem and parents’ counsel programs. There will be three meetings: June 3rd and 4th in Gillette, August 15th and 16th in Casper, and October 31st and November 1st in Cheyenne.
Appropriations: Although primarily focused on state agency implementation, the Appropriations Committee will evaluate contract and leasing procedures, including preference, bid specifications, public notice requirements, payment procedures, and other related issues. The Wyoming Contractors Association has initiated a working group and the WCCA is participating. Please watch for updates and outreach from Kelli Little as this work moves forward. There will be three meetings – none have been scheduled to date – and all work must be completed by November 30th.
Revenue: Frustrated that committee work, particularly of recent, is shelved or voted down, I somewhat expected little activity in the Revenue Committee during the interim. On the contrary, the members will consider a list of weighted topics, including vapor product regulation and taxation, state fiscal structure diversification, modernization and reform of the state sales tax system, and government property tax exemptions. There will be four meetings, two of which have been scheduled: May 2nd and 3rd in Lander and July 8th and 9th in Cheyenne.
Education: School finance, in particular external cost adjustment, take center stage in the Education Committee. There will be three meetings: June 5th and 6th in Casper, September 26th and 27th in Cody, and November 14th and 15th in Cheyenne.
Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources: Of particular interest, the extension and research stations associated with the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming will be under review by the Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee. There will be three meetings: June 10th and 11th in Sheridan, August 29th and 30th in Laramie, and October 24th and 25th in Dubois.
Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources: There are no shortage of topics to watch in the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Committee. At the top of the list, there will be a comprehensive examination of lawful wagering and gaming in the state, including evaluating implementation of a state-wide gaming commission. Chronic wasting disease and aquatic invasive species will also receive attention, in addition to the work being conducted by the Wyoming Game and Fish Department. Finally, the committee will review operational standards for search and rescue operations, best practices in response time, level of response and other related topics. There will be three meetings: June 27th and 28th in Gillette, August 1st and 2nd in Dubois, and October 2nd and 3rd in Thermopolis.
Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions: Local governance will again take center stage for the Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee. Although we found plenty to disagree on during the legislative session, I appreciate the restraint committee leadership used to identify its priority topics. The guidance established by the Management Council that committee studies respect local control was a positive development. Specifically on the agenda are the following topics: municipal right-of-way franchise fees (we better watch this one), county permanent reserve accounts, surface water drainage systems (perhaps the third time is the charm), and local government participation in the state health insurance plan. Any legislation developed relating to county permanent reserve accounts will be sent to the Select Committee on Capital Financing and Investment for comment and recommendation. In other work, the committee will study utility rates, regulations and policies specific to coal fired power plants and wind farm developments. And finally, the committee will consider election code revisions. There will be three meetings: May 13th and 14th in Casper, September 16th and 17th in Jackson, and November 18th and 19th in Cheyenne.
Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs: The WCCA Transportation Committee and Kelli Little will be busy as the Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Committee tackles a variety of highway matters, including tolling I-80, wildlife crossings, and highway funding options (e.g., incremental increase of the fuel tax over multiple years). In related matters, the committee will also review the Public Safety Communications Commission and replacement of the Revenue Information System at the Wyoming Department of Transportation. There will be three meetings: May 14th and 15th in Gillette, August 12th and 13th in Cheyenne, and October 10th and 11th in Casper.
Minerals, Business and Economic Development: Three issues will have our attention, if not more. First, the Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee plans to examine the possibility of the state entering into an agreement with the Department of the Interior to establish primacy and oversight of environmental assessments and environmental impact statements prepared for major federal actions in Wyoming. The committee is aware of our interest in participating in the discussion and option of joining the arrangement. Legislation will also be considered regarding Greater sage-grouse mitigation credits. And, among a number of related topics, the committee will review strategies to assist in the preservation, use and continued operation of Wyoming coal-fired electric-generating facilities. There will be three meetings: May 16th and 17th in Gillette, August 28th through 30th in Casper, and November 4th and 5th in Casper.
Labor, Health and Social Services: Wyoming’s aging population, mental health and substance abuse and a variety of disparate topics are priorities of the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. There will be three meetings: June 13th and 14th in Riverton, September 23rd through 25th in Evanston, and November 6th and 7th in Cheyenne.
A full listing of interim topics is available at https://www.wyoleg.gov/InterimCommittee/2019/2019InterimTopics.pdf. The legislature has also identified a number of committee meetings that will be live broadcast. The full list is available at https://www.wyoleg.gov/Calendar/20180601/Streams/2019.
In related news, the Wyoming Association of Municipalities has hired David Fraser, former Executive Director of the Nevada League of Municipalities, and a Sundance native, as its new executive director. David and I met briefly earlier this week and we are looking to improve the relationship between the organizations, understanding we are not going to agree on every issue. I will find a time to introduce Mr. Fraser to you in the near future.