Important Bills Before the 64th Wyoming Legislature

The 64th Wyoming Legislature has been in session for two weeks now and, understanding that most people have neither the time nor interest to read and evaluate 342 different bills as I’ve done, I’ve decided to give a summary on those bills I consider to be important.  This list is broken down into 4 categories:  those I support, those I oppose, those I consider important but do not feel inclined to give an opinion of and those where my opinion is conflicted.  There is a 5th category or bills which I consider unimportant or serve administrative maintenance purposes which won’t interest people.  That category is not included.  I’ll start with the smallest category, only containing two bills.

CONFLICT

SF0063  Department of family services-statutory amendments.

This bill starts off as administrative maintenance, addressing background checks for caregivers of vulnerable people.  From there it goes on to adjusting the Low Income Home Energy Assistance and Weatherization Program (LIEAP) income threshold from 60% of “median income” to 60% of “median household income,” which I support, and cutting the time limit to appeal a case review from 30 business days to 10 business days, which I oppose.

HB0153  Parental rights.

This bill references protecting a parent’s right to control their child’s “upbringing, education and care.”  Having seen instances of a family’s religious and cultural beliefs being detrimental, or even deadly, to a child, I’m reluctant to support this despite agreeing with the premise in general.

SUPPORT

HB0008  Student data privacy, security and transparency.

This bill prohibits the sale or sharing of any K-12 student data with commercial interests outside of vendors to the schools who are limited to only using it for the intended purposes.  Something I think everyone can get behind.

HB0009  Student ownership and privacy rights.

This bill protects ownership and privacy of college student writings and communications regardless of their being stored on school systems, allowing for access only as needed to solve technical problems and prohibiting the sharing of any knowledge received through accidental or administrative access unless Federal law requires the sharing of such information.

HB0013  Investment of public funds.

This bill requires that anyone investing money on behalf of a state agency must act as a fiduciary, placing the state’s financial interest above their own.

HB0029  Deposits by political subdivisions.

This bill is really a matter of administrative maintenance, allowing for political subdivisions to place money into a credit union when no bank is available with 10 miles, but provisions that allow government funds to enter member owned financial institutions are preferred over prohibiting it.  It would be preferable to exclude the requirement that no bank be available within 10 miles, but we’ll take what we can get.

HB0046  Permanent absentee voter status.

This bill allows people to apply for absentee voter status electronically and on a permanent basis, making democracy more accessible to those who may not have sufficient means of transportation.

HB0053  Vehicle registration-rebuttable presumption.

This bill is intended to address the issue of tax evaders who live in Wyoming, where there is no income tax, and set up shell corporations to purchase and own vehicles in Montana, where there is no sales tax.  In cases where a vehicle was determined to be owned by a shell corporation from outside Wyoming, but maintained, driven or stored by a Wyoming resident, the holder of the vehicle would be judged to be the owner and be required to pay Wyoming sales tax and registration.

HB0060  State investment policy.

This is an administrative maintenance bill which gives the Treasurer’s office more flexibility in diversifying investment funds.

HB0062  Immunity for drug overdose reporting.

This bill provides immunity for drug charges for people who have reported an overdose by themselves or a companion and remained at the scene or traveled to the hospital while complying with law enforcement orders thereafter.

HB0068  Election ballots.

This bill would allow all absentee ballots postmarked on or before election day and received before the final count of such ballots to be counted whereas current law requires that absentee ballots be received before 7:00 pm on election day, making democracy more accessible as HB0046 does.

HB0075  Automatic restoration of the right to vote.

This bill reinstates the right to vote of a nonviolent felon automatically upon completion of sentence, including probation and parole.  More accessible democracy.

HB0079  State funds equity investments pool.

Like HB0060, this bill provides greater diversity of investment.

HB0080  Transportation network companies.

This bill lays the groundwork for companies like Uber and Lyft to enter the state.

HB0081  Hemp extract amendments.

This bill allows a legal guardian to administer medicinal hemp extract to an adult dependent.

HB0089  Judges of first class cities-retention elections.

This bill creates retention elections for municipal judges, giving the people the opportunity to voice their opposition to a judge whose performance has been unsatisfactory.

HB0122  Death with dignity.

This bill allows a patient to be prescribed life ending medication provided a list of conditions have been met in advance.

HB0140  Minimum wage.

This bill mandates a state minimum wage of $9.50 with a minimum ‘tip credit’ wage of $5.50.

HB0144  New trial based on actual innocence.

This bill allows a person convicted of a crime to move for a new trial based on new evidence of their innocence.

HB0145  Possession of controlled substances-subsequent offenses.

This bill makes our state’s drug laws marginally less draconian.

HB0151  Cigarette tax.

While, as a smoker, I certainly don’t want to pay more for cigarettes, I do want to discourage nonsmokers from picking up the habit.  This bill would increase cigarette taxes by 50% and alter the distribution.  Look to HB0168 for a more aggressive version.

HB0157  Marihuana possession of less than three ounces.

While showing why there’s such a need for administrative maintenance in the law, this “marihuana” bill does some good work in making the maximum punishment for less than 3 ounces of marijuana or 500 milligrams of tetrahydrocannibinol “a civil penalty  of not more than” $200.

HB0159  Homeless minors.

This bill allows for homeless minor of age 16 or higher to enter into contracts of their own will.

HB0168  Tobacco tax.

This is a far more aggressive tobacco tax than HB0151, bringing more benefits for society and more downsides for smokers.

HB0194  School safety and security.

While I may lose some of my progressive friends over my views on the matter, I’ve long held that the people responsible for the security of an establishment should be allowed to carry weapons regardless of the nature of that establishment.  This bill would allow school faculty (who are responsible for the safety and security of the children in their care) to carry handguns.  I would argue to amend the law to require any member of a school faculty who does carry a firearm to take part in extensive and continued training for such.

HB0206  Asset forfeiture.

This bill requires that all proceeds from civil asset forfeiture go into the state’s general fund, thereby removing the incentive for the abuse that has been a significant problem in other states.

HB0209  Disparity in wages and benefits between men and women.

This bill expands a 2003 study on wage disparity in the state, getting into the weeds on specific disparity within locales, professions, etc.  I believe it could put an end to the argument of how much disparity exists when you consider differences in industry.

HJ0005  Mineral excise tax deposits-constitutional amendment.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to redirect funds from the Permanent Wyoming Mineral Trust Fund to the General Fund from 2019 to 2025.  This could do a great deal to help our current budget concerns.

SF0020  Student digital information privacy.

Similar to HB0009.  Postponed indefinitely.

SF0030  Jail placement coordination.

This is administrative maintenance, but of a variety that is very important when dealing with holding detainees from other states.  There is some sloppy language in (b)(iv) that should be cleaned up.

SF0031  Genetic information privacy.

This bill makes genetic information strictly confidential except as used in criminal investigations and determination of paternity.

SF0033  Computer extortion.

This bill sets forth policy for prosecuting the use of “ransomware” when both the perpetrator and victim are located within the state.

SF0034  Student Personal Digital Information Protection Act.

Similar to HB0008.

SF0042  Opiate overdose emergency treatment.

This bill allows first responders other than EMTs to administer Naloxone and similar drugs to save victims of opiate overdose and pharmacists to dispense it to anyone who makes a request.

SF0057  Motor vehicle franchises-exception.

This bill allows a vehicle manufacturer with no franchisees in the state to perform direct sales, a problem Tesla has faced.

SF0068  Net metering-generation capacity.

This bill increases the peak capacity for net metering systems (where household wind or solar generation is sold to the utility company) from 25 kilowatts to 50 kilowatts.

SF0115  Malicious cruelty to animals.

This law makes it a felony to intentionally kill you neighbors dog for no reason.  Kind of a no brainer.

SF0116  Medicaid expansion-authorization.

Medicaid Expansion.  I don’t think I need to say any more.

SF0118  Food freedom act-sales locations.

This bill allows for the say of food that was not commercially prepared so long as the buyer is informed that it has not undergone standard inspection for food safety.

SF0119  Grand Teton National Park-transfer of state lands.

Amidst all the talk of transferring federal land to the state, this bill authorizes the sale of state land within Grand Teton National Park to the federal government, bringing in some money and possibly saving more.

SJ0001  Right of privacy and right to know.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution enshrining the right to privacy.

SJ0007  Depositories for state funds-constitutional amendment.

Similar to HB0029, this resolution for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution would allow state funds to be deposited into credit unions if they offered a superior interest rate.

OPPOSE

HB0020  Honor and remember flag.

This is meant to allow state offices to raise the “Honor and Remember Flag” in conjunction with the American Flag, but section 1 subsection (e) reads, “Nothing in this section shall be construed to require the acquisition, erection and maintenance of a flagpole or the display of the honor and remember flag where a pole or display of the national flag does not already exist.”  Through strict legal interpretations, it could be argued that this bill requires the “Honor and Remember Flag” to be flown any place where the national flag is flown, which would be very good for whoever holds the copyright, but bad for the rest of us.

HB0070  Occupational safety and health administration actions.

This bill adds an attempt to neuter OSHA onto law that already attempts to do that to the EPA.  Since OSHA exists for the purpose of protecting workers, I can only assuming that the intent of this bill is to harm workers.

HB0104  Severance tax on coal.

This bill lowers the severance tax on coal.  Since the coal business is driven by demand, rather than price, this will only reduce our already strained revenue in Wyoming.

HB0116  Abortion amendments.

This prohibits aborting a viable fetus giving the fuzzy definition for viable of when the fetus is able to feel pain and prohibits using fetal tissue for scientific research, which I would argue is the one good thing to come from abortion.

HB0127  Wind energy production tax-2.

This bill raises our wind energy tax (the only one in the nation as I understand) 400%.  This is not intended to raise revenue, it’s intended to prevent the development of wind energy in our state, which is among the highest potential in the nation.

HB0132  Reporting of abortions.

This is intended to create a little more hassle for our states abortion providers and get the people to accept a little more restriction.

HB0135  Government Nondiscrimination Act.

In masterful Orwellian fashion, this bill actually makes it illegal for the state to take any action, including choosing not to do business with, companies which are known for discrimination.

HB0136  Campus carry.

I’m generally okay with campus carry, but I am not okay with carrying into sporting events (which this bill specifically includes) or carrying into any place where the person in charge of that place chooses to prohibit carry.

HB0137  Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones Act.

All of the places where we prohibit the general public from carrying guns are places where rational people tend to enter and become irrational for one reason or another.  To think that this doesn’t apply to government meetings is insane.

HB0146  State funds-prohibit investment in Iran and Cuba.

In addition to the fact that this provides no benefit, only serving to maintain enemies where it’s not necessary to have them, it will become impossible to invest in major index funds (or the majority of the companies represented therein) once American businesses start moving into Cuba if this bill is passed.

HB0167  Photo ID voting requirement.

Textbook voter disenfranchisement which is completely useless against the concern it claims to address.

HB0169  Prohibited firearms-business and commercial establishments.

Making business owners liable for harm that may come to people if they forbid firearms on their property.  I can’t.  If nothing else, look at the bill so you can see the 8 names everyone needs to vote against in the future.

HB0172  Severance tax-exemption.

Like HB0104, this will have no effect on production, it will simply give the money that is otherwise slated for our state and give it to the fossil fuel industry.

HB0181  Government contracts-labor organizations.

Standard anti-union bill, because being right to work isn’t enough.

HB0182  Abortion–ultrasound information.

Another chip at abortion law.

HB0197  Marihuana and THC products policy reform act.

Similar to HB0157, which I support, but it goes in the other direction.  In a show of their complete lack of understanding on the subject, they raised the threshold for THC product possession to be a felony up to 8 ounces, 453 times what the threshold is in the pro-marijuana bill that I support, or about $3,400 worth.

HB0207  Restrictions on public benefits.

A bill prohibiting undocumented immigrants from receiving non-emergency assistance.  In addition to the fact that this is almost certainly not a noteworthy concern, most undocumented immigrants actually paying for benefits they can never receive, the only barrier to getting a visa in this country should be a previous deportation for far more serious crimes.

HJ0002  Balanced budget amendment-resolution.

This Article V Resolution calls for a balanced budget in the federal government.  While that may be nice in theory, and the resolution does include a provision for declared emergencies, deficit spending is necessary in hard economic times and the laws governing the Social Security Administration would cause a complete shut down if the SS Trust Fund couldn’t purchase US government debt.

HJ0004  Anti boycott, divestment and sanction resolution.

While this resolution aims to fight antisemitism, which is an admirable goal, it assumes that all opposition to the nation of Israel is a function of antisemitism rather than opposition to the current governments extreme right wing ideology.  Until there’s a lasting peace in Israel with Palestinians being granted equal representation or a separate state, we have to make room for the possibility that some organizations will oppose Israel on legitimate humanitarian concerns.

SF0032  Peace officer recordings.

This bill would make police recordings strictly confidential without a court order.  In my arguments concerning the right to privacy, I often hear the words “if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear.”  Police officers, in the course of their official interactions with the public are acting as agents of the government and therefore have no right to hide the things they fear.

SF0070  Manufacturing machinery exemption sunset date.

This bill pushes an exemption on sales tax for manufacturing equipment from 2017 to 2027.  I might support this in good times, but these are not good times.  Sales tax is a minor part of a manufacturers overhead.  The state has a greater need.

SF0071  Electricity production standard.

This bill pretends to be administrative maintenance to clarify the buying and selling of electricity, but it conveniently excludes commercial wind and solar energy production from the “eligible generating resource” list, making it illegal for Wyoming utility companies to sell energy from those sources to their customers.

SF0075  Firearm possession and purchases.

This bill prohibits people on the “terrorist watchlist” from purchasing firearms which I would support, except that the terrorist watchlist is a list of people who have never been convicted of a crime or adjudicated to be mentally unstable.  We have actual, serious threats we should focus on prohibiting from purchasing firearms.  Then we can look into the boogeyman.

SF0094  Franchise business relationships.

This bill clarifies that franchisees and their employees are in no way to be considered employees of their respective franchisors.  When considering that franchisors tend to dictate every aspect of a franchisees business, this doesn’t pass muster.

SF0101  Unemployment compensation exemption-seasonal employment.

This bill exempts seasonal employment from unemployment compensation.  This is despite the fact that the receipt of unemployment income during layoffs is a part of the compensation structure for seasonal workers.  If someone wants to raise the minimum wage for seasonal workers to $30 an hour, I might reconsider this.

SJ0103  Public lands-constitutional amendment.

This is the federal land transfer amendment.  The only people who want this are paid by the mineral industry.

SJ0005  Countermand amendment.

This is an Article V resolution calling for the ability for the states to overturn federal law, essentially bringing us back to a confederacy.

NO OPINION

HB0049  Mountain daylight saving time.

This bill would eliminate the state of Wyoming’s observance of Daylight Savings Time making our time always Greenwich Mean Time minus 6.  I’ve always considered DST to be rather pointless, and there is evidence that car accidents and health problems are more common when the time changes, but this is also how we’ve always done it, at least for a couple generations.  There is a question of how we’d adapt to a new system.

HB0050  Limitations on delegates-constitution amendment conventions.

This bill deals with the way delegates to an Article V convention can conduct themselves, requiring that they only vote for amendments that have been approved by the legislature.  It’s a reasonable requirement, but due to the process of holding an Article V convention, I don’t think it’s relevant.

HB0141  Daylight saving time-exemption.

This is a simplified version of HB0049.  Apparently there are a number of people who feel strongly about it.

HB0160  Handgun purchases.

This bill would create a 3 day waiting period for the purchase of handguns.  I’ve made my views on the Second Amendment clear, but I don’t consider a 3 day wait to be an infringement.

HB0201  Presidential primary elections.

This bill would change our presidential selection from a caucus to a primary.  While I see the benefits of both systems, I just can’t bring myself to decide which I would prefer.

HB0208  Attorney general-elected official.

This bill would make the Attorney General of Wyoming an elected position.  While I generally prefer more elections for major positions, I’m not sure it’s always the right way to go.

HJ0001  Convention for proposing constitutional amendments.

This Article V resolution would again work toward a balanced budget, without setting specific restrictions, and work to institute term limits for Congress.

HJ0003  Single subject amendment resolution.

This Article V resolution works to constitutionally require federal laws to be limited to a single subject.

HJ0006  Budget shortfall reserve accounts.

This resolution calls for an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution to set out rules on how the LSRA and similar accounts are handled.

SF0087  Countermand amendment provisions.

This is SJ0005 all over again, but done in a way that I don’t believe is valid.  I’m unsure of this.

SJ0004  Wyoming civil rights amendment.

This resolution, masquerading as a move for civil rights, is actually an effort to end affirmative action policies.  While I’m tempted to oppose it for that reason, I can’t confirm that affirmative action practices are necessary or used by any public institution in Wyoming.

SJ0006  Public instruction constitutional amendment.

This resolution is to amend the Wyoming Constitution to state that any school financing adopted by the legislature is automatically assumed to be valid.  I don’t understand the purpose of this and that gives me cause for concern but, as cited with SJ0004, I won’t oppose something on the grounds that I don’t fully understand the impact.

Now that I’ve gotten through that list, I’d like to mention two resolutions I’ve been fighting to see included here that are not present.  The first is Wolf PAC‘s Article V resolution to Restore Free and Fair Elections and the other is a resolution I wrote Specifying Electoral Finance Limits.

If you have a strong opinion on any of these issues, call your legislators today.  Call them tomorrow.  Keep calling until they listen.


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