Last week, the Wyoming Legislature wrapped up a long, split, hybrid session. It was almost entirely virtual early ondue to COVID-19 restrictions, but by March and early April lawmakers were back in-person to work through a flurry of bills.
For two of Cody’s three state legislators, Sen. Tim French (R-Powell) and Rep. Rachel Rodriguez-Williams (R-Cody), it was the first experience working in the capitol, while Rep. Sandy Newsome (R-Cody) went into a historic session with one term under her belt.
Despite the challenges, all three had an impact in Cheyenne, able to see bills they had pushed be passed into law, while all also dealt with frustrations after seeing sponsored bills fall short.
Legislators put in a lot of work during the session. Prior to and during the sessions, there were 690 drafting requests for bills. Newsome noted that, of these, only 441 bills were numbered for introduction. Of the 441 numbered bills, 101 House bills and 77 Senate files passed both bodies and went to the governor.
All three talked about there experiences in Cheyenne.
Question: What bills are you most proud of voting for and helping to pass?
French: SF 34 – Infant born alive-means of care. If an infant is born alive after an intended abortion must be cared for.
SF 96 – Homicide amendments. If a pregnant woman is murdered the perpetrator is charged with a double homicide for the death of the woman and her baby.
HB 253 – Higher education ban on funding for abortions
HB 236 – Firearms transactions-financial discrimination.
HB 75 – Voter Identification.
HB 116 – Concealed Carry-Residency Requirement.
Newsome: Of course, the two bills that I sponsored. HB 86 – Off-road recreational vehicles registration authorized. The bill authorizes optional registration for specified off-road recreational vehicles, specifically “dirt bikes” upon an application to the county treasurer.
HB 197 – In expending these funds, the Governor and Wyoming Business Council created the Connect Wyoming program, which was designed to provide CARES Act funds for middle-mile and last-mile broadband internet projects to improve access and meet the increased need for reliable high-speed internet service during the COVID-19 pandemic. This act appropriates CARES Act funds, in an amount to be specified by the Legislature, to the Wyoming Business Council for additional broadband internet projects through the Connect Wyoming program. Funds may be expended until Dec. 31, 2021, or the last day on which CARES Act funds may be expended, whichever is later.
I co-sponsored several other bills. I am pleased that HB 91 – Removal of unenforceable property covenants. I have seen the story you did on that bill. SF 87 – Voyeurism amendments which strengthen our voyeurism laws.
HB 7 – Air ambulance membership organizations-regulation – Allows for Air ambulance companies to sell memberships to cover costs while also providing consumer protections.
Rodriguez-Williams: HB 116 – Conceal carry residency requirement. It removed the State residency requirement for a person carrying a concealed firearm without a permit (who meets the other statutory criteria).
HB 75 – Voter fraud prevention. I co-sponsored this bill. I believe it ensures confidence and best practice for Wyoming elections.
HB 236 – Firearms transactions-financial discrimination. This bill was introduced to the House Judiciary Committee. It prohibits banks and financial institutions from discriminating against firearm businesses. We heard testimony from local firearm dealers and manufacturers that have been discriminated against.
The attorney general may follow a civil action for a violation. The final remedy requires that the attorney general shall submit the name of any financial institution that has violated this article to the governor and request that the State terminate any business relationship with the financial institution.
Q: What bills are you most glad you were able to help defeat?
French: HB 173 – School finance funding. This bill had a sales-tax increase in it. The Senate tried to negotiate with the House but it didn’t work out.
HB 193 – County attorneys representation of special districts
In addition, I was very opposed to HB 26 which would have raised the fuel tax and HB 37 Road Usage Charge, but fortunately those bills didn’t make it over to the Senate to vote on.
Newsome: HB 143 Municipal services-recovery actions. This bill would have restricted towns and counties abilities in recovering utility charges.
Rodriguez-Williams: HB 218 – Bias motivated crime, was presented to the House Judiciary Committee. We heard courageous and personal testimony.
I don’t believe certain people should be more protected – more equal – than others. The Wyoming Constitution, Article 1, Section 2 (Declaration of Rights): “In their inherent right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, all members of the human race are equal.”
This is one of many reasons I am not in support of this bill and actually agreed with the testimony of the ACLU. Had this bill been moved by the sponsor, I would have been a no vote. I suspect the bill will be presented in the future with an intention to move it forward.
Q: What bills do you most wish would’ve been passed?
French: SF 81 – Second amendment preservation act. Died in the House.
SF 67 – Repeal gun-free zones. We passed it out of the Senate, but it died in the House.
HB 70 – Abortion-Informed consent.
Newsome: SF 67 – Repeal gun-free zones and preemption amendments. I was a co-sponsor on this bill. It would have allowed those with a conceal carry permit to legally carry in more Wyoming buildings.
HB 62 – Suicide prevention. It would have required schools to provide suicide prevention training for students.
Rodriguez-Williams: I would have liked to see my suicide prevention bill pass the house. I was recently appointed to the Governor’s challenge suicide prevention team and I am excited to collaborate with statewide stakeholders.
Q: What bills do you most wish would’ve been defeated?
French: HB 244 – State investment administration
HB 219 – Investment funds committee membership
Both of these bills are an infringement on the State Treasurer’s responsibilities and duties.
Newsome: HB 158 - Local land use planning and zoning. This bill takes away local control relating to zoning and land use.
Rodriguez-Williams: HB 73 – Birth certificates gestational agreements.
Wyoming does nothing to restrict the trafficking of children created by in vitro fertilization. There is, however, one speed bump: once these children are implanted in a mother’s womb, W.S. 14-2-906 recognizes and protects the parent-child relationship. With the passage of HB 73, protection goes away. It changes W.S. 14-2-901 to exclude embryonic children from current legal protections if they are implanted under a “gestational agreement.” Their birth mother is not recognized as their mother, and they remain the objects of a legal contract up to and after birth.
Q: Of all that was done in Cheyenne, what decisions will most impact area residents?
French: The passage of the Governor’s supplemental budget, which cut over $300 million in an effort to balance the budget. The cuts were very necessary, but anytime you cut that amount of money from a budget, funding for someone’s program is directly affected.
Newsome: HB 1 – General government appropriations-2 also know as the budget bill. Gov. Gordon signed a supplemental budget which includes over $430 million in cuts and eliminates 324 state positions. HB 7 Air ambulance membership organizations-regulation – Allows for Air ambulance companies to sell memberships to cover costs while also providing consumer protections.
Rodriguez-Williams: The State’s supplemental budget bill was signed by the Governor on April 1. The net, reduced appropriations in the 2021 Budget Bill for the 2021-2022 fiscal biennium total $301.6 million. The supplemental budget bill includes more than $430 million in State General Fund reductions to the general operations budget, and the net new appropriations from all other funds total $128.4 million.