Wyoming Legislature update: Feb. 19, 2015
by Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
February 19, 2015
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from the Capital on Thursday, February 19th.
This is the week we are working the Supplemental Budget Bill, and the body will have acted on over 90 amendments to this bill. On Second Reading, I ran an amendment to restore the inflationary adjustment the Joint Education Committee advanced to the Appropriations Committee. We had a great debate, and in the end my amendment passed. We have a constitutional mandate from the Campbell II Supreme Court decision to provide an inflationary adjustment to the school funding model, and school districts around the state are feeling the pinch of inflation. The Senate also passed this inflationary adjustment. I also brought a budget amendment to eliminate a budget footnote in the Department of Health which would have dramatically impacted mental health care in our community. My amendment passed, but was stripped out by another amendment, which brought a compromise position. I feel that the mental health provider will be able to continue with that compromise.
On Third Reading of the budget, I brought an amendment to restore the governorís recommendation for funding the Wyoming Arts Councilís efforts to keep admission fees low to annual conferences. The arts promote creativity, and creativity is the linchpin of American invention. Without creativity we would not have the technology explosion of the last 40 years. Students need to understand the importance of creativity, and these conferences will promote that through discussions. My budget amendment failed, but I only lost 27-32, which gives me hope that the legislature does understand the importance of the arts.
On Third Reading, Medicaid Expansion was brought in the form of a budget amendment in the House. A Medicaid Expansion bill failed in the Senate, after multiple days of debate, by a wide margin, 19-11. Medicaid Expansion, as a budget amendment, failed today in House by a vote of 42-14.
Last year, in the House we passed a Third Reading amendment to not allow the consideration of the Next Generation Science Standards, and we rightfully took a lot of heat for last minute legislating in the budget bill. I do not believe we should legislate in the budget bill, and last yearís mistake was fixed this year.
Last year, I voted in favor of introduction of two Medicaid Expansion bills, because the debate needs to occur. I supported the budget amendment to develop a look at a Medicaid Expansion program for this session. I support the concept of Medicaid Expansion, because we have critical care hospitals going broke and the working poor have little option but an emergency room. However, a decision this big needs to have legislative leadership and the committee involved all rowing together, with the governor. This did not happen, there was no consensus on what plan should come forward, and finally the plans failed by a wide margin in the Senate. We need to do something, but not through a vehicle that could not be amended, because it came in Third Reading. I did not vote for the amendment. The Budget Bill did pass the House, and now differences between the House and Senate will need to be worked out.
SF115 is a bill which prohibits discrimination based upon sexual orientation. I support anti-discrimination, and the business community of Wyoming has lobbied in favor of this bill, because it promotes a safe work environment. We should not discriminate against anyone, because anyone of us could be next. I will look at the bill carefully, to make sure the clergy are protected. Let me know what you think of this legislation. The bill will be in a House committee this week or next.
If you have any questions or concerns about any legislation, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks.