Wyoming Legislature update: March 4, 2015
by Albert Sommers, House District #20
March 4, 2015
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting from Cheyenne on Wednesday, March 4th.
Today was the last day for Third Reading in the House this session.
There was continued debate today on SF8, the bill that amends the Education Accountability Act, and one more amendment was added which rolled back the number of years a district could go without the state approving their improvement plan, if they are a school not-meeting expectation. The bill passed the House, and I support it because it does provide more flexibility to the Accountability Act than current law.
There were some mischievous amendments offered on SF9, the right to farm act, including one dealing with jackalopes and another promoting marijuana farming. The humor was appreciated, but the amendments died and the bill passed.
Two bills providing authorization for economic development programs failed, though I supported both bills. We need to promote economic development in Wyoming if we want to stay strong during times when there is a bust in the energy sector. SF121 would have provided a career and technical training grant program for certification courses, and most of the money would have come from industry. These certification courses could have been provided by either private businesses or community colleges, and would have addressed some of the most needed jobs in the state. SF138 would have moved money from an existing Wyoming Business Council program for startup high tech programs that was not working to a program that is working. Legislators were wary of providing any money to support job training or startup businesses, and I feel this was short-sighted.
Two bills were brought by leadership that provided new direction on how money will be appropriated. SF141 basically limits the ability of the governor to recommend appropriations out of certain coffee cans of money. We have never limited the ability of the governor to recommend appropriations in this manner, and I think it was wrong to start now. The governor does recommend appropriations at times that the legislature does not support, and his recommendations force the legislature to make hard choices. We should not limit his ability to recommend just because it forces the legislature to make difficult choices. SF146 creates more authority to appropriate in hard times, and I supported the bill.
SF145, which gives critical care hospitals some much needed support, was hotly debated. The debate centered on how much money should be appropriated, and what strings should be attached. The final version out of the House cut the appropriation significantly, which I believe was a mistake, but the bill did pass the House. I supported this bill.
SF116 would have increased the legislative and state boards’ per diem to be equal to the per diem that is utilized by all state agencies. I initially voted against this bill, but after a motion to reconsider, I voted for the bill. I do not like the legislature increasing our compensation when the revenues have decreased, but arguments were given that swayed my mind. Hotels set their state rate based upon what state agency personnel receive, and it only makes sense to make all state government per diem the same. Many state board members are not wealthy, neither are many legislators, and we should keep the per diem consistent between state entities.
All we have left on the docket is conference committees on bills the Senate and the House differ on, and then we will be done with the session.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.