The 2021 Wyoming legislative session convened remotely on January 12th. Because of Covid-19, the session schedule is unusual, with the first eight-day virtual session adjourning Feb. 5. Committees will start up again on Feb. 22, and the regular session will reconvene in person on March 1.
This gives constituents a two-week window to become familiar with bills that have been introduced thus far and contact their legislators with questions or concerns. Wyoming Rising is here to help you effectively engage with the legislative session. Below are some bills we’re watching and trying to learn more about. Look for more legislative news and action alerts from Wyoming Rising in the coming weeks.
View our Guide to the 2021 Legislative Session for information on your legislators,
different ways to voice your opinion on a bill, how to testify virtually, and much more.
Voting Rights and Elections
A Vox/DFP poll conducted in the days following the storming of our capitol found “Trump’s repeated unfounded allegations of election fraud appear to be affecting how people perceive the electoral system overall — not just the 2020 presidential contest. While 55 percent of people said they continue to trust the electoral process in the United States, 39 percent of people said they don’t trust it, including 65 percent of Republicans, compared to 12 percent of Democrats.” Given that sentiment it’s no surprise that many of our legislators see an opportunity to pass a voter ID law. Several other bills would make it easier to remove elected officials from office and change the state health officer and state attorney general to elected rather than appointed positions. (If a Park County legislator is a sponsor or co-sponsor of a bill, their name is noted)
- HB 75 Voter fraud-prevention (Laursen, Newsome, Rodriguez-Williams, French, and Kost are co-sponsors)
- HB 74 Elected officials-removal (Laursen is a co-sponsor)
- HJ0004 – Recall of state elected officials-constitutional amendment
- SF 86 Attorney general-elected official (French and Laursen are co-sponsors)
- SF 95 Election of state health officer (French and Laursen are co-sponsors)
SF 16 New Net Metering Systems: This bill passed the Senate (16-13-0-1-0) on 1/29 and has been introduced in the House. The Wyoming Outdoor Council is following this bill closely and doing a great job of keeping us informed and organizing the opposition to this bill. The impact of constituent advocacy was noted by John Burrows of Wyoming Outdoor Council, ”Due to overwhelming public opposition, the House Corporations Committee is postponing the hearing on Senate File 16 (New Net Metered Systems) to the start of the regular session in March. This is a huge win, and it would not have been possible without the sheer volume of folks who have spoken up in support of rooftop solar, and small businesses across the state.” Read the factsheet from Wyoming Outdoor Council, sign up for their email updates, and let your representative know you oppose SF16. This would be a great one to testify on when the House Corporations Committee holds the hearing.
HB 28 Wind Tax Exemption Repeal: Ronn Smith, WR co-chair notes: “This bill reduces incentives for new wind generation in Wyoming. The evolution of wind turbine designs has compensated for lower average wind speeds and made neighboring states more competitive with Wyoming’s world-class wind resource. Wind generation will continue to expand, and this inhibits Wyoming’s potential to capture market share.”
SJ 1 – Taxes to voters (French, Laursen, and Rodriguez-Williams are co-sponsors):
This joint resolution proposes to amend the Wyoming Constitution to require the consent of electors to impose taxes; and to provide a ballot statement. As Ronn Smith notes, “Realizing the pledge to no new taxes is fashionable among some of our legislators, I am still strongly opposed to this bill. It appears inconsistent with the fiduciary duty that voters entrust to the Legislature. It is incongruous for the Legislature to take responsibility for state expenditures yet abdicate to the electorate for revenues to meet those expenditures. The public lacks the knowledge of the entire budgeting process to make responsible decisions about taxes. The failure of the recent sales tax ballot initiative in Park County is a case in point. Most city and county officials say the money is needed, but the average voter doesn’t understand that (at least not until it’s too late). Anticipating public objection to taxes, this bill seems to be a backdoor attempt to enforce the no-new-tax pledge.”
HB 26 Fuel Tax: The fiscal note for this bill estimates that the proposed “nine cent per gallon increase in the fuel tax on gasoline, diesel fuel and alternative fuel; Comparable increases in the tax distributions on fuel used in snowmobiles, motorboats and off-road recreational vehicles” will generate “a total increase of approximately $60.3 million per year.” The current tax rate of twenty four cents a gallon has been unchanged since 2013 when it increased by ten cents. This tax would (1) provide badly needed revenue, (2) spread some of the burden to out-of-state users, and (3) encourage fuel-efficiency.
HB 55 Tobacco Tax: If passed, this would be the first increase in tobacco taxes in nearly two decades. Read the story: Wyoming house revenue committee advances tobacco tax increase and see the fiscal note.
Given the outrage expressed by some Wyoming legislators over Covid-19 public health orders, it’s no surprise that several bills seek to give the legislature more power and curtail the authority of the public health officer in dealing with public health emergencies.
See the Casper Star Tribune story Wyoming lawmakers look to limit public health officer authority
HB 56 Public health orders-2 (Laursen, sponsor; French, co-sponsor)
HB 59 Public health emergencies-immunity amendments 3
HB 98 Public health orders-reforms
HB 113 Public health orders-limitations
SF 19 Public health emergencies-immunity amendments
SF 80 Public health orders-local and legislative oversight