Wyoming Legislative Report
March 8, 2013
The Wyoming State Legislative General Session adjourned on Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2013, in Cheyenne, WY, and will reconvene for the Budget Session Feb. 10, 2014. Senator John Schiffer (District 22) of Kaycee, WY, provides an overview of some senate files (SF) and house bills (HB) that passed during this legislative session.
SF 7 Conservation Districts – Special Expertise: Grants "special expertise" status to conservation district supervisors for the purpose of participation as a cooperating agency in federal land planning processes and authorizes districts to develop and implement land resource use and management plans and to coordinate such plans with federal land managers. It places our conservation districts "at the table" during the process of federal land management, especially considering that, roughly, one-half of the land in Wyoming is federal land.
SF 55 Energy and Natural Resource Education Initiative: Directs the Governor's office to develop a statewide educational initiative on energy and natural resource development, use and stewardship. The governor is required to report back to the education committee and was appropriated $75,000 to get the job done.
SF 118 Eminent Domain – 2: Requires that a condemnor prove public interest, greatest public good with least private harm, and necessity for the property each by a preponderance of the evidence; it provides payment of the condemnee litigation expenses if the court determines fair market value exceeds, by 10%, the condemnor's final offer. This is an effort to eliminate "low ball" offers to property owners by entities seeking to condemn private property.
House Bill (HB) 4 Brands: Clarifies the process for brand renewal and abandonment; provides for a period of one year to renew a delinquent brand; authorizes the use of electronic processes for renewals and reports; provides a definition of "running at large." The one year grace period is much needed and helps the process.
HB 69 Highway Funding: Increases the fuel tax on gasoline and diesel by 10 cents; existing refund provisions apply (off-road exemption for agricultural operations continues) and the distribution formula stays the same with Wyoming Department of Transportation (WyDoT) getting about 60%, cities and counties getting about 39%, and parks, snowmachine, and four wheeler trails getting 1%.
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HB 134 Private Roads: Transfers authority for the establishment of private roads from county commissioners to the district court. The consensus was that virtually all of these procedures were ending up in court anyway.
HB 228 Transfer of Federal Lands – Study: Creates a task force of legislators, private industry, and public land users to study the structure, opportunities, and management of federal lands transfers to the state. This study coincides with similar studies in some other western states (Utah, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico all have similar legislation either passed or in the process). It is not another "sagebrush rebellion." It will look at the possibility of mutual benefits for both the federal government and the state.
We also worked a supplemental budget in which we cut on-going agency budgets by about 6.5%; some of the cuts were controversial but at the end of the day were pretty much evenly spread out across all state agencies. With state revenues flat or declining in the predictable future, it seems to me to be a prudent thing to do. We replenished the fire fighting account to $50 million in anticipation of another dry year and heavy demand. The senate got three gun rights bills from the House; all were controversial and probably unconstitutional; all met their demise either in committee or on the committee of the whole waiting list.
Editor's note: For more details, you can go to the legislative website (http://legisweb.state.wy.us) and click on Bill Status.