They Are About Finished
Published: 29 March 2014
This coming week will be the last full workweek for our Legislature, and so far, we commend them for a job well done. Now they just have to go to conference over the budget and vote on it. For the most part, they have kept on course and focused on the budget.
As always, there are a number of other bills submitted during the budget session, and some always affect agriculture. Along with the budget, our ag lobbyists have to be aware of them and monitor their progress or failure. One such bill was House Bill (HB) 23, which codifies current Wyoming case law limiting the liability of landowners to trespassers with the exception of attractive nuisances to children. This is an important bill to Wyoming’s landowners, and unless you have a merry-go-round on the place, it should protect you. It is surprising that it hasn’t come up before as it is important. Unfortunately, the House did not consider the bill in the Committee of the Whole.
Two bills from the Senate File (SF) are SF 7 Brucellosis Surveillance and SF 8 Agency Land Sale, Acquisition and Exchange Authority. SF 7 would authorize the Wyoming Livestock Board to establish a surveillance program in areas of imminent concern outside of the Designated Surveillance Area and provide compensation for testing in such areas. If passed, this would focus on the northern and west side of the Big Horn Mountains where the Wyoming Game and Fish Department found a couple of elk exposed to brucellosis.
SF 8 would limit the net increase in state trust lands holdings to 10,000 acres and increase in other state lands holdings to 10,000 acres. While this does exempt the cap lands acquired from the federal government, it would have required all state agencies to obtain the advice and consent of the Board of Land Commissioners for all private land transactions. This action has been needed for some time, as some state agencies have been eager to be in the land business. However, this bill failed the Committee of the Whole and was indefinitely postponed.
As usual, there was a bill, SF 110, with the hint of instream flow. This bill would allow the change in place of use provided that the quantity of water transferred does not exceed the amount of the original right and that no other existing lawful appropriator is injured. It removes consideration of historic use as a measure of the amount transferred. This bill failed in the Senate Ag Committee, as it should have. A good rule of thumb is don’t mess with Wyoming’s water law.
Another bill that would be helpful to agriculture is HB 72, the Omnibus Water Bill for Planning, which authorizes and funds water project studies for new water projects and feasibility studies for new water storage projects. Water projects and water storage projects are as important as putting dollars away for future use. Both are for the sustainability of Wyoming.
Really, that is a purpose of the Legislature – to keep Wyoming strong fiscally for the future and to allow its citizens to manage the resources for the present and future. We have faith in our Legislature to do right, and they usually do. Thank them and the ag lobbyists for the great job they all do.