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Tell Them Thanks

Written by Dennis Sun

      Well, the 2015 Wyoming Legislature is over, and some hard working legislators and lobbyists are headed home to take a breather. With the downturn in state revenue, the competition for funding bills got a whole lot harder. But all in all, they did a pretty good job.

I feel we don’t thank our Wyoming legislators enough for the work they do – even if you don’t like the results on some of the bills. Numerous times we are quick to criticize their actions without taking the time to find out why they voted the way they did. If we were not in the committee hearings or the negotiations of the certain bill, we don’t have the knowledge to criticize properly. If we just blame the legislators for the way they vote without knowing anything else, that is wrong.

While legislators are not forced to run for office and it is their personal choice to be a legislator, they still need to be thanked. Our citizen legislators take so much of their own time to do the job right just in attending all the hearings and doing all the work preparing for meetings. They almost have to be speed-readers to keep up with the material they have. Then we expect them to attend all of our receptions during the evenings of the session. 

We also need to thank the lobbyists who supply a lot of the information pertaining to the bills and even help write future bills. We are lucky in the agriculture industry to have some of the best lobbyists in Cheyenne for the sessions. They are easy to contact and always patient to hear us out and discuss the issues at hand. Those who represent our ag organizations are top notch, and they need to be recognized and thanked.

Agriculture really did well in this last session, though some of our favorite bills were tough to get to the Governor’s desk to be signed. One bill, House Bill 108 Trespass – Landowner Liability was held up by Senate leadership after having passed the house. It finally got released, passed through the Senate and went on to the Governor to sign. That bill took three years and many amendments to finally get through the Legislature.

Another bill dealing with trespassing was Senate File 12 Trespassing To Collect Data. This bill is a result of a lawsuit by a group of western Wyoming ranchers against Western Watersheds for trespassing on private lands to collect resource data, mainly data on water quality. The surprising part of this bill is some legislators or lobbyists don’t realize that trespassing is trespassing. Some wanted to exempt rock hounds, and then birdwatchers, for “accidently” trespassing on private lands. The trespass law for hunters is a lot stronger than the historic trespass law. Our lands are just like a town person’s backyard, except our backyards are bigger. These trespass laws have worked with some success, but maybe it’s time to revisit our other trespass laws.

Another good bill for landowners was Senate File 29 Motor Vehicle Driver's License Exemptions. This bill will allow holders of Class C license to operate vehicles with a gross vehicle weight of over 39,001 pounds with some restrictions. This will really help a number of farmers and ranchers.

If you visit the Wyoming Legislature online, you can read about the topics that our interim committees will be tackling before the 2016 budget session of the Wyoming Legislature. But first, remember to thank our legislators for their hard work.