Ag groups prepare for 2015 General SessionWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – On Jan. 13, the 63rd Wyoming Legislature will convene at noon for the start of the 2015 General Session.
Though bills can be filed for several weeks still, Wyoming’s ag groups have been working hard on a number of efforts to positively impact Wyoming agriculture.
“The legislative session is almost upon us,” Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna comments. “While there aren’t many bills that we are going to be tracking, there are some priorities.”
Several bills related to trespass will be up for debate, including a bill addressing landowner liability to trespassers and a bill related to trespassing to collect resource data.
“These two bills are big ones for us,” Magagna notes.
Magagna explains that last year, a similar bill was working its way through the legislature until an unfriendly amendment from the House Judiciary Committee stalled the bill’s progress.
“A companion bill to the trespass bill is a new bill on trespass to collect resource data,” he continued.
“Legislatively, our priority is the trespass bill,” Wyoming Association of Conservation District (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank emphasizes. “With today’s technology, we need to build in protections for landowners who have people trespassing on their property without their knowledge and submitting data.”
Frank emphasizes that the bill is one that is imperative for Wyoming’s landowners.
“This bill is our top priority,”she says.
The bill would impose penalties for those persons who trespass on private land to collect natural resource data, such as water quality data.
For WACD, a bill that would amend conservation district law to authorize a second mill levy for water projects is also anticipated.
“The bill is in draft form currently,” Frank says. “Where voters would support a second mill levy for water projects, they could vote on it and get more work done in developing and conserving water.”
For the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association, Keith Kennedy notes that a bill to create a dry bean checkoff is important.
“We’ve got quite a few growers who are out visiting with different legislators,” Kennedy says, “and we have the processors on board, as well. They see the benefits it could offer in terms of research dollars for more varieties that are adapted to our growing area.”
Looking back on this year, in particular, where many producers lost their crops to an early September freeze, Kennedy mentions, “The season we had in the northwest brought to the forefront that it would be nice to have shorter season varieties that yield well.”
Another bill addressing driver’s license requirements is also a focus for WSGA. The bill would exempt the agriculture industry from requirements for higher class driver’s licenses to operate equipment close to home.
“We are looking very closely to the exemption in Wyoming on Class A and Class B that the Transportation Committee is bringing forward,” Scott Zimmerman of Rocky Mountain Farmer’s Union (RMFU) says.
Ken Hamilton of Wyoming Farm Bureau notes, “The driver’s license issue is two-fold. One deals with the folks who have pickups and horse trailers that are large. The other is for those transporting their own goods. It would allow us to address some challenges, particularly in the Big Horn Basin.”
Zimmerman noted that potential legislation on animal welfare would be of interest to RMFU, as well.
“Even though the Joint Ag Committee isn’t supporting any welfare legislation, we are very interested in potential animal welfare, specifically the domestic pet approach discussed during committee meetings,” Zimmerman continues.
“We can never predict what might be a hot-button issue during the legislature, but we will watch and be involved,” Zimmerman adds. “We haven’t seen many individual legislator’s bills, and it is hard to predict what might show up.”
“There are a few other things coming along,” Magagna adds, noting that he expects many more bills to be filed as the session approaches.
There are many opportunities for Wyoming citizens to get involved during the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
All sessions of the Wyoming House of Representatives and Wyoming Senate are broadcast via the internet at wyoleg.gov.
Additionally, a list of all bills, the full text of all bills and their status is available online. Bill status can also be confirmed by calling the Bill Status Information Service at 800-342-9570.
To keep in touch with legislators, messages may be left with the Senate receptionist by calling 307-777-7711 or the House receptionist at 307-777-7852.
Legislators may also be contacted by leaving a message on either the Online or Telephone Hotlines. The Online Hotline can be found at legisweb.state.wy.us/postcomments/onlinehotline.aspx.
Email contact information is available for each legislator at wyoleg.gov.
Look for weekly updates on the 2015 General Session of the Wyoming Legislature in the Roundup.