Wyoming legislature continues policy conversations on ag-related bills during 2015 sessionWritten by Saige Albert
Cheyenne – Wyoming’s legislature has seen the introduction and consideration of a number of bills. At the same time, Wyoming’s agriculture organizations have been working hard to advocate for producers and ag businesses across the state.
By Jan. 30, 221 House Bills (HB), 11 House Joint Resolutions (HJ), 146 Senate Files (SF) and seven Senate Joint Resolutions (SJ) had been filed with the Legislative Services Office.
Two trespass bills – SF 12 and SF 80 – have been of top priority for both the Wyoming Farm Bureau (WyFB) and Wyoming Stockgrowers Association (WSGA).
WyFB Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton and WSGA Executive Vice President Jim Magagna both discussed their priorities for the session, noting that the bills are progressing as hoped.
Agriculture organizations across the state have uniformly supported both bills, which seek penalties for trespassing to collect data and create civil action for damages resulting from such actions.
“The other bill we are working on is for SF 68, Property Rights Ombudsman,” Magagna notes. “That bill passed out of committee and was re-referred to Appropriations. The appropriation was stripped out of it in that committee.”
“We would still like to see it move forward,” he adds. “It is possible we can restore funding, and if we don’t, we believe we can work with the Governor’s Office and others to identify funding for this year.”
Another important bill supporting landowner’s rights is HB 108, which is supported by both WSGA and WyFB.
“HB 108 codifies the Second Restatement of Torts in an effort to keep the Judicial Branch from gradually advancing the Third Restatement of Torts,” Hamilton mentions. “We’ve supported this bill in the last two sessions, and it always seems to run into problems at the last moment.”
Beans and transportation
Keith Kennedy of the Wyoming Ag Business Association and the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association notes that the Dry Bean Research Bill, SF 4, has advanced through the Senate, a positive step for dry bean growers around the state.
Further, he mentioned that SF 29, which relates to driver’s license requirements, is moving.
“SF 29 would relieve some of the license requirement for folks in agriculture who are driving vehicles over 39,000 Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), as well as allowing individuals with a GVWR up to 39,000 pounds on a Class C license,” Hamilton explains.
A similar bill, HB 95, was substituted into SF 29, and Hamilton says he does not expect HB 95 to move forward any further.
Hamilton also notes that WyFB has been monitoring the Omnibus Water bills.
“Our members have some concerns of the Water Development Commission’s efforts to go ahead with increased cloud seeding,” Hamilton explains. “The multi-year experiment concluded, and it seems to be the consensus of the scientists that seeding will not affect precipitation events in areas downwind of Wyoming.”
WyFB also supports SF 30, which would allow the military department to keep money received from grazing fees and use it toward range improvements.
HB 56, the Wyoming Food Freedom Act, is also supported by WyFB members, and Hamilton mentions that it passed third reading in the House. WSGA also supports the Act.
HJ 2, which would have sent a constitutional amendment to eliminate the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction, was opposed by WyFB and WSGA. The bill failed in the Education Committee.
SF 69 was also rejected in committee. WSGA opposed the bill on behalf of many landowners, as it increased the number of big game hunting licenses reserved for resident hunters.
Another bill that failed was supported by WSGA. HB 4 Prohibited Livestock Grazing died early, says Magagna.
“One of the difficult challenges of committees that are restructured after election is bills that we have worked on through the interim have to be heard,” Magagna comments. “The bill wasn’t a high priority, and I think we can bring it back again.”
Updates on the legislative session will be provided each week for the remainder of the session. However, the most up-to-date information on each bill is available at wyoleg.gov.