Weed and Pest discusses proposed special districts bills at 2016 conventionWritten by Emilee Gibb
Cody – The Wyoming Weed and Pest Council hosted a full slate of council meetings and educational speakers during the 2016 Wyoming Weed and Pest Conference on Nov. 1-3, including breakout sessions on bio-control research, Ventenata grass and public court cases related to Weed and Pest districts.
During the business meeting on Nov. 1, Park County Weed and Pest Supervisor Josh Shorb gave an update on the recent work of the Special Districts Task Force and its impacts on special districts, including Wyoming Weed and Pest.
When discussing the budget bill related to special districts, Shorb noted that many elements of the proposed bill are already addressed by current Weed and Pest Council actions.
“When we talk about the budget bill, a lot of those things that are in that, the Weed and Pest Act and what we’re actually doing is already addressed,” he said.
One element that will be addressed is how special districts assess and assign functions to their budget reserve. Shorb explained that historically, Wyoming Weed and Pest listed the figure in their budget report but did not include an explanation.
“What this budget bill will do, in a sense, is make every district state their budget reserve policy and what it’s for,” said Shorb. “That’s going to give an opportunity for districts to explain themselves.”
He commented than many people do not realize the importance of a large budget reserve in the event of weed or pest outbreaks.
“When a grasshopper plague sweeps across Johnson County, we can spend $4 million pretty quick, but some people don’t realize that,” continued Shorb.
“Another one of the big bills out there is the dissolution of special districts,” said Shorb. “That’s where a lot of the special districts are going to band together and fight if it gets sponsored.”
He explained that there are three ways that a county commission can begin the process to dissolve a district that are in existing law currently.
“One of them is for the good of the people, basically the ‘we feel like it’ clause,” Shorb continued.
Proposed changes include adding further language that would delineate different things a special district could do that would trigger a county commission to begin dissolving a district, including not providing their budget to the county clerk on time, not posting notices on time or providing them in a publically accessible place.
“This would give commissioners potentially more authority and a little bit longer of a laundry list on how to dissolve a district,” explained Shorb.
He noted that while county commissions cannot simply say that a district is dissolved, they do have a significant influence on public vote.
“It has to go to the voters, but for a county commission to even bring that up and have it in the local newspapers, that’s not good,” stressed Shorb.
County commissions currently a significant amount of authority over Weed and Pest districts, said Shorb.
“That’s already been in the state statute, and it’s been that way for a long time. I think a lot of county commissions out there did not realize they had this authority over us,” he continued.
However, throughout the function of the special task force, the executive director of the Wyoming County Commissioner’s Association has been actively involved in discussions.
“County commissions are all very aware right now of the actual authority they have over Weed and Pest districts,” stressed Shorb.
One result that Shorb predicted is that county commissions will question special districts on their budget reserves and future budget plans.
“I can see some things come to pass like this district has ‘X’ amount of dollars in there, and they can say, ‘No, you don’t get your full mill. You’re going to get 90 percent. Use your budget reserve to fill that last 10 percent,’” explained Shorb. “They want to tell us we can squeak as much as we want but we can’t do anything.”
He noted that the control that county commissions have over special districts is slightly concerning, but the task force and the Council will continue to follow the issue.
Shorb stressed that Wyoming Weed and Pest districts will need to create a unified front when faced with upcoming bills and building positive relationships with county commissions.
“We’re going to have to have a lot of help from everybody this year, and we’re going to have to have a united front,” said Shorb.
To help with this goal, he strong suggested investing in hiring a professional lobbyist.
“That’s one of the reasons I think we need to bring in a professional,” continued Shorb.
In the 2016 budget, the Wyoming Weed and Pest Council recommended $6,000 for professional services, said Shorb.
“I don’t know that the accountant is going to pass that to approve that money, but my recommendation is that they do. The guy that we’re working with is Pete Illoway,” he said. “We already had him attend one of the task force meetings on our behalf.”
Amendment A looks to increase investment optionsWritten by Saige Albert
As Wyomingites begin to fill out their absentee ballots or prepare to visit their polling place on Election Day, the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office notes that they will see a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Wyoming State Treasurer Mark Gordon adds the measure would be helpful to support the state.
Amendment A, if passed by voters, would give the Legislature the opportunity to allow some of the Wyoming’s non-permanent funds to hold other investments than just bonds, which could increase returns from invested monies.
Gordon comments that it is important to distinguish that retirement funds and permanent funds are not part of the funds included in Amendment A.
“These funds were given the constitutional authority to invest in equities by the voters in the 1990," he says. “They have been doing it for some time.”
“Wyoming’s portfolio is about $19.8 billion, and that gives off typically anywhere from $1,300 to $1,700 in tax savings for every Wyoming citizen,” Gordon explains.
Permanent funds make up approximately two-thirds of Wyoming’s total portfolio, and each fund has specific purposes, explains Gordon. The other third is a pool of funds is called the State Agency Pool.
“In the State Agency Pool, there are more than 300 different component funds, so they run everything from boards to agency budgets and appropriations, clear up to the Legislative Stability Reserve Account (LSRA), or the rainy day fund,” Gordon comments. “There are also a number of trust funds, like the Wyoming Wildlife and Natural Resource Trust, which funds weed and pest control among other things, the Cultural Resources Trust and others.”
The State Agency pool is the set of monies that cannot currently be invested in equities. Amendment A would target only those funds.
“We did a very quick and dirty study that looked at the returns from the permanent Mineral Trust a year ago,” Gordon continues. “We looked at the earnings, and it was right around six percent over the long haul. We compared that to the State Agency Pool, which earned right around two percent for the same time interval.”
If the constitutional amendment is passed, Gordon says it does not immediately authorize funds to be invested in riskier portfolios.
“This allows the Legislature to take some of those 300 funds in the State Agency Pool that they feel might benefit from some equity and give them some exposure to equities,” he explains. “The Legislature has to be really convinced of this decision. For those funds to be invested differently, they have to pass two-thirds of the House and two-thirds of the Senate, which is a high bar.”
He continues, “If they do pass it, then the State Loan and Investment Board (SLIB) will set an asset allocation, and we’ll move forward.”
Over the last month, Gordon has traveled across the state of Wyoming, visiting with constituents about Amendment A. During that time, he has heard several recurring concerns from citizens.
“One of the concerns that people often ask about is, what if we have a crazy Treasurer? Can they cause problems?” Gordon says. “It is unlikely because everything the state does with its investment program is a very considered process. It is the SLIB that selects the investment managers, sets the allocations and policies which guide the investment process. To do that, by law, the SLIB retains a qualified investment advisor, and they have to review the entire portfolio on a quarterly basis.”
The investment advisor, RBK out of Portland, Ore., provides advice on asset allocation for funds that are invested.
“We won’t invest 100 percent in stocks,” Gordon adds. “It would be a measured approach appropriate to the specific fund with something more like at 60-40 split.”
When looking at an acceptable level of risk, Gordon notes that a number of parties come together to determine what an appropriate investment is for the state.
“SLIB, the Treasurer and the investment consultant work together to determine risk,” Gordon continues. “Over the top of that, the Select Committee on Capital Finance meets annual to look at what we’re doing.”
Gordon emphasizes that the checks and balances are in place to protect against abuses.
Another concern from Wyomingites is the risk of the stock market.
“The stock market does have risks, and there is no question in that,” says Gordon. “The bond market also has risks, and being diversified allows us to be more prudent and more defensive in asset allocation, which will ultimately help us do a better job in Wyoming.”
Another concern from citizens of the state is the liquidity of the account.
“Some people are worried a little about the liquidity of the account and the ability of the state to manage cash and meet our obligations,” Gordon explains. “The answer to that is that we must continue to do a very careful job of cash management and cash forecasting.”
In investing, he continues that the state will maintain an adequate buffer to ensure that the state remains liquid and able to meet obligations.
“A blend of assets helps us to maintain our liquidity, as well,” he says.
Moving forward, Gordon adds that any changes in investment strategies for the state’s money will not be sudden.
“We’re looking for the opportunities available,” he says. “Right now, the stock market is valued high. Looking back at 2008, if we would have had the opportunity to invest in stocks after the recession, we could have seen substantially greater returns to the state.”
He continues that the state would not be investing all of the State Agency Pool funds in the stock market.
“We are looking at funds the could benefit from some exposure to stocks which might be around about one-third of the State Agency Pool,” he says. “The Legislature will put parameters on it. We’re only talking about a small portion of the $6 billion, and even then, the specific funds would have a blend of stocks and bonds. Nothing would be 100 percent invested in stocks.”
Gordon notes, “There are a lot of checks and balances, and we want to protect our savings and optimize our earnings where we can.”
WACD grapples against proposed special districts legislationWritten by Saige Albert
Isolated challenges with a few special districts across Wyoming lead the Wyoming Legislature to pursue the formation of the Task Force on Special Districts, a group that was convened to discuss the oversight, accountability and fiscal responsibility along with dissolution procedures for special districts.
Over the last four months, the Task Force, which includes two house members, two senate members and numerous gubernatorial appointees, met and developed recommendations that advanced to the Joint Corporations, Political Subdivisions and Elections Committee.
“There were three special district representatives on the Task Force,” explained Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts (WACD) Executive Director Bobbie Frank during the WACD Area II meeting on Sept. 14. “Shaun Sims, WACD president was one of those, representing elected special district boards.”
After four meetings of the Task Force, four bills came out of the committee that advanced to Corporations Committee.
“We do have concerns with one specific bill and some specific concerns with the Budget bill as it pertains to mandatory training,” Frank commented.
The Corporations Committee heard testimony on the bill on Sept. 15, the majority of which included opposition to the Commissioner dissolution bill. The Committee did not take action on the bills but will take them up again at their Nov. 21-22 meeting in Cheyenne.
The most recent meeting of the Task Force on Special Districts was held on Sept. 9.
The Task Force moved four bills forward, including one to authorize County Commissions, upon hearing and finding of violation of statute, to initiate a dissolution process, one to add additional budgeting requirements to existing statutory requirements, one to except Boards of Cooperative Education from special district requirements and a Special District Elections bill, said Frank.
Currently, statutory authority provides that County Commissioners can dissolve a special district if the district did not elect a board or if the district is uninhabited.
Frank explained, “This bills adds a third authority to dissolve a district after a hearing with the governing board if the County Commissioners find the district has violated provisions within Title 16, Chapter 12 of Wyoming Statutes.”
“This bill would apply to all 28 types of special districts in the state, ranging from Improvement and Service and Predator Management Districts to Conservancy and Watershed Improvement Districts among many others, including Conservation Districts. Under the language, if Commissioners find a violation, then the next step would be a plan for dissolution and an election on the dissolution conducted by the special district itself,” she continued.
The second bill includes existing language from Chapter 12, with additional language from other statutes that largely relate to budget oversight.
“We’re still working to determine exactly what is included in this second bill,” Frank explained, noting that budget requirements are among the changes for special districts.
Budget and training requirements
“Most of the budget requirements are things that conservation districts are already doing,” Frank explained.
However, one piece that is concerning is mandatory special district board training.
“We agree that training is very important, and we have a very robust training program that, in partnership with the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, is provided to our Conservation Districts,” she explained. “However there is not yet a statewide consistent special district training program, so we believe it is premature to include this requirement in the legislation. ”
She also noted that the bill is unclear whether training is required for how many board members or how often.
A group was appointed, including Frank, the State Department of Audit Director, Secretary of State representative and County Clerk representative to put together a training manual.
“We met once and put an outline together, but we also said we believe we’re going to need a special district training manual,” she said. “It is going to take a significant amount of time to put together, and we think we need to have training manuals out long before we make training mandatory.”
The legislation would require that any money in reserve accounts would have to be justified through a reserve policy. This is an action already either in place or in works in Conservation Districts.
Overall, Frank noted that the WACD Board expressed concern over the bills and opposed them during the Sept. 15 meeting.
“We do not believe it is appropriate to have one judicial decisions made in this matter over another elected board, absent the two provisions that are already in statute,” Frank emphasized. “If a board is going to have been found violating a law, we have a process for that.”
“The Conservation Districts work very hard to be accountable to their taxpayers and transparent in their business dealings and comply with the array of state requirements and work hard to have good relations with their Commissioners,” Frank added. “However, our Board of Directors does not believe it is appropriate to have one elected board make judicial decisions on violation of statute over another elected board. ”
WACD’s board agreed that, if the bills move forward, a hearing under these provisions should proceed in accordance with the Administrative Procedures Act, including a contested case hearing.
“We will continue to be involved in the discussions and look forward to conversations about how to ensure accountability without going forward with overbroad legislation to address a few issues,” Frank noted.
Candidates make final push in last month before General ElectionWritten by Saige Albert
Reports from Wyoming Secretary of State Ed Murray showed top primary election turnout since 2004, with over 116,000 ballots cast.
“Although this is the best primary election turnout Wyoming has seen in a presidential election since 2004, I think we still have a lot of work to do as a state to continue to educate our families, our friends, our neighbors and especially our youth about the importance of voting,” Murray told Wyoming PBS.
Candidates in Wyoming’s 60 House districts and the even-numbered Senate districts have been canvassing their districts, garnering support for their candidacy.
Nov. 8 marks General Election Day this year, and Wyomingites can vote absentee until Nov. 7 or at polls on Election Day.
Along with the presidential race, Wyoming will elect a new Congressman to serve in the House of Representatives. Liz Cheney, Republican candidate, was featured in an Oct. 15 article in the Roundup. Democratic candidate Ryan Greene’s views are described in this edition of the paper.
In addition, all candidates running for House or Senate in the Wyoming Legislature were contacted via e-mail. The Wyoming Livestock Roundup gave candidates one week to provide insight on their top three priorities in this election in 100 words or less.
Candidates’ input is provided below. Those candidates who did not respond are also listed, as well.
Candidates are listed with their part affiliation. R indicates a Republican candidate, D signifies a Democratic candidate, C is for Constitution Party candidates and I indicates an Independent.
House of Representatives
R – Tyler Lindholm
D – Randy Leinen
R – Hans Hunt
D – Harold Eaton
R – Eric Barlow
R – Dan R. Kirkbride – My first priority is to help us spend our state money prudently. I define that as living within our means to fund enterprises that are some combination of the five E’s: essential, efficient, pre-emptive – to save us money down the road, empowering – to strengthen our people, and/or enterprising to help stimulate the economy on some level.
Buttressing coal is a second emphasis because it is the backbone of so much that we benefit from in state government. Anything we can undertake legally, promotionally or technologically is important.
Efforts to diversify the economy are my third objective.
C – Joe Michaels – First, I want to reaffirm the sovereignty of Wyoming. Much of what happens in Wyoming is the result from an outside-of-Wyoming source. I believe that Wyoming should stand up and make decisions that are correct for Wyoming.
Next, I will protect personal property rights, including protecting against EPA overreach and working to protect endangered species like sage grouse here in Wyoming.
Finally, I will budget within our revenue. As citizens of Wyoming, we now need to decide how much government we want and how much government we want to pay for.
As a veteran, an owner of a small ag business and an experienced leader I believe it is time for some new ideas in Cheyenne.
R – Cheri E. Steinmetz
R – Aaron Clausen – I am a fourth generation rancher and businessman who lives south of Douglas on LaBonte Creek. I have been president of the Converse County Farm Bureau for 12 years, president of the Wyoming Ag Leadership Council for three years and on the board of directors for six years.
If I’m elected, I will focus on having a state budget that provides for what’s important to Wyoming while cutting the fat.
I will also strive to keep our business environment friendly by keeping taxes and regulations at a minimum.
Finally, my largest goal in the legislature would be to protect the Wyoming way of life for generations to come.
D – Shalyn C. Anderson
R – Sue Wilson
R – Bob Nicholas
D – Linda Burt – In running for House District Eight, I will prioritize tax reform, taking a comprehensive review of tax structure, looking for less reliance on the extraction industry and broadening current revenue sources while also seeking new sources of income.
On the budget, I will fight against across-the-board cuts of program, instead looking at evaluation of program effectiveness. I will prioritize programs that support elderly, disabled and low-income citizen, as well as those that support and develop a diversified economy.
Finally, I am in favor of Medicaid expansion to ensure adequate healthcare for Wyoming’s working poor.
R – Landon Brown
D – Mike Weiland – There are many important issues facing Wyoming. My top three priorities would be the passage of Medicaid expansion, diversifying the economy and education.
Medicaid expansion would help nearly 20,000 of our working poor to obtain health insurance. It would bring additional revenue and jobs to Wyoming and help the hospitals with uncompensated care.
Diversification of the economy includes, quality infrastructure, great quality of life, increase use and development of renewable energy and world class education.
All would attract business and help keep our young people in Wyoming. Education should be fully funded and high quality.
R – John Eklund
D – Matthew Porras
R – Jared Olson
D – Mary A. Throne – To me, there is one over-riding issue. Wyoming, once and for all, needs to seize control of its destiny to survive the energy downturn. We need a long-term plan for restructuring our economy to take advantage of new opportunities in tech, tourism, agriculture and other sectors, while at the same time maintaining support for our energy base.
Agriculture will play an important role in the effort to change our economy, and we must explore enhanced opportunities for this sector. Agriculture’s stewardship of the land already supports both habitat for our wonderful wildlife resources and access for energy development.
R – Lars Lone
D – Lee Filer
R – Joey Correnti IV
D – Cathy Connolly
R – Dan Furphy – The most pressing issue is the reduced revenue that the state is experiencing. We need to pursue diversification of our economy. During my tenure with the Laramie Chamber Business Alliance, we have created jobs mostly through the technology sector and the manufacturing sector and can do so at the State level.
We need to fund the University of Wyoming to finance important research. The University has developed some new technologies and jobs in the agricultural area, such as Bright Agro-Tech and research in energy with alternative uses of coal.
We need to continue to fund our schools appropriately.
D – Erin C. O’Doherty
R – Donald Burkhart
D – DeBari T. Martinez
D – Mike Gierau
D – JoAnn Dayton
R – Thomas D. Crank
D – Michele Irwin
R – Danny Eyre
D – Mel McCreary
R – Albert Sommers
D – Jeanne Brown
R – Robert McKim
D – David Fogle
R – Marti Halverson
D – Marylee White – I am a fourth generation Wyomingite. Both of my parents grew up on homesteads in the Medicine Bow area. Our ranch is still in operation. I will be an advocate for ranchers if elected to the Wyoming Legislature.
I oppose legislation to transfer federal public lands to the state of Wyoming. I think this ill-conceived notion is a waste of time and money. The Wyoming Constitution does not support claims that the federal government has illegally taken these lands from the state.
Wyoming needs to expand Medicaid in the 2017 legislative session. It would provide access to healthcare for 20,000 Wyomingites. This economic boost would stabilize services and inject tax dollars paid by us back into Wyoming communities.
D – Andy Schwartz
R – Scott B. Court
D – Paul Fees
I – Sandy Newsome
R – Dan Laursen
D – Shane Tillotson
R – Jamie Flitner – If I am elected, my initial priority would be to educate myself on the process and get up to speed regarding budget and the immediate needs of the state.
As a fifth generation rancher, agriculture is important. I want to ensure we continue to support and expand opportunities for agriculture and minerals extraction.
Public lands are an important issue to me. I would like for our local people who live near and use those lands to have more say and involvement in their management.
I also understand the importance of tourism and recreation.I feel it’s important we continue to look at expanding those opportunities.
I’m optimistic about Wyoming and our future, despite tight budget times. I look forward to the opportunity to serve and give back.
D – Jean Petty
C – Joyce Collins
R – Michael D. Greear – My priorities, as I look at Wyoming's future, are three-pronged and include the revenue shortfall and budgeting, federal regulations and education funding.
The single most important course of action is to ensure that we have a balanced budget.
When we look at federal regulation, I could go on for hours, but everyone already knows the problems. This is a difficult issue to tackle. However, the one approach that works is to ensure that the State of Wyoming maintains primacy with respect to all such regulations.
Finally, with a down turn in the major mineral sectors, funding for K-12 education is at a crisis. This is a very sensitive issue, as our children are the state’s future.
D – Robert D. McDonough, Jr.
R – Nathan Winters
D – Howard Samuelson – My top three priorities, if elected to serve my constituents as their Representative from House District 28, are to keep public lands in public hands for the benefit of all Wyoming users, to work to ensure that Medicaid is expanded to help make Wyomingites as healthy as possible and to investigate all the possibilities for economic diversification and encourage non-traditional businesses to locate in Wyoming.
R – Mark S. Kinner
D – Sandra S. Kingsley
R – Mark Jennings
D – Val Burgess – My goal is to live, work and serve according to the Wyoming’s Code of Ethics. That means, by example, living each day with courage, taking pride in my work, finishing what I start, doing what has to be done, being tough but fair and always riding for the brand – and that is Wyoming.
I commit to these values for my voters in House District 30. Know that I will talk less, say more, remember that some things are not for sale and know where to draw the line while serving you in the Wyoming legislature, as James P. Owen said in “Cowboy Ethics.”
R – Scott Clem
D – Dylan Czamecki
R – Timothy Hallinan
R – Jim Allen – My top three issues involve water storage, state’s rights and protecting our freedom.
Water storage and building reservoirs is good for agriculture, municipalities and industry. Water is the key to our prosperity and opportunity.
I will continue to vote for state control of our resources. Federal rulemaking is hurting our state with regulations such as waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) and the Clean Power Plan. The legislature has invested in fighting federal overreach, which stymies our growth and opportunity.
I support all of our civil liberties, especially the right to own, use and control property, the right to bear arms, free speech and the 10th Amendment states’ rights. I support free enterprise unhampered by excessive rules and needless regulations.
D – Sergio Maldonado, Sr.
R – Tim Salazar
R – Kendell Kroeker
D – Brett Governanti
R – Gerald Gay
D – Debbie Bovee – I believe Wyoming must have a balanced budget. I want possible budget cuts to be carefully examined, so when cuts are made, people can still access essential services.
I also believe we need to step up efforts to diversity our economy.
I want to see public education, from pre-school through post-secondary, adequately funded. Education and training can help to diversify our economy.
I don’t want to see any changes in the management of public lands that would greatly limit public access to those lands.
I support the second amendment and believe Wyoming’s laws on gun control are adequate.
R – Steve Harshman – The first priority is to balance this current budget. Even after the Governor’s cuts, we are still $200 million short in the General Fund. It is hard to predict, but that will likely be a combination of more cuts and spending from savings.
The second priority is to find a long-term solution to the K-12 budget shortfall that is coming in 2018-19. This will be a multifaceted approach of reductions, savings and revenue flow changes.
The third priority is to keep Wyoming open for business and lead in a positive and proactive manner. We will continue to move our state forward. We are going to be leaner, stronger and even better positioned for the future.
D – Deidre Stoelzle
R – Tom Walters
D – Stan Blake – Like everyone else I want to diversify our economy, be conservative with spending, support education and respond to our citizens needs.
Maybe different from others, Wyoming’s water is a priority of mine. We need to do everything we can to protect and develop this limited resource.
When we look at public lands, I am against the state taking over federal lands. We do, however, need more input into the management of this land. Protecting historic use is a top priority for me of these lands.
R – Michael Madden – A priority of mine for the coming two years is to map out a spending protocol for all of our rainy day funds. We will, hopefully, during the next two years, learn more about how long it will be before the mineral economy turns around – and if it ever is likely to do so.
Another priority is to lay some serious groundwork for building a more functional revenue system that does not turn Wyoming’s fiscal and economic health upside down when the mineral industry depresses, as it has now.
Finally, we need to carefully prune down a long-term and sustainable state spending policy to match a realistic revenue generation capability of the state fiscal system.
D – Greg Haas
R – Bill Henderson – I’m running to serve people in our district, make sure their voice is heard and represented, and concerns are resolved.
I want to eliminate costly, unwanted government regulations, protect our resources and diversify to grow Wyoming. Let’s use fiscal common sense and end “blank check” spending.
I want to develop an LSRA, or rainy day, plan, improve healthcare access and provide the best education, vocational and technical training.
With Wyoming roots, I’m a combat veteran with the right education, proven leadership, management and fiscal experience to help tackle our problems. I would appreciate your vote.
D – Amy Simpson
R – Jim Blackburn
D – Juliet M. Daniels – My first priority is to ensure the legislature uses a thoughtful, strategic approach to addressing budget shortfalls. We need to consider a more viable approach to our long-term financial stability.
My second priority is to pass Medicaid expansion to help about 20,000 uninsured Wyomingites directly and reduce the burden on our publicly funded hospitals. It will bring additional revenue into Wyoming and offset reductions in state revenues. It is money that Wyomingites have already paid and should be brought back to Wyoming.
Finally, my third priority is to create more opportunities for constituents to meaningfully engage with the legislative process, primarily by increasing dialogue.
R – Dan Zwonitzer
R – John B. Romero-Martinez
D – James W. Byrd
R – Tom Schmit
D – Charles F. Pelkey – My top three priorities in running for the House of Representatives in Wyoming are Medicaid expansion, preserving public lands and protecting our investment in education.
Our legislature has rejected nearly half-a-billion federal dollars to make a political point. Fine – they don’t like Obama-Care, but don’t make the people of Wyoming pay for that kind of stubbornness.
I oppose the effort to take over federal lands. We don’t have the resources to properly manage those lands, and that may ultimately lead to their privatization. We need to preserve public access to those lands.
We must work to protect our investment in education. Good schools, colleges and a strong university are keys to our economic future.
R – Bill Haley
D – Ken Chestek – Three priorities, all of equal weight, are to protect our public lands, expand Medicaid and diversify Wyoming’s economy.
I believe our public lands should be protected. No federal land should be transferred to the state.
As we look at healthcare, I think it is important to expand Medicaid so that hard-working Wyoming families can get the health insurance they need, and hospitals can get paid for the services they provide.
Finally, I will work to diversify the Wyoming economy by investing in infrastructure to support renewable energy – primarily wind and solar, recruit information technology businesses to Wyoming and find alternative uses for coal so that the coal mining industry can be sustained. If we turn coal into building materials, like grapheme and carbon fiber, coal’s future can be extended.
R – Jerry Paxton
D – Ken Casner – First and foremost I think this issue crosses party lines and is vital to Wyoming. I believe that, if I am elected, my district wants to keep public lands public.
Secondly, a vote in my favor is a vote for affordable health care and Medicaid expansion to keep our rural hospitals funded, along with providing medical services and quality care.
Finally, I want my constituents to respect their votes for me as their legislator. I truly want to earn their respect for that vote, by doing my duties and obligations with fidelity and keeping their voice heard on the Wyoming legislative floor.
R – Mark Baker
D – Jackie Freeze – The most important priority is addressing our declining revenues at the state and local levels. We rely heavily on the extraction industry to support our state. We need to look to diversify our economy, find new funding streams, support cities and counties and to develop guidelines for using the “rainy day” fund.
Of great importance is the issue of public lands. It is important to keep our access to public lands by leaving oversight at the federal level. The cost to our state would prohibit effective management.
Third, I support action that helps Wyoming workers earn a livable wage with appropriate benefits and support. Related to this is to assure that we fully support education at all levels.
R – Garry C. Piiparinen
D – Larissa Sneider
R – David Northrup
D – Mike Specht
R – Bo Biteman – My top three priorities start with getting the size and scope of our state government back down to a more realistic and sustainable level. We have a spending problem more than we have a revenue problem.
Next, I will fight to protect the rights of Wyoming citizens. This includes the right to keep and bear arms, private property rights and state’s rights.
Finally, I will ensure that Wyoming remains a beacon of freedom and opportunity, individually and economically. Wyoming must remain business friendly to attract new business and to help current businesses afford to stay here.
D – Hollis Hackman – I believe a state legislature should serve the greater good and protect quality of life for all its citizens equally, not a select few or special interests.
I believe business, industry, mining and agriculture can be promoted without sacrificing the beauty and sustainable resources of the state.
Our public land should be used in a sustainable manner that protects them for future generations.
Wyoming should set the standard for the best schools and local school boards and parents should pay the largest part in shaping that education.
R – William “Bill” Pownall
D – Duffy Jenniges – As my top priorities, I will expand Medicaid and establish a statewide veterans’ hiring preference.
I will also work to legalize medical marijuana, including legalizing industrial hemp. I will work to make minor drug offenses misdemeanors.
Next, I will prioritize keeping federal lands in federal hands.
I have a ranch in Hot Springs County, so I’m connected to ag, and I am always open for discussion.
R – Roy Edwards
R – Lloyd Charles Larsen
D – Julia Stuble
R – David Miller
R – Jerry Obermueller
D – Dan Neal – I’m running for office because I care about Wyoming’s people and this great place we all love.
I support responsible budgeting that protects essential services; Medicaid expansion to bring our federal tax dollars home to strengthen the healthcare system and create hundreds of jobs; sustainable funding for education; keeping public lands in public hands; fighting for access to those lands and wildlife and equal protection under the law.
I also believe in searching for ways to diversify the economy; supporting scientific management of wildlife resources; and ensuring all women access to reproductive health care. I also support the Second Amendment.
R – Chuck Gray – Our state government needs to be a responsible steward of taxpayer money. The irresponsible spending practices of insiders squandered our state’s revenues, and now, many politicians are actively talking about tax increases. This is wrong. Tax increases are not the answer.
One solution is controlling non-essential spending with zero-based budgeting.
Wyoming needs to work to stop the Obama EPA’s illegal rules and protect our mineral industry.
I am opposed to efforts to bring liberal values to Wyoming. For example, in 2015, SF115 would have brought transgender bathrooms to Wyoming. These efforts are wrong and out of step with Wyoming’s values.
D – Audrey M. Cotherman – My top priorities, if elected, are the economy, specifically helping start-ups and creating new jobs. I am also interested in helping to develop guidelines for when and how the rainy day fund can be used to sustain the economy, social services and assistance to local governments.
Second, I will be focused on education issues, particularly accountability standards and K-12 and university funding.
I am also committed to keeping public lands the heritage of all Americans for both economic and aesthetic reasons.
R – Patrick Sweeney
D – Michael Wade McDaniel, Jr.
I – Joe Porambo
R – Carl “Bunky” Loucks
D – Laure Longtine
D – John L. Freeman
R – Brian S. Boner – My priorities are fighting back in the war on our western way of life, balancing our budget and working for a safe learning environment in our K-12 system.
The regulatory burden placed on our agriculture and mineral industries is killing jobs, and I will push back to the extent possible at the state level. The difficult budgetary decisions ahead will require us to cut services and personnel but will be necessary to keep our tax burden low.
Even as we make further reductions, I will continue to make funding to local government, K-12 education and economic development a priority.
D – William B. Cullen III
R – Tara Nethercott
D – Ken A. Esquibel – I know the importance that farming and ranching have on the future of Wyoming. My voting record in the House of Representatives speaks for itself. The agriculture industry needs state senators who understand water issues and the need to have sound fiscal policies.
Moving forward, I want to work with our state leaders in making Wyoming’s agriculture industry nationally recognized as the best in the country. Our investments into the University of Wyoming and my support for those programs will continue in the Wyoming State Senate. Go Pokes!
R – Anthony Bouchard
I – Kym Zwonitzer – Managing our state’s budget during our economic downturn is the most important priority. We need to streamline to maintain jobs, infrastructure and services and research ways to reduce our spending. This will involve department-by-department analysis, careful management of the rainy day fund, supporting all efforts to fight government overreach and pushing for ways to promote our wealth of mineral reserves.
In southeast Wyoming, my priorities are addressing the growth in our schools and supporting economic development efforts to bring in new industries and new jobs.
R – Affie Ellis
D – Floyd A. Esquibel
R – Glenn Moniz
D – Narina Nunez
D – Lisa Anselmi-Dalton
R – Fred Baldwin
D – Charlotte Sedey
R – Dan Dockstader
D – Richard Kusaba
R – Henry H.R. “Hank” Coe
I – Cindy Baldwin
R – Wyatt Agar
D – Mary Jane Norskog
R – Dave Kinskey – Our freedoms and livelihoods are threatened by regulation and taxation. The Obama Administration issued its 600th major federal rule, an all-time record. President Obama’s $20 trillion deficit imperils our great nation.
Cheyenne, too, is grappling with budget deficits. This is a time when our focus should be solely on reducing the size and scope of state government. Those calling for increased taxes are putting the cart before the horse. Fiscal discipline is the first order of business.
My highest priority in the upcoming session will be balancing the state budget.
R – Michael Von Flatern
R – Eli D. Bebout
D – Chesie Lee
R – James “Jim” Anderson
D – Kimberly Holloway
R – Charles K. Scott
D – Robert Ford
Visit the Wyoming Secretary of State online at soswy.state.wy.us/Elections/2016ElectionInformation.aspx for the most up-to-date information on the 2016 General Election. Available information includes candidate contact information, voting information and more.
Saige Albert, managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup, compiled this article from responses gathered from candidates. All candidates were provided equal opportunity to provide their top priorities.
Konsmo with logical, solutions-based strategy in campaignWritten by Saige Albert
Powell – For Northwest College Professor Mike Konsmo, running for the U.S. House of Representatives is about bolstering Wyoming’s economy and improving the prospects for the next generation by restoring trust and fixing the state economy.
“I hear a lot of complaints about things like regulations, but most candidates don’t have solutions,” says Konsmo. “I like to start with practical answers because those are critical. I want good, practical plans to accomplish our goals.”
Konsmo sees his role in the U.S. House as one of less controversy and more vocal leadership, with a focus on reaching solutions.
He continues, “I’m practical and looking for long-term solutions. We need to have ideas in play and be at the table for these conversations.”
Goals in office
If elected, Konsmo says his number one priority is to be placed on the right committees.
“The Committees on Agriculture and Armed Services are important to me,” he says, noting that there are opportunities for development within Wyoming on those committees. “I also need to be on Energy and Commerce to work for building terminals to ship coal, natural gas and oil from the Pacific Coast.”
Since energy plays such a vital role for the state of Wyoming, Konsmo says it is important to create positive messaging for the energy industry and increase access to markets, which can be done through work in Congress.
“We have to have a good, conservative voice on these committees,” Konsmo says.
In addition, Konsmo hopes to restore trust and has released a 10-point plan, which is available on his website, to demonstrate who he is personally and how he will operate while in office.
Konsmo sees that the federal government is over-involved in the lives of Wyomingites, but he also sees practical solutions for solving concerns.
He calls regulations a hot-button issue that have a lot of traction in this year’s race, and he notes that solutions are necessary to solving the problem.
“The Federal Code of Regulations was 175,000 pages long in 2013, and I’m sure it’s longer than that now,” he says. “I think a good way to make progress is to start differentiating where regulations apply, and then cut regulations in terms of funding.”
“Regulations cost way too much, and they can be streamlined,” he says.
Within the state, Konsmo says that federal lands best serve the state when they are under federal control with local input on management.
“I don’t think that transferring lands to state control or selling them is in the best interest of our state,” Konsmo says. “I think using them for tourism and outdoor recreation will be a much more stable revenue source.”
Rather, he sees a solution that involves more local input in federal land management and the maintenance of a multiple-use standard as important.
Regarding species, Konsmo notes that wolves and grizzly bears should be delisted, and the Endangered Species Act should be reformed.
“I don’t believe the Endangered Species Act works as intended anymore,” he says. “It is used by the liberal side to push one agenda, and it’s used by the conservative side to push another agenda. Neither agenda has anything to do with endangered species. We all benefit from biodiversity, and we need laws that enable economic mobility and biodiversity. There needs to be a new approach.”
Other wild animals, including bison and wild horses, pose additional challenges, which need to be addressed.
“I offer a fresh perspective for Wyoming,” Konsmo says.
He notes that, as a teacher, he is a good listener and is able to put his ego aside for the benefit of the class community and the community at large.
He is also in touch with students from communities around the state, so he has an understanding of the issues and challenges facing those communities.
“I have a good sense of our state’s values, where they come from and how they think,” Konsmo says. “I’ve dedicated my life to education and learning.”
Konsmo works diligently to be educated on the issues facing Wyoming to provide the best solutions.
“I’m not afraid to have a defined, aggressive and assertive vision,” he comments. “I want to be a political candidate that I would admire, trust and respond to. That means that I have to embody those values. I can’t just say what’s trendy or popular. We need plans, not catchphrases.”