Wyo Legislature ponders 2010 Budget Session
Cheyenne – In the first week of the 2010 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature a variety of bills were introduced and forwarded on for further consideration, while a few others failed on introduction.
One of those that failed introduction Feb. 8 was HB 30, Transportation Department Authority, which would have granted WYDOT eminent domain powers for snow fence construction.
“Many of us expressed concerns about HB 30, so when it came up for introduction many of the representatives were aware and Rep. Lisa Shepperson did a good job of pointing out those concerns,” says Wyoming Stock Growers Executive Director Jim Magagna. “It was very broad and provided an expansion of eminent domain, and after we revamped that a few years back there was no appetite for it.”
SF 07, Rangeland Health Assessments, was introduced Feb. 8 and referred to committee. SF 31, Federal Natural Resources Policy Account, was also introduced and referred.
“As the bill is worded now, it provides funding and allows county or state agencies to participate in the federal land planning process, while the new version of this bill would open that up to participation in the implementation of the federal plans as well,” says Magagna. “That way counties could stay involved to make sure the BLM or Forest Service is implementing what the plan says.”
A provision in SF 07 would allow the use of some of the funding in SF 31 for rangeland health assessments.
HB 02, which allows the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) more flexibility in the Veterinary Loan Repayment Program established several years ago, was introduced and referred to committee.
The Wyoming Firearms Freedom Act, HB 28, sponsored by Rep. David Miller of Riverton, was introduced Feb. 9 and referred to committee. This bill provides that specified firearms that are manufactured, sold, purchased, possessed and used exclusively within Wyoming shall be exempt from federal regulation, including registration requirements.
HB 28 co-sponsor and Senate President Jim Anderson says, “Most of us in Wyoming are firm believers in the rights provided under the Second Amendment. This says to the federal government that, for the firearms that meet the standards of being Wyoming-made, purchased and possessed, we’ll regulate those ourselves. This comes from the sensitivity to federal interference we’re feeling in the conservative community.”
HB 102, Livestock and Brands, was received for introduction Feb. 10. According to WLSB Director Jim Schwartz, the bill would eliminate brand inspections for llamas, alpacas and goats.
“Some of those species wanted inspections, but we’re not doing a lot of them and when we go out to inspect one or two animals – it’s doesn’t pay the bill,” explains Schwartz, who adds he’s in support of the bill.
Schwartz does note that some board members have concerns about the growing goat industry in Wyoming. “At some point the goat people should be involved in the brand program, to address ownership and predator fees,” he says. “Right now goat producers can’t serve on local predator boards if we eliminate brand inspection.”
Regarding the budget, University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Frank Galey says the university’s asked for funding for a few things.
“One item is to continue support for the Consortium for the Advancement of Brucellosis Research,” he explains, adding the Consortium was formed with supplemental funds from the Legislature in 2009. “Continued funding would continue to bring the Consortium together, which we’re chairing at UW, but involves researchers from around the country.”
Galey says the Consortium is important in organizing and attracting the larger dollars needed to develop a better vaccine and a better diagnostic test.
Another item the university asked for is $400,000 to continue brucellosis vaccine research in-house.
“We have a couple researchers doing some work to identify some parts of the brucellosis bug that might be used to develop better tests, and maybe a better vaccine,” says Galey. “We’re at the fundamental level of research.”
In other funding areas, Hank Uhden with the Department of Agriculture says he updated the Joint Appropriations Committee on the current grasshopper situation.
“We provided them with an estimate of what management would cost annually, which is $9 million statewide,” explains Uhden, who says the report wasn’t a request, just information. “We have a current budget for emergency insect management that contains $2.5 million, and historically that budget has been nearly depleted for mosquito control to contain West Nile Virus. Even with the grasshopper outbreak, we still need to control mosquitoes.”
“We’re off to a really good start,” says Anderson, noting the state budget will be released the third week of February. “There aren’t nearly as many bills as we’ve had in the past because people are cost-conscious and we haven’t had many bills with appropriations come forward.”
He notes that leaves the Legislature with more time to work through the budget in a “careful fashion.”
“We’re asking everyone to hold the line in regard to spending. We’re trying to put ourselves in a position that if the recession lasts longer than we expect we can spread our reserves over time,” he adds. “We realize that Wyoming’s often late going into recessions, and the last coming out.”
“We need to put ourselves on a glide pattern we can hold,” says Anderson. “Normally in a budget session we look ahead at the two-year view, but this time we’re looking ahead three to five years.”