Wyo ag groups prepare for legislative session
Cheyenne – With the legislative session set to convene on Feb. 10 at 10 a.m., Wyoming’s agriculture interest groups are preparing to follow the bills that concern the industry.
“This year is a budget session, and our policy has always supported the legislature focusing on budget bills and limiting the extraneous bills,” says Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton. “We have a handful of bills that we will be following ,and a few we will support.”
Wyoming Stock Growers Association (WSGA) Executive Vice President Jim Magagna comments, “We’ve identified about 30 bills that we will be tracking and four that we will focus on.”
Both noted a similar group of bills that would be a priority.
This year’s budget bills, Magagna says, are supported by WSGA.
“We support the governor’s budget,” he says. “We also support the appropriation from the governor for the Wyoming Wildlife Natural Research Trust (WWNRT). The Appropriations Committee decreased that appropriation by $5,000.”
Additionally, the committee prevented money for WWNRT from being used for conservation easements.
“We will be working to make some changes there,” Magagna notes.
Related to the budget, Magagna says the bill regarding the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s budget, Senate File (SF) 45, will also be one that WSGA pays attention to.
“The bill directs WGFD to submit a budget request to pay for the grizzly bear program and insurance costs for their employees,” he explains. “We strongly support the grizzly bear portion of the bill.”
Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts Executive Director Bobbie Frank says, “We are primarily looking at the Rangeland Health Assessment Program and budget bills.”
She adds that WACD will monitor a number of other bills, as well.
Hamilton and Magagna note that the bill providing for protection for landowners for liability against trespass is important.
“We worked during the interim session with the Joint Judiciary Committee on that bill,” Magagna comments. “The final bill does all the same things as the final Senate bill last year, but it is drafted better. The structure of the bill has changed, but the substance hasn’t.”
The bill, House Bill (HB) 23, is sponsored by the Joint Judiciary Committee.
Hamilton also mentioned HB 21, saying, “This bill is a property tax exemption for charity that we are going to monitor. Anytime we reduce the number of taxpayers paying property taxes, that has the potential to make an impact.”
An additional bill that both groups are following is SF 8 Agency land sale, acquisition and exchange authority. The bill places a cap on the amount of land that the state is able to acquire in any one period.
“SF 8 is one we will take an interest in,” Hamilton comments.
Magagna additionally notes that the bill is also a carry-over from last year’s session.
“There are several exemptions in the bill for lands from the federal government and land acquired by the Wyoming Department of Transportation for highway right-of-ways,” Magagna explains.
He further notes that last year, the bill passed the Senate but was not introduced in the House.
Another notable bill is HB 35, which looks at the formation of a select committee on the transfer of public land.
“We are very supportive of the public land transfer bill and organizing a task force or committee to continue to look at transfer of public lands,” Frank comments.
SF 41 addresses the Select Federal Natural Resource Management Committee’s scope and directs the committee to further analyze the transfer of public lands to state ownership.
“This bill is something that our members have been anxious to see come to fruition,” Hamilton adds.
Other bills include SF 6 regarding groundwater contested cases.
“This bill changes the way contested cases regarding groundwater are addressed,” Hamilton says.
A livestock related bill, SF 7 addresses brucellosis surveillance and is of utmost importance to many livestock producers.
“This bill would authorize the state veterinarian to address testing of cattle for brucellosis in areas of significant concern outside of the Designated Surveillance Area,” Magagna explains. “This will allow reimbursement of producers for the costs of testing for brucellosis.”
The bill follows after brucellosis was discovered in elk outside the Designated Surveillance Area this year.
Both Hamilton and Magagna mention that bills may continue to crop up at the beginning of the session and they will monitor new bills as they arise.
There are a number of ways that citizens can stay up to date and involved in 2014 Budget Session of the Wyoming Legislature.
“Each day during the legislative session, citizens can listen to legislators debating the bills,” says the Legislative Services Office. “These live and archived audio proceedings of the Wyoming Senate and the Wyoming House of Representatives are available at wyoleg.gov.”
LSO also encourages citizens to contact their legislators. Messages for Senators can be left by calling 307-777-7711, and messages for Representatives can be left by calling 307-777-7852.
Email addresses for each legislator are also available online.
“During the legislative session, people can recommend support for or opposition to a particular piece of legislation by using the Online Hotline,” LSO explains. “In addition to expressing support for or opposition to an identified bill, they can also leave a short comment regarding the bill.”
The service is available by visiting legisweb.state.wy.us/postcomments/onlinehotline.aspx.