Legislature hits cross-over point in session, breaks for President’s Day holidayWritten by Saige Albert
Leaders in the Wyoming legislature reported on Feb. 12, after they adjourned for their President’s Day holiday break, that the 2015 Legislative session is at the halfway point – or crossover. In this session, the House sent 157 bills to the Senate, and the Senate sent 103 bills to the House.
“I am incredibly proud of our legislators, they are working hard and putting in the long hours to make sure that we continue to move Wyoming forward,” said Representative Rosie Berger, Majority Floor Leader. “We heard 257 bills in committees and on the floor and have moved 157 bills to the Senate and have already begun to tackle what they have sent our way.”
During the Wyoming Farm Bureau 2015 Legislative Meeting, Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Committee Chairmen Senator Gerald Geis and Representative Robert McKim commented on the session to this point, mentioning that the bodies have both finished the first reading on the budget and are progressing forward.
“One of the major items that we have been concerned with is trespass,” McKim mentioned. “We’ve had three bills on trespass, and two have died because we cannot reach consensus on what trespass really is or how we address the issue without infringing on private landowners’ right while also allowing public access to public lands.”
He added, “It is a really delicate balance, and we’ve worked on that.”
McKim also noted that the House committee has worked on issues ranging from wild horses to sage grouse and water projects.
“We are very concerned about individuals, and we are concerned about property rights,” McKim noted. “Our focus seems to be that we want to protect individuals property rights.”
“We haven’t had too many bills in either ag committee,” Geis mentioned.
He further noted that the Senate has passed the Dry Bean Checkoff bill, and they will plan to take up the bill in the House on Feb. 17.
Keith Kennedy of the Wyoming Crop Improvement Association said that bean growers from the Bighorn Basin had the opportunity to testify on the bill this past week and is optimistic about its passage.
In the Senate side, the Wyoming Food Freedom Act narrowly passed out of committee on Feb. 13 on a 3-2 vote.
The Senate also passed a bill to study management of public lands – an issue that states across the West are engaged in, he mentioned.
“If Utah wins their current lawsuit, then Wyoming has a chance,” Geis said. “If they don’t, the Office of State Lands and Investments will investigate to see if we can manage some BLM lands.”
He also noted that a variety of wildlife bills have been heard, including bills related to wild horses and Bighorn sheep.
Bobbie Frank with the Wyoming Association of Conservation Districts also mentioned the trespass bills that have been seen, to this point, mentioning, “We are pleased to see the Trespass to Collect Data bill passed the Senate and came out of the House Judiciary Committee on an 8-1 vote. We look forward to that bill moving through the House.”
The bill, in response to recent problems seen by landowners related to trespass, is one that ag industry groups have been working hard to see passed.
“The conservation district second mill levy for water programs and projects bill died in the House, which was a disappointment,” Frank added. “We look forward to working on the issue during the interim.”
“Building a brighter future for Wyoming is the goal of every legislator here,” said Senate President Phil Nicholas. “We have worked on major bills that will increase jobs, improve infrastructure and continue to evaluate how to use the taxes from our mineral industry most effectively.
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.