Wyoming Legislative Roundup 2021

It's a Wrap in Wyoming: Bills Become Law

Submitted by Scott Zimmerman, RMFU Government Relations for Wyoming

The 2021 Legislature adjourned without much fanfare, with one notable exception: HB 173 School Finance Funding -2, which died in conference committee when neither House nor Senate would compromise from their adopted language. The House wanted a sales tax backstop and the Senate wanted significant fiscal cuts from previous spending levels. This means funding will remain at levels prescribed in the biennial budget passed in 2020. After the failure of HB 173, Governor Mark Gordon announced he is taking a role and plans to appoint a working group whose initial job will be to survey communities to find out what educational needs the funding model should include.This is projected to be a long-term endeavor.

The wildcard in all funding areas is the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act through which Wyoming is expected to receive $1.1 billion. Indications are the guidance for this round of assistance will not be finalized until midsummer, although significant monies will be directed to cities, towns and counties. The legislative leadership is planning a special session to amend statutes and rules as needed to allow full utilization of these funds.

Here are the bills RMFU followed and their final outcomes

HB 1/ SF 1 General Government Appropriations
Position: Monitor
Status: Both houses agreed to compromise, governor signed with several line-item vetoes
Supplemental budget bill contains all agency budgets for fiscal year 2022 beginning July 1, 2021, including the governor’s recommended a 10% reduction, $400 million from the previous two-years projected spending levels. The Legislature restored limited funding, cut by the governor from the Health, University of Wyoming, and Community College system. The final version ended up cutting $430 million from the previous biennial budget.

HB 17 Range Management at Military Training Areas
Position: Support
Status: Signed into law by the governor
Camp Guernsey is a National Guard training facility for units from surrounding states. Federal money is no longer available to manage grazing, so this bill replaces the money with state funds of $300,000 to continue the management programs.

HB 26 Fuel Tax
Position: Monitor
Status: Killed on House General File
Increases statewide fuel tax from 0.24 cents to 0.33 cents. Monies raised go to highway maintenance.

HB 52 Wyoming School Protein Enhancement Project
Position: Support
Status: signed into law by Governor
Encourages the Department of Education to pay the cost of processing for livestock donated to schools to supplement school nutrition programs

HB54 Wyoming Meat Packing Initiative
Position: Support
Status: signed into law by the governor
Focuses efforts and resources of the Wyoming Business Council on developing slaughter plant(s) options for producers with the expectation to use funding from ARPA federal stimulus funds.

HB 108 Wind Energy Production Tax
Position: Oppose
Status: Killed in House Revenue Committee
Would double wind energy tax from $1 to $2 per megawatt.

HB 118 Food Freedom Act Amendments
Position: Monitor
Status: signed into law by the governor
Expands covered commodities to include eggs and clarifies exemptions in relation to federal codes.

HB 188 Irrigation District Loans
Position: Support
Status: signed into law by the governor
Adds irrigation districts to entities eligible for loans made by the State Land and Investment Board. Making these loans the funding of last resort.

HB 211 Property Taxes
Position: Monitor
Status: House Revenue Committee did not hear bill
Raises assessment rate statewide 1 percent in a three-year phase-in. Ag, residential and all other property would go from 9.5% to 10.5%

HB 229 Livestock Identification Choice Act
Position: Support
Status: signed into law by the governor
Removes all reference of “national” from federal animal I.D – parallels current federal rule making.

HB 242 State Land Lease Amendments
Position: Monitor
Status: Killed Not heard on h General File
Expands leasing authority to allow placing residential structures on state land under a ninety-nine-year lease

SF 16 Net Metering Systems
Position Monitor
Status: Killed in House Committee
Directs Public Service Commission to conduct a study of rates and recommend a fair rate for power being purchased by utilities through net metering. Current law requires utilities to pay wholesale rate.

SF 25 Animal Impound Proceedings – Bond and Disposition
Position: Monitor
Status: signed into law by the governor
Rewrites statutes governing the animals impounded under charges of animal cruelty.

SF 114 State Land Leases
Position: Monitor
Status: Vetoed by the governor who said the Legislature was infringing on duties of Executive branch
Sets new procedure for handling leasing of vacant state lands where no preference lease exists.

SF 122 Wyoming Agriculture Authority
Position: Support
Status: Died on House Committee of the Whole debate
Patterned after the infrastructure authority it establishes a board to oversee efforts to diversify and expand the Wyoming economy and its agriculture industry. The authority has the power to Investigate, plan and establish priorities for processing facilities in Wyoming, engage with international and domestic stakeholders on potential market opportunities and agricultural processing projects to identify, develop and promote projects and market opportunities to increase the value of Wyoming agricultural products.

SF 124 Defending Wyoming Business – Trade and Commerce Amendments
Position: Support
Status: signed into law by the governor
Amending prohibitions against unfair trade or commerce discrimination; authorizing investigatory powers for the attorney general for antitrust claims; providing for civil penalties and additional civil remedies relating to antitrust violations as specified; amending criminal penalties for antitrust violations as specified; clarifying the applicability of manufacturing requirements to discrimination provisions.

SF 135 Water rights – Livestock on Federal Land
Position: Monitor
Status: Senate did not consider in Committee of the Whole
Clarifies procedure for filing water right of developed springs on federal land, requires water rights on federal land to be filed jointly by federal agency and permittee.

Next Step: Wyoming Interim Committee Work

The Legislative Management Council met on April 16 to assign topics to standing interim committees to study and, if needed, draft legislation for introduction in this summer’s special session or the 2022 budget session. I will highlight the committees that received items of interest to Farmers Union members.

Joint Revenue was assigned property taxes and taxes on agricultural land. There is increasing concern that the ag classification is being abused by landowners and developers who are not true agricultural producers.

Joint Appropriations Committee will develop legislation appropriating state fiscal relief funds anticipated in the amount of $1.075 billion and capital construction funding in the anticipated amount of $109.6 million. One focus will be business relief programs – agriculture.

Joint Minerals will conduct a comprehensive review of the Wyoming Business Council and its programs including the agribusiness division and suggest changes, as necessary.

Joint Agriculture will do an in-depth study of the agriculture authority concept (SF 122) killed in this past session. Predator management is slated for study including current predator management program in Wyoming and states’ rights with regard to predator management control and determining whether changes may be necessary for a comprehensive approach. They will also study water rights on federal land and possible land transfers between federal and state government.

Select Water will focus on orphaned water rights and delivery of water across private lands.