Wyoming’s 65th Legislature is set to convene for its 2019 general session Tuesday, and there are plenty of policy issues on the slate of importance to Laramie and Albany County. Whether its matters that affect every city, town and county in the state — such as K-12 education and tax structure — or those more pertinent locally, such as municipal tax authority, Albany County lawmakers will be in Cheyenne working to see their priorities make their way to incoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.

Albany County’s representation will be the same as it was during the 2017 and 2018 sessions as every incumbent held on in the November election. Its party affiliation make-up is unique among most of Wyoming’s more conservative counties, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats between its six lawmakers. That brings policy positions to the Legislature that might not otherwise find their ways to the overwhelmingly conservative body.

The Laramie Boomerang spoke with all six lawmakers in the final days of 2018 to go over some of the issues they’ll be following through the session.

Chris Rothfuss, Senate District 9

After coasting unopposed to re-election in 2018, many of the same policy priorities will carry into 2019 for the Wyoming Senate’s leading Democrat. And while he doesn’t expect a windfall of change compared to previous years with the measures he brings, Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss, a Laramie Democrat, said he wants to see discussions continue around topics he sees as critical to Wyoming’s future.

“I do think there’ll be serious discussion around revenue diversification perhaps for the first time, because it’s recognized it has to be done finally,” Rothfuss said.

Wyoming was again brought to an economic reckoning in the last several years after a drop in mineral prices in late 2014 did serious damage to the state’s revenue streams. While many powerful elected officials (including prominent Republicans) have called for changes to the state’s tax structure leading up to the 2018 legislative session — revenue streams are disproportionately weighted on fossil fuel production to fund services, leading to an endless cycle of booms and busts — Rothfuss hopes the needle has moved on the discussion.

The Laramie senator continues to hold providing sufficient resources for K-12 education in the state as a high concern when it comes to Wyoming’s revenue situation. Being able to invest more in programs such as early childhood education, he said, would be a great benefit in the big picture.

“It ends up paying dividends to the state and potentially strongly improves the state of education in Wyoming,” Rothfuss said.

In the past two years under the administration of Republican President Donald Trump, Rothfuss said he’s observed a swing further to the right on issues, gaining traction in a way they hadn’t before.

“It’s disconcerting, because I thought we were going in a different direction three years ago,” he said. “It seems we’ve taken a few steps back, and I hope that won’t continue.”

One of the issues coming up in 2019 will be whether to restrict voters from changing party affiliation in proximity to an election. Many conservatives in the state expressed dismay over a feeling of being robbed of their candidate in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary. Candidate Foster Friess, who came in second to incoming Gov. Mark Gordon, claimed after the August primary that Democrats changing party affiliation to cast a GOP primary ballot for the perceived more moderate in Gordon cost him the Republican party’s nod.

Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, is sponsoring Senate File 32, which would prohibit voters from changing party affiliation after candidates can file for the primaries through the date of primary elections in response to the controversy.

Rothfuss said he has about 10 bills ready to go, and he’s just not sure which he’ll bring forward. But one will be taking another stab at is making Wyoming’s primaries open where every voter would cast a ballot with every primary candidate on it, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters would move on to the general election.

“Mine goes in the opposite direction (of Biteman’s bill), but it still solves the problem ironically,” he said. “In a way, I would hope everyone would support it and recognize the objective of an election is to make sure all voters have the same opportunity to have their voices heard and that their votes count.”

Glenn Moniz, Senate District 10

Sen. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, said he’s trying to be more selective in the bills he’s co-sponsoring this year but does have three on the docket, including state water issues and additional sheriff department training.

“I focus most of my energy in this last year and in the upcoming session on the bills that we’ll be bringing out of the committee — out of the committees I represent anyway,” Moniz said.

One bill he’s co-sponsoring would implement legislative oversight on the state’s participation at the Colorado River Compact, an agreement among seven states relating to the shared-use of the Colorado River. Moniz said the former state engineer has volunteered to be the state’s representative for the compact.

“We are a little concerned that maybe we ought to have — we being the Legislature — ought to have some say in what the state of Wyoming does as far as compact agreements,” Moniz said. “So, a little bill that says there will be some Legislative oversight.”

Taxes are a big issue Moniz said Laramie residents should keep an eye on. Although Moniz said he sees a lot of local support for a potential state-wide lodging tax, a potential bill that would start implementing a sales tax on food “makes no sense” to him.

One bill Moniz said is coming out of the Joint Agriculture Committee includes a measure to work to solve a problem Moniz said he didn’t realize was so big in the state – people stealing cattle. He added since the Wyoming Livestock Board only has one investigator now, he wants to add training opportunities for sheriff departments.

“So, this bill incentivizes sheriffs to do more training and get involved a little more,” Moniz said. “It will be up to the Wyoming Livestock Board to write the rules as to how that works.”

Moniz added he is still excited about the state’s push toward block chain technology but isn’t so sure about cryptocurrency like bitcoin.

Cathy Connolly, House District 13

Wyoming House of Representatives Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat, has a full plate already for the 2019 legislative session, sponsoring and co-sponsoring several bills to address Wyoming’s gender wage gap, marriage equality and antidiscrimination.

After sponsoring a bill in 2017 to initiate a state-wide gender wage gap study, Connolly said she is sponsoring three bills in 2019 to try to address the findings as she sees them. One is to allow job candidates to refuse to disclose previous salaries; another would increase the penalty for not paying each gender equally; Connolly also plans to sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour.

“Another one, this would be the biggie, any state workers — as well as any state money, for example for the ENDOW project — must make sure that they are addressing wage inequity,” Connolly said.

ENDOW — standing for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming — is outgoing Gov. Matt Mead’s legacy initiative to diversify the state’s economy over the next 20 years.

Additionally, Connolly said she wants to sponsor or co-sponsor a bill to update statue to recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples and implementing and enforcing a nondiscrimination bill that would protect gender identity and sexual orientation.

In addition to the bills she’s directly sponsoring, Connolly said she wants to focus on education, especially early childhood education. She said she plans to use the supplemental budget process to try to give grants to promote early childhood education throughout the state.

“I’m very excited about that,” Connolly said. “Statewide support for community-based best practices and early child education has been a priority of mine for 10 years. I’m really hoping that this can be one of the years that we can do something about it.”

In her role on the Joint Revenue Committee, Connolly said she supports bills that would give more authority to municipalities to tax themselves, as well as a potential statewide lodging tax. Both issues have been important to leaders in Laramie and Albany County.

To address the state’s revenue picture, Connolly said she wants to see discussions on implementing a two-tier income tax for the top earners in the state — aimed at companies and individuals that make over $350,000 a year. Although she said she doesn’t expect it to pass, Connolly said the conversation is an important one to have.

Charles Pelkey, House District 45

Criminal justice reform has been a major topic for the Legislature in recent sessions, and Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, is glad to see the Joint Judiciary Committee is moving forward on some proposals in that regard — namely, a bill that will limit the duration of convict’s probation and parole.

“The Wyoming crime rate is decreasing, but the prison population is increasing because there’s a lot of probation and parole violations that sends somebody back to prison — and most are substance abuse related,” he said. “I, for one, believe that prison isn’t an effective alternative for people who are going through substance abuse issues.”

Pelkey is an attorney and has sat on the Joint Judiciary Committee throughout his tenure in the Legislature.

The committee is also backing a bill that would allow greater flexibility in the types of sanctions that can be handed to violating probationers and parolees, including short-term stays in a county jail or other residential facility.

“Rather than a complete revocation, (those sanctions) just send a message they’ve got to address the problem and there is a threat,” Pelkey said.

Pelkey said the Judiciary Committee “should be interesting” now with some major shake-ups this session, including new members and Rep. Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, and Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, taking over as chairs of the committee this session.

When it comes to continuing questions surrounding revenue and public education in Wyoming, Pelkey said he’ll continue to fight to diversify the state’s tax base and maintain strong funding for K-12 education.

“Obviously, there is a large core of us that will do anything we can to protect education funding,” he said. “(House Speaker Steve) Harshman did a terrific job last year of putting together a coalition of people that are committed to that. Having him as Speaker of the House again is something that’s really important for education funding.”

Harshman, a Casper Republican, will be serving a second consecutive term as speaker, breaking a tradition that speakers only serve one two-year term.

Pelkey also plans to individually sponsor a few other bills, including one that would allow small breweries to sell their beer at special events without needing to get a statewide permit.

He also plans to introduce a bill that would eliminate mandatory pre-sentence investigations, a report that provides judges with a convict’s background to help inform sentencing.

Those reports are costly and unnecessary in some circumstances, Pelkey said, like when there’s a plea agreement that contains sentencing guidelines.

The pre-sentence investigations would, instead, be conducted at the request of a judge under his proposal.

Dan Furphy, House District 14

Abandoned buildings are a big focus for Rep. Dan Furphy, R-Laramie, this legislative session, as well as education funding and municipal taxing authority.

Furphy said he plans to co-sponsor a bill that would give developers tax incentives for revamping old buildings.

“My bill says that if you have [an abandoned] building, and you have someone who is willing to invest in the building more than the value of the property taxes for the five-year period, then you can waive the taxes,” Furphy said. “It’s an economic development stimulus to get some empty buildings put back into use and gives an incentive for an investor to do that.”

He added he has been asked for such a measure by developers in the past, but statute does not allow the property taxes to be waived. Furphy said he has been working with the attorneys at the Legislative Service Office who told him it would be a “good stimulus for the community.”

Furphy said he would support a measure giving municipalities more taxing authority, something that has failed to pass in past legislative sessions. He said the bill would allow residents to vote to tax themselves to help fund certain projects or operations, something cities are currently not allowed to do.

“The citizens can’t vote to tax themselves,” Furphy said. “That makes no sense to me. It can be turned down easily by citizens if they don’t want to tax themselves. Give the citizens the right to make that decision, not state legislators.”

Education funding is another “big issue” Furphy said he wanted to focus on, and recommended Albany County residents do, too. He said he wants to ensure the schools and the University of Wyoming receive proper funding.

Furphy added he has plans to try to make a Hathaway-like scholarship for community colleges and trade schools throughout the state. Although he is still working out the details, Furphy said it is “something to watch.”

Bill Haley, House District 46

Rep. Bill Haley, R-Centennial, begins his second term as a legislator in 2019. He said his first term provided much needed information to make him a more effective legislator in his second term.

“I’ve been able to listen to debates on all these issues every day,” he said. “You get a feel for the problems that are associated with all these issues — the use of the ‘rainy day’ account and K-12 funding.”

Wyoming’s “rainy-day fund” — a common reference for the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account — is a $1.6 billion account often used by lawmakers to fill funding gaps. Though many lawmakers fretted in 2018 about dipping too deep in the fund to cover costs that revenue streams could not at the time, Mead’s supplemental budget recommended building it back up to nearly $1.9 billion in the current budget cycle.

Haley’s learned the major topics confronting the Legislature have “consequences known and unknown” and he taps the institutional knowledge of those who’ve been in Cheyenne for some time.

“Of course they are pushing for a specific agenda, but if you need information on a particular subject, these lobbyists are a great source of information,” he said. “I always listen to those legislators that have been in there for several sessions, because some of these bills have history.”

On some of the most debated issues — like K-12 school finance — Haley still doesn’t have a strong stance.

“When I started out, I didn’t have an agenda. All I wanted to be able to do is help the people of Albany County,” he said. “I had an open mind and I guess I still do. Some of these issues are so complex that you don’t understand them after just one session.”

Haley is entering his third year on two committees: the House Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee and the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Committee.

On those committees, he’s been able use his expertise as a retired game warden to craft legislation, like bills aiming to refine the state statute regarding preference points — the statistical advantage hunters receive in tag drawings for their consistently applying for hunting licenses each year.

And while Haley is now putting his experience working for Wyoming Game and Fish to use in the Legislature, the Albany County lawmaker said the most fulfilling part of his new job is “helping folks navigate through the red-tape of dealing with state agencies.”

Some of that comes in simply explaining to people how the state works. But he also now has a certain amount of clout to be able to call department administrators and help resolve disputes.

“That, to me, is the most rewarding thing — to have a successful conclusion,” he said.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Wyoming’s 65{sup}th{/sup} Legislature is set to convene for its 2019 general session Tuesday, and there are plenty of policy issues on the slate of importance to Laramie and Albany County. Whether its matters that affect every city, town and county in the state — such as K-12 education and tax structure, or those more pertinent locally such as municipal tax authority — Albany County lawmakers will be in Cheyenne working to see their priorities working to incoming Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Albany County’s representation will be the same as it was during the 2017 and 2018 sessions as every incumbent held on in the November election. Its party affiliation make up is unique among most of Wyoming’s more conservative counties, with an equal number of Republicans and Democrats between its six lawmakers. That brings policy positions to the Legislature that might not otherwise find their ways to the overwhelmingly conservative body.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}The Laramie Boomerang spoke with all six lawmakers in the final days of 2018 to go over some of the issues they’ll be following through the session.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Chris Rothfuss, Senate District 9

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}After coasting unopposed to re-election in 2018, many of the same policy priorities will carry into 2019 for the Wyoming Senate’s leading Democrat. And while he doesn’t expect a windfall of change compared to previous years with the measures he brings, Senate Minority Leader Chris Rothfuss, a Laramie Democrat, said he wants to see discussions continue around topics he sees as critical to Wyoming’s future.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“I do think there’ll be serious discussion around revenue diversification perhaps for the first time, because it’s recognized it has to be done finally,” Rothfuss said.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}As it is every time it enters a slump in its endless boom and bust cycles, Wyoming was again brought to an economic reckoning in the last several years after a drop in mineral prices in late 2014 did serious damage to the state’s revenue streams. While many powerful elected officials (including prominent Republicans) have called for changes to the state’s tax structure leading up to the 2018 legislative session — revenue streams are disproportionately weighted on fossil fuel production to fund services — Rothfuss hopes the needle has moved on the discussion.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}The Laramie senator continues to hold providing sufficient resources for K-12 education in the state as a high concern when it comes to Wyoming’s revenue situation. Being able to invest more in programs such as early childhood education, he said, would be a great benefit in the big picture.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“It ends up paying dividends to the state and potentially strongly improves the state of education in Wyoming,” Rothfuss said.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}In the past two years under the administration of Republican President Donald Trump, Rothfuss said he’s observed a swing further to the right on issues have gained traction in a way they hadn’t before.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“It’s disconcerting, because I thought we were going in a different direction three years ago,” he said. “It seems we’ve taken a few steps back, and I hope that won’t continue.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}One of the issues coming up in 2019 will be whether to restrict voters from changing party affiliation in proximity to an election. Many conservatives in the state expressed dismay over a feeling of being robbed of their candidate in the 2018 Republican gubernatorial primary. Candidate Foster Friess, who came in second to incoming Gov. Mark Gordon, claimed after the election that Democrats changing party affiliation to cast a GOP primary ballot for the perceived more moderate Gordon cost him the Republican party’s nod.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Sen. Bo Biteman, R-Ranchester, is sponsoring Senate File 32, which would prohibit voters from changing party affiliation after candidates can file for the primaries through the date of primary elections in response to the controversy.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Rothfuss said he has about 10 bills ready to go, and he’s just not sure which he’ll bring forward. But one will be taking another stab at making Wyoming’s primaries open elections where every voter would cast a ballot with every primary candidate on it, regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getters would move on to the general election.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“Mine goes in the opposite direction (of Biteman’s bill), but it still solves the problem ironically,” he said. “In a way, I would hope everyone would support it and recognize the objective of an election is to make sure all voters have the same opportunity to have their voices heard and that their votes count.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Cathy Connolly, House District 13

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Wyoming House of Representatives Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, a Laramie Democrat, has a full plate already for the 2019 legislative session, sponsoring and co-sponsoring several bills to address Wyoming’s gender wage gap, marriage equality and antidiscrimination.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}After sponsoring a bill in 2017 to initiate a state-wide gender wage gap study, Connolly said she is sponsoring three bills in 2019 to try to address the findings as she sees them. One is to allow job candidates to refuse to disclose previous salaries; another would increase the penalty for not paying each gender equally; Connolly also plans to sponsor a bill to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“Another one, this would be the biggie, any state workers — as well as any state money, for example for the ENDOW project — must make sure that they are addressing wage inequity,” Connolly said.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}ENDOW — standing for Economically Needed Diversity Options for Wyoming — is outgoing Gov. Matt Mead’s legacy initiative to diversify the state’s economy over the next 20 years.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Additionally, Connolly said she wants to sponsor or co-sponsor a bill to update statue to recognize marriage equality for same-sex couples and implementing and enforcing a nondiscrimination bill that would protect gender identity and sexual orientation.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}In addition to the bills she’s directly sponsoring, Connolly said she wants to focus on education, especially early childhood education. She said she plans to use the supplemental budget process to try to give grants to promote early childhood education throughout the state.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“I’m very excited about that,” Connolly said. “Statewide support for community-based best practices and early child education has been a priority of mine for 10 years. I’m really hoping that this can be one of the years that we can do something about it.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}On the Joint Revenue Committee, Connolly said she supports bills that would give more authority to municipalities to tax themselves, as well as a potential statewide lodging tax. Both issues have been important to leaders in Laramie and Albany County.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}To address the state’s revenue picture, Connolly said she wants to see discussions on implementing a two-tier income tax for the top earners in the state — aimed at companies and individuals that make over $350,000 a year. Although she said she doesn’t expect it to pass, Connolly said the conversation is an important one to have.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”} Dan Furphy, House District 14

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Abandoned buildings are a big focus for Rep. Dan Furphy, R-Laramie, this legislative session, as well as education funding and municipal taxing authority.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Furphy said he plans to co-sponsor a bill that would give developers tax incentives for revamping old buildings.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“My bill says that if you have [an abandoned] building, and you have someone who is willing to invest in the building more than the value of the property taxes for the five-year period, then you can waive the taxes,” Furphy said. “It’s an economic development stimulus to get some empty buildings put back into use and gives an incentive for an investor to do that.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}He added he has been asked for such a measure by developers in the past, but statute does not allow the property taxes to be waived. Furphy said he has been working with the attorneys at the Legislative Service Office who told him it would be a “good stimulus for the community.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Furphy said he would support a measure giving municipalities more taxing authority, something that has failed to pass in past legislative sessions. He said the bill would allow residents to vote to tax themselves to help fund certain projects or operations, something cities are currently not allowed to do.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“The citizens can’t vote to tax themselves,” Furphy said. “That makes no sense to me. It can be turned down easily by citizens if they don’t want to tax themselves. Give the citizens the right to make that decision, not state legislators.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Furphy added it wouldn’t be a statewide tax; the citizens would have to vote for the tax to be implemented.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Education funding is another “big issue” Furphy said he wanted to focus on, and recommended Albany County residents do, too. He said he wants to ensure the schools and the University of Wyoming receive proper funding.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Furphy added he has plans to try to make a Hathaway-like scholarship for community colleges and trade schools throughout the state. Although he is still working out the details, Furphy said it is “something to watch.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”} Glenn Moniz, Senate District 10

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Sen. Glenn Moniz, R-Laramie, said he’s trying to be more selective in the bills he’s co-sponsoring this year but does have three on the docket, including state water issues and additional sheriff department training.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“I focus most of my energy in this last year and in the upcoming session on the bills that we’ll be bringing out of the committee — out of the committees I represent anyway,” Moniz said.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}One bill he’s co-sponsoring would implement legislative oversight on the state’s participation at the Colorado River Compact, an agreement among seven states relating to the shared-use of the Colorado River. Moniz said the former state engineer has volunteered to be the state’s representative for the compact.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“We are a little concerned that maybe we ought to have — we being the Legislature — ought to have some say in what the state of Wyoming does as far as compact agreements,” Moniz said. “So, a little bill that says there will be some Legislative oversight.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Taxes are a big issue Moniz said Laramie residents should keep an eye on. Although Moniz said he sees a lot of local support for a potential state-wide lodging tax, a potential bill that would start implementing a sales tax on food “makes no sense” to him.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}One bill Moniz said is coming out of the Joint Agriculture Committee includes a measure to work to solve a problem Moniz said he didn’t realize was so big in the state – people stealing cattle. He added since the Wyoming Livestock Board only has one investigator now, he wants to add training opportunities for sheriff departments.

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}“So, this bill incentivizes sheriffs to do more training and get involved a little more,” Moniz said. “It will be up to the Wyoming Livestock Board to write the rules as to how that works.”

{p class=”MsoNormal” style=”margin-bottom: 8.0pt; line-height: 105%;”}Moniz added he is still excited about the state’s push toward block chain technology but isn’t so sure about cryptocurrency like bitcoin.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Bill Haley, House District 46

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Rep. Bill Haley, R-Centennial, begins his second term as a legislator on Monday. He said his first term provided much needed information to make him a more effective legislator in his second term.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“I’ve been able to listen to debates on all these issues every day,” he said. “You get a feel for the problems that are associated with all these issues — the use of the ‘rainy day’ account and K-12 funding.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Wyoming’s “rainy-day fund” — a common reference for the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account — is a $1.6 billion account often used by lawmakers to fill funding gaps. Though many lawmakers fretted in 2018 about dipping too deep in the fund to cover costs that revenue streams could not at the time, Mead’s supplemental budget recommended building it back up to nearly $1.9 billion in the current budget cycle.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Haley’s learned the major topics confronting the Legislature have “consequences known and unknown” and he taps the institutional knowledge of those who’ve been in Cheyenne for some time.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“Of course they are pushing for a specific agenda, but if you need information on a particular subject, these lobbyists are a great source of information,” he said. “I always listen to those legislators that have been in there for several sessions, because some of these bills have history.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}On some of the most debated issues — like K-12 school finance — Haley still doesn’t have a strong stance.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“When I started out, I didn’t have an agenda. All I wanted to be able to do is help the people of Albany County,” he said. “I had an open mind and I guess I still do. Some of these issues are so complex that you don’t understand them after just one session.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Haley is entering his third year on two committees: the House Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee and the House Travel, Recreation, Wildlife & Cultural Resources Committee.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}On those committees, he’s been able use his expertise as a retired game warden to craft legislation, like bills aiming to refine the state statute regarding preference points — the statistical advantage hunters receive in tag drawings for their consistently applying for hunting licenses each year.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}And while Haley is now putting his experience working for Wyoming Game and Fish to use in the Legislature, the Albany County lawmaker said the most fulfilling part of his new job is “helping folks navigate through the red-tape of dealing with state agencies.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Some of that comes in simply explaining to people how the state works. But he also now has a certain amount of clout to be able to call department administrators and help resolve disputes.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“That, to me, is the most rewarding thing — to have a successful conclusion,” he said.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Charles Pelkey, House District 45

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Criminal justice reform has been a major topic for the Legislature in recent sessions, and Rep. Charles Pelkey, D-Laramie, is glad to see the Joint Judiciary Committee is moving forward on some proposals in that regard — namely, a bill that will limit the duration of convict’s probation and parole.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“The Wyoming crime rate is decreasing, but the prison population is increasing because there’s a lot of probation and parole violations that sends somebody back to prison — and most are substance abuse related,” he said. “I, for one, believe that prison isn’t an effective alternative for people who are going through substance abuse issues.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Pelkey is an attorney and has sat on the Joint Judiciary Committee throughout his tenure in the Legislature.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}The committee is also backing a bill that would allow greater flexibility in the types of sanctions that can be handed to violating probationers and parolees, including short-term stays in a county jail or other residential facility.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“Rather than a complete revocation, (those sanctions) just send a message they’ve got to address the problem and there is a threat,” Pelkey said.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Pelkey said the Judiciary Committee “should be interesting” now with some major shake-ups this session, including new members and Rep. Dan Kirkbride, R-Chugwater, and Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne, taking over as chairs of the committee this session.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}When it comes to continuing questions surrounding revenue and public education in Wyoming, Pelkey said he’ll continue to fight to diversify the state’s tax base and maintain strong funding for K-12 education.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}“Obviously, there is a large core of us that will do anything we can to protect education funding,” he said. “(House Speaker Steve) Harshman did a terrific job last year of putting together a coalition of people that are committed to that. Having him as Speaker of the House again is something that’s really important for education funding.”

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Harshman, a Casper Republican, will be serving a second consecutive term as speaker, breaking a tradition that speakers only serve one two-year term.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Pelkey also plans to individually sponsor a few other bills, including one that would allow small breweries to sell their beer at special events without needing to get a statewide permit.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}He also plans to introduce a bill that would eliminate mandatory pre-sentence investigations, a report that provides judges with a convict’s background to help inform sentencing.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}Those reports are costly and unnecessary in some circumstances, Pelkey said, like when there’s a plea agreement that contains sentencing guidelines.

{p class=”MsoNormal”}The pre-sentence investigations would, instead, be conducted at the request of a judge under his proposal.

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