The Senate voted 22-7 Monday to pass House Bill 293, the legislation aimed at spurring more than $300 million of new dormitories on the University of Wyoming campus.
Before the bill heads to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk, the House will still need to vote on many of the changes made by the Senate.
One of the most significant changes came Monday, when the Senate voted to eliminate the Legislature’s role in a task force that will oversee the overhaul of UW’s existing dorms.
The Legislature convened a task force in 2018 to plan a financing scheme for the construction.
Some legislators in the Senate have now questioned the usefulness of that task force, including one lawmaker who sat on it: Sen. Tara Nethercott, R-Cheyenne.
Sen. Dave Kinskey, R-Sheridan, has said the task force only “got in the way” of the project and delayed a Level II feasibility study from being completed.
Kinskey’s amendment, which passed the Senate unanimously, would remove four legislators from task force and require the University of Wyoming to organize the committee.
“The task force is going to continue, but the Legislature’s going to get off the train,” Kinskey said.
Kinskey unsuccessfully tried to get the bill further amended to require UW to use Wyoming bond attorneys and banks for the issuance of bonds in the project.
Senate President Drew Perkins, R-Casper, argued against that proposed amendment, saying he wasn’t sure if Wyoming bond attorneys and banks could handle bond issuance of this size.
Perkins said financing for the UW dorms project is likely to consist of two bond issues, each exceeding $100 million.
Kinskey said that common argument against the use of Wyoming contractors is a “self-fulfilling prophecy.”
“As long as we keep shipping it out of state, we’ll never have a bond counsel in Wyoming that can handle it,” Kinskey said.
Other amendments that have been passed by the Senate include the addition of Laramie City Manager Janine Jordan as a member of the task force, the removal of $3.5 million in infrastructure grants to the city of Laramie, and a reduction of a loan from the Legislature to UW.
That loan was originally $88 million in the initial bill and the Senate whittled it down to $10 million.
If the House doesn’t approve the changes, both chambers will need to appoint a conference committee to hash out their differences before the legislative session ends Wednesday.