orr hall

Under the new dormitories plan, Orr Hall, as seen on Wednesday, is one of the few existing dorms that is not expected to be demolished.

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.

(3) comments

Brett Glass

Why did the bill go to conference rather than being accepted immediately by the House? Because the author of the bill - one Representative Harshman - protested that the City had been given TOO MUCH OF A VOICE on the task force. This revealed his true intention: to run roughshod over our community without any input from it. Our "representatives" are not representing us at all if they do not kill this bill in conference.

packerpoke

Amen, We are getting sick and tired of being walked all over and .

Brett Glass

Harshman's excuse for excluding the Laramie City Manager is lame. He'll tolerate the presence of unelected UW staff, but not a City Manager who is hired directly by the elected City Council? The real reason Harshman wants to exclude the City Manager is that he wants UW to be able to run roughshod over local residents and neighborhoods without any accountability for its actions.

HB0293 was railroaded through the Legislature. It was introduced at the last minute, never saw discussion in an interim committee where members of the public could comment, and passed late at night - again, without any opportunity for the public to review a final version - by a sleepy Senate that really just wanted to go home. This bill deserves the Governor's veto. Time to call the Governor's office at 777 7434 and ask him to do so.

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