COWBOY POLITICS

By on February 17, 2015

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – The supplemental budget bill carefully crafted for months by the Joint Appropriations Committee will be reworked by the 78 other legislators this week with 81 amendments scheduled during second reading Tuesday and probably just as many on Thursday.
The House and Senate took two days last week for explanation of HB1 and SF1 mirror bills as written by the Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC). The bills will emerge from the House and Senate with differences that will be worked out in a conference committee, and then the 2015 Legislature can adjourn. The bill adjusts the two-year budget written by the Legislature last year.

The Budget Bill
You can read budget bills SF1 and HB1 and the second reading amendments prepared for Tuesday. On the Web site of the Legislative Service Office, click on “Bill Tracking Information” and then “Bills.” A link next to each bill lists all amendments. There are 47 amendments filed for the House and 34 for the Senate. Third reading amendments will be listed after Tuesday. Plug the amendments into the bill to see what they do.

You will recognize several proposals that failed as bills or amendments earlier in the session. Some delete or restore funding as approved by the JAC. There are rumors a third reading amendment will give the House a chance to debate Medicaid expansion, despite a Senate vote that killed one expansion bill and deflated efforts in the House. Also, a second reading of No. 25 in the House restores funding cuts to the External Cost Adjustment (inflation) for schools.

An embarrassing footnote added to the budget in 2014 kept the State Board of Education from looking at Next Generation Science Standards as it reviewed and approved new science standards for Wyoming schools. This year, there’s a bill to repeal that footnote, but just in case HB23 fails the JAC inserted a line in the HB1 and SF1 to make sure the footnote is history.

This year, legislators are using predicted capital gains from permanent fund investments to cover appropriations. The budget bill starts with $8.7 million in General Fund and Budget Reserve accounts. It includes appropriations of $112.7 million from revenues contingent on investment performance in 2015 and $166 million continent on 2016 earnings, $4.8 million in federal funds and $7.4 million from the School Capital Construction Account.

In the Senate, Legislative Service Office is trying to list amendments in the order they will be taken up as the Senate works through SF1. This should make it easier for people to listen to debate on amendments they are following. In the House, amendments are listed in the order they were written, so they will be harder to follow.

Public access to JAC meetings is a problem. Six conferees try to find a place and time to meet, amidst other activities. They are supposed to announce the meetings and post them on the bulletin boards outside the chambers, but it doesn’t always happen.

Science Standards footnote
Bill HB23 simply removes the anti-NGSS 2014 budget bill footnote, but the Senate couldn’t resist a third-reading amendment by Majority Floor Leader Eli Bebout saying the Board “may” include NGSS and other materials as it approves “quality” standards “unique to Wyoming.” Bebout saying “may” makes it harmless, but no one is sure of the effect and especially what “unique” standards would look like and why we would want standards not shared by other states or countries.
House Speaker Kermit Brown says the House is going to be urged to vote “no” on concurrence, sending the measure to a conference committee.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow has followed some legislators down the rabbit hole of public suspicion/fears, by creating more steps in the standards review process.

Of the 410 proposals introduced for the 2015 General Session, 16 are on their way to the governor’s desk and 206 are still in play. We are two weeks away from the next major deadline, as bills must be reported out of committee in the second house by the end of the day on February 27.

Check “Failed House Standing Committee Votes” on the LSO Website for bills voted down in committee. This new feature is a great help to people who are trying to track bills at a distance.

Remember to read “engrossed” versions of bills, which incorporate amendments as the bills move from one chamber to the other.

Other issues for the week include:
The House gives initial debate (Committee of the Whole) of SJ2, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow investment of non-permanent funds in equities.

SF13 – Method of Execution was amended in the House to say the person to be executed should be sedated and unconscious before he/she is shot to death. Senate voted not to concur, so this goes to a conference committee.

HB114 – Wyoming Repeal Gun Free Zones finally has a committee assignment – Senate Education. We’ll see when Chairman Coe brings it up for a hearing. Schools and UW are lobbying against it pretty strenuously, calling for local control.
The religious freedom bills are waiting for committee assignments in the Senate.

SF57 – School Facilities Appropriations is in House Education on Wednesday, with a list of the next round of construction and design for public schools in Wyoming.
SF52 – Vote Centers and Electronic Poll Books is in House Corporations during the lunch recess on Tuesday.

Listening online
The LSO streams and archives audio of the JAC sessions and floor debate in the House and Senate. Go to the LSO home page and click on “Audio Broadcasts of the 2015 session.” Select the House and Senate audio archives by date and morning/afternoon.

Legislative Service Office
The Legislative Service Office Web site allows users to:
• Read bills and follow their progress
• Find contact information for legislators
• Get the committee memberships and meeting schedules
• Get daily House and Senate calendars
• Get guides on testifying at committee meetings and otherwise participating in the session
• Listen to floor debate streaming live or in archives (The governor’s State of the State address will be streamed and will be archived, and you can go back and listen to the weeks of budget hearings held by the Joint Appropriations Committee in advance of the session.)
• Read interim committee reports

Tentative 2015 Calendar
Key deadlines remaining
Day 32, February 27 – Deadline for bills to be reported out of committee in second house
Day 33, March 2 – Last day for Committee of the Whole in bills in second house
Day 34, March 3 – Last day for second reading on bills in second house
Day 35, March 4 – Last day for third reading on bills in second house
Day 36, March 5 – Concurrence on amendments/Joint Conference Committee (JCC) reports
Day 37, March 6 – JCC reports due to front desk by 2 p.m.
Adjourn by midnight.

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