With no momentous change for Wyoming, Legislature adjourns

February 28, 2019

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The Legislature adjourned for the year Thursday after a turf squabble with the governor, a late night session and hundreds of bills that for the most part didn’t result in momentous change.

Proposals to impose a corporate income tax and a lodging tax failed during the eight-week session, though not without significant debate in a Republican-dominated state deeply wary of taxation.

Successful measures signed by Gov. Mark Gordon include building a skilled nursing facility for veterans and lowering Wyoming’s legal limit for boating under the influence of alcohol.

“It’s easy enough to say oh, there was some divergence of opinion on the budget and things like that, but overall I think the Legislature did a pretty good job of coming together and actually building a pretty respectable body of work,” Gordon told The Associated Press.

Since 2016, the Legislature has convened in the Jonah Building, a glass-sided office facility on Cheyenne’s east side, but perhaps no longer. Next year, lawmakers will meet back in the state Capitol if statehouse renovations wrap up this summer as planned.

Lawmakers were scheduled to adjourn by midnight but toiled until 2 a.m. on last-minute business including votes to override supplemental budget vetoes by Gov. Mark Gordon.

Just two of the 14 budget vetoes were successfully overridden by two-thirds votes in both the House and Senate. One overridden veto had to do with positions in the State Engineer’s office. The other involved funding to lure commercial air service to Wyoming.

Gordon praised the supplemental budget as fiscally conservative but worried that certain parts infringed upon the authority of the executive branch.

Besides the items in the supplemental budget, Gordon to date has vetoed just one bill so far this year, a measure that would have reduced per-diem compensation for state lawmakers who live within 25 miles of the Capitol.

Other unsuccessful measures this year:

— Would have ended the death penalty in Wyoming amid concern it is expensive for the state Public Defender’s Office and may not deter violent crime. The House passed death-penalty repeal but it failed in the Senate; the same bill got little if any consideration each of the past five years.

— Would have required able-bodied Medicaid recipients to log 20 hours a week of work, job training, volunteering, school, community service, drug treatment or some combination thereof to get the health-care benefit.

Other successful bills include:

— Authorizing the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission to establish a grizzly bear hunt, a measure environmental groups and the Humane Society already plan to contest in court. A judge put grizzlies back on the list of threatened species in September, ending plans for grizzly hunts in Wyoming and Idaho.

— Making it easier to ticket people who drive past school-bus stop signs by allowing the vehicle owner to be cited. Currently the driver must be identified on a school bus video camera in order to be cited.

The 2020 legislative session will be devoted primarily to the two-year state budget.


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