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Committees of the Wyoming Legislature have begun holding meetings all across our great state. Much of the work of our citizen Legislature is done during this “interim” period before the next session in January of 2019. Legislators are studying, asking questions and learning about the topics they have prioritized. At the culmination of this work, lawmakers will develop policy solutions and translate them into legislation in the fall. The process will then start over again with the 2019 General Session in January.

Legislative leadership, which is called the Management Council, has assigned a number of topics to various committees. Many of these topics revolve around the core issues of our state which include education, transportation, health, water, minerals, agriculture, business and budgets. There are always problems to be solved. Some of these issues are tough and need to be addressed now in order to steer Wyoming toward a more prosperous future.

There is no time like the present for us to come together and have these conversations about diversifying our economy, making our budget smaller, funding our core responsibilities of education, health, public safety and transportation as well as supporting our cities, towns and counties. Furthermore, we will continue to develop smart money management policies that will utilize our tremendous savings now and into the future. Solving these problems now with small steady changes will compound to make a big impact for future generations.

The Joint Appropriations Committee (JAC) will examine the flow of Wyoming’s revenue streams into the budget and seeks ways to simplify the process. This is a critical step for our state. As some Wyoming revenue streams—such as federal coal lease bonus payments—dry up and others expand, the Legislature must ensure that resources are directed to fund the priorities Wyoming people care about. This includes directing adequate taxpayer resources to local governments, funding essential human services, providing for a quality education, stewarding Wyoming’s clean air, water and wildlife and protecting personal freedoms.

The Appropriations Committee will also take on a review of the Wyoming State Treasurer’s office and Wyoming Retirement System to ensure that taxpayer dollars in our investment funds and savings accounts are being managed effectively and responsibly to optimize the rate of return.

Meanwhile, the Joint Revenue Committee has a full docket including conducting an analysis of the state’s fiscal structure and how Wyoming’s current revenue structure supports or hinders efforts to diversify the economy. Additionally, the Revenue Committee will consider paths to generate a dedicated revenue stream to fund the Wyoming Department of Tourism and new strategies to support local governments.

The work of the Joint Appropriations and Joint Revenue committees dovetail to identify paths aligning our revenues with our spending to help eliminate Wyoming’s structural deficit.

Looking to economic diversification and growth, the Joint Travel Committee and Joint Minerals Committee will each consider policy reforms to support economic growth and diversification. Joint Travel will consider the recommendations from Governor Mead’s Outdoor Recreation Task Force and debate the merits of creating a film industry financial incentive program to promote the state and bring film-industry jobs to Wyoming. The Joint Minerals Committee will review taxes on mineral production to ensure Wyoming maintains its competitiveness and can spur additional mineral development in the state. The minerals committee will also consider the recommendations put forward by the Endow Executive Council through their 20-year comprehensive economic diversification strategy.

Wyoming just experienced the greatest fiscal shock in our state’s history. Prior planning has helped us navigate through these tough times. The House and the Senate agree that we must save for the future, balance the budget, and identify efficiencies within state government. Alongside a number of critical policy actions in other standing and select committees, legislation to address our state’s revenue and spending challenges from the bottom-up while broadening our tax base and optimizing investment income will continue to build a strong Wyoming for decades to come.

Lastly, we have a number of select committees and legislative task forces working to address specific challenges before us. These include the Capitol Building Restoration Oversight Group, Opioid Addiction Task Force, Casper State Office Building Advisory Task Force, Task Force on University of Wyoming Housing, Blockchain Task Force, Select Committee on Family Medicine Residency Programs, and Air Transportation Liaison Committee.

These special committees will follow through on many of the single issue decisions before the legislature requiring a deep dive and narrow focus. As an example, the Opioid Task Force will examine strategies and consult experts to identify the best ways to proactively combat opioid abuse and addiction in Wyoming. Working with the medical community and addiction specialists this task force will develop recommendations to help Wyoming get in front of this devastating epidemic and spare families from facing the difficult road of addiction that too often accompanies the use of these potent painkillers.

From funding issues to essential policy reforms, we are just beginning many extremely important debates. Your Management Council has made your participation even easier with ten of these meetings broadcast on public TV and another ten streamed live on the internet. Please comment and attend meetings on the topics that matter to you. Your guidance and experiences drive the process so please get involved and connect with your legislators. We are here because we love Wyoming and we want to represent your interests. Please visit www.wyoleg.gov for more information.

Sen. Eli Bebout is president of the Wyoming Senate: 307-851-3587. Rep. Steve Harshman is the Speaker of the Wyoming House of Representatives: 307-262-8075

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