Old laws about drunkards, sheriffs and barbershops still sit deep in the annals of Wyoming’s state statutes.
The state lawmakers who issued the obsolete orders are long gone from the Capitol, but their works are relics that don’t just
Even though most of the passé statutes have been superseded by newer, more poignant laws, the arcane provisions take up space.
This year the Legislature’s select committee on archaic laws tasked itself with the job of combing through the books to rid the state’s 42 statutory titles of useless, impractical acts.
Legislative committee meetings are known for their deadpan austerity and businesslike atmosphere. But a few of the topics that came up during the committee’s meeting on Thursday in Casper left lawmakers with no other choice but to smile.
A dusty statute in the state’s laws on alcohol had legislators shaking their heads with grins and gave them an example of how old statutes can overlap newer ones.
According to current statute, if alcohol vendors receive a letter from a spouse, parent or dependent that a significant other, child or guardian is a “habitual drunkard,” the vendor is forbidden from serving that person. If caught serving the guzzler, charges could be brought against the vendor.
“With kids, that law is already in place,” said committee Chairman Sen. Cale Case, R-Lander. “You don’t need this statute to sue if children are served or drunks cause some type of damage.”
The law could have had merit back in the days when everybody in a town knew everything about everyone, said Rep. Lee Filer, D-Cheyenne.
“But you don’t know everybody in Cheyenne or Casper,” he said. “How could you know if that person came in to get a drink?”
The tired statute will head into a bill that will be brought up in February’s session of the Legislature in Cheyenne. If the bill makes it through committees and debates in both chambers, the drunkard law and others will be erased from statutes.
Another law about alcohol made for a bit of brouhaha during the discussion, but lawmakers decided not to trim it from Title 33 in the statutes.
No alcoholics or drug addicts who are intoxicated to an extent that render them “unfit to practice or teach barbering” shall be entitled to work at a barbershop, according to statute.
“So you can be addicted just to the extent that you can cut hair,” said committee member Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff, R-Jackson.
The committee also decided to recommend repeal of the state’s minimum wage law. The group of five legislators was underwhelmed in acting to remove the three statutes from Title 27. A minimum wage repeal sounds headline-grabbing, but since the state’s minimum wage is $5.15 compared to the federal rate of $7.25, Congress allows employees to take the larger of the two numbers.
“If anyone can show me a minimum wage job paying $5.15 per hour in the state, I would fall over,” Case said.
Domestic servants and agriculture employees who receive room and board as part of their payment are exempt from the law.
The committee’s draft bill will also change the law for people who are adopting or receiving custody of a child and need a new birth certificate.
The current law requires new guardians to submit a child’s “color” and prove if the child is “legitimated,” meaning that it has the last name of either the father or mother, to receive a new birth certificate. The bill would substitute “race” for “color and eliminate the word “legitimated” because it’s no longer used in paternity proceedings according to the Wyoming Department of Health.
The committee also agreed to eliminate laws pertaining to the Wyoming Arts Endowment Fund, which was replaced by the state’s cultural trust fund more than a decade ago. Lawmakers are unsure if there is any money left in the endowment account, and if so it will be swept into the trust fund if the draft bill becomes law.
Case is asking officials from cities, towns and counties to call him or any lawmaker to help in the committee’s effort to find old laws that are useless. He encourages citizens to submit their ideas as well.
“We know there’s a lot more out there, we just need more input,” he said. “Nothing in the bill is final.”
The initiative for the Legislature to clean up the laws is running in conjunction with an initiative by Gov. Matt Mead to review and improve the state’s rules and regulations to help make government more efficient.
Mead proposed to tidy up agency rules and regulations in his budget, and the Legislature appropriated $125,000 to have the state create a report on the best solutions for reform.
“Streamlining state government is a key initiative for Governor Mead,” said Renny MacKay, spokesman for the governor. “This effort to reduce the number of rules on the books and improve existing rules to make them more transparent and useful to the public builds on Governor Mead’s earlier work to streamline state government.”
Mead worked with the Legislature to mesh the Department of Employment with the Department of Workforce Services in 2012.