The Star-Tribune monitored the progress of several consequential bills last week and provided a rundown of what you may have missed — from legislation to bulk up voter ID requirements and legalize online sports betting, to penalties for revenge porn.
Budget deal passed and signed
Gov. Mark Gordon signed a supplemental budget recently passed by Wyoming’s Legislature that will carry the state through the rest of the biennium, until June 2022.
The budget reduces Wyoming’s spending by approximately $430 million and eliminates 324 state positions.
In a letter addressed to House Speaker Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, Gordon applauded the budget passed by the Legislature, calling it “fiscally responsible.”
Bid to expand Medicaid dies in Senate committee
Medicaid expansion will not happen in Wyoming this year.
The state’s Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee killed a bill Wednesday to expand the federal insurance program, which would have insured an estimated 25,000 additional Wyomingites.
Lawmakers have defeated similar proposals for nearly a decade. Advocates hoped this year might be different. Many House Republicans voiced a change of heart after the COVID-19 pandemic and the decline of fossil fuels rocked the state’s economy, leaving many without health coverage. This session was the first in which a bill to expand the program passed a legislative chamber.
The bill would have expanded the federal program in the state only so long as an improved federal match was maintained. Estimates from the Wyoming Department of Health said the state could save $34 million over two years because of a federal increase in the match for the state’s traditional Medicaid program.
More voter identification requirements imposed
A bill requiring Wyoming citizens to present specific forms of photo identification when casting their ballots in elections sailed through the Senate on Thursday and will now head to the governor’s desk for review.
House Bill 75 would require voters to show certain kinds of identification before being able to vote in person.
Voters would need to present one of the following forms of identification: a Wyoming driver’s license or identification card, a tribal identification card, a valid U.S. passport, a U.S. military card, a Medicare insurance card, or a Medicaid insurance card.
Voter fraud remains extremely rare, with a very small number of convictions in Wyoming in the past several decades.
But supporters of the bill say it’s a “proactive” measure, needed to bolster voter confidence in the election process.
Revenge porn bill passes Senate
The Wyoming Senate voted to pass a bill that would make it illegal to share explicit images or videos without the subject’s consent.
House Bill 85 addresses what’s commonly known as revenge porn. As of 2019, Wyoming was just one of four states in the U.S. without any laws concerning the practice.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Clark Stith, R-Rock Springs, passed unanimously out of the Senate on its third reading Monday, save for one excused senator. Now, amendments made in the chamber will go back to the House of Representatives — where it also passed with a consensus — for approval before being sent to Gov. Mark Gordon’s desk.
Changes made to the bill in the Senate increased the penalty for distributing revenge porn from six months in prison and/or a $1,000 fine to up to one year behind bars and a $5,000 fine or both.
Online sports wagering clears both chambers
A bill to legalize online sports wagering in Wyoming for the first time cleared both the House and Senate.
House Bill 133 directs the Wyoming Gaming Commission to regulate the activity by setting up rules and imposing fees and penalties. The commission will have until September to draft the rules.
Supporters of opening up online sports betting have said the activity already occurs in the state illicitly and Wyoming is simply missing out on needed money.
Wyoming legislative session extended to Wednesday
The Legislature will convene longer than initially planned this year, through Wednesday, according to an updated session schedule.
Originally, the general session was scheduled to end Friday. But the Legislature could not convene on March 15-16, due to a record-breaking snowstorm. The revised schedule will give the two chambers a few extra days to come to agreement on several consequential bills.
The deadline for a final vote in the second house on bills as well as concurrence on amendments will be Tuesday. The Legislature will not meet on Monday in observance of the Easter holiday but will reconvene on Tuesday.
House’s education funding bill passed in Senate
A bill finding cuts but no revenue for Wyoming’s K-12 education system will head back to the House of Representatives after passing the Senate 22-5 on Friday afternoon.
The proposal finds about $80 million in cuts to “phantom” health insurance costs over three years and redirects some state investment earnings to support the school foundation program. It also separates teacher salaries from the broader block grant paid by the state into a categorical grant with the intention of protecting those salaries from impending budget cuts.
The version of the bill passed by the House included a conditional 0.5% sales tax that would have switched on only once the state’s “rainy day fund” fell below $650 million. The tax hoped to answer a lingering question in the budget — how will the state pay for education if mineral royalties aren’t providing? Education in Wyoming is short $300 million, according to state economists. Lawmakers had hoped to find a solution this year.
Follow the latest on Wyoming’s energy industry and the environment at @camillereports