CHEYENNE – After the one-day virtual session was postponed last Tuesday, the Wyoming legislature will quickly resume its work starting this week. Almost every legislative committee will meet on Zoom to review bills.
In total, the legislative committees will review more than 50 bills during their sessions this week, which will start Tuesday morning and should last through Thursday afternoon. Some of the bills tabled by the committees will then be considered during the upcoming eight-day virtual legislature session, due to begin on January 27.
Members of the public who wish to testify during one of the meetings can register by clicking the “Testify” button on the calendar page of the legislature’s website. The meetings are also streamed live and archived on the legislature’s YouTube channel.
The bills that are being examined by the legislative committees and already examined during the intermediate session could also be given a second life if they fail during the eight-day virtual session. Bills that do not receive approval in their chamber of origin could still be examined at the legislature’s face-to-face meeting tentatively set for March 1, according to the latest legislative plan.
“As public health conditions evolve, we will adjust legislative participation options accordingly. We are encouraged by the introduction of vaccines and other health measures that we hope will allow lawmakers to meet in person starting March 1st, “House spokesman Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said in a Statement on Friday. “Our large state faces many challenges and opportunities. We therefore continue to strive to meet in person when it is safe to do so.”
A summary of some of the bills to be considered at next week’s committee meetings is far from exhaustive, but the following is a summary.
After the measure was narrowly pushed forward by the Joint Revenue Committee last month, the House Revenue Committee will consider a proposal to increase the excise tax on cigarette packs from 60 cents to 84 cents in its meeting on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m. The bill would also increase the tax on damp tobacco snuff from 60 cents an ounce to 72 cents.
The legislation, which is expected to raise approximately $ 6 million annually for the state’s general fund, received mixed feedback during the committee meeting last month. Given Wyoming’s current cigarette tax rate among the top ten lowest states in the country, advocates saw it as a way to generate income while helping people quit smoking.
Other groups, including the Wyoming Taxpayers Association and the Wyoming Petroleum Marketers and Convenience Store Association, opposed the measure during the committee meeting last month, arguing that it was a regressive tax proposal that would adversely affect low-income residents.
So far, the tobacco tax hike has been one of the few measures to increase revenue to gain committee approval in the meantime.
Also on Tuesday morning, another legislative committee will examine a bill that would fundamentally revise state network metering laws. This billing mechanism allows residents with solar panels to receive payments for electricity they add to the wider grid.
The proposed bill would no longer require utility companies to compensate solar owners for the excess electricity they produce, unless otherwise determined by the Wyoming Public Service Commission.
“The Public Service Commission conducts public hearings and puts in place an appropriate system to regulate the tariffs, terms and conditions of customer generators of all electricity suppliers for electricity generated from network metering systems on or after July 1, 2021 on in operation for the first time. ”reads. “The system is intended to prevent customer generators from being subsidized in comparison to other customers of the electricity supplier.”
The bill, under consideration on Tuesday, is another attempt by lawmakers to adjust the state’s net metering statutes. If past meetings are indications, some citizens may testify. During a fall 2019 meeting pending review of a bill to repeal the existing net metering statues, legislators heard hours of testimony from members of the public who were essentially all against the changes.
The net metering bill will be reviewed by the Senate Committee on Business, Elections and Political Subdivisions at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
On Wednesday morning, a House committee will review a bill that will provide tax breaks for the oil and gas industry if commodity prices exceed certain thresholds.
If approved by the legislator, the proposal would temporarily lower the severance tax rate for oil and natural gas production from 6% to 3%, but only if the industry price benchmarks have risen to a sustainable level.
For example, oil producers could take advantage of the one-time tax exemption for six months after West Texas Intermediate crude oil prices hit at least $ 45 a barrel. After hitting a subzero hazard amid the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia, the WTI barrel price stood at $ 52 as of Friday afternoon.
The proposal, which was originally tabled by a legislative committee last summer, was backed by the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, whose officials believed the proposal to start the state’s oil and gas industry following the COVID-19 pandemic of crucial is to stand still. However, others who testified at the summer meeting argued that the state needs tons of revenue to generate.
The bill will be considered by the House Committee on Minerals, Economics and Economic Development during its meeting on Wednesday at 8:00 am.
Legislators will be considering a bill Wednesday afternoon that would require school districts across Wyoming to offer suicide classes and prevention training to students. Proponents argue the proposal is essential to tackling the high rate of youth suicide in the state.
The proposal, if passed by lawmakers, would build on the Jason Flatt Act, which requires teachers to complete two hours of suicide awareness and prevention training every year. This law, passed in 20 states, was approved in Wyoming in 2014.
However, since then Wyoming has continued to struggle with its suicide rates, both in general and among younger populations. From 2016 to 2018, Wyoming had the fourth highest suicide rate of any state among people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
When the bill was first tabled by the Joint Education Committee in November, several students from Cody High School voted in favor of the proposal, sharing their own experiences with teenage suicide as evidence of its need.
The legislation will be examined by the House Education Committee during its session due to begin Wednesday at 1:30 p.m.
On Thursday morning, a committee will examine a bill to allow Wyoming law enforcement officers to overtake a driver for only missing seat belts in an attempt to reduce the number of people killed on the state’s roads each year.
In 2019, the Wyoming Highway Patrol reported the highest number of accident fatalities since 2015, and in 2020, about 62% of those killed in car accidents in Wyoming were unbuckled, according to WHP Col. Kebin Haller.
The proposal, presented by the Interim Committee on Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs during its September meeting, was strongly supported by the Wyoming Department of Transportation Director Luke Reiner.
“A primary seat belt law would significantly improve safety in this state,” Reiner told the committee in September. “As a director, I see every death and accident we have in this state … and some of them just break your heart. People would be alive today if they were wearing a seat belt. “
The bill is under review by the Senate’s Committee on Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs during its 8:30 a.m. session on Thursday.