Volume 3, Number 46 - February 12, 2004
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The 57th Wyoming Legislature convened Monday morning in Cheyenne for its 20-day budget session.
To kick things off, Governor Dave Freudenthal gave his State of the State address and budget message, noting early on that Wyoming's current energy development boom shouldn't equate with compromising environmental resources in the state.
In his budget message, Freudenthal touched on a variety of topics, from school capital facilities construction and refurbishing the Wyoming water development account to long-standing funding needs for the state correctional system.
Freudenthal proposed setting aside $230 million in savings or to "hedge" for a decline in estimated revenues in the future. He suggested the legislature should balance the need for long-term savings with savings that could be accessed during times of budget shortfall.
Other non-budget items mentioned by Freudenthal include health care, leading to Freudenthal's advocating the placement of a constitutional amendment that would allow voters to consider caps on non-economic medical awards.
Freudenthal said he is pleased that the Joint Judiciary Committee has agreed to forward a bill regarding split estate mineral issues. Freudenthal said that although there will be aspects of the proposed bill that many won't like, the bill shouldn't be abandoned for this reason.
Freudenthal asked that personal objects to portions of the bill not be used to stop deliberation of bill. He also discredited the notion that the split estate bill could lead to a halt in coalbed methane development. The bill was defeated on Tuesday.
Freudenthal addressed the issue of wolf management, stating that he feels as though he's been thrown to the wolves. He said he'd involve some legislators in discussions with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service this week "in the hopes of avoiding litigation" in regard to the wolf management plan FWS rejected as unacceptable in terms of leading to delisting.
Freudenthal expressed support for legislation being proposed that would "slightly modify" the existing wolf law, House Bill 229, that was approved by the legislature last year. (See related article).
Hundreds of non-budget bills have been prefiled, but since it is a budget session, the only non-budget bills that will be considered are those getting a two-thirds vote for introduction. With this being a short session, the close of business this Friday, Feb. 13, is the last day for bill introduction.
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