From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 36 - December 1, 2005
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Olsen prepares for budget session

by Cat Urbigkit

House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen of Daniel has been busy getting ready for the 2006 legislative budget session slated to begin Feb. 12, 2006. Since it's a budget session, any non-budget bills must have a two-thirds vote on introduction to even be considered. House members are working under an additional restriction - each representative is limited to sponsorship of only five bills. With this restriction in place, legislators are forced to prioritize and Olsen has selected property tax issues as his top priority for action.

Olsen will sponsor a bill calling for a constitutional amendment that would make residential property an additional class of property for assessment of taxes and to restrict increases in property taxes or assessments. This is Olsen's fourth such try and he's "optimistic, but not too optimistic."

Olsen said as long as residents in the county are experiencing double-digit increases in property taxes, he's going to keep pushing the issue.

Although Sublette County Commissioner Bill Cramer has continued to push for legislation that would give counties the option of funding the homestead exemption as a means of property tax relief, and recently received the backing of the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation for the effort, Olsen said due to the two-thirds threshold, he's not planning on bringing this proposal forth this session, but will save it for the next general session of the legislature.

Instead, Olsen will propose that the legislature provide funding for the state to fund the exemption, as called for in existing statute.

Olsen has been an active member of the Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force and his efforts continue as he works through the state budget process. Olsen said in an interview that if the Wyoming Livestock Board does not include funding for continued brucellosis surveillance in cattle, Olsen would be ready with a bill to provide the funding.

Olsen will also sponsor a bill that provides an alternative to Governor Dave Freudenthal's proposal to allocate $100 million in impact funding to eight counties experiencing booms in industrial development. Olsen said the main differences between his proposal and Freudenthal's is in how the money will be administered and that Olsen's bill would not limit funding to eight counties exclusively.

Olsen will also sponsor a bill changing provisions for the issuance of protection orders. Current protection orders are issued for a period of three months and can be renewed after a showing of good cause. Olsen said this process is "devastating to victims" when they have to relive the incidents leading to the protection order. His proposal would provide that initial protection orders be issued for a period of one year and can be subject to judicial review upon request of either party.

"This is one bill I will carry," Olsen said. "Three months is ridiculous."

Olsen was one of the first of about 15 different legislators who approached the Legislative Service Office to craft a bill dealing with eminent domain. He and the other legislators were reacting to a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Kelo v. New London case in which the court ruled that government can take private property for private economic development.

Olsen said with so much concern from legislators, the Joint Agriculture, Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee has agreed to sponsor eminent domain legislation. Since Wyoming already has an eminent domain statute, the legislation proposes to amend the law to add a provision prohibiting the "taking of private property by a public entity for the benefit or another private individual or private entity." The proposed legislation requires that any property obtained by condemnation must qualify for a public use, then defines public use to exclude lands acquired primarily for economic development, industrial development, an increase in the tax base, an increase in tax revenue or employment, or for an increase in general economic health.

Olsen said, "In light of the Kelo decision it's up to the states to address this and we in Wyoming are addressing this on the local level. I'm sure it will find broad support in the legislature."

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