From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 42 - January 12, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Olsen explains priorities

by Cat Urbigkit

House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen said constituents in his district should understand that although he might consider sponsoring any number of bills in the legislature, not all the items considered will make the cut.

Last week, Sublette County Commissioners expressed their opposition to an Olsen proposal that would formally name the pronghorn migration corridor from the Jackson region south into Sublette County as a way to support tourism along the route. The commissioners noted that representatives can only sponsor five bills during this budget session, and weren't pleased that it appeared the corridor bill might be one of Olsen's five.

In a press release issued Tuesday, Olsen explained that when issues arise, "there are many times when I will proceed to draft a bill for review. I might then ask other legislators, interested parties, or the person or group who conceived the idea, to evaluate and review the draft. There are even times when I send co-sponsor cards to other members of the legislature for their consideration and further comments. This is very helpful when deciding which individual bills to sponsor."

Olsen continued: "All totaled, I have authored 11 drafts for review and consideration. Of these 11, I have either determined that some drafts should not be filed in a budget session or that the particular bill will perchance require more work than our legislative time allows."

Olsen said this week that he's picked three tax issues, one local revenue booster and one bill dealing with protective orders as topics for his sponsorship of proposed legislation during this year's upcoming Wyoming Legislative session, slated to begin Feb. 13.

With property taxes his top priority, Olsen said he will propose an amendment to the Wyoming Constitution that would attempt to provide for the uniformity of assessment of residential property. The amendment would allow the legislature to create an additional class of property for assessment (Wyoming currently has three classes) and could restrict increases in property taxes or assessments.

"However, not only will this bill require two-thirds vote for introduction, it will require two-thirds vote for passage in each house, followed by a majority affirmation by the people of Wyoming at the next general election," Olsen noted.

His second tax bill is the county option for the homestead exemption or the homeowner's tax credit. This is an item the Sublette County Commission, and Commissioner Bill Cramer in particular, has pushed for a number of years, and it recently received the endorsement of the state's largest agricultural organization, the Wyoming Farm Bureau Federation.

"It is my firm belief that we must allow our local government to have more control over its own local affairs," Olsen said in a press release. Under his proposal, county commissioners would legally have the option to allow homeowners tax credits, would accomplish this goal regarding tax burdens.

"This tax credit would come directly from each county's general fund and would hold our schools harmless," Olsen said. "By no means, however, would it require any county commission to be obliged to provide for this tax credit. It simply would allow local governments this individual option."

Olsen has also taken on a similar measure, but this one would have the state fund the homeowner's tax credit.

"This credit is currently in the statues, but has not been funded for at least two decades," Olsen said. "Therefore, at this time, I propose to fund it and to then apply it to property taxes to be imposed during the calendar year of 2006."

Outside of the tax bills, Olsen is also sponsoring a bill providing financial assistance to local governments in communities that are being impacted from the rapid pace of natural gas development. Olsen's impact money bill would appropriate $100 million for the biennium to help in addressing these needs. The communities would have to demonstrate the impact needs are a result of natural gas development and would have to apply for funds through the State Lands and Investment Board.

Lastly, Olsen is sponsoring a bill regarding the duration of protection orders. His bill would allow the court system to determine the duration of a protection order in domestic assault cases, up to one year, and will also allow for either party to petition to amend this order.

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