From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 46 - February 9, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Legislative roundup

by Cat Urbigkit

The Wyoming Legislature will convene in Cheyenne on Feb. 13. This is a budget session, so non-budget bills will require a two-thirds vote for introduction.

The Joint Appropriations Committee recently gutted funding from several budget bills that could have big impacts on Sublette County.

In a split vote, the JAC dumped Governor Dave Freudenthal's recommendation to provide $100 million in impact money to eight counties, including Sublette. Although JAC cut this funding measure out of the budget, it is expected that the impact funding measure will be fully debated in the legislature anyway since House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen has sponsored a separate bill to provide impact money.

Sublette County Commissioner Bill Cramer said he's not upset about JAC taking the impact money, but added he felt the measure would have been helpful for Wyoming's communities, noting that in taking eight counties out of competition for State Lands and Investment Board funding, the other 15 counties wouldn't have so much competition for money.

Cramer also noted that as one of county's three commissioners, it was his intention to allocate the $12 million Sublette County would have received in impact money to each of the county's three incorporated towns.

"As far as I'm concerned, that's what I'd do with the money," he said.

Another cost-cutting measure came in the form of water development funding. Although JAC kept $1 million to protect Wyoming's Colorado River Compact rights, it cut $60 million for large water projects.

Wyoming Water Development Commissioner Dan Budd said he's very concerned about this cut because storage projects are desperately needed.

Olsen has proposed a constitutional amendment that would allow creation of a fourth tier for property tax assessment. This fourth tier would consist of residential property and would grant the legislature the ability to restrict increases in property taxes or assessments. The bill number is House Joint Resolution 2.

Wyoming Farm Bureau Executive Vice President Ken Hamilton said that since the bill establishes a separate tier of assessment for homeowners, it would leave agriculture in its own tier, making it easier for future legislators to change the assessment percentage without being concerned about any protests from homeowners.

"When the state went through the challenges to the constitutionality of Wyoming's tax system, one of the proposed solutions at that time was a single tier for property," Hamilton said. "The argument at the time for this type of a solution was that with tiers and sub-tiers, favorable treatment on taxes would go to the entities with most political clout."

House Bill 22 would create an account within the highway fund to provide funding to multi-lane highways.

HB27 would modify brand inspection fees and would create a task force to study the brand inspection program. The legislation would allow the livestock board to charge a surcharge fee of up to fifty percent applied equally on all livestock fees. The bill allows for "actual hourly cost plus mileage for any non-mandatory inspections requested by a livestock owner."

HB30 would prohibit intentional and negligent feeding of big and trophy game animals. The way the bill was written, it could also be interpreted to outlaw habitat improvements for wildlife as well as forbid ranchers from throwing bales to big game to keep them out of their haystacks.

"I know that's not the intention," said Bob Wharff of Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife, "but the devil is in the details."

Senate File 30 would prohibit payment for damages by big game animals unless hunting access is allowed free of charge.

HB41 would authorize landowners to use employees to guide on private property without a guide license.

SF08 would limit terms of board members on the Wyoming board of outfitters and would prohibit the lease of lands for hunting to unlicensed outfitters.

SF26 would impose a moratorium on public entities pursuing eminent domain activities for private parties.

HB26 would define public use for eminent domain purposes.

HB24 would allocate $10 million for predator control in the state, while reorganizing local predator boards.

SF 56 would amend existing law that allows the state to acquire temporary water rights for highway or railroad roadbed construction or repair. It would create the right for the state to acquire temporary water rights for instream flows.

The bill proposes, "The state shall have the right to acquire by purchase, gift or lease the right to the use of water which may be embraced in any adjudicated or valid unadjudicated water right, or any portion thereof, for a period of not to exceed two years, for instream flow purposes, on its own behalf."

HB46 would provide immunity from criminal prosecution or civil action for using deadly force. The bill includes this provision, "A person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in any other place where he has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he reasonably believes it is necessary to do so to prevent death or serious bodily injury to himself or another or to prevent the commission of a violent felony."

SF53 pertains to the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality and would provide for best management practices to be applied to effluent standards. The bill would allow DEQ to regulate both the quality of effluents, as well as the quantity of effluents. Traditionally, the Wyoming State Engineer has been responsible for water quantity issues, not DEQ.

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