Volume 8, Number 39 - December 8, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
’Tis the season for new legislation
It’s that time of year in Wyoming. Temperatures have dropped, snow is flying and the days are painfully short.
It’s the holidays, and with that soon comes the Wyoming State Legislature’s general session.
On Jan. 13, the 60th State Legislature will convene for 37 days at the State Capitol in Cheyenne.
And while Cheyenne is a five and a halfhour drive from Sublette County, many of this session’s proposed laws, if passed, could have an impact on the Upper Green River Valley. Other proposed laws, however, are less immediate but are signs of our times.
Most everybody knows that it’s illegal to sic dogs on wildlife but House Bill 11 (HB 11) ups the ante.
HB 11 would change state law by making it illegal for an owner’s dog to harass a big game animal “whether or not the big game animal is actually injured by the dog.” The current statute makes it unlawful for a dog to injure or threaten a big game animal “with immediate injury.”
The bill and the statue both contain an exemption for dogs protecting livestock and both specify penalties of up to a $1,000 fine and six months in jail.
Another bill addresses the new technology of wildlife immunocontraceptives.
Immunocontraceptives prevent pregnancy by introducing a naturally occurring protein found in pig ovaries porcine zona pellucida (PZP) into an animal that prevents sperm from attaching to an egg. Female animals can be rendered infertile for two years or more with one dart-gun vaccination.
The method has proven to be very successful in controlling populations of horses in the western U.S. and elephants at the Welgevoden Game Reserve in South Africa where the animals were “contracepted” from a helicopter using a paint-ball gun.
HB 4 gives the Game and Fish Commission strict control on the use of immunocontraceptives by stating the commission is “to prohibit and regulate the administration of any chemical or biological substance… to wildlife…for the purpose of controlling fertility or reproduction.”
Both bills are sponsored by the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources (Travel) Committee. Sen. Dan Dockstader (R-Sublette/Lincoln/Teton) and Rep. Kathy Davison (R-Sublette/Sweetwater/Lincoln) are members of the Travel Committee.
The committee is also sponsoring a bill to create harsher penalties for poachers. HB 24 makes a second or subsequent conviction of poaching or wanton destruction of a big game animal a possible felony punishable with a fine between $5,000 and $10,000 dollars and/or up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
Finally the Travel Committee has sponsored Senate File 13 (SF 13) that addresses the problem of people disturbing big game animals while they collect shed antlers.
The file simply states that the Game and Fish Commission is directed “to promulgate such orders as the commission considers necessary to regulate and control, for the purpose of minimizing the harassment of disturbance of big game populations, the collection of naturally shed antlers and horns of big game animals.”
Cities and towns
Sen. Cale Case (R-Fremont) is introducing two Senate files that tinker with the reach of local jurisdictions.
SF 27 gives municipalities and counties the power to regulate outdoor lighting “to reduce light pollution and light trespass.”
In the last 10 years, the topic of light pollution has gone from laughable to laudable as more and more of the nation’s night skies disappear behind a shroud of man-made light sources.
Anti-light pollution groups point out that excessive illumination virtually eliminates “one of the worlds natural wonders – a view of the universe.” The groups also claim wiser use of streetlights prevents distracting glares while driving and they say the practice is more energy efficient.
Biologists have warned for decades the nighttime glare of towns and cities adversely affect the migratory behaviors of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles. Last month the issue of light pollution graced the front page of National Geographic Magazine. Wyoming wouldn’t be the first. Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, New Mexico and Texas already have enacted anti-light-pollution laws.
Other legislation is less cosmic.
SF 28 would eliminate municipal regulation of bowling alleys and pool halls.
SF 30 changes the population formula for adding bar and grill liquor licenses. Under the current law, any incorporated town of 7,500 or less is allowed no more than one license.
If SF 30 was passed, it would increase the total to two.
Sen. Bruce Burns (R-Sheridan) has introduced a bill to designate the green hairstreak butterfly as the official state insect. The small greenish-brown butterfly is found in much of the state between March and June.
The state’s minimum wage would rise if Rep. George Bagby (D-Carbon) gets HB 30 through the legislature. Th e bill raises the minimum wage from $5.15 an hour to $7.25. Tipped employees’ wages would increase from $2.13 an hour to $5.00 and workers under 20 years old would see an increase from $4.25 to $6.15.
Finally, a group of six representatives and four senators is sponsoring a bill to allow the surviving spouses of some deceased military members to keep their spouse’s special license plate. If passed, HB 25 would allow spouses to retain “Purple Heart” and “Wyoming National Guard” license plates in honor of their husband or wife’s service.
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