Ed. funding boils down to two approaches

By Sarah Pridgeon

The Wyoming House and Senate are now considering each other’s proposals to fix the looming funding crisis in education as each chamber’s bill passes across to the other. The bills take different approaches to the issue, one focusing on cuts while the other builds in other avenues of funding.

HB-236 aims to combine cuts to education funding with diverted funding and savings. In its current form, among other measures, it would pull from the rainy day fund each year to keep the education account balance steady, alter how the attendance measure is calculated and thus adjust how much money school districts receive and impose a moratorium on alternative schools until 2019.

The bill would also make cuts to funding and establish a committee to take a look at the funding model.

Its counterpart, SF-165, focuses almost entirely on cuts. It would freeze education funding at current levels while reducing block grants to school districts by 2.5 percent and then five percent, though the bill does note that the measures are temporary while the block grant model is recalibrated.

In other budget matters, the ENDOW initiative continues to move ahead in SF-132, building on Governor Matt Mead’s efforts over the last few years. The bill provides for an economic diversification council to oversee and promote activities and the development of a comprehensive policy and strategy to diversify Wyoming’s economy.

It would also provide for business development and innovation zones, with the overall intention of creating a coordinated approach between the legislative and executive branches of Wyoming’s government on this issue.


Bills of interest

Senator Ogden Driskill’s bill to enact legislation that would require the federal government to share revenues from wind and solar energy developments with the state where they are located has passed into law. Enrolled Joint Resolution 1 asks for 50 percent of the rents and fees received in connection with wind and solar deveopments.

The bill that proposed an additional $4 tax on wind energy, however, failed in the House earlier this month, while the bill to remove wind and solar from the “eligible generating resources” for electric companies failed to make it out of committee.

Driskill’s bill to include clerks of district court in legislation that requires county offices to be subject to the Ethics and Disclosure act has also passed into law as Senate Enrolled Act 22.

The two bills that would allow firearms to be carried into government meetings and on campuses across Wyoming continue to move ahead. Both HB-136 and HB-137 are now with the Senate.

Two bills that would increase fees for drivers are also moving ahead, now both with the Senate. HB-218 looks at registration fees for vehicles and imposes increases such as from $15 to $25 for a passenger car and from $12 to $25 for motorcycles.

HB-219 would meanwhile double all license fees. A driver’s license would increase from $20 to $40, for example, as would an instruction permit.

Positive news for the ongoing fight against the mountain pine beetle as HB-26 moved across to the Senate and passed its first reading with the Committee of the Whole. The bill would allow an additional $500,000 to be expended from the emergency fire suppression account each year for mitigation project.

The bill that specifies how and when footage from a police body camera is made public has been adjusted to allow footage to be released if lethal force is used, whether by a police officer or against them. SF-32 is now with the House.

Now with the Senate, HB-276 would require the legislative service office to record interim committee meetings and post the recordings to the legislature’s website for public access.

Representative Tyler Lindholm’s Food Freedom Act amendments have now passed their third reading in the Senate. The bill would extend the act to also apply to home processed food and authorize the sale of additional products, including poultry.

Lindholm and Faith Hummel’s bill to establish Agent Orange Health Awareness Month, in recognition of the effects the toxin had on soldiers during the Vietnam War and subsequent generations, has passed its third reading in the Senate and moved on to the Governor’s desk.