From the State House to Your House – Feb. 7

By Mark Semlek
We are approaching the halfway mark of the Legislative session this week as the House of Representatives begins to consider Senate Files. House action on bill consideration last week included a proposal to raise cigarette taxes by an additional $1.00 per pack up from the current $.60 per pack. The bill was defeated on first reading with very little debate. Some legislators probably believed that the fuel tax increase which will likely pass the Senate is enough of a tax increase this year and there was also testimony that indicated that this much of a one-time tax increase could lead to the “black-marketing” of this product into Wyoming. The result would be much lower collection of tax revenues than anticipated.
Last week the House debated and amended extensively the three “gun bills,” House Bills 103, 104, and 105. House Bill 103, regulation of firearms-state preemption attempts will prohibit the entire field of firearm and ammunition regulation by the authority of a political subdivision including any existing or future ordinances, resolution or administrative order. The concern came from law abiding citizens who feared that a checker-board implementation of local gun control measures by cities and towns across Wyoming violated their second amendment rights and further criminalized this right by an uncertain and non-consistent set of ordinances within and between communities around this state. This bill has passed the House.
House Bill 104, firearm protection act, would prohibit any attempts by the federal government to ban a semi-automatic firearm or to limit the size of a firearm magazine in Wyoming. Currently in Wyoming law, any official, agent or employee of the United states government who enforces or attempts to enforce any act, order, law, statue, rule or regulation of the United States government upon a personal firearm, a firearm accessory or ammunition that is manufactured commercially or privately in Wyoming and that remains exclusively within the borders of Wyoming shall be guilty of a misdemeanor. The passage of this bill in the House with a 46 aye and 13 no vote adds firearm, accessory, and ammunition “owned” and increases the penalty to a felony. This was amended on third reading to further qualify the unenforceable provision within the borders of Wyoming to include any officer or agent of the federal government or any political subdivision of the state.
House Bill 105, citizens’ and students’ self-defense act will provide the ability of permanent employees of a school district who hold a valid concealed carry permit issued by the state of Wyoming to carry a concealed firearm on or into any facility of the school district provided that the employee first notifies the superintendent or the principal of the district. This provision does not include a current student of a school district. The change proposed in this House bill is an attempt to provide some additional protection of our students in our schools who are so vulnerable to people with evil intent to use gun free zones as a safe place for them to carry out their carnage. This bill passed the House with 46 aye and 13 no votes. I supported all three of the above mentioned gun bills.
House Bill 134, private roads, if it passes the House will no longer allow counties to hear private road hearing and establish roads for land-locked landowners in Wyoming. The proposal will allow these condemnation hearings to be heard only by the District Court. I tried to amend the proposal to allow county commissioners a choice to either use the in-house hearings or send the process to the district court but the amendment was not adopted. I believe in some cases the landowners are better served by the commissioners hearings because it can reduce the time and costs of the proceedings and I believed they should have the opportunity to choose the process that they believed best served the case before them.
We will begin working on the supplemental budget this week and I will attempt to get additional funding for the pine bark beetle mitigation efforts that have been proceeding in Crook and Weston counties this last year. Thanks to the efforts of the Weed and Pest Districts and the Natural Resource districts in both counties that have worked very hard to manage the program that will hopefully save the Black Hills from a pine beetle infestation.