Updates from the Legislature – Mar. 2

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Rolling in to our last week of the general session, it’s starting to look more and more like it is our last week. What do I mean? We have an agreement on the budget between the two houses and the education bills are seeing daylight.

Without these pieces of the puzzle in place, we ran a serious risk of having to go in to a special session. An extension of my time spent in Cheyenne is not high on my priority or want list, let’s get the work done we have been sent to do. It’s time to cowboy up and get after it.

These two issues are not unique in that the two houses cannot agree. On Monday I will be in my third joint conference, this is where the House and Senate send three members each to negotiate on their behalf.

The issues are always wide-ranging, but I do want to mention them as the gulf is noticeable. The first conference was in regards to radioactive storage facilities and the disagreement was on whether state-wide meetings needed to take place in case we ever entered into storing radioactive waste.

Thankfully, the Senate adopted our position after the conference with some added language to ensure the counties effected would have public meetings also.

The second conference was on salvage titles and the House adopted the Senate position of adding watercraft to this statute. The third conference is scheduled for Monday and I have been appointed chairman to discuss the Inoperative Liquor license legislation.

Throughout the next week, dozens of these committees will take place to work out the differences in legislation, and some pieces will never be worked out.

One of the most repeated concerns that I have heard is the need for economic diversification in our state. How can the state government help to ensure our state’s private sector is diversified in such a way that the next mineral bust doesn’t cripple our economy?

One solution is being offered up by the Governor’s office and the Legislature, and it has the possibility of even catching my vote, it’s called the ENDOW Initiative. You can learn more about it here https://www.endowyo.biz

The ENDOW Initiative is a group of private and public sector leaders that will be tasked with developing a comprehensive economic diversification strategy. Essentially, this group is looking to areas that can attract private business by streamlining government.

One idea that the group will be tasked with completing would be pre-permitting areas for oil extraction, different types of mining, etc.  At the same time they will be looking at the different areas of Wyoming that have the possibility of attracting new manufacturing, and in what areas the state can improve infrastructure to ensure we are attracting new business.

All of these aspects will require legislation to put in to place but I believe this is the right first step (or one of them) to help ensure our state is competitive in attracting new business.

I’ll leave you with the premise of economic diversification being one of the most conservative investment actions our state can make. If we are to be caretakers of the public trust, it is past time that revenue received be invested in such a manner that does not risk the entire corpus.

Another concern I believe we have the opportunity to address is in regards to waste in government. A piece of legislation called State Government Efficiencies would allow for the state to contract with private companies that exist primarily to find waste and efficiencies.

Other states have traveled down this road and some of the recommendations were huge cost savings. Louisiana’s study showed a savings of $2.7 billion over a five-year period.

Starting in 2013, a private firm was engaged to provide financial leadership to address fiscal emergencies in MedicAid in North Carolina. As a result the program recovered from a  $487 million shortfall to a $63.6 million surplus the next year. A private sector solution to a public problem.

February 16, past Speakers of the House and Presidents of the Senate traveled to Cheyenne to share stories and pass on their wisdom from their time leading Wyoming. One of these individuals was Nels Smith, he served as the Speaker of the House from 1977-1978, which was the 44th Legislature.

Forty years later, Speaker Nels Smith addressed the 64th Legislature to remind us all that while it may seem like tough times, Wyoming has faced them before.