03-21-17 RMFU: Wyoming Legislative Wrap-Up

RMFU - Wyoming Legislative Wrap-UpRMFU: Wyoming Legislative Wrap-Up

As spring begins and the dust has fully settled on 40-day session of the Wyoming Legislature, there will be no tax increases.  Fee increases, however, are another story. The following two bills are designed to replace general fund appropriations to the Department of Transportation (WYDOT) through increased user fees.   

HB219 Drivers license fees & HB218 Motor Vehicle Registration Fees
The former will raise the state portion (not the more expensive county portion) of vehicle registration fees from the current $15 to $30 on a typical car or pickup; it turn, reduces the state registration fee on trailers. It was amended to include commercial vehicle registration, and this is where the big increases are seen. On an 80,000-pound rated semi, the increase will be 13%. Large fleet operations may choose to locate in another state if the increase can be offset by lower costs.

SF91 Small water projects
This bill was not heard on the house floor, effectedly killing it for this session. This means there will be no statutory change on how small water projects will be administrated this next year.

The Overall Budget
The conference committee worked on differences to the supplemental budget bills as passed by each body. Common sense prevailed and most of the controversial amendments, such as across the board pay cut for state employees, were dropped. Governor Matt Mead has three days to finish his review of the document before signing or exercising his line-item veto authority. He has used the line-item veto several times but has been overridden by the legislature. One major footnote in the supplemental budget creates the select committee on K-12 education recalibration. This committee is charged with undertaking a study to review the state educational program. If necessary, the committee consider whether the state will recalibrate the educational resource block grant model to ensure the model remains effective and cost-based in light of changing conditions and laws.  In short, this undertaking will determine the future funding level of education in schools throughout our state. The select committee’s recommendations are due in January of 2018.

Education Funding
K-12 education funding took a $34 million hit in compromise language agreed to in HB236 and signed by the Governor. This approach allows each district to determine where to cut the necessary funds locally and not across the board as the Senate had proposed. Some districts will see a greater impact because of enrollment declines yet those with growth won’t see as much impact.  One thing is for sure, most districts will see a lot of eligible personnel retiring!

Here are bills that passed that will affect RMFU members

HB26 Bark Beetle Funding
Authorizes spending up to $500,000 from the emergency fire suppression account annually for bark beetle mitigation on state private and federal lands.

HB61 Collection of Antlers and Horns
Makes it a violation of Game and Fish laws to enter private property without permission to collect antlers or horns.

HB129 Food Freedom Act Amendments
Extends the exemption from licensure permitting inspection packaging and labeling to food processing for sale to an end consumer. Allows for inspection and licensing for insurance and marketing purposes if requested by producer.

SF15 Special District Budget Requirements
Specifies requirements pertaining to public records and meetings, preparation and adoption of budgets and maintenance of reserves for a wide array of special districts including Conservation, Fire Protection, Predator Management, and Weed and Pest districts.

SF48 Farm Loan Program Amendments
Increases the loan cap from $800,000 to $1,000,000 and increases the percentage of the overall portfolio that can be in beginning farmer/rancher loans from 10% to 20%.

SF115 Malicious Cruelty to Animals
increases the penalty to a felony for intentionally harming or killing any animal owned by another if the animal is on property where it is authorized to be present.

HB230 Hemp Farming
It allows the Wyoming Department of Agriculture a year to establish rules to govern hemp farming with legislative review over the process for consideration in the next session. In addition, the Wyoming College of Agriculture can conduct research on varieties tailored for this region.

RMFU will share the Joint Committee Interim topics as soon as they are agreed upon.

Rocky Mountain Farmers Union is a general farm organization, whose members live in Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.