◆ Voter ID Bill Passes House
Provided By Scott Heiner
At the end of the 2nd week of the 66th Wyoming Legislative Session, the combined Legislature has passed 33 bills. This past week, we have been able to meet in person and have been more effective than we were virtually. There were still 2 members of the House of Representatives that were attending online, but the majority were in the House Chambers this week.
Before I give you a status report on a few pieces of legislation that may be of interest to you, I will touch briefly on the new COVID-19 federal legislation recently passed by the U.S. Senate (“American Rescue Plan”) and what it could mean for Wyoming. Please recognize that this federal legislation is still in progress and can still be changed.
With the Senate version of the bill, Wyoming would receive $1,089 million for the state, $161 million for Cities, Towns and Counties for a total of $1,250 million. The U.S. House version of the bill would allot a total of $911 million total to Wyoming. Permissible uses of the money in the Senate version are;
1. Respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency and cover costs related to it, including assistance to households, small businesses, non-profits, and affected industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality,
2) Provide government services to the extent of lost revenue from the public health emergency,
3) Make investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure. The Senate version also stipulates that funds may not be used to make payments to pension funds or to reduce taxes.
A recent Bloomberg analysis compares state revenue forecasts pre-COVID-19 to the most recent forecasts. The results indicate that Wyoming’s state revenue experienced the worst decline in the nation at -20.7 percent over the last year.
Here in Wyoming, the Voter Identification Bill (HB0075) passed the House with a 51-9 vote and was sent to the Senate for consideration. There was strong debate on what forms of identification would be acceptable with multiple amendments to remove and bring back out-of-state drivers licenses and student id’s. I supported this bill and voted to get student Id’s and out-of-state license removed, only to have them come back again on 3rd reading. A proposed Constitutional Amendment (HJ003) passed 2nd reading. It would allow 2/3 of the income from state school lands to be used to fund schools and 1/3 put into savings.
Right now, we send 2/3 of the state land revenue to savings and 1/3 to school funding. It seems reasonable when times are tough and we cannot pay our bills to reduce the amount sent to permanent savings. This will mean an additional $30 million per year for K-12 schools where we have a $300 million deficit.
This coming week is focused on the state budget. Watch HB00173 which is coming out of the House Education Committee which recommends some cuts, but also additional revenue through an additional 1 percent state-wide sales tax for schools. The additional tax would kick in once our rainy day account drops to $500 million which will happen within the next 2 years at the rate we are spending our reserves.
Thank you for your support, emails and the opportunity you have given me to be here in Cheyenne to represent you.