By Tom Coulter
Wyoming Tribune Eagle
Via- Wyoming News Exchange
CHEYENNE — With state lawmakers set to convene virtually Tuesday, a tentative schedule for the rest of the 66th Wyoming Legislature’s upcoming general session was released Monday, providing an initial road map for the coming months as elected officials grapple with state budget cuts worth hundreds of millions of dollars amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
During the one-day session Tuesday, lawmakers plan to carry out their constitutionally required duties, including the election of leadership and adoption of rules, before recessing until a later date as a precaution against the spread of COVID-19.
The session could be reconvened in person March 1, though whether that happens will largely depend on the status of the state’s COVID-19 case numbers, as well as vaccine availability, in the weeks prior.
“The continued fallout from the coronavirus pandemic presents unique challenges during the upcoming session,” House Speaker-elect Eric Barlow, R-Gillette, said in a statement. “Our priorities are to serve the people of Wyoming effectively, and ensure the health and safety of all personnel, legislators and the public. We can do both.”
Lawmakers’ work will continue shortly after their scheduled one-day session, as virtual committee meetings have been scheduled for three consecutive days starting Jan. 19. During those three days of virtual meetings, lawmakers on the committees will consider and hear public testimony on particular bills.
The topics of those bills were not released Monday.
From there, the bills advanced by committees will be considered during an eight-day virtual session set to begin Jan. 27. That virtual session will adjourn Feb. 5, according to the legislative schedule.
In the week of Feb. 22, lawmakers may then hold up to three additional days of committee meetings for the consideration of other bills leading up to the start of the in-person session. The supplemental budget bill also is scheduled to be available to the public no later than Feb. 22.
If public health conditions allow for the crowded gatherings at the state Capitol, the general session will run from March 1 until April 2.
“The proposed legislative session schedule includes 34 working days, which closely aligns with past general sessions,” Senate President-elect Dan Dockstader, R-Afton, said in a statement. “Our time will be well used to thoroughly consider the important legislation and other matters that come before the Legislature.”
Legislative leaders plan to assess in late January whether an in-person session could begin March 1, according to a letter sent by Barlow and Dockstader last month to all members of the Legislature.
House and Senate meetings will be open to the public, with the additional option of watching proceedings on the Legislature’s website at wyoleg.gov, according to the release sent Monday.