Hello, House District 40. The first week of the in-person portion of the 2021 General Session is in the books. We covered a lot of topics this week, and thought I would give you a quick synopsis of some of the more noteworthy bills passed by the House this week.
HB 55 – creates the Wyoming meat packing initiative in an effort to establish more local meat packing facilities in Wyoming. This program will allow loans to individuals or groups wanting to start processing businesses in Wyoming. This should also help our local producers as they will have additional ways to get their products to market in the future.
HB 52 – allows local school districts to receive reimbursement from the state for the processing costs of donated beef, lamb, pork, or chicken. This is a great program as it allows local producers to donate to the school and ensure that our kids are eating locally raised meats!
HB 39 – expands the scope of practice for optometrists. This bill will allow Wyomingites to receive improved eye care within the state and avoid travel.
HB75 – requires all voters to present an ID at the poll before they can vote. Although I do not believe voter fraud is a problem in Wyoming, I do think that this bill will help alleviate the concerns of many voters and will prevent any abuse of our voting system.
The bills I discussed above are only a small portion of the issues actually addressed this past week, whether that be in standing committee, committee of the whole, second reading or third reading. If you want to see a full list of all bills addressed this week, visit the legislative website at https://www.wyoleg.gov.
Beginning this week, we will attempt to tackle the two biggest issues of the session: state-wide budget and school finance. And to be honest, the school finance question will be the hardest to answer. Our annual education funding shortfall right now is $300 million – again that is annual. Obviously, this is not sustainable. We have to find a solution – a long-term solution. We cannot simply borrow money from our savings accounts in perpetuity. At this point, there are several solutions to this problem. We can cut within the programs, we can peel away money flowing into other programs, we can take money from savings or we can create additional revenue (taxes) specifically earmarked for education. Finally, we could also do some combination of the above. To be honest, I don’t know the answer. And I don’t think anybody else does either – or we would have already passed it. But, I will tell you, we cannot simply cut our way out of this problem. The Supreme Court will not let us. The Court has specifically held that education is a fundamental right that must be funded above all other non-constitutionally required expenditures.
Neither the budget nor school finance will be enjoyable issues to discuss. Hard choices will have to be made to survive this budget crisis, but I am confident that we as a State will find the right balance, endure these hard times, and be better for it.
Please email me anytime with questions or concerns. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org.