The 2023 General Session of the 67th Wyoming Legislature came to a close on Friday, March 3rd. The most inexperienced legislature in 30 years was further challenged with greatest amount of proposed bills (493) in decades.
The highlight was definitely the efficiency with which the supplemental budget was considered, amended, and reconciled while providing a record $1.3B in various savings accounts. The unexpected "windfall" of revenues came from unexpectedly high oil and gas prices.
Outside of the usual plethora of social issues, the most referenced voter expectation was addressing "out of control" residential property tax increases. Especially hard hit have been long-time home owners on fixed incomes. One of the few proposed bills to pass the highly the very polarized House was and expansion of qualifications for the existing rebate program with the funding necessary to enact it. This provides immediate relief but not long term reform. Well in to the evening on the last day for bills on General file, the House Freedom Caucus blocked a proposed Constitutional Amendment ballot initiative to create a fourth class of property for owner occupied residential property. This was after they were unsuccessful in including language to impose a cap as part of the amendment. It appeared that this ended hopes for a long term solution. However, in the last days of the session, Representative Liz Storer (D-Jackson) collaborated with Senator Dan Dockstader (R-Afton) to successfully transform his Senate Joint Resolution on property tax relief for elderly and infirm to mirror the failed House Joint Resolution. Fourteen of the Freedom Caucus members changed their vote to meet the 2/3 requirement..
The last minute substitution and passage of the residential property tax ballot initiative was just one of the unusual actions during the session. The Senate Floor Majority Leader successfully enacted a little used rule to pull the Crossover Voting bill from Senate Corporations where it had failed. It was then sent to Senate Revenue where it was guaranteed to pass. The Senate President held up HB 152 (Life Is a Human Right Act) pending an agreement to include exceptions for rape and incest albeit requiring law enforcement reports. It was then assigned to Senate Agriculture where it was also guaranteed to pass. However, not without first removing much of the language the Representatives with legal experience had warned would not pass constitutional scrutiny. The Speaker of the House came under fire, including from Congresswoman Hageman, for bills he held in his desk that had passed in the Senate. This included the model legislation mirroring the Florida "Don't Say Gay" bill.
As always, Education was the focus of many bills (39) and ranged from funding at all levels, school choice including charter and vouchers, curriculum, scholarships, facilities, and discipline. One of the more passionately debated bills was the interscholastic eligibility bill that bars males from participating in interscholastic athletic activities established for women at the junior and senior high levels.
On Wednesday, 22 Mar, the Management Council considered proposed Interim Topics from each of the Standing and Special Joint Interim Committees. The final approved topics should be available on www.wyoleg.gov within the next couple of weeks. Because of the highly polarized chambers as well as the relative inexperience of so many lawmakers, most committees are expecting a low number of sponsored legislation coming from the interim. The 2024 Budget Session will require a 2/3 affirmative vote for introduction of any non-budget bill.
The final 2023 Bill Tracker has been updated and includes the Governor's veto of SF 131 prohibiting unsolicited distribution of ballot forms. In addition to the final disposition of each bill, summary tabs reflect aggregated reports by disposition, category, sponsor and pass/fail rates. https://www.civics307.com/file-share
File Share also contains the Session Voting Record. This file contains the final roll call vote recorded on each piece of legislation by each of the 93 legislators. Where a bill failed in Committee, it contains the votes by each committee member. While there may be numerous votes over the course of the bills winding their way through the process, only the final version is a valid reflection of the legislator's decision.