Tuesday, February 14, 2012

61st Legislature Begins

The 61st Wyoming Legislative Budget Session opened with a good, but predictable, State of the State Address by Governor Matt Mead. Gov Mead focused on the fact that Wyoming’s budget is doing much better than most states, but still not as good as we once were. He explained what his priorities will be during this legislative session, including a large emphasis on education. Wyoming Supreme Court Chief Justice Marilyn Kite gave an excellent speech on the current state of the Wyoming judiciary. Justice Kite politely, but firmly, asked the legislature to address the low level of judicial salaries in Wyoming. The legislature has failed to tackle this issue for the past few years, and Justice Kite stressed that providing equal justice demands adequate funding.

Things have already been moving quickly in both the Senate and the House, despite the requirement for a 2/3 majority during a budget session. The budget session will only last for 20 days and we expect a fast-moving pace throughout the session. Yesterday, the House introduced HB0032, which will be one of the session’s substantial bills.

We anticipate redistricting and budgetary issues to be critical during this year’s session, and as always, will advocate for laws that safeguard our civil liberties and fights against bills that threaten our freedoms. Here is a quick preview of some of the bills we plan to monitor. This list will change as things advance throughout the session.

HB0030 Sex offenders-residence near child care facilities.
Sponsored by: PETERSEN

AN ACT relating to crimes and offenses; prohibiting sex offenders from residing near child care facilities; and providing for an effective date.

The statute already prohibits residence near schools; in many areas this may mean that there is nowhere a registrant can reside. The current registration requirements mandate registration for every level of “sex” crime including urinating in public and “Romeo and Juliet” relationships.

HB0032 Redistricting of the legislature.
Sponsored by: Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee

AN ACT relating to state legislative districts; providing definitions; providing a plan for state legislative districts based upon the 2010 census; providing for election of the senate; providing for severability; and providing for an effective date. Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Wyoming: Section 1. W.S. 28 2 116 through 28 2 119 are repealed and recreated as W.S. 28 2 116 through 28 2 119 to read: CHAPTER 2 LEGISLATIVE DISTRICTS OF MEMBERS 28 2 116.  Legislative districts generally;

Our office has followed the redistricting process throughout the year to ensure the Constitutional mandate of one man one vote. We will continue following this bill during the legislative session.

HB0056 Penalties for misdemeanor offenses.
Sponsored by: GINGERY

AN ACT relating to crimes and offenses; modifying penalties for misdemeanor offenses; providing for classes of misdemeanors; making conforming amendments; and providing for an effective date.

We are watching provisions that may affect the rights of minors to obtain an abortion: W.W. 35-6-118

HJ0003 Resolution-parents' rights.
Sponsored by: BOTTEN

A JOINT RESOLUTION requesting Congress submit to the states a proposed amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the infringement of parents' rights.

These joint resolutions are often political statements and as such are a waste of time; they are, however, often interesting to read.

SF0023 Death penalty method of lethal injection.
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee
AN ACT relating to criminal procedure; amending protocol permitted for lethal injection for execution; and providing for an effective date.

We are simply following this bill as it allows for use of an expanded protocol of medications for lethal injections.

SF0025 Public records.
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee

AN ACT relating to public records; amending and repealing definitions; amending provisions relating to inspection of documents and exemptions from disclosure; amending penalty provision; and providing for an effective date.

Our office has been following the public records amendments with the goal of providing greater transparency and easier access for the public. Wyoming currently has some of the worst laws in the nation with the municipalities and county commissioners arguing against more availability and transparency. The current amendments are an improvement but not much of one.

SF0027 Public meetings.
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee

AN ACT relating to public meetings; amending definitions; clarifying provisions relating to minutes and notice; amending provisions relating to meetings, special meetings, emergency meetings, executive sessions and penalties; and providing for an effective date.

See Public records

SF0044 Parental responsibilities.
Sponsored by: CASE

AN ACT relating to parents, guardians and custodians; increasing penalties relating to school attendance; and providing for an effective date.

Our office is following this bill as part of our general interest in the school to prison pipeline and juvenile justice in the state.

SF0056 Primary elections.
Sponsored by: ROTHFUSS

AN ACT relating to elections; providing for primary elections allowing any voter to vote for any candidate running; eliminating election of precinct committeemen and committeewomen; providing for the candidates with the two highest votes in the primary to advance to the general election; providing for filling of vacancies in nomination; providing conforming amendments; and providing for an effective date.

This bill is a bill that would change the primary election process in Wyoming and we will be following to ensure compliance with voting rights.