Thursday, March 22, 2012

61st Legislature – The End of the Trail

Thank you to all our supporters who participated in the 2012 Legislative Budget Session! Whether you were tracking specific issues or actively contacting your legislators, your voice made a difference!

Earlier in the week, we released our 2012 Legislative Review. In the review, you will find summaries and outcomes of the bills we monitored this session. All information related to voting records came from the Wyoming Legislative website.

We were proud to partner again this session with several groups, including The Equality State Policy Center, The Wyoming Associations of Churches, Wyoming Equality, Planned Parenthood Wyoming, and NARAL Pro-Choice Wyoming, to protect and advance civil liberties in Wyoming. A considerable amount of credit goes to our coalition partners; our victories couldn’t have been won without them!

During the session, we kept our supporters informed about the types of issues we were working on. We sent an action alert and posted 10 blogs on various legislative issues. For up to the minute updates, we frequently updated our Twitter feed and live-tweeted many of the hearings and floor debates for their respective bills.

Please take time to read our 2012 Legislative Review.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Religious Freedom or an Assault on Women's Healthcare?

We should all be troubled by the attempts to ban insurance coverage for reproductive health care. These bans stop a woman from using insurance to pay for legal medical procedures and medication and take way her ability to make private medical decisions. This hurts both women and families. The bottom line is that banning insurance coverage for reproductive medical care isn’t about who pays, it’s about politicians trying to take away access to contraception.

In Wyoming, HJ7 Resolution - Conscience Rights is being represented as a religious freedom issue. This bill is not about religious freedom, it is about erecting more barriers to women’s reproductive rights. Medical decisions should only be made by women, her family, and her doctor – not by politicians or her employer.

Action needed: Tell the Wyoming Senate that you support women’s access to health care coverage no matter who their employer is.

Real religious freedom gives everyone the right to make personal decisions, including whether and when to use birth control, based on personal beliefs. It does not give one group the right to impose its beliefs on others, or use religion as an excuse to discriminate against women by denying them access to vital medical services.

At the ACLU, we respect and protect religious liberty and so did President Obama, when he exempted churches and other houses of worship from having to provide contraceptive coverage. He has now announced a modification that will enable religiously affiliated institutions to not directly provide coverage either. Again, the measure totally exempts churches and houses of worship and the modification applies to secular public institutions like universities and hospitals that receive taxpayer dollars. Still, groups like the Catholic bishops’ conference and WyWatch are not satisfied. They have tried to paint this as a war on religion instead of what it is: part of the war on women’s reproductive freedom.

Join us in showing the Wyoming legislature that it’s gone too far. Tell the Wyoming Senate that you support women’s access to health care coverage no matter who their employer is.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Legislative Update: The Budget Session Continues...

Facts – who really needs them to make decisions? In Wyoming we have a citizen’s legislature and our legislators do not have staff. It is important for lobbyist in our state to provide the legislature with information and facts on the important issues that they consider. Our office provides information as requested by legislators and also gives pertinent facts to legislators on those bills that we have a particular interest in. We provide not only case law and constitutional direction, but whatever factual data that might assist in decision-making. We are currently working the following bills in these last days of the legislative session.

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

Description: 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.

Position: Monitoring – neither support nor oppose

Status: Redistricting passed easily through the House with some minor amendments affecting southeastern Wyoming. There may be additional amendments offered in the Senate on districts in southwestern Wyoming. This bill passed second reading in the Senate on February 29, 2012 with no additional amendments. Our office will continue to follow the redistricting process to ensure the constitutional mandate of one man one vote

HB0062 Investigative subpoenas
Sponsored by: Vranish

Description: AN ACT relating to criminal procedure; providing for issuance of investigative subpoenas; and providing for an effective date.

Position: Support (in its current form)

Status: This bill passed 3rd reading in the House and has been sent down the hall to the Senate. There have been a number of good amendments to this bill, including the addition of a probable cause clause and the elimination criminal acts in the bill. With these added protections provided by the recently added amendments, we would support this bill. Unfortunately, the sponsors appear to have wavering support of the bill now that it no longer allows for fishing expeditions.

HB0082 Public assistance - drug testing
Sponsored by: Miller

Description: AN ACT relating to welfare and the personal opportunities with employment responsibilities program; requiring controlled substances testing for applicants as specified; providing exceptions; providing for suspension of eligibility following a positive test for controlled substances; providing a definition; providing for rules and regulations; and providing for an effective date.

Position: Strongly Oppose

Status: The Senate Labor Committee heard this bill yesterday (2/29) and laid it back for further work on possible amendments, including randomized drug testing of individuals receiving benefits through the Personal Opportunities with Employment Responsibilities (POWER) program. The testimony on this bill was very good and the questions from the Senate Labor Committee brought to light a lot of good information, including the fact that there is already a rule in the POWER program that would allow referral to drug treatment as a requirement for the program if there were drug/alcohol problems with recipients. Department of Family Services (DFS) provided good testimony as to the costs associated with implementing mandatory drug testing. DFS clearly stated that it does not encounter many problems with drug addiction in this program, as the requirements for participation are already very stringent. The Labor Committee will be considering this bill again on Friday (3/2). Read more about HB82.

HJ0007 Resolution - conscience rights
Sponsored by: Brechtel

Description: A JOINT RESOLUTION requesting Congress and the President of the United States to reverse the policy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services regarding health plan coverage of sterilization, abortifacients and contraception.

Position: Strongly Oppose

Status: The sponsor of HJ7 is characterizing this as a religious liberty issue, but this is, again, another attempt to construct barriers to women’s reproductive rights. Rep. Mary Throne gave testimony to this from the House floor yesterday. HJ7 has unfortunately passed through the House and has been referred to the Senate Labor Committee. It will have to pass out of the Committee by Friday in order to go to the full Senate for consideration. We strongly oppose this bill. Take Action: Tell the Wyoming Senate that you support women’s access to health care coverage no matter who their employer is.

SF0023 Death penalty method of lethal injection
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee

Description: AN ACT relating to criminal procedure; amending protocol permitted for lethal injection for execution; and providing for an effective date.

Position: Monitoring

Status: We are simply following this bill as it allows for use of an expanded protocol of medications for lethal injections. After researching the basis for the one drug protocol, we choose to speak in favor of the bill. While we oppose the death penalty generally, the single drug protocol is the most efficient and humane protocol to use in executions. This bill passed the Committee of the Whole and 2nd reading in the House.

SF0025 Public records
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee

Description: 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.

Position: Support

Status: Our office has been following SF25 Public Records and its sister legislation SF27 Public Meetings 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. These bills would be an improvement to the current statutes. After failed attempts in the Senate to amend this bill and weaken SF25 to exclude legislators’ documents used in decision-making, including e-mails etc. (not personal documents or e-mails), this bill has made it into the House intact and looks good for passage. We support the bill as it’s currently written.

SF0027 Public meetings
Sponsored by: Joint Judiciary Interim Committee

Description: 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.

Position: Support

Status: See SF25 Public Records. This bill arrived in the House intact and looks good for passage. We support this bill as it’s currently written.