Lively debates continue in the House

by patti carpenter

The Wyoming House of Representatives voted to allow sexual assault victims to file a protection order against the accused even before a conviction has taken place, offering additional protection to victims of sex crimes. The House also voted to lift a ban on “next generation” science standards, which would allow teachers to teach various theories of climate change, including human caused, and voted against a bill that would reduce penalties for marijuana possession, along with a plethora of other bills in the first two weeks of the 63rd Legislative session. Those bills will now be heard in the Senate, said Rep. Elaine Harvey, of Lovell.

During the second week of the session, that began Jan. 19, another 62 bills were filed with the House and 31 were filed with the Senate, bringing their collective totals to 179 and 116 respectively, according to information released to the press on Monday of this week.

Two bills focusing on campaign contributions were passed by the House, including HB38, which limits PAC campaign funding to $3,000 for most candidates, excluding statewide candidates. A related bill, HB39, repeals aggregate campaign contribution limits, removing a limit on the total amount candidates can accept during an election.

A bill passed in the House would eventually make it easier for motorists to pay for traffic tickets when pulled over by law enforcement. The bill would allow law enforcement agencies to keep half of the fees collected and to use those dollars to upgrade their electronic citation equipment. Harvey said reducing the amount of time officers spend on the side of the road, in turn reduces their risk of injury by passing cars.

HB 7 also cleared the House, and would make it easier for motorists to collect road-killed animals. Similar bills have been seen in previous years.

A bill that would have raised the minimum wage failed in committee and a program that provided assistance with telephone fees to low income individuals was repealed. Harvey said since very few people are using a landline anymore, the telephone assistance program had become obsolete.

Governor Matt Mead signed a proclamation highlighting the strong role of towns and counties in the state’s prosperity. Ohio Governor John Kasich spoke to legislators about a strategy that would force the federal government to balance the federal budget through a constitutional convention.

The issue of Medicaid expansion continues to be a hot topic into this week, with numerous meetings, both in the public and behind closed doors, among Gov. Mead, legislators and the State Dept. of Health Director Tom Forslund taking place. Harvey said the effort continues to combine a number of proposals into one bill that is palatable for most. She said, though the process has been a challenge, she wouldn’t be surprised if a bill reached the floor of the Senate as early as this week.