Legislative Roundup: 65th Session Reaches Halfway Point

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CHEYENNE — The 65th Wyoming Legislature hit the halfway point in its 40-day session this week with a number of polarizing bills either advancing on to the Senate or dying on the House floor.

House Bill 171

Sponsored by HD39 Representative Stan Blake (D-Green River), HB171 was approved on third reading with 60 aye votes and now moves on to the Senate for its vote.

The bill would allow the possession, purchase, sale, transportation and use of hemp and hemp products by any person without restriction provided they meet specific requirements of the bill.

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“This is a great bill and opportunity for Wyoming,” Blake said following the vote. “Hemp matches Wyoming’s growing conditions. Research shows that it will grow well
in a semi-arid climate and in slightly alkaline soils, irrigated and non-irrigated lands.”

The 2018 Federal Farm Bill and Agriculture Improvement Act made it legal to
cultivate hemp, produce hemp-derived products, and transport and sell those
goods across state lines.

Blake says Wyoming can create its own program or be at the whim of Federal provisions.

“I say we need to have our own,” he added. “Our plan will provide
Wyoming producers with the freedom and safeguards to cultivate, sell and process hemp,
including hemp seeds and hemp related products. This will give Wyoming an advantage
over other states at this transitional moment nationwide.”

House Bill 273

An effort to increase Wyoming’s minimum wage failed on the House floor this week by a 36-23 vote.

HB273 proposed to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 per hour, and called for an incremental increase of 25 cents each year between 2020 and 2025. State law sets Wyoming’s current minimum wage at $5.15/hour, however the federal minimum wage is $7.25/hour.

Bill sponsor Cathy Connolly (D-Albany) argued that raising the minimum wage would help low income families get by more easily, but opponents said the government should let the free market decide rates of pay.

House Bill 192

A bill that proposed a requirement for Wyoming voters to show their photo IDs at the voting booth failed by one vote, 30-29, in the House this week.

 

Supporters of the bills argued that it would ensure the integrity of the Wyoming’s elections. However, opponents claimed that Wyoming does not have a history of voter fraud and that the measure would be unnecessary until that actually happens.

House Bill 230

The bill that would have given workplace protections to members of the LGBTQ community died on the House Floor Monday night.

HB230 would have added language to Wyoming’s existing workplace protection law to include members of the LGBTQ community. The measure had been one of the most divisive bills in front of the Wyoming Legislature this session.

But after narrowly making it out of the House Revenue committee last week, it died after failing to meet the Monday night deadline for first readings of bills in the chamber where they originated.

The House has introduced 296 bills to date and passed 167 on to the Senate for deliberation. Seventy-three percent of committee bills numbered for introduction passed the house of origin, while 50 percent of individually sponsored bills moved on for further consideration.

House Bill 14

The bill that seeks to eliminate daylight savings time in Wyoming passed third reading in the House on 35-23-2 vote and is now on General File in the Senate under S05. The bill received a “Do Pass” in the Senate Agricultural Committee February 1 on a 5-0 vote.

In addition to the bills currently being considered, legislators are also continuing work on the State’s 2019-2020 supplemental budget.

The bodies will spend the coming weeks reconciling the differences between the final Senate and House versions of the budget bill through a joint conference committee.