The Wyoming Legislature has reached a long-awaited milestone: the official start of the four-week, in-person session in Cheyenne. (However, because most of us can’t safely participate in person at the Capitol, the legislature will continue offering options for participating remotely.)
Now that we’re heading into the heart of the session, we wanted to share some updates on what’s coming up at the legislature and how you can be prepared to get involved.
ROOFTOP SOLAR: STILL IN DANGER
When you last heard from us about SF 16, New net metering systems, we shared that thanks to your participation and the massive public interest in (and opposition to) this bill, it had been bumped to the March session. Though this created additional time to conduct important outreach to legislators and stakeholders statewide, the bill is still alive and we could see it in committee in the coming days.
Sign up for our email alerts, because we’ll let you know the moment we know when we expect to see this bill in House Corporations. This committee meeting will be the last opportunity for legislators to hear testimony directly from Wyomingites about their strong support for rooftop solar and energy independence. We know we’ve already asked a lot, but rest assured that your involvement is making a massive difference. We need your support in this final push to help protect rooftop solar!
PROTECTING PUBLIC LANDS AND WILDLIFE
This week, HB 141, Transfer of federal lands, was officially received for introduction. This marks the upteenth time that a group of Wyoming legislators, flying in the face of public opinion and the will of Wyoming people, has tried to advance the idea of unconstitutionally seizing federal public lands in Wyoming. As in past years, we’ll show up strong — and keep you posted on ways you can raise your voice to oppose this perennial, terrible idea.
We’re also tracking HB 101, Elk feedground closings-requirements. This bill creates a politicized process that the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission would have to follow before being able to close an elk feedground. We’ll be watching and talking to legislators to ensure that Game and Fish is not hindered from making science-based decisions in the best interest of Wyoming wildlife and communities.
The earlier part of the session, by contrast, saw some good news, as funding to support wildlife crossings infrastructure passed in HB 66, Large project funding.
REVENUE, THE BUDGET, AND WYOMING’S ECONOMY
As the state faces a historic structural shortfall in its budget, the question becomes: Who pays our bills, and how do we cover costs when our traditional revenue sources fall short?
Unfortunately, there is a real reluctance on the part of our legislature to consider sustainable revenue solutions. Though we supported innovative revenue measures over the interim, such as the implementation of a real estate transfer tax on high-dollar properties, to date the legislature has been reluctant to advance new tax proposals. Instead, we’re seeing efforts to double down on our mineral economy in spite of global market trends, as legislators seek to give more tax breaks to oil and gas and oppose the current federal administration’s pause on oil and gas leasing.
Where legislators are considering revenue proposals, they seem to be embraced in a somewhat punitive manner, encouraging raising or levying new taxes on renewable energy. Despite robust economic analyses that show raising these kinds of taxes can actually drive renewable projects to other states rather than generating new revenue, we’ve seen three bills so far embracing this concept (HB 28, HB 94, HB 108). The Wyoming Outdoor Council opposes these proposals; while we aren’t blanket supporters of industrial scale renewables, we also don’t support the state excluding thoughtfully-sited and well-managed renewables projects from our future economy.
We’ll continue advocating strategically for revenue proposals that have the capacity to help us transform and stabilize our state economy for the future — look for more information in the coming weeks. It’s also important to remember that with a budget shortfall come budget cuts. Over the session, we’ll keep our eye on potential budget cuts that could affect Wyoming’s environmental quality and wildlife, in particular programs that protect our right to clean air and water.
STAYING PLUGGED IN THROUGH A CHAOTIC SESSION
Your legislators will be working hard and processing a tremendous volume of information during the fast-paced session, and your perspective is key to helping them make the best decisions possible. In future updates, we’ll highlight important upcoming opportunities for you to get engaged.
And if you have a question or concern about a bill, email us! We are always happy to help and provide the best information we can to ensure you can make your voice heard with our decision makers. That’s what we’re here for!
Thanks for your constant engagement and support, and we’re looking forward to working together throughout the session!