The budget advances with a Kelly Parcel win

Another week down, and what a week it was!

There were late work nights, down-to-the-wire votes, and even a few tears shed by conservation lobbyists … Fortunately, those were tears of relief, as lawmakers in both chambers voted to retain the sale of the Kelly Parcel to the federal government!

Now, even as Meghan Riley, WOC’s wildlife program manager, and I attempt to catch up on sleep, we’re hurtling into the third week of the session.

We’re past the halfway mark, and over half of the bills are dead. And while it may have taken some late nights, both chambers have passed versions of the budget bill — and as you’ll read below, lawmakers have their work cut out for themselves this week and next.

As always, our bill tracker is the best place to find the current status of the many bills we are following.

  • We’re celebrating a win in the budget for the Kelly Parcel. After extensive debate, both chambers added stipulations but left the direct sale of the Kelly Parcel to the federal government in place! While the fight is not over, we’re one step closer to seeing this cherished parcel permanently protected — to the enormous benefit of wildlife and Wyoming’s education system.
  • There have been significantly more budget amendments than in recent years, and both chambers were forced to extend their budget discussions. Although each chamber started with the same bill, after this week’s amendments, the versions differ by around $900 million. Working out these differences in the next two weeks will be a monumental task.
  • We thought we could go a year without an attack on net metering, but committee discussions revealed that SF72 – Utility Donations targets Wyoming’s net-metering statute. Stay tuned for action alerts if it crosses to the House.

Last week, the fate of the Kelly Parcel, a prized piece of wildlife habitat adjacent to Grand Teton National Park, rested in lawmakers’ hands. Thankfully, both chambers voted for the direct sale of the Kelly Parcel to the federal government. Now we’re one step closer to permanent protection for the parcel.

If you value the outstanding habitat and landscapes the Kelly Parcel represents, please take a moment to write a thank-you email to some of the legislators who supported the sale.

HB01, SF01  |  Budget Bills  |  Support

Budgets for the Department of Environmental Quality, Office of State Lands and Investments, and Wyoming Energy Authority (plus funding for the Grant Management Office) made it through both chambers unscathed.

Funding to combat invasive grasses was added in both chambers, but not to the extent we’d hoped. Both houses passed $10 million, which was up from the $5 million that made it through the Appropriations Committee, but still less than the governor’s $20 million request. An onerous 3:1 match was removed in the House, but not the Senate — a difference that will have to be worked out by the Conference Committee.

Numerous bills to “fight the feds” and oppose the Rock Springs Resource Management Plan | Oppose

While Wyoming prides itself on its rugged independence, we are actually relatively dependent on funds from the federal government. According to the Wyoming Taxpayers Association and the US. Census Bureau, in 2023, Wyoming ranked third in the percentage of our state’s general revenue that comes from federal funds. Despite this, it is popular for some legislators to push back and claim this support is not needed. This session we have seen an exceptional number of bills in this category, including bills that claim state rights to federal lands, bills that create committees and positions to protect Wyoming from the federal government, and more.

Four bills on this theme have already died:

  • HB129 | Statutory standing committees- federal review
  • HB167 | Restoring state sovereignty through nullification
  • SF28 | Federal natural resources management coordinator
  • SJ1 | Resolution demanding equal footing

Three continue to move through the process:

  • HJ3 | Support for local input in federal rulemaking
  • HB36 | Natural Resource Protection Act   
  • SF13 | Federal land use plans- legal actions authorized

SF13 is particularly bad, and passed through the Senate at the end of last week. This bill provides the legislature or two-thirds of the Management Council (a mere seven legislators!) $50 million in funds to sue the federal government in order to “protect the rights, powers and interests of the legislature.” From separation of powers issues to giving more powers to some legislators than others, the constitutionality of this bill was repeatedly questioned during the floor debate in the Senate. Be on the lookout for action alerts should this bill continue to move forward.

SF72 | Utility Donations | Oppose

This bill would prohibit utilities from making donations and having them included in their customer rate base. The program that currently falls into this category is the Blue Sky Program, a volunteer program from Rocky Mountain Power that supports local rooftop solar projects for community organizations such as food banks, schools, and many others. Discussions in the Senate Corporations Committee revealed its attempt to target and erode Wyoming’s net-metering statute.

If passed, this could set a dangerous precedent in which rooftop solar and net-metered customers are viewed as receiving subsidies from other other customers. We testified against this bill. If it continues to move through, watch out for an action alert — your voices will matter in fighting this bill!

SF44  |  Limited Mining Operations amendments  |  Oppose

Crossed over to the House last week. This bill expands the limited mining operations category (an exception to more rigorous permitting) from inert sand and gravel mining operations to include any non-coal mineral, except those associated with nuclear regulations. This includes rare earths, gold, and other resources which could be associated with heavy metals or other pollutants of significant concern. It also removes all local control by removing meaningful public comment from those who may be impacted. 

SF64  |  Mineral Royalties Proportional Severance Tax Return  |  Oppose

Up for second and possibly third reading today. Bills like this one — in which lawmakers propose to reduce the severance taxes fossil fuel companies pay to the state — have become common in recent years. We are opposed to this bill because studies conducted by the state continue to confirm that geology is more important than tax rates in encouraging or discouraging exploration and production. Although Wyoming must reduce its dependence on fossil fuel taxes and diversify its economic base, we believe it is poor policy to continue to reduce taxes on these industries, especially at a time of record profits for many companies. 

HB67  |  Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund Administration-2  |  Support

Passed through the House; awaits introduction in the Senate. This bill would set up the guidelines for administering the Outdoor Recreation and Tourism Trust Fund, which was established during the 2023 legislative session. During the interim, we worked to add wildlife considerations to this bill. Numerous studies confirm the impact that recreation can have on wildlife, and while we support and enjoy outdoor recreation, we want to be sure that it is appropriately planned and implemented.

HB33  |  Mining Operations Blasting Requirements  |  Support 

Passed through the House; likely discussion in the Minerals Committee in the Senate this week. This bill provides clarity and authorization for the DEQ to regulate non-coal blasting. (While coal blasting is already regulated, non-coal blasting is not.) Blasting can have substantial impacts outside of the mine — affecting wildlife, ground and surface water, and nearby structures. 

In the final two weeks of session, the focus will remain on the budget bill, with a conference committee composed of legislators from both chambers working to hash through the differences between the two versions.

The first time these ten legislators work through the budget, they may only change areas of the bill that are different in each chamber. However, if this version is not accepted by the majority of both chambers, the committee goes back to the drawing board to create another version. This time, even provisions that matched from the House and Senate versions initially will be on the table for negotiations — including the fate of the beloved Kelly Parcel.

This process will repeat until both chambers agree on a budget bill to send to the governor, or the session ends.

While all this plays out, bills that are still alive will cross over to the other chamber, where they will repeat the process they went through in their house of origin: standing committees, Committee of the Whole, and Second and Third Readings. Finally, those that make it through will arrive on the governor’s desk for his signature or veto. 




Government Affairs Manager