Bills of Interest

This is by no means a complete list of bills that are of interest. These are just some that have been filed by the posted date and that are of interest. My comments, if I make any, are in italics.

 HB0067 – Sales tax revisions.

Sponsored by: Joint Revenue Interim Committee

This bill seeks to reduce the sales and use tax rate from 4 percent to 3.5 percent, and expands sales tax on certain services. It also seeks to repeal the sales and use tax exemption on food for domestic home consumption.

Our legislators are actively seeking ways to diversify the economy and minimize the negative consequences of boom and bust energy cycles. That is a good thing, however, the part of this bill which re-instates a food tax will inevitably impact the poor the most.

HB0103 – Reporting of abortions.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Clem, Edwards, Jennings, Salazar and Wilson and Senator(s) Steinmetz

Some have claimed that legislation which furthers protection for the pre-born is not necessary in Wyoming because, they claim, abortions do not occur in the state. The Guttmacher Institute conducted surveys in 2011, 2013, and 2014 showed a total of 380 abortions in Wyoming over that time period. Reportedly, the Wyoming Department of Health showed the number for that same period of time to be 5. Two abortion providers within the state have publicly admitted they do abortions but do not report to the state. Part of the reason for this is that there are no repercussions for not reporting, even though reporting is required in current statute. HB0103 adds penalties for not reporting.

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0145  –Death penalty repeal-2.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Olsen, Barlow, Brown, Burkhart, Connolly, Dayton, Flitner, Harshman, Lindholm, Miller, Pelkey, Schwartz and Wilson and Senator(s) Anselmi-Dalton, Boner, Landen, Pappas and Rothfuss

This one is self-explanatory. While it is a different question, for us, this is connected to the protection of all life including the pre-born. What is fundamentally at stake is whether or not the state will recognize that the value of an individual is inherent or whether the state believes that the value of an individual can be attributed.

I don’t like slippery slope arguments, but in this case, I find it applicable. If the state continues to enshrine the idea that an individual’s value is not inherent nor truly “unalienable,” but depends upon the attribution of “others,” then the only hope for individual security depends upon obtaining power. I think, our lack of legal protections for all life are what is driving the polarization of politics.

Furthermore, we understand that the values we enshrine in law, be they virtuous or vicious, have an instructive element to them. As we pray for an end to mass violence and preach about the value of all human life, our young people are learning from our laws. What they learn from this one (and from laws that permit the destruction of the unborn) is that the value of an individual’s life depends upon the perspective of the powerful. Anyone who has ever felt unwanted should recognize the danger here.

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0107-Sexual assault parental rights.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Blackburn, Clem, Henderson, Miller, Newsome and Pelkey and Senator(s) Case and Nethercott

AN ACT relating to termination of parental rights; including sexual assault as a factor that a court may consider to terminate parental rights as specified; specifying no reunification effort is required; and providing for an effective date.

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0129  –Civics proficiency examination.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Olsen, Brown, Clem, Flitner, Henderson, Lindholm, Miller, Northrup and Piiparinen and Senator(s) Agar, Bebout, Biteman, Boner, Case, Coe and Pappas

AN ACT relating to education; requiring passage of an examination on the principles of the constitution of the United States and the state of Wyoming to receive a high school diploma, associate degree, baccalaureate degree or high school equivalency certificate

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0140 -Abortion-48 hour waiting period.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Tass, Edwards, Gray, Hallinan, Jennings and Loucks and Senator(s) Biteman, Hicks and Steinmetz

AN ACT relating to health and public safety; requiring physicians to wait a specified period of time before performing certain nonemergency abortion procedures

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0160 Female genital mutilation.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Connolly, Burlingame, Kirkbride, Pelkey and Sommers and Senator(s) Anselmi-Dalton and Nethercott

AN ACT relating to crimes and offenses; defining sexual intrusion to include female genital mutilation; specifying that transporting a minor for the purpose of female genital mutilation is a crime;

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0154 Restriction on public benefits.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Jennings, Miller, Pownall, Salazar and Tass and Senator(s) Kinskey

AN ACT relating to public benefits; conditioning eligibility for state or local public benefits on lawful presence in the United States; requiring verification of lawful presence in the United States upon application for state or local public benefits

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0151 Ban on sanctuary cities and counties.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Gray, Clem, Jennings, Laursen and Washut and Senator(s) Agar, Biteman, Driskill, Hicks, Hutchings, James and Kinskey

AN ACT relating to cities, towns and counties; prohibiting the implementation of immigration sanctuary policies by cities, towns and counties; providing penalties; requiring certification of compliance; requiring a report

HOUSE BILL NO. HB0127 Tax refund to elderly and disabled.

Sponsored by: Representative(s) Hallinan, Blake, Clem, Connolly, Edwards, Haley, Jennings, Miller, Pelkey, Pownall, Salazar, Sweeney and Zwonitzer and Senator(s) Anselmi-Dalton, Ellis and Pappas

AN ACT relating to taxation and revenue; amending eligibility criteria for the tax refund to the elderly and disabled program; providing an appropriation

SENATE FILE NO. SF0085 Wyoming Medicaid Fraud Control Act.

Sponsored by: Senator(s) Nethercott, Anselmi-Dalton, Baldwin, Boner, Kinskey and Perkins and Representative(s) Greear, Larsen, Pownall, Stith and Wilson

AN ACT relating to medical assistance; establishing the Medicaid fraud control unit within the office of the attorney general; specifying duties; requiring access to Medicaid records; creating criminal penalties relating to Medicaid; authorizing the aggregation of claims under certain circumstances; authorizing exclusion or suspension of Medicaid providers; making conforming amendments; authorizing the promulgation of rules; repealing provisions

SENATE FILE NO. SF0078 Archaeological human burial sites.

Sponsored by: Senator(s) Boner, Anselmi-Dalton, Case, Ellis and Hicks and Representative(s) Blake, Clausen, Clifford, Larsen and Lindholm

AN ACT relating to criminal procedure; requiring notification of law enforcement and the coroner when human remains are discovered; providing for exhumation and reinterment of human remains on state and private lands; providing for notification of the state archaeologist and others of archaeological human remains and burials; requiring development of a protocol for consultation, repatriation and reinterment or other disposition of Native American human remains; creating a misdemeanor; making conforming amendments; requiring county coroners to produce an inventory

SENATE FILE NO. SF0072 Sexual assault biological evidence reporting.

Sponsored by: Senator(s) Ellis, Anselmi-Dalton, Biteman, Driskill and Gierau and Representative(s) Duncan, Greear, Kinner, Lindholm, Newsome, Olsen, Salazar and Schwartz

AN ACT relating to criminal history records; requiring statistical reports relating to sexual assault biological evidence and the status of laboratory analysis; providing for publication; amending payment obligations for examination costs; prohibiting the destruction of evidence as specified; providing definition; making conforming amendments

SENATE FILE NO. SF0075 Repeal gun free zones and preemption amendments.

Sponsored by: Senator(s) Bouchard, Agar, Bebout, Biteman, Boner, Case, Dockstader, Driskill, Hicks, Hutchings, James, Kinskey and Steinmetz and Representative(s) Blackburn, Brown, Burkhart, Clausen, Clem, Edwards, Gray, Hunt, Jennings, Laursen, Lindholm, Loucks, Miller, Olsen, Piiparinen, Pownall, Salazar, Stith, Styvar, Tass, Washut, Western and Winter

AN ACT relating to concealed weapons; repealing gun free zones; providing for the carrying of concealed weapons as specified; clarifying that only the state legislature may regulate firearms, weapons and ammunition as specified; amending a definition

Respecting One Another

This morning, I was privileged to speak at the Pre-session Interfaith Prayer Service. Our new Governor, Mark Gordon, and several legislators were in attendance. Thanks to Matt Potter for the pictures. Below is the text of my speech.

Political division is not new to our country. But the animosity between people with different views has intensified. There is so much fear and people seem less capable of being able to speak respectfully or listen earnestly.  

This morning, we have gathered representatives of various faiths and worldviews. It is a wonderful vision to see. Even in our diversity, many of us share the belief that each person is created in the image and likeness of God. This belief means that each person has an immeasurable value, not because he or she is favored by the majority or the powerful, not because he or she can contribute to society. Your inherent value would exist, even if no one on earth wanted you. 

As the former Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams once wrote, “The reverence I owe to every human person is connected with the reverence I owe to God, who brings them into being and keeps them in being.  I stand before holy ground when I encounter another person – not because they are born with a set of legal rights which can be demanded and enforced, but because there is a dimension of their life I shall never fully see.” The Archbishop later continues, “It means that there are no superfluous people, no ‘spare’ people in the human world. Everyone is needed for the good of all.”  

Many of our brothers and sisters do not share this theological belief but can still see, that if we hold that an individual’s value is not intrinsic, but is instead assigned by others, then we stand upon the ultimate slippery slope.

In such a setting, politics become not just one important aspect of the social realm, they become the most important aspect; whereby, individuals instinctively understand that their only hope for security is power, gaining it and maintaining it. And anyone who enjoys the slightest advantage in power, becomes a threat. In my tradition, such worship of power is called idolatry. As long as security within our country depends upon power, then the tribalism and the animosity within it will only get worse. 

We pray for political solutions that will prevent the next act of mass violence. We will continue to preach about the intrinsic value of human persons, but as long as there is a single law that enables the willful destruction of human persons, our young people will notice. They are far more interested in what we do than in what we say. What they have learned from such laws so far, is that the value of individuals can be set by those with power.   

But it does not have to be this way.  

Mathew Kelly tells a story in one of his books about a man who entertains his son by tearing a picture of a map of the world out of a magazine. He tears the picture into many pieces and tells his son that if he can put the map back together again, he will give him 20 dollars.  

He thinks he has just bought himself time to focus on his work. But five minutes later, his son comes back with the map put back together again. He is amazed, and asks his son how he put it back together so quickly. His son said, “I didn’t know what a map of the world looked like. But I noticed on the backside of the pieces, there were parts of a person’s face. I know what that looks like. So, I put the face back together and then turned the puzzle over.  

To me, politics seem as complicated as the map of the world was to that little boy. But the dignity of human persons is not so complicated.  

If we stay focused on the faces, if we resist euphemisms that veil human dignity or veil the violence being perpetrated against them, we stand a far better chance of getting the world right. 

The intrinsic value of human persons provides a solid foundation to build upon. It prevents a government from coming to the false conclusion that it has the power to bestow human dignity. A just government merely protects what has been there from the beginning.

So my prayer is that all of us present this morning will recognize, that regardless of circumstance, everyone has a right to be. And because of this, we are all responsible for each other. May the Lord grant us the grace to always speak respectfully, listen earnestly, and seek to see the immeasurable value of every person, including those who happen to disagree with us. Amen.