Budget Bill Clears JAC Moves To House And Senate Floors

AP 2-10,2016

Most Wyoming state government agencies would see a 1.5 percent budget cut over the next two years under a bill a legislative committee approved this week.

The budget proposal endorsed by the Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee on Wednesday night heads to theĀ full House and Senate next week.

House Appropriations Committee Chairman Steve Harshman says the committee recommended spending about $310 million out of the state’s $1.8 billion rainy day fund over the next two years.

Gov. Matt Mead had proposed spending about $450 million out of savings.

Harshman, a Casper Republican, says the bill calls for spending about $675 million in separate school savings.

Democratic lawmakers say they’re disappointed the committee rejected federal funds to expand the Medicaid program to offer health insurance to some 20,000 low-income adults.

A bill that would have expanded protections for religious freedom in the state has failed in the Wyoming Legislature.

Rep. Nathan Winters’ Government Nondiscrimination Act missed the necessary introduction vote threshold on Thursday.

Because this year’s legislative session is a budget session, non-budget bills must receive a two-thirds vote to clear introduction.

Winters, a Thermopolis Republican, sponsored the bill, which was designed to stop state and local governments from penalizing people’s religious beliefs about same-sex marriage.

Winters sponsored a similar act last year that passed the House but failed in the Senate.

A Wyoming legislative committee has endorsed a bill that would require the state to secure a criminal conviction in order to forfeit personal property that authorities believe has been used in the illegal drug trade.

The House Judiciary Committee voted Thursday to send the bill along to the full House for consideration despite the objections of some law enforcement groups.

Current Wyoming law doesn’t require the Attorney General’s Office to secure a criminal conviction before it proceeds with civil court action to forfeit items such as vehicles and cash that law enforcement believes have been involved in the drug trade.

A similar bill is pending in the Wyoming Senate that wouldn’t require a criminal conviction to support forfeiture, but would require a judge to find probable cause.