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February & March 2024

I attended our recent Budget Session. It convened February 12th and adjourned March 8th. I have done this for several years. I select bills to follow and speak up. Over the years I have had some signal successes. Revamping of the State's Computer Science Curriculum was a standout that began with my thinking. Many others then developed it.

In this session of particular note were the number of bills about various aspects of property tax reduction. I began working on the Legislature to connect with inflation when they put thresholds into tax legislation. In other words when they set up a property tax for several income levels, index those levels to inflation. They actually put that into one piece of legislation this session and it passed both Houses, only to be vetoed by the Governor (I don't think he understood it). Here is a listing of the bills I monitored and spoke up on.

2024 Budget Session Bills I Followed Closely

HB 03- Property Tax Exemption, HB04- Property Tax Refund, HB18-Property Tax Inflation Cap

Our Constitution set up property taxation requirements in an era where inflation was not federal policy, where gold was 20$/oz, then 46 years later became 35$/oz, and then even later in 1973 inflation became the coin of the realm. Observed to the House Revenue Committee that the cost of seniors in eldercare was greater for the state than if allowed to remain in their home. Mentioned that Agricultural Lands that remain in Ag production across a sale should be given a tax break. Finally noted that military “residents” should be eligible on returning to the state.

In Senate: HB 3-Don’t confuse “Home of Record” with Domicile for military members; raised the case of military member on long term active duty being eligible even though their recent short time actual Wyoming physical presence is less than 3 years.

HB 04 Spoke to a system quirk where one pays the tax first and then the refund comes later.

As part of my testimony, I noted that my first house mortgage (circa 1979) was 12% and a recent Federal COLA was ~8%, so people are finding a home purchase more difficult.

Asked the committee to consider a 30 year horizon and family needs.

Followed: HB 45 Property Tax Exemption, Residential Structures and Land, HB 127 Property Tax exemption Specified Real Property, HB133 Property Tax Holiday, HB134 Property Tax Deferral Amendments

HB 66 Firefighter Cancer Screening

Described an electrical fire on board the USS Ben Franklin while I was Commanding Officer. The during the fire bronze bus bars evaporated and then how such things then deposit on clothing and possibly breathed in. This was once in a career, while Fire Fighters are exposed weekly or more frequently. This shows the importance of this screening for fire fighters. Noted this was of vast importance to these first responders.

Mentioned Dr Burnette’s vision of fire hazards, specifically chemical/industrial, vs buildings, vs rangeland type fires. I then added mention of AFFF for airport Fire Fighters in terms of the developing Military legal issues with AFFF. I remarked that the epidemiology tells the story of a clear risk for Firefighters. Dr. Burnette is my primary care physician.

SF 95 Teacher Tenure. I stated “I believe you should reject this bill out of hand.” In my observation Wyoming has a tendency to treat teachers as if they are 1890s school marms. I asked what do you want teachers focused on? Then related one teacher’s experience (This experience was frankly disgusting and spoke poorly of Wyoming). I have observed committees struggling over performance yet at the end of the day money appears to rule the thinking of committees.

SF 77 Homeland Defense Infrastructure Reporting and Investigating, SF 102 Foreign Property Ownership – Critical Infrastructure & SJ 02 Foreign Adversaries Prohibited Property Ownership

Spoke to the history regarding how intelligence collects info, mentioned how intelligence stimulates the system to see what happens (recall the history of WW II Midway battle & “The evaporators on AF”), spoke to how battle of the Bulge was a surprise because there was no radio traffic that could tip off preparations.

HB 148 Regulation of Surgical Abortions Noted that the Navy has a requirement that pregnant women cannot go to sea, even a “short” berth shift in port. This is a very clear requirement because, though rare, some complications can result in a woman’s death in minutes to an hour. Therefore, requiring such facilities in Wyoming to be ready is appropriate. In the Senate an assertion that a religious issue is involved arose. I noted that the Navy requirements mentioned above are unrelated to religion and are specifically a result of medical judgment. Governor Gordon Vetoed this bill.

HB 203 Property Tax Reduction and Replacement – In speaking I opened with “You are obligated to do this;” Wyoming does not provide a COLA to retirees. Since there is no COLA; the Legislature must take care of those who are on fixed incomes. The “Tentacles of Inflation” are causing real hardship.

SF 121 Property Tax Homeowners Exemption - Spoke up and stated that military members should be given this if they had been a domiciliary of Wyoming for the required number of years.

SF 63 Property Tax Exemption Residential Structures -2, SF126 Property Tax Exemption Inflation Cap -2, & SF119 Property Tax Exemption Specified Real Property -2,  Spoke up and said “keep your eye on the ball” the issue is home & hearth. I noted the plethora of bills in front of the Legislature and again mentioned that our 1889 constitution was crafted when gold was 20$/oz, later 35$/oz, then inflation later became the coin of the realm (inflation is an octopus). People on fixed incomes are squeeking as taxes rise up underneath them and spoke of an obligation for the Legislature to do something. Then heard the House floor discussion explaining why the legislature cannot take this on. All of these Bills died when the Majority Floor Leader did not present them to the Senate.

HB 54 Wyoming Reads Day Remarked that Rotary clubs give a dictionary to 3rd graders across the state. Noted the importance of reading particularly as it applies to those that may join the military.

HB166 Education Savings Accounts-1 I followed this bill. It appeared to have great support. Governor Gordon then line item vetoed the bulk of this bill leaving only one category that would be assisted.

SF 45 Vulnerable Adults I observed several close family members taken advantage of financially. In the case of my father’s emphysema, a 10 year progressive dementia is part of the disease.  Financial institutions could detect patterns of financial abuse but any investigation resulting should be done by Wyoming’s DFS.

SF 9 Parental Rights in Education Education was the goal of parents desiring a better than home education by establishing schools. Parents did not give up any rights in setting up schools. There is a difference between rights and authorities, parents gave schools certain authorities but not rights. When school administrators overstep those authorities, they should be called up short.

SF 18 Indian Child Welfare Act I noted that Native Americans have long been courageous and strong military members.

SF 54 Homeowner Tax Exemption When in the House Revenue Committee: Spoke of the plethora of bills on homeowners exemptions, tentacles of inflation; our Constitution did not contemplate inflation as a government policy nor the run-up of prices with people running away from other states, fixed income people are in trouble, cost of elders in senior care vs in their own home, noted that the $200,000 limit will be eaten up by inflation and that the committee should consider a percentage instead of a fixed number. Note: they liked this one putting in 25% in place of the $200,000; Made sure they understood the difference in the Federal Cola Calculations (CPI-U vs CPI-W) as basis. Governor Gordon Vetoed this bill.

HB 77 Menacing in Senate Judiciary: In military law, Aggressive Approaching, is assault without consummation. As such it is a full up assault. Wyoming law was not clear on this and this legislation would set that into law. Failed in Senate 3rd Reading.

Observed Joint Conference Committee(s) on Budget 4 Mar Disappointing Since the papers they speak from are not made available to the public such meetings are worthless to the public.

HB 134 in Senate Judiciary Property Tax Deferral Amendments."  Noted that the Dept of Revenue can promulgate a rules change more easily than by legislation, these could accrue interest during deferral and tolling should not be added since the counties are made whole by the state. Failed in Senate Committee of the Whole.

HB 125 Repeal Gun Free Zones Noted that these zones are really a product of “feel good” legislation, mentioned the 4J school which is far distant from any deputy. Mentioned my observation of Nuclear Weapons Free zones. Governor Gordon vetoed this bill.

SF 105-Financial Privacy In the House Judiciary Committee Spoke up on how tracking can be done (eg Smith’s cards), mentioned the Software Engineering course in my MSE Program and “Data Mining”, Bureaucrats do things because they can, so if the info is there they’ll go after it.

SF 99 Chloe’s Law Spoke up: We should leave kids alone, they'll figure things out. Observed that as Commanding Officer of USS Holland the average age was 19, at that age they’re still figuring things out. If we let’em be, they’ll figure it out. Mentioned the dry alcoholic pull in issue (eg projection) that I observed.

Senate & House Education Joint Interim Committees: I asked “where is your heart?” In the classroom or the budget office. Reading Instructional Facilitators - State should fund in toto so that they are not subject to financial shenanigans

Oddly there were two times the Senate President was over-ruled by the Body

1st Was the removal of Senator Kinsky from Budget committee Chair, then the Body voted to reinstate him.

2nd Was the “Recall of HB 125 Repeal of Gun Free zones and Pre-emption Amendments” from committee after the committee had killed this bill (16-15). This bill was then vetoed by Governor Gordon.

There has been some media that has called this session argumentative and held back. I did not observe this kind of strained discourse. To characterize debate, even if voicing strongly held principles, in such a manner is a disservice to the process.



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