CHEYENNE — The Wyoming Legislature will concentrate on ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions of the supplemental budget bill this week.
Both the House and the Senate on Friday approved the supplemental budget with their own particular amendments.
Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, and House Speaker Tom Lubnau said Friday that they expect each house will appoint a conference committee early in the week to reconcile the differences.
“It’s entirely possible you could have a conference committee agreement by the end of the week,” Ross said.
Among the notable differences in the House and Senate versions of the budget is an amendment approved only in the Senate that would require the UW Board of Trustees to report to the Legislature on the installation of permanent artwork, how college deans are selected and on the razing of historic buildings.
On the issue of employee pay raises, both houses approved giving state employees a 1 percent “retention incentive” bonus.
However, the House approved an amendment that would reduce bonuses paid to teachers by the amount of any pay raise they received in the coming year. While most state employees haven’t seen raises in several years, teachers are on a different system and have received periodic raises.
Gov. Matt Mead had asked lawmakers to put up $60 million to cover the costs of what promises to be a serious fire season this year. The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee cut that down to $32 million. The House approved an amendment to allow the governor to spend another $15 million if necessary from a landfill fund, while the Senate rejected the amendment.
“It’s kind of a guessing game,” Ross said on Friday before the Senate vote. “We don’t know what the needs going to be. While there is the potential for another heavy fire season, it’s kind of up in the air if it happens or not.”
In other action this week, Ross said he expects the Senate will consider a bill to raise the state fuel tax 10 cents a gallon. The measure would raise roughly $70 million a year for the Wyoming Department of Transportation and local governments.
House Majority Floor Leader Kermit Brown, R-Laramie, said Friday he expects that a bill that would allow the use of suppressors on hunting guns will come up in the House on Monday for debate.
Two other gun bills that already have cleared the House have not yet been scheduled for hearings in the Senate Judiciary Committee.
One bill, sponsored by Rep. Kendell Kroeker, R-Evansville, would specify that Wyoming wouldn’t be bound by any federal gun control action to try to restrict the sale of assault rifles or high-capacity magazines and make it a crime for federal officials to try to enforce them. Critics have said the bill’s provisions would be unconstitutional.
The other bill would strengthen language in state law specifying that the state pre-empts local governments on the issue of gun control.
Ross said he can’t predict what the Senate will do on the gun bills. The Senate Education Committee on Friday killed a bill that would have let some people carry guns on school campuses.
“I think we’ll be a little bit more measured than the House on them,” Ross said of the gun bills.
House Speaker Lubnau, R-Gillette, responded, “The Senate’s less responsive to lobbyists’ intimidation.”
Ross said it’s one thing for Wyoming lawmakers to say they don’t want to enforce federal law with regards to taking away Second Amendment rights. “It’s another thing to say those who are employed by the federal government, our United States District Court judges and U.S. Marshals, and whatever, are guilty of a felony if they’re doing their job,” he said.