The 60th Wyoming Legislature opened today and new House Speaker Colin Simpson, R-Cody, quickly made clear that he intends to pursue property tax relief for Wyoming citizens despite declining projects of state revenues.
“I fully support property tax relief” to reduce the burden on private, commercial and agricultural taxpayers, he said.
Simpson noted the relief will be for one year only, giving legislators time to see if the fall in property tax values hitting many parts of the nation will reach Wyoming.
The new Speaker said he expects to see progress on carbon sequestration legislation aimed at protecting Wyoming’s fossil fuel industry and the state revenues they generate.
Health care issues are a key concern for the Equality State Policy Center. The legislative leadership wants action, though what that will be remains unclear. Simpson called for setting up some sort of health policy organization to succeed the Wyoming Healthcare Commission, which is set to go out of business June 30. And new Senate President John Hines told the Senate in his opening remarks that health care woes plague many state residents.
Simpson also acknowledged that legislators will take considerable time to consider changes to the Wyoming workers’ compensation program, another priority of the ESPC, the AFL-CIO, and the Wyoming Trial Lawyers Association. We continue to push for changes in administration to make certain that workers get the benefits they’re entitled to receive and to authorize cost of living adjustments in settlements so that people, especially those who suffer permanent disabilities on the job, maintain the value of their settlements over time.
One other note from Simpson’s speech was his announcement of his plans to introduce a bill that would establish the “Western States Energy Task Force.” The task force would organize a big conference later this year to explore many energy issues facing the West and potential options to address them.
Old man Al
Speaker Simpson’s father, former state representative and Wyoming U.S. Sen. Al Simpson, his mother, wife Deb, kids and a raft of cousins, uncles and family friends attended his official ascension to the speakership. Old Al talked, as he often has over the years, about the “rough and tumble” of politics and described legislating as a “contact sport.” Perhaps his sagest comment to the members of the House came when he urged the legislature to avoid “getting bogged down in social issues.” He noted its difficult to sway anyone from their deeply held beliefs about such matters and the debate spawns heated, divisive debate.
It’s wise advice but it won’t be followed unless the leadership decides to keep some of the most contentious ideas off the table. The proposed resolution for a constitutional amendment to enable Wyoming to ignore valid marriage licenses obtained in other states by gays and lesbians is just the most obvious. There are others.