No free pass for employer child care
A measure that would have exempted employers who set up on-site day care facilities from state licensing requirements was killed Tuesday without debate.
The measure, HB 313 Licensing of employer day care facilities, was sponsored by Rep. Lorraine Quarberg of Thermopolis.
House leaders put the bill on its Third Reading Consent List. Those bills are not debated. A vote is taken on the list. All members generally vote yes. Once approved, the House clerk then announces the number of each bill on the list and asks members if they wish to change their votes.
When members got that opportunity on HB 313, 30 representatives stood to have their consent-list votes changed to No. The bill failed on a 29-30 vote.
Children’s advocates and others have worked hard for many years to professionalize child care in the state. Rep. Quarberg’s bill represented a step backward by allowing companies to evade the licensing rules.
Those same advocates worked hard to convince their representatives to oppose this measure. It’s encouraging to see that the majority of the House members listened and came to understand their positions. It's a victory for efforts to maintain and improve the quality of child care in Wyoming.
Property tax on helium extraction
The bill proposing a property tax on helium, HB 287, passed the House on Wednesday with a solid 47 aye votes (12 no votes, one excused).
The bill addressed a tax loophole left after a 2007 Wyoming Supreme Court decision which held that helium extracted by ExxonMobil in its gas stream in Sublette County could not be taxed.
The Court made this ruling on the grounds that Wyoming law currently defines a taxpayer as a “lessee” or “lessee’s assignee,” whereas in this particular case, ExxonMobil extracts the helium under a federal contract rather than a lease.
Further, an attorney for ExxonMobil argued in committee that the company did not own the helium at the point of production and therefore could not be held liable for property tax – not mentioning that under the terms of the contract, ExxonMobil ultimately becomes the sole buyer of the helium.
In Committee of the Whole debate Monday, Rep. Tom Lubnau of Gillette said that “If it looks like a duck, and walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then we should tax it like a duck.” Today, he took his analogy further to say, “Do we really want this camel’s nose under the tent?” If a company can evade taxation by moving the point of ownership, he argued, then pretty soon we’ll see other companies engaged in mineral extraction doing the same thing.
This argument was echoed by Speaker of the House Colin Simpson of Cody and by Speaker Pro Tempore Frank Philp of Shoshoni, the lead sponsor of the bill. Speaker Pro Tem Philp also pointed out that, prior to the Wyoming Supreme Court decision, the taxes had been paid.
Freshman Rep. Jim Roscoe of Wilson, whose district includes Sublette County, said the bill makes clear that all valuable minerals are subject to severance and property tax. Although he did not mention this, the Sublette County school district is a recapture district, so the helium revenues will benefit schools all over Wyoming.
ESPC researcher Sarah Gorin contributed to this report.