Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Conference committee meets Thursday morning on GLBT discrimination
Wyoming’s decision on GLBT rights moves into the final stages Thursday morning when a conference committee will attempt to resolve differences between the House version of a bill voiding gay marriages made in other states and the Senate version of the bill.
The Wyoming House strongly rejected the Senate version of House Bill 74 –Validity of marriage when it voted Tuesday 7-50 to oppose concurring with Senate changes.
The bill will enable Wyoming to declare void same-sex marriages made in other states and countries. The House did not concur because supporters of the bill objected to a Senate amendment that declares the state will recognize civil unions made in other states, including same-sex civil unions.
Opponents likewise voted against concurrence, hoping ultimately to defeat the bill by demonstrating that there’s no final agreement on it.
Regardless of Senate or House amendments, HB 74 will discriminate against same-sex couples who have made valid marriage contracts in other states and countries. The ESPC believes such discrimination is contrary to the general philosophy of the Equality State that “all members of the human race are equal.”
The first conference committee will meet Thursday morning at 8:45 a.m. in Senate Room 1 to attempt to work out a deal. The committee is constrained by legislative rules that require it to work with the amendments made to the bill.
Legislative rules require that each chamber, the House and Senate, appoint three members to the conference committee. At least one member of the conference committee must have voted No on the legislation in dispute.
The House appointed Rep. Amy Edmonds (R-HD12, Cheyenne) and Rep. Kendall Kroeker (R-HD35, Casper), and an opponent, Rep. Jim Roscoe (D-HD22, Wilson) to the conference committee. Kroeker is a sponsor.
The Senate appointed sponsors Sen. Larry Hicks (R-SD11, Baggs) and Sen. Leslie Nutting (R-SD7, Cheyenne) to its committee. (Nutting is depicted in the photo above.)
The Senate leadership also appointed Sen. Floyd Esquibel (D-SD8, Cheyenne) who, like Roscoe, voted against the bill.
Speak out, please
The ESPC urges everyone to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against any proposed conference committee compromises on HB 74. Use email or telephones to record your opposition.
Citizens can register their opposition to HB 74 by using the “Online Hotline” or the telephone Hotline – 1-866-966-8683 or, in Cheyenne, 777-8683.
If the House or the Senate rejects the compromise proposed by the conference committee, both the House and Senate then can put together a second conference committee, know as a “free” committee. It can alter any aspects of the bill in an effort to achieve a consensus that both houses support.
Again, the ESPC opposes any effort to deny recognition of legal marriage contracts made in other states and countries. The state should extend full faith and credit to other states.
Please contact your legislator and tell them you oppose thise disciminatory legislation that will damage Wyoming's reputation and it's tourism industry.
Legislature agrees to disclosure on independent expenditures in Wyoming elections
Wyoming voters will have to live with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision that allows corporations to spend freely from their treasuries in independent expenditures to support or oppose candidates for election, but these corporations will have to meet some basic disclosure rules under a law given final approval late Tuesday.
T he U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission leaves voters and potential candidates with the prospect of corporate interests pouring money into state and national elections. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the right to free speech was meant for people who breathe and bleed. The corporations are free to buy the biggest megaphone and to purchase the most speech through independent expenditures in elections that affect their corporate interests.
Nevertheless, the state still has the authority to force disclosure of who finances that megaphone and who buys the time. In its decision in January 2010, eight members of the high court supported the idea that organizations financing independent expenditures can be required to disclose where they get their money.
Senate File 3 – Campaign finance – organizations brings Wyoming campaign finance law into compliance with the Citizens United decision by expressly allowing corporations, unions and other organizations to make “independent expenditures” directly from their corporate funds. These expenditures can be made for or against candidates or ballot measures.
Under current Wyoming law, only candidates, political parties, candidate campaign committees, and political action committees (PACs) can spend money in elections. The ESPC believes corporate speech interests have been served by the ability to form a corporate PAC. These are quite different from the corporation spending allowed by the Citizens United decision because a PAC’s money comes from identifiable and publicly reported officers, directors and shareholders of the corporation.
The 2010 Supreme Court decision means that corporations can dip into their vast treasuries, which can include money earned elsewhere on the globe, far from Wyoming. They can use these funds to make campaign expenditures independent of individual candidates’ campaigns. The independent campaigns are prohibited from coordinating their effort with any candidate committee or party.
Because SF 3 originally required only a “paid for” line on advertising that could easily be used to disguise the actual parties behind an independent expenditure campaign, the ESPC pushed for greater disclosure. The Senate approved an amendment that would have required these campaigns to print the names of their top three donors or read those names when the advertising was provided via television, radio or internet.
House members, feeling pressure from the Wyoming Broadcasters Association, stripped that amendment and instead imposed a disclosure requirement similar to those imposed on PACs and individual candidate campaign committees. The amendment requires the independent expenditure campaign to register with the Secretary of State and to report contributions in excess of $1,000 and expenditures exceeding $500.
The Senate accepted the House amendments Tuesday and adopted the amended bill on concurrence 16-13. Some no votes likely represented some senators’ opposition to the idea of opening state and local elections to direct influence from corporations.
Here’s the roll call on concurrence:
Ayes: Senator(s) Anderson, Bebout, Burns, Case, Christensen, Coe, Cooper, Driskill, Geis, Hicks, Hines, Jennings, Landen, Nutting, Schiffer and Scott.
Nays: Senator(s) Barnard, Dockstader, Esquibel, F., Hastert, Johnson, Martin, Meier, Nicholas P, Perkins, Peterson, Ross, Rothfuss and Von Flatern.
Excused: Senator(s) Emerich
Is it possible HB 74 – Validity of marriage could fail passage?
The Wyoming House Tuesday voted 7-50 to oppose concurring with Senate changes to House Bill 74 –Validity of marriage. Supporters of the bill, which will enable Wyoming to void same-sex marriages made in other states and countries, objected to a Senate amendment that declares the state will recognize civil unions made in other states. Opponents likewise voted against concurrence, hoping ultimately to defeat the bill by demonstrating that there’s no final agreement on it.
A conference committee will now be appointed to attempt to work out the amended changes to the bill. Each chamber will appoint three members to serve on the committee. Rules require that each chamber appoint one member to the conference committee who opposed passage of the bill.
The House appointed two stalwart supporters of the bill, Rep. Amy Edmonds (R-HD12, Cheyenne) and Rep. Kendall Kroeker (R-HD35, Casper), and an opponent, Rep. Jim Roscoe (D-HD22, Wilson) to the conference committee. The Senate is expected to appoint its members to the conference committee Wednesday.
The ESPC’s stand
In any form, HB 74 will discriminate against same-sex couples who have made valid marriage contracts in other states and countries. The ESPC believes such discrimination is contrary to the general philosophy of the Equality State that “all members of the human race are equal.” We urge everyone to contact their legislators and ask them to vote against any proposed conference committee compromises on HB 74.
Interim studies on the agenda
Several House and Senate standing committees met jointly at noon Tuesday to consider possible topics for study during the interim period between the end of the general session and the 2012 budget session. The legislature’s Management Council will meet next week to review and make a final determination on which topics it will authorize for study.
The Joint Corporations, Elections, and Political Subdivisions Committee will study reapportionment – the re-drawing of House and Senate district boundaries to keep those districts as nearly equal in population as possible.
Committee Co-Chairmen Sen. Cale Case and Rep. Pete Illoway announced their plans for a “two-track” process that calls for holding 10 or 11 information-gathering meetings around the state, beginning sometime in April after the committee has new population numbers from the 2010 Census.
All committee members will not be expected to attend all those meetings. But the committee also plans three or four two-day meetings at which it will discuss the reapportionment on one day, then deal with other committee interim topics on the second day.
Rep. John Patton (R-HD29, Sheridan) asked the committee to avoid imposing constraints on the public discussion of the redistricting options. He said that suggestions from the chairmen that the Legislature retain the same number of House and Senate seats (60 and 30 respectively), continue to “nest” two House districts within each Senate district, and to presume that districts will be single-member districts are inappropriate constraints on public discussion.
“It makes it convenient for us,” he said. “Let them (the public) speak first.”
Illoway told Patton and the committee that while a decision to end “nesting” is possible, physical constraints, such as the size of the House and Senate chambers, must be recognized. “It’s very difficult to put more people in this Capitol,” he said. (That's a photo of the Senate chambers above.)
New Gov. Matt Mead released his list of proposed appointments to state boards and commissions Tuesday. The Senate has five days to approve or reject Gov. Mead’s chosen appointees.
Citizens can register their opinions on specific legislation by using the “Online Hotline” or the telephone Hotline – 1-866-966-8683 or, in Cheyenne, 777-8683.