Friday, February 25, 2011

Time runs out on two bad bills

Amendment discriminating against GLBT minority expires in House

Repeal of state minimum wage dies on Senate General File

Friday was the last day to hear bills on General File. Bills not brought up for discussion in Committee of the Whole in either chamber by the end of the day die for the year.

We were pleased particularly to see time run out on two measures:

1. SJ5 – Defense of marriage – constitutional amendment. This proposal would have placed a constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot to make same-sex marriages and civil unions illegal in Wyoming.
2. HB 184 – Minimum wage statutes repeal. This bill would have eliminated laws imposing a state minimum wage and requiring wage data reporting of Wyoming businesses.

Many people worked hard to kill the proposed constitutional amendment. In committee testimony earlier this year, opponents of the anti-GLBT legislation worried that Wyoming would be subjected to a long, intense, and ugly campaign if the amendment proposal made it to the ballot. Majority Leader Tom Lubnau indicated earlier this week that supporters did not have the 40 votes needed for House passage (a proposed constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote from both houses).

Opponents of SJ5 drew up a slew of amendments and informed the House leadership they would push all of them to force a long and painful debate. House leaders obviously felt they had better things to do with the time.

One piece of anti-GLBT legislation remains in play. House Bill 74 – Validity of marriage, was approved by both the Senate and the House. The House refused to concur with a Senate amendment intended to give people in same-sex civil unions contracted in other states or countries access to Wyoming courts if the need arose. The amendment enabled the bill to win Senate approval by the narrowest of margins, 16-14.

In a conference committee Thursday, the Senate conferees agreed to drop the amendment. Opponents of the bill hope the change will prove unacceptable to the Senate.

The House likewise could reject the compromise, but that seems less likely. The conference version of the bill voids any existing marriage contracts or civil unions that Wyoming residents made legally in other states or countries, which was the main goal of the majority of representatives who voted for HB 74. However, the Senate also stripped a House amendment that the conference report did not restore, so some House members may switch their votes as a consequence.

If either chamber does not approve the conference committee report, the measure could be referred to a second conference committee, or legislative leaders could simply drop further efforts to achieve a compromise and let the bill die.

The ESPC continues to urge everyone to contact their legislators and urge them to vote NO on the conference committee report to stop this discriminatory legislation.

Public meetings

A bill supported by the ESPC, the Powder River Basin Resource Council, the League of Women Voters and the Wyoming Press Association got through second reading Friday, but only after approval of an amendment to delay implementation for a year.

The bill requires public boards and commissions to give 12 hours notice of a special meeting, to announce the purpose of any executive session and to make audio recordings of executive sessions. The Wyoming Association of Municipalities and the Wyoming County Commissioners Association oppose the bill.

Support for the bill is weak and it still must survive third reading Monday. Please ask your senator to vote for this bill, which establishes some reasonable requirements around the handling of the public’s business outside regularly scheduled meetings and in executive sessions.

A sister bill, HB 121 – Public documents, was killed Thursday when senators, as Sen. Michael Von Flatern said, began to hear things go bump in the night. The senators said it would be unfair to public servants to require a deadline to make requested public documents available. It was a strange debate in which the Senate lost sight of the public’s need for access to information in order to participate in the workings of government.
The Tea Party in Montana

A friend sent this list of bills under consideration in the Montana legislature this year. Several of these ideas were pushed in Wyoming as well this session.
  1. Legalize hunting with hand-thrown spears (Senate Bill 112)
  2. Create fully-armed militia in every town (House Bill 278)
  3. Allow legislators to carry weapons in the Capitol (Senate Bill 279)
  4. Create an 11 person panel with authority to nullify all federal laws (House Bill 382)
  5. Allow guns in schools (House Bill 558)
  6. Eliminate educational requirements for persons seeking job of State Superintendent of Schools (HB 154)
  7. Lift nuclear ban for purpose of building a nuclear reactor in the Flathead Valley (House Bill 326)
  8. Withdraw the United States of America from the United Nations (Senate Joint Resolution 2)
  9. Omit Barack Obama's name from the 2012, ballot because his father was born outside of America (House Bill 205)(This guy was on CNN this week.)
  10. Compulsory marriage counseling for people seeking a divorce (House Bill 438) (Had this one in Wyoming.)
  11. Give sheriffs authority over the federal government in terror investigations (Senate Bill 114) (Similar proposal was floated in the Wyoming Senate Labor Committee.)
  12. Legalize hunting with silencers (House Bill 174)
  13. Lift the prohibition on carrying concealed weapons in bars, churches and banks (House Bill 384)
  14. Eliminate law that requires landlords to install carbon monoxide detectors (House Bill 354)
  15. Require the federal government to prove in court that the National Parks were lawfully acquired. (House Bill 506)
  16. Officially designate the "Code of the West" as the "Code of Montana" (Senate Bill 216)
Photo above shows two House pages responding to a request from Rep. Cathy Connolly of Laramie.