CHEYENNE, Wyo. — This part of summer is a time for patriotism. It's also the time new state laws go into effect across the nation.
Fiscal years begin July 1 on most financial calendars, and a slew of state government spending regulations kick in each year on that date. Policy laws also hit the books in a wave, though states often mark their independence by enacting such legislation on their own time. Among the laws set to take effect this year around the U.S. are new abortion limits, gun laws and technology rules.
This year's legislative session in the Cowboy State saw legislators enact laws on issues that had failed in several previous sessions. So as you get ready for Fourth of July cookouts and family gatherings, consider this roundup of recently passed Wyoming legislation:
- FUEL TAXES: Wyoming fuel tax will increase by 10 cents a gallon starting July 1 despite encountering stiff legislative opposition.
State officials have said the increase will raise about $70 million a year with about two-thirds going to the Wyoming Department of Transportation and the rest going to cities and counties. The increase will see the tax on a gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel rise from 14 cents to 24 cents a gallon.
Proponents of the tax increase argued during this year's legislative session that the regional nature of the gasoline market means that Wyoming residents have in effect been paying more to cover the cost of higher fuel taxes in neighboring states in recent years and that the increase won't result in a 10-cent per gallon increase in prices that Wyoming motorists pay at the pump.
- LOTTERY: A new law kicks in that calls for Wyoming to establish a lottery or a joint multi-state game such as Powerball. This measure also was subject of a tough Statehouse fight.
The first step will be for Gov. Matt Mead to appoint a nine-member board that will oversee the quasi-governmental corporation that will run the lottery.
The lottery should be up and running in about a year. Lottery proponents estimated during the last legislative session that a lottery would bring in about $25 million a year to Wyoming and net the state about $6 million annually. Under the new law, the first $6 million will go to local governments and proceeds above that will support public schools.
- HUMAN TRAFFICKING: A new law defining the crime of human trafficking takes effect July 1 in Wyoming. The law allows the prosecution of people who force others into servitude or force them to commit sexual acts. It also prohibits people from patronizing a victim of sexual servitude.
- WILD BISON: A new state law allows people who have held a wild bison license to apply again for a cow/calf license. Sponsors of the legislation said they hope the new law will encourage more hunters to help reduce the bison herd near Jackson.
Lawmakers also tacked on an amendment that would allow the Wyoming Attorney General's Office to spend up to $250,000 to protect citizens' Second Amendment rights against any action by the federal government that might limit their right to hunt or manage bison.
- JUVENILE PAROLE: Wyoming residents convicted of murder for crimes they committed as juveniles could be eligible for parole after serving 25 years in prison under a new state law that takes effect July 1.
Lawmakers changed the state law to do away with language that had allowed life sentences for juvenile offenders in response to a recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that held sentencing judges needed to have alternatives to such sentences.