CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Wyoming state lawmakers will be pushing to get their pet bills past tight deadlines in this second week of the four-week budget session.
The main task facing the Wyoming Legislature this session is to craft a state budget for the two-year funding cycle that starts in July. But that doesn't stop lawmakers from seeking to squeeze through other bills on wide-ranging topics from urging Congress to recognize state sovereignty to trying to increase penalties for illegal fish stocking.
House and Senate leaders say they don't expect to take up the budget bill until next week. That leaves this week for all the other bills to either move quickly through the legislative process, or die.
The Legislative Service Office reported that 132 bills and 12 joint resolutions had been submitted in the House as of last Friday. Of those, about two dozen had failed to receive the required two-thirds vote required for introduction.
Nearly another 80 Senate files had been submitted, of which half a dozen failed their introductory votes.
Although Monday is President's Day, the Legislature will convene as normal. Thursday is the deadline for bills to be reported out of committee, and Friday is the last day for them to pass their first reading in the chamber where they were introduced.
House Speaker Colin Simpson, R-Cody, said Friday that the bill introduction process had gone smoothly.
"It's the second week, and everything has to be heard," Simpson said. "Everything has to come up that will be coming up."
The House Judiciary Committee will tackle a number of resolutions calling on Congress to take steps to recognize state sovereignty, Simpson said.
Another bill pending before the House Judiciary Committee is House Bill 113, sponsored by Rep. Elaine Quarberg, R-Thermopolis. It would change state law to allow people to carry concealed firearms without needing a state permit. The House voted 52-6 in favor of introducing the bill on Thursday.
"I think the House has always been a strong supporter of any Second Amendment rights bills," Simpson said. "Historically, at least in my time here, they can run into problems in the Senate. I think that in the past, some of that had to do more with personalities than the issue itself. Some of those personalities are gone, and we'll see. I'm not quite sure what will happen with it."
Although Quarberg's bills has some sponsors in the Senate, Senate President John Hines, R-Gillette, said he views the bill with some concern.
"My first thought is maybe there's a little concern with absolutely no registration," Hines said.
"I guess my thoughts are there are a lot of crazy people out in the world anymore, and I'm not sure I want them all to have a concealed weapon," Hines said.
Gov. Dave Freudenthal has mustered his staff to lobby legislators to approve a tax on wind production this session. In his state of the state address last Monday, Freudenthal said the industry must pay its fair share.
Chris Boswell, chief of staff to Freudenthal, said Friday that the governor's office will stay focused this week on lobbying for the wind tax, a health care pilot program bill and a few other measures.
Hines said his main priority this week will be to keep bills moving so they all get a chance to be heard on the Senate floor.
"We shouldn't have a problem in the Senate because we only had a total of about 80 bills," Hines said. "Four or five of them didn't get introduced, and some will probably fall by the wayside."
Hines said senators seem united in their interest to watch state spending carefully this session. He said senators want to make sure that if state income doesn't improve, "we won't be in a disaster shape in another year."