CHEYENNE - The state Legislature's Management Council has authorized 54 topics for lawmakers to study between now and the 2006 budget session.
The combined budget for those studies stands at $307,500.
Thirteen joint or select committees each were assigned three to five topic areas of varying complexity. Committee budgets ranged from a low of $6,000 for the Select Committee on Tribal Relations to a high of $39,000 for the Joint Education Committee. Most were $22,000.
Senate President Grant Larson, R-Jackson, said the number of interim studies is larger this year than last. That is because more issues come to lawmakers' attention during a general session, and legislators have more time to work on the studies during a nonelection year.
Larson said study proposals are brought to the Management Council by committee chairmen. The council reviews the proposals to determine the need for the studies and make sure none are duplicated.
This year, the Joint Judiciary Interim Committee will study the possibility of forming a risk retention pool and details relating to a medical review panel, as well as medical care provided to inmates at the state and local levels and related costs and liabilities.
The Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee will use the results of completed and pending studies to develop legislation on health care issues, such as medical errors, the cost of health care and medical insurance in Wyoming and health care provider shortages. Other committees also are responsible for related studies. For instance, the Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee will study the justification for and location of proposed multilane highways in the state, and the Joint Revenue Interim Committee will work to identify revenue sources to pay for them.
The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee will study issues surrounding gambling, such as bingo, lottery, pari-mutuel and tribal gaming.
Meanwhile, the Select Committee on Tribal Relations will continue to follow tribal gaming issues as they progress through the federal court system.
Larson said those studies are designed to develop comprehensive state policies on gambling.
"We're doing gambling one form at a time rather than taking an overall look at it," he said. "We have tried to deal with each little part of gambling by itself. This year, it was horse-racing slot machines, bingo and the Powerball lottery. We'd better take a good overall look at it and see how it related to the tribes and what they're going to do on the reservation."
The Joint Appropriations Interim Committee will study budget issues, including methods to track how money is spent by agencies; improving information about at-will employee contracts; and the possibility of establishing policy or rules regarding bills with appropriations that aren't included in the budget bill.
Committee Co-chairman Sen. John Hines, R-Gillette, said the committee experienced a large number of bills that had appropriations on them this year. The biggest ones were for education issues and funding for cities, towns and counties.
"If those are outside the budget, it's so hard to know where we're at to balance the budget until the end (of the session)," Hines said. "If you're not careful, the budget won't balance. We need to look at those areas."
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