Week Two's Legislative Update

Posted on 01/22/23 by Tom Lacock

Don Morris testifies

Don Morris of AARP Wyoming testifies during the Wyoming House's Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee meeting in Cheyenne on Jan. 18, 2023.

Five more days in a suit and tie have come and gone as week two of the Legislative Session in Wyoming has come and gone with 27 days to go. Looks like I have a lot of ironing ahead. Let’s get to this week’s update and the four big things (I know we generally go three things, but it was a big week) that happened this week.

  • Don gets a win for AARP Wyoming;
  • Citizen input makes a difference in Senate Judiciary;
  • Voter Photo ID makes a comeback
  • Property tax relief gets off to a slow start.

Don Gets A Win
Last week I mentioned AARP Wyoming’s Government Relations Team (GRT) of volunteers, which follows bills, talks to lawmakers and sometimes testifies. Don Morris of Cheyenne took to the House Labor, Health, and Social Services Committee on Monday and testified in favor of HB18 - Missing Persons Alert systems. The bill would allow an alert system similar to Amber Alerts to be used for older adults with issues such as dementia if they are lost. The bill has passed the House and will move over to the Senate.

Thanks for testifying Don, and way to get the win.

Citizen Testimony is Paramount
The power of citizen testimony was on display Friday morning in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

AARP Wyoming got up early to testify on behalf of SF24, which would allow a bank or credit union to hold a transaction it fears is fraudulent for up to five days, without being sued. That pause would give Adult Protective Services or Law Enforcement time to investigate.

This comes with the caveat that most of these incidents would be addressed by a financial institution making a call to a friend or family member before law enforcement was necessary. The bill is similar to legislation that has gone into effect in 34 other states without issue. 

Friday morning, the bill was presented, and lobbyists spoke and it seemed like the bill would be passed to the full Senate. Then Mariellen Hoyt stepped up to the mic and proved the closer. Hoyt is a Cheyenne resident, age 86. Her husband is 93. Their daughter set up a bank account in their name and started draining their funds. The bank didn’t feel empowered to stop the transactions. 

Her real-world example of how the legislation would have been used was powerful, it was heartbreaking, and it pushed the bill over the goal line. After the committee meeting, each of the five committee members shook her hand and thanked her personally for telling her story.

As they say, the world is run by those who show up and Hoyt showed up Friday morning in Senate Judiciary and a bill remains on its way to becoming a law as a result.

If you would like to testify on a bill, but can’t make it in person to do so, most committees are allowing for testimony over Zoom this session. Simply go to the Legislature’s calendar page, find the bill and committee it will be heard in and select the “testify,” button.

Voter Photo ID Makes a Comeback
Two years ago we worked hard to negotiate a Medicare/Medicaid card option to a voter ID bill. The reason is simple - we want safe and secure elections too. We need to make sure our members retain their right to vote and know nationwide 40% of adults age 65 and over don’t have a driver's license anymore. Most of those folks aren’t driving, flying, or doing things that need a photo ID. 

This week another Voter ID-Photo ID bill dropped, courtesy of Casper’s freshman lawmaker Tony Locke. I talked to Locke on Friday morning about my concerns that some of our older adults who may struggle to get a State ID card might lose their right to vote when they gave up their driver's license. To his credit, Locke considered the scenario of older adults who may, for example, live in a nursing home and not have a valid driver's license or ID card. He told me it isn’t his intention to take the voting rights of folks in that situation and he would go through his bill this weekend and give some thought. I appreciate his willingness to consider alternatives.

Property Tax Gets Off To A Slow Start
The plan was for property tax to take center stage in the Legislature this year. The Senate Revenue Committee did listen to three property tax relief bills, while The House Revenue Committee took on a number of other bills, including Medicaid Expansion. 

The Bo Biteman-led Senate Revenue Committee passed the three bills out of committee - Senate Joint Resolution 3 (Property Tax for the Elderly and Infirm); SF90 (Wyoming Property Tax Relief Authority); and SF125 (Property Tax - Limiting the maximum taxable value increase). 

Senate File 3 would allow for a constitutional amendment to break out older adults and financially poor citizens into special classes to be allowed property tax relief. SF90, would let the state sell bonds and use the money to back bank loans to pay property tax. Finally, SF125 would cap the percent of value your property tax could go up in a year. The bills moved through the committee quickly, though SF125, which seems well-meaning, brought concerns among those who testified that the bill would be seen as constitutional. More to come.

The House Revenue Committee will take up the first property tax bills next Tuesday, Jan. 24. There is a slew of property tax relief bills that are originating on the House side and more seem to drop daily. Click here to check out the full list of bills being considered in 2023.

While The House didn’t get to discuss property tax relief this week, the committee did take up Medicaid Expansion on Thursday, passing the bill out of committee 6-3. The subject is contentious, and has a decent chance of passing the House, however I haven’t talked to anyone who sees a path to victory in the State Senate. 

MedEx  is a contentious issue - no doubt. If you truly care to educate yourself on the pros and cons, there was some terrific debate this week in House Revenue. Ed Buttrey of the Montana Legislature joined the meeting and spoke of Montana’s experiences with the program. It’s worth the watch. The numbers are impressive.

Monday, session is out, so we give our necks, and feet the day off from suits and ties and be back at it Tuesday. Feel free to reach out with questions or comments. We love to hear from you.

Tom Lacock
ASD - State Advocacy and Communications
AARP Wyoming

This story is provided by AARP Wyoming. Visit the AARP Wyoming page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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