Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Wyoming lawmakers to eye 2021 options after one meeting

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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) – Wyoming lawmakers plan to meet for a day in January before postponing the remainder of their 2021 legislative session to February or March due to the coronavirus.

An eight-week session was scheduled to start on January 12. Lawmakers still plan to swear in new members, hear the state of the state from Governor Mark Gordon, and handle other day-to-day business in an online video conference session that day, but adjourn.

In late January, they plan to assess coronavirus trends in Wyoming and decide whether to hold the remainder of the session virtually from early February or in person in Cheyenne from early March, the Wyoming Tribune Eagle reported.

Coronavirus-friendly trends could allow for an in-person session, but a “remote participation option” for lawmakers and the public would still be needed if lawmakers met in person, according to an email to lawmakers last week from new Speaker of the House Eric Barlow, R-Gillette and Speaker of the Senate, Dan Dockstader, R-Afton.

The Capitol’s meeting rooms are equipped with video cameras and other technology to allow participation from afar. Legislative staff are developing virtual options for speaking procedures, according to the email.

“We are confident that we will have viable options for remote participation in place by March 1, 2021,” the email said.

A virtual session called in February may not last eight weeks. In this case, lawmakers could decide to adjourn after a few weeks and meet again later in the year.

If lawmakers hold a virtual session, they will focus on the state’s supplementary budget and other “high priority or urgent committee bills,” according to the email.

Gordon has proposed a supplementary budget with cuts of about $ 500 million. Approval of the biennial budget supplement passed last winter is due soon, said outgoing Senate Speaker Drew Perkins, R-Casper, who will co-chair the Joint Appropriations Committee from next year.

“The longer you wait for these changes, the less impact they will have, and the longer it will take for budget cuts to take hold,” said Perkins. “If you can adjust the budget cuts over a year and a half, that’s a lot better than trying to cut them in nine months.”

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