Lindholm offers legislative preview
A conversation with Crook County’s rep about political issues on the horizon
January 9, 2020
It’s all about creativity, says Representative Tyler Lindholm, whose efforts at the 2020 Legislative Session are set to center on economic diversification. From creating a friendly environment for new business to figuring out how to deal with issues facing current industry, his plan, he says, is to bolster the economy at every level for the benefit of all.
“Most revenue comes into small towns through the State of Wyoming because of our limited allowable taxation on a local level. With that being the case, all the small towns spread across the state depend in a large way on the state’s economy as a whole,” he says. “New business coming into Casper, Cheyenne, Laramie, Gillette does benefit our little towns. I think the most important work that the legislature can do this session is ensure that economic development opportunities are available.”
It’s possible to create opportunity without spending money if one thinks outside the box, he says.
“We have to be creative, we have to look at antiquated laws and determine whether or not there is need for an update. That’s where a lot of my concentration has been the last several years,” he says.
On that note, Lindholm points to several bills that aim to create opportunity. The bill titled “Special Purpose Depository Institutions” might not immediately inspire excitement, Lindholm says, but is just such an economic development opportunity.
“That’s a new type of bank charter we put into law last year and a lot of those concepts are kind of new and innovative,” he says. “We’ve seen some applications that are serious and there are assets of over $20 billion that could possibly be coming to the state. We have an update to that piece of legislation.”
It’s all part of the process, Lindholm says. When you build a new wheel, it takes a few turns before you can identify where it’s going to squeak.
As for the bill’s possibilities, Lindholm points to changes South Dakota made to its laws that caused trust services and credit card institutions to pop up across the east side of the state.
“Those are all jobs, and it didn’t cost South Dakota a dime. Those the types of opportunities are the State of Wyoming needs to look for,” he says.
A range of economic development-related bills are already on the table, he says, such as one that considers whether computer code should be considered a type of speech and protected under a person’s First Amendment right. It’s something no other state has really tackled yet, he says.
Lindholm points to a federal case in which a person was charged for releasing documents on how to 3D print a pistol, which highlighted the lack of protection available for a person who creates something that is not intended to do harm. Software developers would want to come to Wyoming, he says, to take advantage of protections unavailable elsewhere – an example of how removing gray areas can help.
“There’s a reason why Wyoming has really seen a lot of action in regards to blockchain companies coming to the state. It’s not because we spent money attracting these companies or anything like that – it’s because we actually defined what is legal and what is not legal,” Lindholm says.
“Wyoming is the most regulated area in the world when it comes to blockchain technology,” he says, and developers like having a solid framework to work within.
“If we’re going to attract innovators…if we’re going to have the next Facebook or Google invented in the State of Wyoming, then we as the state legislature need to be willing to think outside the box,” he says.
In Lindholm’s opinion, “Not everybody wants to be a coal miner or a cowboy – I certainly do, that’s who I am, but we are raising children who might want to do something else. If we can make sure that, for the future, those opportunities exist, then at that point I think we’ve been successful.”
The energy industry has not bounced back from the downturn as much as many would have liked. This has led to closures and sales across the state – which in turn has concerned the legislature.
A piece of legislation on the table this year looks at how the power industry works in Wyoming in terms of both taxes and responsibility to the state, Lindholm says.
“While this is a private industry, that private industry has certainly been propped up by the State of Wyoming over the years and reaped a lot of benefits from doing business [here] and the state has helped them quite a bit,” he says. “At that point, do they have a responsibility to provide a little bit more notice than just a year to the people working in the State of Wyoming and to the companies and people that surround them and the communities that depend on them?”
It’s sticky business, he says, because what’s happening here is a reaction to the green energy initiatives in places such as California, Washington and Oregon. When parent companies must adapt to the new standards, he continues, it leaves Wyoming at the mercy of decisions made by other states.
The legislature is looking at how best to protect Wyoming from what Lindholm believes is “almost a tyrannical initiative”. While he understands there is a desire for energy to be 100 percent green, the technology does not yet exist and the bigger consequence is a loss of jobs in smaller communities.
“I don’t plan to sit idle while that’s going on,” he says.
Referring to the legislature’s efforts to make Rocky Mountain Power sell its power plant instead of just shuttering it, Lindholm says there has been criticism of taking action against a private company.
“We’re charged with protecting the life, liberty and pursuit of happiness of the people of Wyoming and that’s currently being threatened by actions taken in other states. I’ve got to argue that we have a responsibility to react to that,” he says. “If that means we have to force an organization to sell a power plant to another organization, I’m not going to lose an ounce of sleep over that.”
In Lindholm’s opinion, the future for Wyoming is still coal.
“There are still a lot of uses for coal out there, but we have to figure some things out. First and foremost, we’ve got to figure out how to export it to China,” he says.
China is unapologetically building coal-fired plants no matter what the rest of the world may think about green energy, he says. If Wyoming could export its much cleaner coal to that country, he notes, it would be an economic boost while also enabling China to use coal that’s better for the environment.
“We can’t get that done because Washington State is blocking us from using its terminal,” he says. “I co-signed the bill to sue the State of Washington over that last year.”
Meanwhile, Lindholm says, the Integrated Test Center must complete its contest to find the best uses for captured carbon, the prize for which is $10 million.
“As it stands right now, the five finalists are on site and must prove it up on a working coal-fired plant in the State of Wyoming,” he says. “If we can get rid of the carbon from the burning of coal, at that point we have the opportunity to start up more coal-fired plants.”
As for renewable energy, Lindholm believes Wyoming has valuable resources to offer – namely its wind.
“In the south part of the state, there are some definite flat areas, and that’s why they’re currently building the largest wind turbine site in the world down there,” he says.
Lindholm says if there’s a benefit to the state and jobs to be created, he’s always happy to consider ideas. However, “If the State of Wyoming is going to give up its view shed, then there has to be a return for the State of Wyoming,” he says. “How do you measure that value?”
Lining the view shed with wind turbines will surely mean giving up tourism dollars, he continues. Much of what visitors come for is the untamed wild west as far as the eye can see; losing that will have to provide a pretty hefty return on investment.
The turbine site is not for Wyoming users, he adds – the transmission line goes straight to California. That’s why taxes are needed: to create a benefit for Wyoming to make such projects worthwhile.
It’s likely the legislature will again consider expanding Medicaid; Lindholm says he will again be against any effort to do so.
“Nobody can erase the cliff effect,” he says. In his opinion, opening eligibility for Medicaid to more people simply increases the number of workers who would not see a benefit from anything but an astronomical pay increase. If a person hovering near the limit of eligibility was given a standard increase, they would suddenly lose that eligibility while not making enough to pay for the health insurance they were now required to buy.
This, he says, traps people in low-paying jobs by removing any incentive to move away from them.
“Medicaid expansion is for those individuals who don’t have any dependants and they don’t have any disabilities,” he says, noting that he has no issue with the need for the current Medicaid system and nothing against the people who would benefit from an expansion.
However, he says, expanding Medicaid simply makes the cliff effect worse unless the legislature opted to soften the blow, such as by making individuals more responsible by introducing health savings accounts. However, he does not feel the federal government will be interested in looking at that idea.
“As the bill stands right now, I’m a no, and I guarantee I’ll probably still be a no at the end of the day because nobody is really wanting to put anything in that puts a responsible level of ownership for those individuals who would benefit,” he says.
Lindholm is unsure whether he will be in the majority, however, as so many legislators are new since the last time the issue was debated. “I don’t foresee it passing, but it’s definitely one of those situations to contact your representative or senator and let them know whether you are for or against it,” he says.
HB 28, says Lindholm, is a bill he is sponsoring that would place “a ban on buyback programs being sponsored by any governmental entity in the State of Wyoming.” The bill would prevent any city, county or other political subdivision from offering to buy a firearm from an individual.
“That’s a methodology to get guns off the street, but Wyoming does not have a problem with guns on the street – in fact, we probably don’t have enough guns in citizens’ hands,” he says. “I’m a big believer that an armed society is a polite society.”
Lindholm does not believe buyback programs are an appropriate way to spend taxpayers’ money. Are they currently a problem? No, he says, but this way they never will be.
Lindholm is also working on Defend the Guard, an act that would prevent the Wyoming National Guard from being deployed to any foreign war zone unless Congress declares war.
“I think that’s a huge responsibility of the state and the fact it’s not in place currently is dumbfounding to me – that we are willing to just nod our heads to the federal government any time they want to deploy our National Guard,” he says. “Our National Guard is here for emergencies of our state and if we need to defend our nation. Currently, we don’t even have a declaration of war, which is constitutional.”
Lindholm expects that the legislation will raise some hackles back in D.C.
“The point of the matter is that it’s our National Guard, it’s our men and women of the State of Wyoming serving in that capacity,” he says.
Sending our National Guard overseas without a declaration of war, he says, is abhorrent, and the state should put a check on the federal government when it comes to war powers.
Right now, Wyoming is experiencing its second largest ever deployment overseas. A declaration of war provides a mission for our men and women to go after, he says; right now, after 19 years in Afghanistan, “there is no clear mission any more.”
“I don’t know if that one is going to pass or has much of a chance. I’m kind of an extremist when it comes to our Constitution,” he says.
“The reality is that Congress has abdicated their authority to the executive and President Trump has made it very clear he wants to bring the troops home and I think this is a great way for the state to stand up and agree with the president,” he says.
Another bill Lindholm suspects will attract attention would see a toll placed on I-80. He’s already heard from commercial truck drivers within and outside the state, “because the bill does target, specifically, commercial trucks”.
The idea is to recoup some of the cost of maintaining the road from its biggest users, Lindholm explains. As it stands, he is against the bill because he thinks it does target a significant part of the economy along I-80 and therefore could do with more discussion.
Lindholm also feels a bill to introduce the option to obtain a digital driver’s license will draw people’s eyes. Some have expressed opposition to the idea of having a license on their phone because they have not realized it would be optional and would be as well as the physical version rather than instead of, he says.
Along with Senator Ogden Driskill, Lindholm will be holding town hall meetings prior to the Legislative Session. The first will take place in the meeting room of Sundance State Bank on January 15 at 7 p.m. and the second in the Moorcroft Town Center auditorium on January 18 at 7 p.m.
Lindholm encourages citizens to attend or to otherwise contact him to share their thoughts on current issues.