Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

From the Desk of House Majority Floor Leader Chip Neiman

As the 67th General Session of the Wyoming Legislature passes the halfway mark, I write with a grateful heart for the honor to serve you and a firm resolve to continue the good work on behalf of the people of Wyoming.

As Majority Floor Leader, my focus has been on Wyoming families, preserving our freedoms and saving for our children and grandchildren’s futures. I would like to take a moment to cover a few bills that the Legislature has been discussing in these areas this week.

Wyoming families

SF144 prohibits doctors from performing procedures on children relating to gender transitioning and reassignment. I strongly support this bill, which protects children from making an irreversible decision at a fragile and vulnerable age.

This bill revokes doctors’ licenses if they administer sex change treatments – including surgeries, puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones to minors. This bill passed the Senate and I look forward to discussing it in the House soon.

HB0070 is a bill that I sponsored that provides more opportunity, latitude and freedom for families who homeschool their kids. The bill removes restrictions currently in statute that only allow home-based education to be provided by a child’s parent or legal guardian.

This is a common-sense bill that enables Wyoming families who home school to network, coordinate and collaborate for the greater benefit of kids who receive parent-directed education. This legislation passed the House and passed second reading on the Senate floor on Thursday and will be heard a final time by the Senate.

Dozens of property tax bills have been introduced this year, attempting to address rising residential property tax rates, in which hardworking families are often faced with the unimaginable decision of selling their home just to pay the tax bill. The House of Representatives passed a few important bills this week to provide relief to residents of our state:

• HB0098 provides a tax exemption to residential property owners that equals approximately $300 per year for homeowners. The bill provides relief to homeowners from paying property taxes on the first $50,000 of their homes’ fair market value. People who have lived in Wyoming for at least five years are eligible. The bill caps the discount at 25 percent of the home’s value. HB0098 passed the House of Representatives on February 8, 2023.

• HB0099 increases the threshold for an existing tax refund program, making more people eligible. HB0099 passed the House of Representatives on February 2, 2023.

• In the supplemental budget bill, the Legislature has fully funded the Property Tax Refund Program at $5 million to provide relief to our most vulnerable, like retirees and critical workers, who are facing financial hardships due to inflationary pressures. This provision is included in the budget bills which are currently being discussed by the House and Senate conference committees who are working to combine the budget bills into one piece of legislation.

Protecting our freedom and way of life

HB0210 is a bill that I sponsored that prevents financial institutions from discriminating against Wyoming energy companies. The legislation stops Wyoming state government from conducting business with firms that place Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) efforts as a priority in their investment strategy.

ESG represents a boycott of the fossil fuel industry and has no room in our energy-producing state. This bill will be further discussed following the session and I look forward to a legislative committee’s sponsorship of this important measure in the coming year.

In the meantime, I am happy to report Senator Biteman has a similar bill, SF159, that also attempts to prevent Wyoming from doing business with financial institutions that back ESG. I support this bill.

Saving for our future

Last week, the House and Senate finished debating this year’s Supplemental Budget bill. As a part of the process, the budget bill is presented in mirror form to both legislative branches.

Following that debate, the House and Senate come together to find agreement on the amendments that differ from the two sides. That process is now underway.

Arguably, developing the state’s budget is the Wyoming Legislature’s most important role. With a $2 billion surplus, much focus was placed on how to best utilize those funds.

My view is that this monetary influx is a one-time boon and not a wholesale change to our economic outlook. I want to prevent hard cuts down the road, which is why I am pleased nearly $1 billion was placed into savings.

The Legislature should be a steward of your tax dollars, which means planning not only for the here and now, but, more importantly, for future generations. That means saving the money we are fortunate to have into long-term accounts that will benefit our children, their children and, hopefully, their children.

It is my privilege to serve you as I continue to fight to ensure Wyoming remains the best place on earth. Please email me at [email protected] with your views, questions or concerns about bills being debated during this session.