The 59th Legislature wrapped up on Friday, but the work for state representatives and senators is far from over.
Legislative “interim” committees will meet for the next several months to discuss a long list of important issues that could turn into bills next session.
The list includes a couple of topics -- a statewide smoking ban and electronic voting in the Legislature -- that have been shunned in recent years by the Management Council, which approves the topics.
Rep. Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, who serves on the Management Council, said the Legislature isn't afraid to look at any topics, especially when voters make it clear that they consider them important. A number of polls have shown that a majority of voters across the state favor a ban on smoking in public places.
“Smoking is an important issue with a lot of people,” Lubnau added. “That doesn't mean it will pass.”
Marguerite Herman of the League of Women Voters and the American Cancer Society said the interim study is a big step toward a statewide smoke-free law. The Legislature rejected smoke-free legislation this session.
“I would say this interim work is the critical push to educate legislators and to give a voice to the overwhelming support in the state to get this done,” Herman added.
Electronic voting, meanwhile, has been suggested as an interim topic for several years, but lawmakers have been reluctant to assign it to a committee. The Wyoming Legislature is one of a handful across the nation that still casts voice votes.
“I think they see it as another way to open the process up to the public,” said Dan Neal, executive director of the Equality State Policy Center. “It's really a vote on their part in ensuring accountability.”
Here's a roundup of some of the topics to be considered between now and the 60th Legislature:
* The Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Interim Committee will study the state workers' compensation program, access to affordable health care and smoking in public places.
* The Joint Judiciary Interim Committee will continue its work on carbon capture and sequestration. The committee will also study the state's drunken driving sentencing laws, the process to create new judge positions and the state's laws that govern liens on property.
* The Joint Appropriations Committee will study retirement issues, including payroll contributions toward employee insurance and a cost-of-living adjustment for retirees; and compensation issues including salary and benefits for the five statewide elected officials.
The committee will also look at video conferencing, fire prevention and electrical safety, funding for special courts like drug courts and family treatment courts, priorities for the state's share of Abandoned Mine Lands money, and trends in state revenue and appropriations.
* The Joint Revenue Interim Committee will study coal and helium gas valuation and excise tax issues.
* The Joint Education Interim Committee will study tribal relations and recommendations from Gov. Dave Freudenthal's blue ribbon task force on community colleges. The committee also received extra meeting time to consider more than a dozen reports on education programs.
* The Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee will continue the study of water issues. It will also consider coal-bed methane discharge and its effects on agricultural lands and some timber and agriculture issues.
* The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee will look at ways to promote cultural heritage tourism, regulation of the use of immunocontraceptives in wildlife, and the use of general funds for Wyoming Arts Council grants.
* The Joint Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Interim Committee will study subdivision cluster developments, some corporations laws, insurance laws and streamlining city and county government structures.
* The Joint Transportation, Highways and Military Affairs Interim Committee will study commercial vehicle fees, the federal Real ID program, Interstate 80 issues, funding at Camp Guernsey and funding for the Wyoming Department of Transportation.
* The Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee will study clean coal technologies, barriers and incentives for development, AML funding issues, gas and oil price differentials, Wyoming Business Council programs, work force housing and training issues.http://www.casperstartribune.net/articles/2008/03/09/news/wyoming/0a7d7ea88cd842f58725740500796903.txt