The Legislature’s Revenue Committee strongly supported a bill Tuesday that would lower interest rates on unpaid mineral taxes.
Currently, if a state audit finds that companies have incorrectly reported their production, counties can levy interest of up to 18 percent on back taxes.
The bill changes that, pegging interest to current rates, with a minimum of 12 percent and a maximum of 18 percent. Interest rates for companies that discover the discrepancy on their own would remain the same – at 18 percent.
A legislative committee killed a bill Tuesday that would have taxed natural gas flaring from oil wells.
When there isn’t pipeline or processing infrastructure available to move the natural gas, companies simply burn it. The draft bill would have required severance tax payments on gas flared more than 180 days after the well starts producing. Representative Michael Madden, one of two supporters of the bill, said the proposal wasn’t a tax increase, but rather the repeal of an exemption.
Many of Wyoming’s landfills are leaking or approaching capacity, so the Department of Environmental Quality is working with state agencies and municipalities to develop and fund a plan to close facilities that aren’t environmentally sustainable, and move new waste to landfills which are.
DEQ Spokesman Keith Guille says the existing landfills in the state are permitted, and were built to environmental standards at the time.
Last week we ran a story concerning proposed cuts in the Developmental Disability waiver program. The belief is that there are some in the program getting more money than they need.
Advocacy groups and those in the program worry that cuts could actually take money away from those who need services. Senator Charles Scott is the Chairman of the Senate Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. He joins Bob Beck to explain the legislature’s position on the issue.
Unless you are new to the state or have lived under a rock, you are aware that the state legislature passed a law that changed the powers of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction and placed a Director in charge of Education. Now lawmakers are investing a report that suggests possible wrong doing by Superintendent Cindy Hill…charges she denies. It might lead people to worry about education in the state. But lawmakers want you to know that they continue to try and make change for the better. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has the story…
The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission approved nearly five million dollars in budget cuts that were necessary after the legislature failed to approved an increase in game and fish license fees. The department is funded 80 percent by license fees and was already dealing with a deficit when the fee hikes were voted down. But lawmakers wanted the Game and Fish Department to be more efficient. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck has more.
BOB BECK: The cuts were approved at a recent Game and Fish Commission meeting in Saratoga and many were unhappy.
The Wyoming Legislative session has ended. In his closing comments to lawmakers, Governor Matt Mead acknowledged that lawmakers had a difficult
“I asked in my state of the state for 6 percent budget cuts and you delivered that,” Mead said. “I asked in my state of the state to provide some flexibility in terms of where we go in the future in large projects. You provided that. I asked for in my budget to fund landfills, a Gillette-Madison water project, the School of Engineering. You addressed all of those.”
The Senate Education committee killed a bill that would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry guns in schools and on Wyoming College campuses. The bill died after nobody made a motion to consider it. A number of educators at all levels testified that the legislation was a bad idea and that such ideas should be left to local school districts to consider. University of Wyoming President Tom Buchanan testified that the allowing guns on campus could lead to problems.
The Wyoming Senate defeated a bill dealing with seismic exploration, reconsidered it, and then passed it.
Supporters say that the goal of the legislation is to set tiered bonding for seismic exploration.
Wyoming Stockgrowers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna says the bonding will be based on the size of the acreage being accessed. He says that the bill was amended to say that when seismic
A House committee has approved a bill that would raise the cigarette tax by five-cents-per-cigarette and a dollar a pack. Republican Representative Gerald Gay of Casper is the main sponsor. He says money from the increase will help offset rising Medicaid costs.
“And tobacco is related to that because tobacco has such a profound impact on health care," Gay said. "So we figured out a way to sort of frontload health care costs against one of the biggest health care users that there is.”
The legislative panel responsible for drafting a supplemental Wyoming state budget bill recommends that lawmakers reject Gov. Matt Mead's proposal to cut the flow of energy revenues going into permanent savings and school construction.
Mead wants Wyoming to build up its so-called rainy day fund in case the state needs ready cash to deal with projected flat energy revenues in the years to come.
The Wyoming legislature wraps up its second week today. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck is covering the session and joins us now to talk about lawmakers' attempts to restructure how the state's schools are governed.
A bill that changes the qualifications for the position of Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission Supervisor has unanimously passed the State Senate.
The bill changes the requirements for the Supervisor from a registered professional petroleum engineer or geologist, to an engineer or geologist with ten years of experience in his respective field of expertise.
Energy and Legislative advocate with the Wyoming Outdoor Council, Richard Garrett, says it may be valuable to consider applicants’ assets fully.
A state lawmaker from Jackson is proposing some changes to Wyoming's tipping laws.
One bill introduced by Rep. Ruth Ann Petroff would make all tips exempt from sales tax. Currently tips automatically added to a bill, usually for large groups, are subject to sales tax.
Another bill from the Republican would allow restaurants to pool tips from everyone waiting on tables and then split the money among its employees. However, an employee couldn't be forced to contribute more than 15 percent of their tips to a tip pool.
The Legislature’s Joint Judiciary Committee will introduce a bill that would modify bonds for seismic exploration for oil and gas on private land. If passed, companies doing any seismic exploration would have to put up a $5,000 bond for the first 1,000 acres being explored, with increases for acreage beyond that. The outgoing chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Kermit Brown of Laramie, said there have been complaints about the current regulations.
The President of the University of Wyoming says while the six percent budget cuts are better than the eight percent the Governor had previously proposed…he says they will still cause pain.
President Tom Buchanan told the legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee that the cuts could cost U-W 60 to 95 employees and added that some may have to be layoffs. Buchanan also made the case for increasing U-W’s faculty and staff salaries by three percent.
Many people hope that Wyoming’s uranium industry will become much more active, as interest in nuclear energy grows.
University of Wyoming Ag Economist Tex Taylor says there is a lot of potential for increased employment and tax revenue for the state. But Wyoming Senator Eli Bebout, who chairs the Senate Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee, says new and smaller companies are often stymied by the state and federal permitting process and other regulatory hurdles.
Wyoming lawmakers are considering further reforms to the state’s pension system. This year, the legislature lowered pension benefits for new employees and changed the way cost-of-living adjustments are made.
But Cheyenne Representative Bryan Pedersen says he is convinced that even with the changes, Wyoming won’t have e
“This will at best float us three to five years. It’s a band-aid that will kick the can further down the road. And that’s with the plan fully performing at the eight percent estimated average annual return.”
A recent report from the Center for Public Integrity ranks Wyoming 48th in the nation when it comes to accountability in state politics. According to the report, Wyoming and a number of other western states seemed to operate with a live-and-let-live attitude when it came to government, stressing a strong preference for informal societal controls as opposed to legislative actions that regulated oversight.
Gordon Witkin is with the Center for Public Integrity. He says Wyoming is too relaxed when it comes to oversight and auditing processes.
A majority of Senators have voted to keep a provision in an Open Records bill that would allow communication between one elected official and one private citizen from being made public. But Senator Bill Landen argued that such communication should be made public, because it could provide insight into why board members voted a particular way. Landen argued that the bill allows for mischief.
The Wyoming House and Senate have begun discussing the 3-point-2 billion dollar state budget. It will cover a biennium, or the next two fiscal years. House Appropriations Chairman Rosie Berger says they are trying to pass a flat budget this year and limit future spending. Senate Appropriations Chairman Phil Nicholas says agencies will be asked to reduce their budgets by four percent in the second year of the biennium and another four percent in the following year.
A panel of Wyoming legislators has voted to deny Gov. Matt Mead's request to use state money to make up for expired federal stimulus funds that had gone to help support the Medicaid program.
A majority of members of the Joint Appropriations Committee voted against Mead's request to give the Health Department and extra $37 million for Medicaid today.
The committee also voted against Mead's request to put up nearly $7 million to cut waiting lists for people in the state waiting for services for developmental disabilities and acquired brain injuries.
An Australian coal company that wants to mine Powder River Basin coal has hired a Wyoming state lawmaker as an executive. The Gillette News Record (http://bit.ly/rrhxjt ) reported that Republican Rep. David Miller of Riverton sold his Campbell County mineral rights to Sydney-based County Coal Limited for $200,000 in March. Miller, a geologist, now holds one million shares in the company and will get 3 percent royalty payments on coal mined in the basin, one of the richest coal sources in the United States.