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Final Day for Committee of the Whole (Or Was It?)

Another deadline day has come and gone in the 65th Legislature.

Today was the final day for bills to pass the Committee of the Whole in the second chamber - or die. Tomorrow it'll be second reading. Monday, third. You've been here with us before. You know how this goes.

Both chambers had a solid list of General Files bills to work through. Both chambers had several bills that invited (and warranted) significant debate. (We're not sure that new dorms at UWyo required the better part of two hours, but what do we know? That's not really our area of expertise, after all.)

SF0049 - a preemption bill for a single issue in a single county - was on second reading in the House and prompted some (failed) amendments and (thinly veiled) acrimony. HB0103 Abortion reporting requirements didn't prompt nearly enough amendments (or acrimony, for that matter).

In the debate on HB0103, we did not appreciate the explanation of the bill, given by Sen. Biteman who was reading from the notes of the bill's sponsor, Rep. Clem. This is, as a good Senator pointed out in the debate, absolutely about abortion and limiting abortion and to say otherwise is disingenuous at best, dishonest at worst. We appreciated Sen. Case's libertarian perspective that the bill represents government overreach, Sen. Shuler's perspective about why she voted against this bill in committee and that no medical providers support the bill including some from the Board of Medicine who testified in committee, and Sen. Gierau's point that this is just meant to hassle the existing providers.

Thankfully, some Senators pointed out - we believe it was Senator Shuler, again, who took the lead on this - that reporting of abortions should not be compared to the communicable disease information that the state collects for the CDC, that there is nothing similar about having a safe and legal procedure and a deadly outbreak of measles. Sen. Scott, chairman of the committee that allowed this to come to the floor, said that he is pro-choice but saw no problem with the bill saying that it strengthens privacy protections for women.

Clearly, this is nonsense.

Nonetheless, the HB0103 passed on first reading on a voice vote (no headcount or roll call). It will be up for second reading tomorrow. Contact Sens. Case, Shuler, and Gierau and thank them for their comments and ask them to speak out again. Healthcare in Wyoming is hard enough to get. Let's not penalize healthcare providers and women and make access to care even more difficult. Please contact your Senators and ask them to vote against HB0103.

In better news, HB0107 was successful on first reading and, should it continue to progress, will strip parental rights from rapists. Wyoming is, in fact, one of a few remaining states that does not have a law on the books preventing rapists from claiming custody. We are appalled that this is the state of our state and optimistic that next week rapists as dads will be a thing of the past.

We've also been tracking SF0144 Medicaid and SNAP eligibility which is a work requirement bill that would penalize Wyoming's poorest residents. And here's where the question comes in: Does the last day really mean the last day? Round about 6:25pm, we heard that the Senate had finished up General File and adjourned for the day. Convention often dictates that once the Senate calls it, the House packs it in, too. Clock ticking. No sign of SF0144.

And then.

Majority Floor Leader Barlow commended the Senate (given the Legislature's convention for not using proper names, he referred to the Senate as "the good body to the north") for working through all the bills the House had sent over and moved to call it a day. Unfortunately, he also moved to carry over several bills - including 144 - and work them in the morning. Somehow, today will now end tomorrow morning.

We'll say it one more time: We know that Wyomingites work hard. And if our neighbors are applying and qualifying for Medicaid and food stamps, it is because they need the safety net. Please call your reps and tell them to vote NO on SF0144.

We'll see you back here tomorrow for a wrap-up of the week.

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