2010 Legislative Updates
Legislature 2010: Final Legislative Update
Defeat of the liquor tax Budget Amendment: On January 28, the Joint Appropriations Committee changed the funding method for a new Liquor Division warehouse, Department of Agriculture Weights and Measures construction and over 30 acres of land from the original recommendation from the Governor’s Budget. The Governor’s Budget would have paid for the development with a bonding process to be reimbursed by the existing profits from the Liquor Division.
This new funding method was called various things… a “user’s fee”, a “surcharge”, but what it amounted to was a tax. The new tax was an increase of $3.28 a case over the next five years from all wine and liquor purchased from the Liquor Division, which would have been a significant increase for Wyoming retailers and our customers. On some products, it would have increased the wholesale price over 14%.
Financing state construction through what is essentially a new “sin tax” was unprecedented, and was especially harmful because of the recession, when so many of our businesses, and our customers, are struggling financially. A tax increase of this size would have fueled cross border and internet sales for package liquor stores, and created a significant burden to bars and restaurants by increasing their bottom line.
In a group of WSLA supported Budget Amendments sponsored by Speaker of the House Representative Colin Simpson (R-Cody) and Senators Bill Landen (R-Casper), Eli Bebout (R-Riverton), and Tony Ross (R-Cheyenne), the tax was removed from both the House and Senate versions of the Budget.
The Governor signed the Budget, and the Liquor Division will still get its new building, and the money will still come from the profits of the Liquor Division; but not at the expense of all of us paying for it with a new tax… or user’s fee, or surcharge, or whatever you want to call it. For more information on this issue, check out the Spring 2010 WSLA newsletter.
House Bill 105 (Bar and grill licenses, catering permits) would have allowed “bar and grill” liquor licensees to have catering permits for the sale of alcohol. The WSLA opposed this bill, because it would have created a much larger demand for restaurant licensees to “trade up” to a bar and grill license so that they could have catering permits. Since there is a limited number of these licenses, this could create a problem with the supply. Failed House introduction.
Senate File 52 (Reduced cigarette ignition propensity) regulates the type of paper used in cigarettes to make them safer for accidental fire ignition WSLA supported this bill, because we were the only state not to have passed this legislation, and Wyoming could have been become a “dumping ground” for the rest of the country for cheaper or older product. Signed by the Governor into law.
Senate File 70 (Local prohibition of poker) would have eliminated the term “bona fide social relationship” from Wyoming statute and also allowed counties and cities more leeway in allowing (or disallowing, although cities can do that anyway) poker and other games, wagers or transactions in business establishments. This bill was partially brought because of some municipalities being more lenient than state statute, and also some confusion over how strictly social gaming can be enforced. WSLA supported this bill, and although the bill died in the Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources (TRW) Committee, it has become an interim study topic for the TRW Committee over the summer. WSLA will be actively participating in those meetings. Failed in Senate Committee.
House Bill 71 (Workers Compensation Appeals) would have provided for the direct appeal of Worker’s Compensation small claims and contested case decisions to the Supreme Court. Failed in Senate Committee.
House Bill 108 (Health Insurance Reform) would have created the Wyoming Affordable HSA Eligible High Deductible Health Plan Act, which would provide a limited insurance premium tax waiver among other things. This bill was laid back partially in deference to House Bill 128. Laid back bill by Senate Labor Committee.
House Bill 113 (Concealed Weapon Authority) would have allowed concealed weapons to be carried without permits. It further allowed concealed weapons to be be legally taken into retail stores, restaurants but not bars. Not considered in Senate Judiciary Committee.
House Bill 128 (Health Insurance, Interstate Purchases) authorizes the sale in Wyoming of health insurance by out-of-state insurers and provides for more limited regulation of policies. It also gives oversight by the insurance commissioner as well as allowing cooperation by the insurance commissioner with other states with consistent insurance laws to allow multi-state sales without duplicate regulation. However, this bill is not effective until after the 2011 Legislative Session. Signed by the Governor into law.
Senate File 23 (Unemployment Compensation Amendments) made a number of changes to the Unemployment Compensation statutes, including bringing the state into federal compliance and several other minor changes affecting employers. Signed by the Governor into law.
Senate File 27 (Government competition) provided a process for lodging concerns for review of competition by government entities with the private sector. It also requires a report to the legislature. Vetoed by the Governor.
Senate File 61 (Health Insurance Reform) created a health care reform demonstration project using the board and administrative structure of the Wyoming health insurance pool. Signed by the Governor into law.