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Legislative Update November 2016


Election Update
 - 
 Wyoming’s general election took place last Tuesday with our state’s lone congressional seat, all 60 seats in the State House of Representatives and 15 (half) of the Wyoming Senate seats up for re-election.

Republican Candidate Liz Cheney handily defeated Democratic Candidate Ryan Greene to fill Wyoming’s Congressional seat being vacated by retiring Congressman Cynthia Lummis.

In the House, Republicans will retain their super majority, gaining one seat for a 52 (R) to 8 (D) final count. Three of four leadership positions in the house will be new this year as current Speaker Kermit Brown retires and current Speaker Pro-Tempore Tim Stubson will not return after a failed congressional bid. Current Majority Floor Leader Rosie Berger was defeated during the Primary Election. Of the 60 House members, 19 will be brand new when the general session begins on January 10, 2017.

In the Senate Republicans retained a super majority as well, gaining one seat for a 27 (R) to 3 (D) final count. The Senate will have 7 new members upon the commencement of the 2017 General Session

E-Fairness/Online Sales Tax Collection
Despite promised votes and action at the federal level, and despite Senator Enzi’s tremendous leadership and tireless efforts on the issue the Marketplace Fairness Act continues to sit idle while Main Street Wyoming retailers operate at a competitive disadvantage to their online only counterparts. Earlier this year, South Dakota passed a bill requiring online retailers to collect and remit sales tax just like brick and mortar South Dakota retailers do every day. The Wyoming Retail Association is pursuing similar legislation for the 2017 Wyoming Legislative General Session. WRA Executive Director Chris Brown met with Governor Mead last month to initiate discussions about the proposed legislation. The Joint Revenue Committee met in September and agreed to have staff draft a bill similar to the one passed earlier this year in South Dakota. The bill will be considered at the Friday November 18, 2016 interim meeting in Cheyenne and Chris Brown is currently working with Main Street Retailers to testify in support of the proposed legislation. IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ASSISTING PLEASE CONTACT CHRIS BROWN IMMEDIATELY AT chris@wyoretail.org

Wyoming Biennium Budget - The continued economic downturn in Wyoming’s energy sector has resulted in an additional $248 million shortfall. Earlier this summer Governor Mead directed state agencies to cut 8% of their biennium budgets, which began on July 1, 2016. The Joint Appropriations Committee met in Cheyenne in July and approved the cuts, avoiding the need for a special legislative session. This translated into a $2 million cut to the Wyoming Office of Tourism. Governor Mead has since notified state agencies that there will not be any supplemental budget requests for the upcoming 2017 general session. While he also noted that there will not be any additional cuts between now and the start of the session, he notified state agencies to anticipate the possibility of additional cuts from the legislature. This is especially likely as the states most recent financial forecast shows that Wyoming’s current biennium budget is still about $150 million short from projected revenues. The WRA will continue to closely follow all budget discussion very closely.

Joint Employer
- The Wyoming Retail Association is currently working with Senator Ogden Driskill on a bill that will ensure Wyoming franchisors are not unfairly liable for the actions of franchisees, will prevent frivolous lawsuits, and will encourage franchisees to act responsibly. The bill would clarifies that, under Wyoming law, a franchisor is not the employer of a franchisee’s employees for a host of common employment law claims and legal actions. It will not reduce or otherwise limit employee rights in Wyoming.

Medicaid Expansion
- Medicaid Expansion continues to remain in the headlines, as significant cuts to the Wyoming Dept. of Health are likely to result in hundreds of private sector job losses. We saw many candidates prioritizing expansion during this election cycle and The Coalition for a Healthy Wyoming continues to work diligently in education the public and those elected to the Wyoming House and Senate about the need to expand Medicaid in Wyoming. With the results from the national election last week it will be interesting to see if Medicaid Expansion remains a top discussion this session.

Tobacco Taxes - The Joint Revenue Committee considered raising the taxes on tobacco products. The initiative was defeated at their committee meeting last month. The WRA has a standing position opposing taxes focused on individual products and opposed this proposed increase.

Other Issues - There will be numerous other bills potentially impacting our members once the election is over and as the January 10, 2017 legislative general session draws closer. Proposed increases to the minimum wage and a bill prohibiting employers from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal history on job applications are both likely to return this session. The Wyoming Retail Association monitors all things legislative from both a state wide and federal level, on a daily basis and will continue to keep you posted as legislative initiatives continue to develop.

 

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Wyoming Retail Association (WRA)
P.O. Box 1003, Cheyenne, WY 82003  Phone: (307) 634-8816, Fax (307) 632-0249