SHERIDAN — Gov. Matt Mead has delivered his State of the State address, and the 2014 session of the Wyoming Legislature is off to a running start.
(Listen to the State of the State here: legisweb.state.wy.us/lsoweb/session/Audio.aspx).
Ninety legislators — including six who represent Sheridan County — have begun a 20-day marathon where more than 150 bills will be introduced, debated, amended, switched between the Senate and the House of Representatives, debated and amended some more before crossing the finish line and becoming law or dying somewhere along the route for lack of support.
As a budget session, a majority of bills will deal with fiscal issues for the state. All bills will require a two-thirds vote to be allowed onto the floor for consideration, and bills sponsored by interim legislative committees will have a better chance at being heard than individual bills.
Wondering how to pay for college for that child who just entered high school? You may want to pay attention to Senate File 13 which aims to expand enrollment options for the Hathaway Scholarship.
Find your speedometer creeping upward on those long stretches of Wyoming interstate? Follow House Bill 12. It proposes to increase the speed limit to 80 mph along certain sections of road where doing so is deemed safe.
Following bills is a snap, but you can also have a voice by contacting your local legislator and letting him or her know how you feel on bills that are important to you. Here are a few ways to bring what’s happening in Cheyenne closer to home.
Click by click
The Wyoming Legislature is on the World Wide Web. Visit legisweb.state.wy.us to access all kinds of information.
• To familiarize yourself with the 166 bills currently proposed, click on the “2014 Bill Tracking Information” link on the homepage. Find a list of all bills proposed for the session by clicking on the “Bills” link. On the bills and files index page, you can click on the “sponsor” link at the top of the page to organize the bills numerically or alphabetically.
It can be helpful if you’re primarily interested in education or transportation issues, for example. Sponsors include interim committees and individual legislators.
Click on the “title” link next to a particular bill, and then on the title link on the next page to get more information on it. Click on the “fiscal note” to see what kind of an impact a bill may have on the budget.
• To follow bills through the House and Senate, go back to the “2014 Bill Information” page and click on the “Bill Status Report.” This report is updated at the end of each day of the session and shows you where particular bills are at as they weave through introduction, committee hearings, first, second and third readings on the floor, from one chamber (House of Representatives or Senate) to another, into a joint committee to work out chamber differences, and to the governor for approval.
• On the home page, you can also find links to live audio broadcasts of sessions and brief summaries of bills if you only have a few moments to check in on Legislative proceedings.
• Send an email. Click on the “Legislator Information” link on the lefthand side of the homepage to find contact information for your local delegates. Legislators check their email often throughout the day, so sending a quick email is the simplest, fastest way to get in touch. Just remember that they are busy, so make sure to make the subject of the email clear and keep it concise.
• Seeking a wider audience? Go here http://legisweb.state.wy.us/postcomments/hotlinedisclaimer.aspx to voice support or opposition for a certain bill to all the legislators at once. You can also leave a 140-character note here. Just remember it will be part of public record.
• You can also find calendars for floor proceedings in the Senate and House of Representatives on the website in the late afternoon for the next day’s floor proceedings in each chamber. The calendars include legislation under consideration and the general order of business.
Pick up the phone
If click by click or email isn’t your style, you can use your telephone to follow bills and leave comments for legislators.
• To contact a legislator directly during the session, call the Senate Receptionist at (307) 777-7711 or the House Receptionist at (307) 777-7852 to leave a brief message for a particular member.
• You can call the Bill Status Information Service toll-free within Wyoming at (80) 342-9570 to obtain the current status of any bill in the legislative process. This is a limited service that provides information about where the bill is in the process, but it does not provide information about the details of the legislation. You cannot leave voice messages at this number.
• There is a telephone hotline similar to the online hotline where you can express support or opposition for particular bills. The Telephone Hotline is available toll-free by dialing (866) 996-8683.
Pen and paper
While slower, more old fashioned and less common, hand-written notes can carry a little extra punch with legislators because they stand out from the crowd of emails and phone messages.
• Direct written mail to a designated legislator in care of the Wyoming House or Senate. Send it to: State Capitol, Cheyenne, WY, 82002.
• Though not as quaint, you can fax messages to a designated legislator at (307) 777-5466.