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SHERIDAN — The race for House District 30, which includes portions of southeast and southwest Sheridan and much of the eastern half of Sheridan County, has pitted Rep. Kathy Coleman, R-Sheridan, against self-described “average citizen” Mark Jennings, who works as a handyman.
Coleman was appointed by Sheridan County commissioners in October 2012 to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Jon Botten. She said she has work yet to do and issues she wants to see resolved. These include improving a variety of labor laws, making sure health care coverage is provided in ways that are beneficial for Wyoming and its citizens and advocating for fair support and programs for people with developmental disabilities.
“I really enjoy the work. It’s been very rewarding. I made a commitment when I was going to run for this office two years ago, and I never imagined it would be a one-term commitment,” Coleman said.
Coleman said she has learned a lot through her “freshman legislator” years and that it may be a disservice to citizens to put someone new into House District 30 who has to learn the ropes all over again.
“If you really want to be effective, or if you really want to be a great legislator and representative of your constituents, it’s going to take some time. If somebody new walks in there, they’re going to be in the same boat I was where there’s a two-year learning curve and it’s hard to get anything done,” Coleman said.
Jennings said he stepped into the race to represent House District 30 because he felt like Coleman’s votes in the Legislature were not representative of his own family values or the values of other constituents he knows.
He has particularly called into question Coleman’s votes on the gas tax, gun control and Senate File 104, which stripped Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of many of her powers and created an appointed director of education. The vote has since been ruled unconstitutional by a 3-2 vote in the Wyoming Supreme Court.
“I thought if I’m going to whine about it, I ought to be able to throw my hat into the ring and do something about it,” Jennings said.
Jennings said he has been involved in church leadership and has always voted and spoken with his legislators but that he has little political experience, a plus in his view.
“I actually thought it was more of a resume to not be a politician, to be an average citizen,” Jennings said.
Jennings believes in lower taxes, state’s rights and smaller government.
• Employment: Owner of Resource Staffing and JCS Professionals in Sheridan
• Qualifications: Current representative for House District 30 in Wyoming Legislature, former Chair of the Sheridan County Republican Party, member of health committees for the National Council of State Legislators and the Council of State Government-West, Wyoming’s state director for Women in Government and graduate of the Western Legislative Leadership Academy.
• Website: coleman4hd30.com/home.html, and also on Facebook
• Key issues:
The Affordable Care Act
Coleman said she is one of the most anti-Affordable Care Act members of the Labor, Health and Social Services Committee. In regards to Medicaid expansion, she said it isn’t smart to expand an already broken system. At the same time, she said she has compassion for those who need insurance and access to health care and is willing to look at alternative solutions.
“If you look at it piece by piece, there’s maybe 30 contributing factors to why health care costs what it costs in Wyoming,” Coleman said. “If you look at that … you can come up with some solutions to a few of those and you can understand what those contributing factors are and you can study those issues. Now we’re at a point where we can start designing a system that can overcome those barriers.”
Updates to labor and employment laws
As the owner of a staffing company, Coleman said she often examines the employment laws in other states and has seen that Wyoming is a fairly good state in which to do business as far as low taxes and limited liability. However, she said she will keep a watch on bills that could affect business owners and on work in the Corporations Committee that could affect the business climate in the state.
DD waiver program
Coleman had to declare a conflict of interest on a bill to expand the Wyoming Department of Health’s Developmental Disability waiver program but would have voted against it anyway because she felt it was premature, too broad and caused too much distress for people with developmental disabilities. Although the bill passed, Coleman said she has not been happy with how the expanded program has been rolled out and that she hopes to continue to address issues of care for people with developmental disabilities.
“We are trying to fix leaks, so go after the leaks. The kitchen faucet was leaking so we decided to redo the entire plumbing, and that to me is wrong,” Coleman said, noting that fixes to the waiver program were to address budget overages, as well as provide services to people on the waiting list for a waiver to obtain services.
• Employment: Self-employed handyman
• Qualifications: Church leader and active participant in voting and communicating with legislators and following political issues of concern.
• Website: markjennings.vpweb.com
• Key issues:
Senate File 104
Jennings was angered by Coleman’s vote in favor of Senate File 104.
“I don’t like the idea of them sidestepping or going around the Constitution and taking the power of our vote away,” Jennings said.
After the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled that SF104 was unconstitutional, Jennings was upset that $1.3 million had been spent by the state in order to issue a rebuke against Hill, which he felt was a waste of taxpayers’ money.
Jennings was upset that Coleman voted in favor of increasing Wyoming’s gas tax from 10 cents per gallon to 24 cents per gallon.
“I think we’re already a mineral rich state — we tripled the budget in the last 15 years — and it hardly makes sense that we need larger revenue streams from new sources when we should be spending wiser and less,” Jennings said. “Every time government cuts taxes it actually improves the revenue coming back to you, the taxpayer.”
Jennings thinks that road maintenance, which is what the gas tax supports, can be covered with alternative sources of funding coming from an already mineral-rich state with significant income. He also said infrastructure needs to make sense, both on Wyoming’s roadways and elsewhere. For example, he said interstate signs are nice but are a secondary need and could wait if money is needed for more important improvements.
Jennings said he feels that legislators who voted for Wyoming’s budget in the last several sessions are voting for more taxes and a more expansive government because the budget has included such items as the gas tax. He said he’d rather see legislators “battling pork” through audits of the budget and judicious choices on programming support.
The government needs to step back and get out of the way of the private sector, Jennings said, in order to foster an economic environment that creates more jobs and more revenue in local communities, especially in regards to energy development.
Jennings supports gun rights, traditional marriage and parental rights. He is against abortion, the Common Core and the Affordable Care Act.
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