- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Leaders of both houses in the Wyoming Legislature say they expect to start work introducing bills immediately after Gov. Matt Mead presents his State of the State address Monday.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, said Friday he expects this will be a “journeyman” legislative session, concentrating mainly on drafting a state budget for the coming two years.

Gov. Matt Mead has proposed a $3.3 billion general funds budget proposal for the two-year funding cycle that begins July 1.

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee generally has endorsed Mead’s recommendations to give most state employees pay raises while putting up $175 million for counties and local governments. The committee met for several weeks in December and January on budget issues.

“I’m really proud of all the work that the Appropriations Committee did with the governor’s budget,” Lubnau said. “I think the governor put forth a very reasonable, responsible budget. I think the Appropriations Committee made that a better budget. I expect some differences between the House and Senate on how we approach things, and a fairly rigorous conference process.”

Both Lubnau and Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, say they intend to start bill introductions Monday soon after Mead’s address. The session is set to run for four weeks and this Friday is the deadline for bill introductions.

Ross said he wants the Legislature this session to consider and approve plans for renovation of the state Capitol. The building, which is nearly 130 years old, has inadequate fire protection, faulty wiring and is in need of a massive overhaul.

Ross said plans have been drawn up that call for renovating the Capitol together with improvements to the neighboring Herschler Building. He said plans call for increasing meeting space in the underground walkway between the two buildings.

The total cost of the renovation will be nearly $260 million, Ross said. He said plans call for getting state workers out of the Capitol after the 2015 legislative session and getting them back in after the work is completed after the 2017 session.

Lubnau said it’s past time for the Legislature to act on the Capitol renovation. “We’re getting to the stage with the Capitol building where given its condition and the infrastructure in the building, it’s no longer a want - it’s a need,” he said. “This building is a national treasure, and it would be a shame, if because of faulty wiring, if we lost this structure.”

Following Mead’s speech Monday, the House will observe a moment of silence for Rep. Sue Wallis, R-Recluse, who died in late January, Lubnau said. He said he expects her replacement will be seated in the House on Tuesday after the Campbell County Commission makes their selection from a field of candidates.

In addition to dealing with the budget, lawmakers this session will address other contentious issues.

The Legislature’s Management Council on Friday endorsed drafting a bill to create a legislative committee that could come up with legislation to hold a special legislative session later this year to deal with fallout from the state Supreme Court’s decision in the superintendent of public instruction case.

The state Supreme Court ruled 3-2 last month that a law enacted last year that took away many of the superintendent’s duties was unconstitutional. The court said the Legislature went too far, but it also acknowledged that lawmakers have the power to change the superintendent’s duties.

The Legislature also will consider a bill proposed by the Joint Judiciary Committee to change the way the state deals with involuntary commitment proceedings. The proceedings generally deal with people whom authorities believe pose a threat to themselves or others.

The Legislature’s Joint Labor, Health and Social Services Committee endorsed two bills that call for different approaches to expanding the Medicaid system in the state.

Mead, in his proposed budget, recommended against accepting federal money to expand the system under the federal Affordable Care Act, saying he doesn’t trust federal promises to continue to pay costs associated with extending coverage to more than 17,000 adults in the state. The Legislature last year voted against accepting federal money for the expansion.


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