Wyoming State Legislature – Weekly Preview

Wyoming State Legislature – Weekly Preview

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Last week the Legislature left us with some burning questions that won’t be answered soon and don’t lend themselves easily to prediction. We here at WyPols, ever willing to do the difficult work, are going to try and answer two of what we see as some of the bigger questions about the upcoming week of legislative action.

 How does House Labor Committee fund hospitals?

 Leadership from the House Labor Committee has expressed interest in helping out the state’s struggling hospitals, but has not explored exactly how to help. Lucky for us speculators, the committee only has a few options to achieve this end.

With Medicaid expansion essentially out of the question for the session, if anyone in the Legislature wants to get money to state hospitals, they either hope that SF 145 passes the House or that something can be squeezed into the budget, which will see the House floor two more times. Either way, the real trick of aiding Wyoming’s at-risk hospitals will be gaining support for helping them.

 The state’s hospitals, all confusing and contradictory statistics aside, are in trouble. Legislators have even said during this session that if they don’t find a way get the hospitals funding, at least three will face closure.  Though faced with the possibility of their constituents’ lives and well-being coming under threat, many legislators are committed to voting against any but the very cheapest options. This is problematic, because committing to keep the doors of a hospital open can be an expensive endeavor.

 SF 145 creates a $10 million pool to ease the costs of uncompensated care. This, at best, would keep the doors open at some of the state’s most at-risk hospitals. Though the bill passed the Senate, it will likely find trouble gaining support from the more conservative corners of the House, which has expressed concern about spending state funds in an environment of falling energy profits. On the other side of the issue, Wyoming Hospital Association President Eric Boley says that SF 145 is an unattractive solution because it wouldn’t fix the underlying causes of Wyoming’s healthcare problems, and just open the door for more uncertainty later.

The prospects are worse for some sort of budget amendment. Lacking a preset framework and facing increased scrutiny as the budget is debated, any budget amendment setting aside money for hospitals would be hard up for the needed votes for passage.

 For all of the obstacles, the committee will discuss a way to find solutions that legislators with fiscal concerns will actually vote for at their Wednesday meeting. And as always, WyPols will be there to bring you the latest updates.

What are the chances that an anti-discrimination bill, SF 115 will pass the House?

The House will soon hear SF 115, an anti-sexual orientation/gender identity discrimination bill that creates important protections for members of the LGBTQ community. The protections touch on many areas of life, but center on the work place.

 The bill will certainly face intense debate, as there are more representatives who vote along the lines of their professed religious values than senators both in proportion of the legislative body and in the raw numbers.

 Along with the assertions of this bill’s critics that it ties business owners’ hands and that it recklessly creates another protected class, SF 115 will be seen as directly counteracting HB 83, which passed the House and will be heard in the Senate.

 HB 83 proposes a series of protections for business people and has drawn criticism from LGBTQ rights activists who say that the bill creates a “right to discriminate.” It’s worth noting that SF 115 is designed to prevent discrimination in the workplace, while HB 83 mainly focuses on allowing service providers to be selective in the manner in which they provide services.

 Fairly or not, however, the two bills will be compared when SF 115 is debated. And if the Senate file is to pass the House it will have to win the support of several representatives who voted in favor of HB 83. A total of 23 representatives voted against HB 83 (a pro LGBTQ rights position), and assuming rather safely that Rep. James Byrd (D-Cheyenne) would have joined those who voted against the bill had he not been excused from that day’s voting, SF 115 will have to scare up an additional six votes.

 In short, protections for LGBTQ workers in Wyoming will come down to whether or not six people can be persuaded that protecting them is worthwhile. As always, WyPols’ liveblog will bring you up to the minute updates as they come in.

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