Fuel tax and education leadership spur comments



Two pieces of legislation are generating lots of comments from constituents, according to State Senator Gerald Geis (R-SD20, Worland). He has received a lot of comments on SF104 regarding the reorganization of the department of education, which establishes a director position (see related story). He is also hearing a lot about the fuel tax proposal.

Senate File 104 has been pushed through quickly, getting introduced on Jan. 10 and referred to committee and then passing out of the education committee on Jan. 11. It was re-referred to the appropriations committee on Jan. 11. The bill passed out of committee and was approved by the Committee of the Whole Monday.

Geis, in his weekly report Monday morning, said that he expects the bill to come out of the appropriations committee quickly.

He said he has received a lot of emails from people around the Basin encouraging him to vote against the bill.

On the fuel tax, which is originating in the House of Representatives (HB69), Geis said he is uncertain of whether there is enough support in the House to pass the proposed 10 cent increase per gallon on fuel. He said, however, if the bill comes to the Senate, he feels there is an 80 percent chance it will pass the Senate and he would support the legislation.

Geis said he has received comments and they have been split about 50-50 for people in favor or against.

“People don’t understand how the federal highway funds work, a lot of them are designated for beautification or fencing or guardrails, some require state matching funds. The federal fuel tax funding is more complicated than people realize,” Geis said.

“I will support it. I know how things work. Yes, there is waste in every department, but the thing about this bill is a third of the increase goes to towns, cities, counties; it’s not all 100 percent to the highway department.”

Geis, who serves as chairman of the ag committee said, the committee started their work off with a forest health report last Tuesday. He said it was a good report and they’ve asked for some information back, especially concerning allegations by residents that the Forest Service is not following their own rules and regulations on the eastern side of the state regarding grasslands and prairie dogs.

He said the pine beetle issue has, unfortunately, resolved, itself with the beetles “running out of food. We’re lucky in the Big Horns. We have probably 70 percent of our timber left but we need to get to logging them.” He added, however, with no mills in the area it will make it hard.

The ag committee also handled a few bills last week but has a much busier agenda this week.

Senate File 31 was passed out of the committee and was scheduled for Committee of the Whole Monday. The bill would provide for an animal euthanasia technician. Per the legislation, the technician is defined as person who is employed or sponsored by a law enforcement agency whose duties include euthanizing an unwanted, sick, injured or dangerous animal.”

Senate File 20 was also on the docket for Committee of the Whole after being past out of the committee. Geis said, “We now have all state lands recorded so any agency must go before state land board for approval before they can sell or purchase land.” He said the only exceptions are the Wyoming Department of Transportation when they need to purchase right-of-ways and the State Parks because they have to get Legislature approval for funding.

Geis said any land action must keep Wyoming’s total acreage within 10 percent above or below the current total acres for the state.

SF4 sponsored by Geis regarding livestock disease reporting and liability that establishes penalties for livestock owners who knowingly sale diseased livestock;

One bill, SF33, was on second reading Monday and would raise the amount people could donate to search and rescue when purchasing hunting or fishing licenses from $1 to $2 or more if the person desires.

According to the Legislative Service Office’s fiscal note on the bill, In FY 2012 the Search and Rescue Account received $189,979 in donations during the payment for boat registrations, snowmobile registrations, fishing licenses, and hunting licenses and tags.”

Search and rescue groups can apply for funding from the account for expenses incurred on searches.

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