On Jan. 12, due to COVID-19 concerns the 66th Wyoming Legislature convened at noon, for a one-day virtual session to fulfill the requirements of the Wyoming Constitution.
According to Sen. Dave Kinskey approximately 50 bills were read and referred to committee in the Senate and approximately 40 in the House.
Additionally, the Joint Appropriations Committee distributed the draft budget bill to all members on Jan. 12.
“Which is the second time that’s happened in memory,” Kinskey said in an email to Sheridan Media. “The first time being last year.”
According to the District 22 Senator, traditionally budget bills did not make it out of the Joint Appropriations Committee to member desks until the session was well underway.
“Usually a week and a half or more into the session,” Kinskey said.
According to Kinskey, appropriations committee members will continue to work on the budget during their committee meetings.
Additionally, bills will continue to be introduced by members to be studied and considered.
“When we come back in for the eight-day session those bills, too, will be referred to committee. None of this is what people want,” Kinskey said in reference to the untraditional session this year. “It’s the way it has to be, given the pandemic and given the constraints on our resources. Congress is able to meet because they all got the vaccination. The Wyoming Legislature has not. We await the vaccine with the rest of the population. The first priority is the health caregivers in the vulnerable.”
The session was a hybrid with a mix of Senators both meeting in person and via ZOOM.
“I think there were 17 of 30 senators on the floor with another dozen participating over the Internet. I think the ratio might’ve been about the same on the house side, with most House members attending in person and some coming in via the Internet,” Kinskey said.
According to Kinskey, the legislature has a small staff which depends heavily upon retirees during the session to accomplish the work.
“We are not heavily automated and depend greatly upon paper processes,” Kinskey said. “Nearly all of those retirees that help us during the session, as I understand it, have indicated they could not come in due to their age and vulnerability.”
Kinskey added that the Wyoming Legislature does not have the latest up-to-date voting technology, making a true virtual session difficult if not impossible.
“And so, this is the compromise to get as much work done as quickly as possible understanding the tremendous physical challenges facing the State,” Kinskey said.
Legislature has adjourned until Jan. 27, 2021. Committees will meet and work a number of committee bills that have been introduced.
During an appearance on Sheridan Media’s Public Pulse, Sen. Dave Kinskey told listeners the scheduled procedure for the untraditional session.
According to the schedule, the session will reconvene virtually via Zoom for eight days to consider the worked committee bills.
On Friday, Jan. 29, an eight day cross-over day will meet virtually. Cross-over day is the point in the session after which each house will consider legislation sent to it by the other house.
On Feb. 1, the Final Rules of the 66th Legislature are to be adopted in both houses, according to the schedule. Feb. 5, will bring the adjournment of the eight-day virtual session. Joint Conference Committees on all bills are completed and presiding officers will introduce and refer some bills to standing committees to work the week of February 22.