CHEYENNE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Senate Appropriations Committee had nearly an hour-long discussion with the Legislative Service Office director Matt Obrecht about possibly funding new positions on Thursday, Feb. 13.
SF 2 would allow money to be appropriated from the state’s general fund to pay for salaries for the legislators, the LSO staff, in and out-of-state travel expenses, dues for various organizations and conferences and general administrative support. The total amount asked for in the bill was $20,898,756.
Much discussion was had between committee chairman Sen. Eli Bebout and Obrecht about the amount of money spent on LSO staff. Obrecht repeatedly explained to the senator how costs have increased significantly over the four decades since the LSO was created and how Wyoming’s interim schedule adds pressure and time to the office’s staff.
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“What the Legislature is asked to do now is incredibly more complicated than when the LSO was created in the 1970s,” Obrecht said. “A lot of that has to do with federalism…the state takes on cooperative acts like Medicaid and you need expertise on these programs in order to be an able partner. So you have to hire staff who specialize in these programs. My last two predecessors and myself have to limit legislators’ requests and it’s failed miserably every time.”
Currently, there are 43 LSO staff members as well as three session staff members. Obrecht explained to the committee that in the SF 2 budget, he hoped to add another staff attorney, a legislative editor, a couple of paralegals, a budget fiscal analyst and a researcher.
Bebout told the director that the committee wasn’t keen on adding new positions and spending more money and suggested numerous ways to possibly curb spending, such as cutting down on how many bills the LSO staff are asked to draft or cutting some of the legislature’s select committees.
Obrecht responded that the amount of interim committee meetings has steadily increased over the last five years, and since they are usually scheduled and hosted all over the state, there are additional travel costs. He explained that LSO staff spend a good portion of their time working on research requests for the legislators.
He also told the legislators that there were 597 bill requests this year, beating the previous record set in 1990, which was 558. Bebout, Sen. Dave Kinskey and Sen. Mike Gierau agreed that there should be more discussion about limiting how many bills can be drafted per legislator and committee, which would cut down on labor for the LSO staff.
The committee ultimately voted to send the bill back to the Senate for a second reading, with a few amendments to the language. Obrecht agreed to reorganize the LSO staff to decrease costs.