CHEYENNE, Wyo. – After the second week of the Wyoming Legislative budget session, the Senate approved SF 1, the biennium budget bill, on Friday, Feb. 21.
Ahead of the vote discussion took place over an amendment sponsored by Sen. Lynn Hutchings, which mirrored the budget amendment sponsored by Rep. Chuck Gray in the House. The amendment would prohibit the University of Wyoming from spending federal or state funds on health insurance plans that cover elective abortions. This wouldn’t apply to a woman needing an abortion in a medical emergency.
Sen. Mike Gierau argued that the amendment was essentially pointless, saying he’d never heard concerns of the school providing funds for abortions, urging the senators to vote no on it. Sen. Charles Scott argued that the amendment was “inappropriate,” as he (as well as Sen. Chris Rothfuss) believed it was a bill being sneaked in as an amendment.
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“This is a budget session and the people of Wyoming elected us to come down here and talk about the budget,” Sen. Cale Case said. “I want to get back to work on the budget.”
The amendment ultimately passed by one vote, when Sen. Tara Nethercott switched from “no” to “aye” at the last second.
The budget has been the main point of discussion all week, with the Senate taking Monday and Tuesday to introduce the bill (since it spanned more than 140 pages) and Wednesday to complete a second reading.
While the Senate had nearly 40 amendments to discuss on Friday, debates were kept to a minimum, a shift from discussions on Wednesday. Three were removed from the docket during the floor sessions.
During the morning’s floor session, only six amendments were discussed, with five being adopted and one failing, but the afternoon saw a much more robust meeting.
Six amendments were killed by the end of the day, including Case’s amendment regarding endangered species funding.
There was some contention by the end of the evening when the Senate prepared to vote on the third reading of the bill.
“I’m not objecting to going into our reserves, but the rate we’re going in is excessive,” Sen. Scott told his fellow senators before voting. “The magnitude of this will force a major tax cut that I don’t want to vote on.”
In the end, 22 senators voted to pass the bill through the Senate, while six voted no. Two were excused from the vote. The bill will now go to the House of Representatives, which has a budget bill on its way to the Senate.