CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Legislature is set to resume their special session beginning at 9 am Saturday, May 16. Both the House of Representatives and Senate worked late into the night Friday on several pieces of legislation related to response to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.
The Senate’s session can be viewed on Youtube here (audio-only stream available here):
Each chamber of the legislature have been working on five pairs of “mirror bills.” Some of the legislation is related to the emergency appropriation of $1.25 billion in federal Coronavirus, Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act qualifying funding which have been received by the state.
Under the “mirror bill” process, the Wyoming House of Representatives and the Senate will began the session with consideration of separate, but identical pieces of legislation.
House Bill 1001 and Senate File 1001 would direct the overall appropriation of the $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding received by Wyoming. Both bills have passed through their chamber of origin and are moving into the second chamber for Saturday’s session. Those bills contemplate four categories of priority need for use of the funding:
- COVID-19 emergency response: funding for expenditures incurred or that will be incurred “as a direct response of combating COVID-19 in Wyoming, for which CARES Act relief funds may currently be expended”
- Relief aid: payments to state and local programs to support businesses, families and individuals
- Economic development projects: capital construction, road building, infrastructure, broadband and other projects aimed to offset economic impacts of COVID-19
- Replacement of lost revenue for public entities: relied funds for state and local governments to continue providing “a base level of critical services while longer term solutions to this economic crisis can be implemented”
Two of the other pairs of mirror bills are “companion acts” to House Bill 1001 and Senate File 1001 which relate to how aspects of the overall $1.25 billion would be appropriated.
House Bill 1003 and Senate File 1003 deal with giving the governor authority to transfer funding allocated to executive branch departments between different programs or between departments. The House Bill failed on third reading, but the Senate File passed on third reading in the Senate.
House Bill 1004 and Senate File 1004 would appropriate $275 million of the overall $1.25 billion in CARES Act funding for three relief programs for Wyoming businesses. Those have both passed out of chamber of origin on third reading.
House Bill 1005 and Senate File 1005 would make businesses immune from civil liabilities stemming from COVID-19 coronavirus expsosure or illness. The House has passed their bill on first reading. The Senate passed their Senate File on three readings.
After the House or Senate pass the bills on three readings, the legislations moves to other second chamber for consideration. Under the special session rules, the second chamber will consider amendments and only a third reading vote.
The legislation could then move to a Joint Conference Committee to resolve differences. Only one piece of legislation from each pair of mirror bills could ultimately becomes law.
The Wyoming Department of Health provides COVID-19 case, variant, death, testing, hospital and vaccine data online. The department also shares information about how the data can be interpreted. COVID-19 safety recommendations are available from the CDC.