Monday, February 11, 2008

Wyoming Legislature opens 20-day session

The Wyoming State Legislature opens its 20-day budget session this morning. The governor's budget and an array of bills await their attention during this even-year "short session." Short session, maybe, but long days and nights for legislators.

The Governor presents his state of the state address this morning. You can watch in person at the State Capitol if you get there early. Most of us listen on the radio. While there are rumblings afoot that Wyoming's economy is slowing, Gov. Freuenthal plans to accentuate the positive, according to an AP story in this morning's local paper.

As we know from the national scene, these rumblings and rumors of doom-and-gloom can have major consequences. And it's a stark difference from the past four years, when we've entered the legislative session buoyed by visions of huge surpluses.

We have some major concerns about energy. New coal-fired plants are being scrubbed because of concerns about global warming. Actually, those fears have more to do with corporate paranoia about how a Democratic president might confront the real issue of global warming. Energy companies don't want to build huge coal-fired plants in Wyoming to take advantage of our low-sulphur coal, and then have to retrofit it in a couple years to comply with stricter regulations.

Naturally, carbon sequestering is going to be a big issue this session. Wind power, too, and how to regulate all the huge windmills going up across Wyoming to bring power to Colorado and California. Does Wyoming want to become one big windmill farm for the West? States such as California regulate windmills to deal with NIMBY complaints. Well, Wyoming doesn't want to continue being a cheap-energy plantation -- we've done enough of that already.

To the Legislature's credit, they've provided funds for the Energy Institute at the University of Wyoming. It's turned out to be a great forum for discussing all aspects of energy development, including global warming. Many of us thought it was going to be another good-ol' boys club for the oil, gas and coal industries.

One has to wonder about how much time the Legislature will devote to bills that cater to the Republican Party's pet topics: abortion, illegal immigration, school prayer, etc. There is one Republican bill that makes it a felony to assist illegal immigrants. Not sure what that means. If I give a quarter to an illegal immigrant, am I a felon? I'll have to look at the bill's wording before I ridicule it further.

Get more information about specific bills at And call or e-mail your senator or rep about your concerns. In Wyoming, the best way to do that is when the Legislature is not in session and your legislators are close to home. That's most of the year. But feel free to contact them in the next 20 working days. You'll be glad you did.

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