At the end, interminable – er, interim – studies
It’s all over but the shouting – after four weeks of work, the 60th Wyoming Legislature will shortly fold its tent, and a good many legislators, and executive branch folks, will head out for a few stiff drinks and some shouting…back and forth about what they did and didn’t accomplish.
But first, a Thursday afternoon meeting of the Management Council to talk about interim studies – the work that goes on for legislators during the break. These are meetings held at various places around the state –sadly, not in Cancun – to consider issues that were raised but not acted upon, for lack of enough information.
So, for example:
- The Joint Judiciary Committee will continue the state’s exploration of wind energy issues – looking at property rights regarding wind production;
- The Joint Appropriations Committee will meet to discuss COLA’s (cost of living allowances), the raises that state employees and retirees have come to expect during the boom years – but which may be harder to come by in the frugal future;
- A back log in permitting at the Department of Environmental Quality – affecting everything from uranium to wind farms to coal bed methane to pesticides – will be studied by the Joint Minerals, Business and Economic Development Committee;
- The somewhat incomprehensible system for choosing which school districts get to build new buildings will lead to an organization plan for the School Facilities Commission, which will be submitted by the select Committee on School Facilities to the Joint Appropriations Committee come September.
But the committees who submitted their interim plans to the Management Council left out some of the more troublesome issues which the legislature was unable to wrestle into submission this session. To name only two:
- What to do about funding the major repairs needed to make Interstate 80 safe and navigable (it’s a federal freeway, but the feds aren’t paying the freight – a toll road proposal got shot down during this session);
- The state’s poor workplace safety record remains an embarrassment (bills to raise fines for workplace accidents due to employer negligence died, as did an attempt to raise the cost of driving without a seatbelt on – since many workplace injuries take place while driving).
It was a tired afternoon in the committee room – a few solons sniffled with the bugs often picked up during a session. The interim studies seemed as nondescript as this quiet session often did, and the council did no more than rearrange the order of a few.
Struggling to stay awake during the discussion of interim topics, I could imagine the meetings that lie ahead in spring, summer and fall– fluorescent lights, repetitive testimony, talk talk talk – in other words, more of what we’ve just been through. No one mentioned the brilliant suggestion of one legislator who wants to deepen understanding of water issues in the Wind River drainage by studying the headwaters – that is, a climb up Gannett Peak.
No, that one wasn’t budgeted in the list of interim studies. But we’re going to do it anyway.