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Lawmakers Reflect On The 2014 Legislative Session

Bob Beck

The Wyoming legislative session wrapped up this week and three issues dominated.  One was the state budget.  Another was the legislature’s decision to reject federal dollars to expand Medicaid, and the final issue was the Supreme Court Decision that said that it was unconstitutional for the legislature to demote State Superintendent Cindy Hill. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck asked lawmakers about some of those issues and has this report.

BOB BECK: This was a budget session and that made the budget the focus of legislators.  And while those in the Republican Leadership raved about it….others weren’t so sure. Republican Representative Albert Sommers of Pinedale is finishing up his first term. 

ALBERT SOMMERS:  “I thought last year was fast.  You know I thought my hair was going back on the side of my head and this session I thought it was ripping off my head, it was that fast. “

BECK:  Sommers was particularly overwhelmed by the wide range of issues lawmakers had to address.  He says the budget was particularly overwhelming.

SOMMERS:  And I don’t think we spend enough time on our budget amendments to get a good handle on what we are voting on and what we are trying to do. 

BECK:  Things have slowed down for Laramie Representative Cathy Connolly who’s gone through a couple of terms.  But she joins other Democrats in complaining that a lot of money was saved and not enough was done for people.

CATHY CONNOLLY:  I would have liked to have seen more money for state employees raises I would have liked to have seen, even although it wouldn’t have cost us any money  more commitment to Medicaid expansion.  We do have the amendment that’s in the budget bill that allows the governor to do a little bit of negotiation, but I would have liked to have seen a bit more with that. 

BECK:  Fellow Democrat Bernadine Craft says not getting Medicaid expansion was the biggest disappointment of the session.  The Senator from Rock Springs says even though there is a budget amendment, she doesn’t think that anything will be done.

BERNADINE CRAFT:  (Laughter) No.  I really don’t.  I mean we have opened the door for the governor to talk to CMS…the Center for Medicaid studies…but we haven’t given him any power, so I don’t know how we can expect him to do anything.

BECK:  As for the budget, Craft did see some positives.

CRAFT:  Most especially the funding for local governments, for cities, towns, and counties.  We were able to successfully amend into the budget the extra funding for Senior Centers which was also a critically an important item in pretty much all parts of our worlds and particularly in mine, so I felt very good about that. 

BECK:  As for Medicaid Expansion Fellow Senator Larry Hicks who is a Republican from Baggs expressed the concern of many Republicans who fear that the federal government may not live up to its obligation to pay for the expansion.  But Hicks also wonders about using any government money to pay for such services.  He admits it’s a difficult issue for him.

HICKS:  Obviously there’s a need for this.  I think that’s why we saw the House say let’s take a hard look at this.  Once we know what the rules of the game are lets be prepared to jump in.  So I think there was a lot of people that scattered on the Medicaid.  I think we all understand the compassion and charity, but I think how you go about that is where the lot of the debate ranges.

BECK:  Back in the House, Worland Republican Michael Greear says Medicaid expansion is also a tough issue for him.

MICHAEL GREEAR:  Most of my people back home don’t want Medicaid expansion.  I believe they don’t understand the gap that’s created without Medicaid expansion. 

BECK:  While Greear understands the need, he says it would have been difficult for him to vote for it due to the response of his constituents. As for the other underlying issue…what to do about Superintendent Cindy Hill.  Greear wishes it would go away, but he says they’ll probably have to do something.

GREEAR:  It’s going to be a rocky nine or ten months here plain and simple.  Will we need to come back for a special session.  Personally I hope not, but if we do that’s part of our job.  I know there are budget issues and a lot of statutes that are affected.  If we have to come down here for three days or whatever it takes to get that cleaned up, that’s what we’ll have to do.

BECK:  Senator Craft says the Hill issue is a mess.

CRAFT:  That’s been so tragic.  It’s eclipsed the session, it’s eclipsed a lot of constituents’ views of the legislature.  It’s been sad. 

BECK:  For Wyoming Public Radio, I’m Bob Beck.

Bob Beck retired from Wyoming Public Media after serving as News Director of Wyoming Public Radio for 34 years. During his time as News Director WPR has won over 100 national, regional and state news awards.
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