LARAMIE – The committee tasked with diversifying Wyoming’s economy is barreling toward an Aug. 23 deadline to publish a report strategizing a 20-year economic plan for the state. At a Friday meeting in Laramie, two members of ENDOW – which stands for Economically Needed Diversification Options for Wyoming – suggested a simple solution to attract a stronger workforce: a statewide anti-discrimination law.
Jerad Stack and Matt Kaufman noted their research in ENDOW’s subcommittee on “health and wellness” indicated an anti-discrimination law would have a “high impact” on attracting new skilled workers to the state.
Kaufman said “increasing cultural awareness and cultural acceptance” in Wyoming is key to diversifying the state’s workforce.
This week, Jackson became the second city in Wyoming – after Laramie – to criminalize discrimination against LBGTQ people in matters of housing, employment and public accommodation.
In June, almost all candidates in Wyoming’s gubernatorial race expressed disapproval of a statewide anti-discrimination law.
Only Democrat Mary Throne explicitly supports such a statute, saying she’s witnessed her former colleague, House Minority Leader Cathy Connolly, D-Laramie, be discriminated against in the Legislature for being gay.
“To say I have a different perspective on this question is an understatement,” Throne said. “We do have to welcome all people to Wyoming, and if we want to bring millennials into the state, being more welcoming to our lesbian, gay, transgender friends is a huge first step. … No one – and I mean no one – should lose their job because of who they are.”
Stack and Kaufman noted in their presentation a number of other less-impactful measures that could be implemented to attract new businesses to Wyoming.
Kaufman said the state should develop regulatory clarity around several emerging businesses, like artificial intelligence, robotics, digital identity, personal information trusts and unmanned vehicles.
The Wyoming Legislature took a first step in that direction this year when legislators passed a bill clarifying block-chain technology rules.
“A lot of entrepreneurs in different places don’t know if what they’re doing is legal,” Kaufman said, noting it’s difficult to find investors in industries where there are legal uncertainties.
Kaufman said establishing a chancery court, which handles all business disputes, would be another way to attract new businesses.
Delaware has dominated the business world by having all of its business disputes handled by a separate, business-friendly court.
As a result, two-thirds of all Fortune 500 companies are incorporated in Delaware.
With more and more businesses being established in the West, ENDOW member Bill Schilling said it makes sense to “have a Delaware in the West, and why not have that be Wyoming.”