UP to members of the House Judiciary Committee for vowing to work on a solid hate crimes bill for the 2022 budget session.

This year’s bill, House Bill 218, would have established civil liabilities for any actions taken against individuals or their property due to their race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation or gender identity, among others. It also would have required law enforcement officers to undergo training to identify and respond to bias-motivated crimes, and would have had the Wyoming Attorney General’s office compile an annual report on hate crimes in the state.

We support this effort as a way to signal to companies looking at the possibility of relocating to The Equality State that we truly care about treating people equally. But, more than that, it sends a message to residents and potential residents hate-based violence will not be tolerated.

The state where Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a buck fence and left to die more than 22 years ago is one of only three without a hate crimes statute. That is simply shameful.

Even though 2022 is a budget session, we hope it’s also the year Wyoming finally officially tells the rest of the world that hate has no place here.

DOWN to state Sen. Anthony Bouchard, R-Cheyenne, for trying to enact a blanket exemption from federal firearms restrictions with Senate File 81, the “Second Amendment Preservation Act.”

Even though it was filed and debated well before recent mass shootings in Boulder, Colorado, and Atlanta, Georgia, the original bill went out of its way to prevent the Biden administration and the Democrat-controlled Congress from restricting in any way the rights of Wyoming residents to own guns.

As introduced, SF 81 would have deemed invalid any federal laws or orders, including any gun taxes, confiscations, transfers or other regulations, perceived to infringe on residents’ Second Amendment rights. With the administration now calling for bans on the sale of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines in the wake of these two tragedies, we understand what motivated a bill like this.

But the main problem was it would have held any law enforcement officer who knowingly deprives a Wyoming resident of their Second Amendment rights legally liable for such a violation, and it would have removed qualified immunity, or protections that shield police and other government officials from lawsuits. Law enforcement officials understandably worried they would lose their ability to take guns from people involved in domestic violence situations or threatening suicide for fear of losing their jobs.

Thankfully, by the time the full Senate was done with SF 81 earlier this week, what headed to the House was stripped down so much that Sen. Bouchard voted against it. Instead of the 13-page original version, the resulting three-page bill allows citizens to petition the Wyoming attorney general to review federal laws passed after July 1 to decide whether they are unconstitutional. It would then be up to the governor to decide whether enforcement should be halted in the state.

Sen. Bouchard doesn’t like this version, and that’s for good reason. But it’s far from a bad thing.

UP to members of the Wyoming House of Representatives for advancing a bill to expand Medicaid coverage to thousands of low-income Wyoming residents.

If approved by the Senate, House Bill 162 would use money from the recently signed American Rescue Plan to extend Medicaid coverage to Wyoming residents whose income is at or below 138% of the federal poverty level. It’s estimated 24,000 people making $17,774 a year or less would qualify for health coverage in its first two years of implementation.

Wyoming is currently one of 12 states that have so far failed to extend this coverage under the Affordable Care Act. As we’ve said here previously, there are no more excuses for not doing this. We’re pleased to see this bill advancing, and we hope it isn’t watered down before it crosses the finish line.

DOWN to members of the Wyoming Senate for voting 19-11 to reject a bill to repeal the death penalty in Wyoming.

At a time when the state’s revenue stream is drying up, you’d think the cost of having this law on the books would be enough to ensure passage. But apparently those who believe in “an eye for an eye” still think it’s OK to spend about $1 million a year to keep people trained to handle death penalty cases, even when it’s not being used in Wyoming. (Not to mention all the people who have been wrongly convicted and put to death nationwide under death penalty statutes.)

This is simply unacceptable, from both a moral and fiscal perspective. Wyoming residents who agree should tell those lawmakers who voted against Senate File 150 to do better next time.

WE WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU THINK: Contact us via email at opinion@wyomingnews.com.

comments powered by Disqus