Representative Lawley looks toward 2024 budget session

By: 
Barbara Anne Greene

Rep. Martha Lawley, a Republican who represents House District 27, shared her thoughts about the upcoming legislative session which begins next week in Cheyenne.
“I’m excited about the first budget session,” she said. “I have always been someone who likes to learn. There are lots of new things for me to learn.” She has been working hard to prepare. Since last year, she has become more familiar with the details of the state budget.
One of her goals is to provide information to constituents about the budget to help them understand it. The budget session is intended to be about the state’s biennium budget. “That’s what we are there for. Constitutionally we have 20 legislative days to accomplish the task. Evaluating and deciding on the state’s budget for the next two years.”
Another goal she has set for herself is to understand the largest increases in the budget and why. In some cases, she has found it is from inflation. In others, it is due to added programing or a change in programing.
She also set a goal to find out where taxpayers’ money could be saved. “I’m particularly trying to target places where there seems to be duplication in effort in different departments or waste,” she said.
More transparency in the state finances is yet another goal. This ties into her educating citizens on the budget. “Maybe the transparency is just the fact we haven’t been able to help the citizens of Wyoming understand the budget structure,” she isad.
The last goal is that she wants to open a meaningful discussion on “how much money is enough for the state to have in the rainy-day account.”  The account was set up to make sure the state had enough money to last through two years budget if there was a significant change in the revenue stream. The last study was done in 2015.
She noted that many non-budget bills are proposed for this session. In order to manage the allotted time they have to look at non-budget bills, there is a process. “For the introduction of any non-budget bill, there must be a two-thirds vote of the members of that chamber (House or Senate) to have the bill introduced. That’s a pretty high threshold. There is good reason for that because we need to make sure we have plenty of time to work on the budget.”
PROPERTY TAX BILLS
To Lawley, the number one non-budget issue is property taxes. “The legislature is continuing to wrestle with that, continuing to try to work through possible solutions. There are going to be a lot of bills related to property taxes.”
Some will be coming as committee bills out of Revenue. Lawley has been studying those. There are also some bills sponsored by individual legislators. She has studied those as well.
“I will be bringing back my property tax deferment bill, because not only is that a bill that can be for the times in which we are in, but really, it’s more about a personal situation a person can find themselves in. A deferment of taxes could help them regardless of what is happening with the evaluation of property in our state.”
The bill has not been numbered yet for this session.
She is also co-sponsoring a property tax exemption bill. “It is the only bill out there that will provide tax relief in 2024.” That is HB 45.
SOCIAL MEDIA BILL
Lawley is co-sponsoring a bill regarding social media. It would require parental consent for minors to use social media and some apps. “That in my view is connected to the overall mental health crisis we have with our young people today,” she said. “Adolescent mental health (issues) are on the rise for different reasons. One of them is the suicide rate. The role that social media has played in creating some of it.”
This is her motivation for co-sponsoring the bill.
LOCAL INPUT RESOLUTION
Lawley is also co-sponsoring a resolution that calls for local input in federal rule-making. “When these situations come, like in Rock Springs with the Bureau of Land Management Plan, this would require a certain amount of input from local people about how those rules will impact that community.”
EDUCATION COMMITTEE BILLS
One of the Education Committee bills she has spent a lot of time working on is SF 9. It is titled “Parental rights in education.” The other bill is HB 19-Education savings accounts. She hopes they will be introduced.
Lawley said things will be happening quickly this session. It is going to be a challenge. Yet, she feels honored to serve and excited to be a part of the process. She encourages constituents to contact her. She also asks that they understand she is on the House Floor for hours and may not get back to them until late into the night.
For more information on the bills go to https://www.wyoleg.gov/Legislation/2024

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