Sublette checker | Legislative update – 13.-15. September
September 13 – Hello Sublette County, here is Albert Sommers telling you President Biden’s national policy that will affect the citizens of Wyoming.
On Thursday, September 9th, President Biden ordered major new federal immunization mandates for nearly 100 million Americans. His order requires all employers with more than 100 employees to require their employees to have either a vaccination or a COVID-19 test once a week. In addition, President Biden is demanding that all healthcare facility workers be vaccinated in order for that facility to be eligible for government Medicare and Medicaid payments. Most Wyoming nursing homes, hospitals, and clinics are heavily dependent on these federal funds as they serve the populations eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.
Governor Gordon responded quickly and appropriately to President Biden’s edict: “The announcement by the Biden administration that it would require COVID-19 vaccinations or weekly tests for private companies is a egregious example of government supremacy. Our constitution was written and fought for to protect our freedoms as American citizens. This government’s recent statement shows its utter disregard for the rule of law and the freedoms enjoyed by individuals and private companies under our Constitution. In Wyoming, we believe the government needs to be kept in check. I have asked the Attorney General to be ready to take all measures to counter this government’s unconstitutional excess of executive power. It has no place in America. Not now and never. ”
Governor Gordon can take this struggle to the federal government, and the Wyoming Legislature can support his efforts primarily by funding those efforts.
The Republican leadership of the Wyoming Legislature issued a press release on Friday, September 10th: “We strongly support Governor Gordon’s stance against a federal immunization mandate. Our republican form of government leaves decisions of this severity to the states. We believe the von Biden government’s federal vaccination requirement is arbitrary and likely unconstitutional. Wyoming Statute 9-14-102 provides the governor and attorney general with the tools to take legal action to prevent enforcement of Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations such as the proposed vaccination mandate. We are confident that you will use this authority to good effect to protect the rights of Wyoming citizens. “
As a member of the legislative leadership, my name is on that answer.
I do not support vaccination regulations for COVID. This decision is best left to the individual. However, I also have problems with the government telling a private company that it cannot require employees to follow health guidelines in order to have a healthy work environment.
The 100 percent free market approach is that workers have a choice of who they work for, and if an employer has requirements that workers don’t like, then the employer won’t have workers.
However, the concept of the free market presents challenges when a company has a monopoly in a community and workers have few opportunities for decent alternative jobs, or when customers or workers are harmed by business practices.
Additionally, if Wyoming passes a law banning private companies from imposing vaccination regulations on employees while the federal government enacts regulations forcing companies to impose vaccination regulations on employees, business will be in a tough spot.
Vaccine mandates will continue to be a hotly debated topic as Wyoming decides how to thread the needle to protect the rights of workers, consumers and private businesses. The governor is likely to convene lawmakers for a special session to consider Biden’s vaccine mandates, and lawmakers are exploring ways to address this federal transgression while protecting the rights of workers and businesses. Stay tuned, more to come.
September 14th – Hello, Sublette County, Albert Sommers reports on the preliminary work of the 66th Legislature. I was appointed to his Colorado River working group by Governor Gordon, and the working group met in Rock Springs on September 7th.
The Colorado River Work Group consists of community, agricultural, industrial, conservation / recreational, and legislative members. These members represent any group with an interest in Wyoming’s stake in the Colorado River, which includes the Green River Basin, the Hams / Black Fork Basin, and the Little Snake River near Baggs, Wyoming. Members include Ben Bracken and Brad Brooks, who represent community interests; Aaron Reichl and Ron Wild, who represent industry interests; Chad Espenscheid, agricultural advocacy group; Jen Lamb, who represents conservation interests; Rep. Albert Sommers and Senator Larry Hicks, representing the Wyoming Legislature and Wyoming State Engineer Greg Lanning.
On September 7th, the task group heard updates on problems related to the Colorado River. The drought and the resulting poor hydrology of the Colorado River have caused Lake Mead to sink to its lowest level since it began to be filled after construction. Lake Powell and Lake Mead are farmed with the aim of meeting the needs of the basin for water. Extremely low water levels this year will result in government regulating water in the Lower Basin states.
The Colorado River is governed by multiple multi-state treaties and a number of laws and court orders. All of this together is called “The Law of the River”.
Based on the 1922 Colorado River Compact, the Upper Basin, which Wyoming is a part of, may not cause the river at Lees Ferry, which lies directly below Lake Powell, for a period of 10 consecutive years. In the event that a restriction on use becomes necessary to maintain the flow at Lees Ferry in accordance with the requirements of the Colorado River Compact, the extent of the restriction by each state in the Upper Basin is determined by the Upper Colorado River Compact.
Should there be a restriction, all water rights could be restricted after 1922 to meet the Upper Basin’s responsibility to the pact.
We haven’t reached these thresholds yet, but as the drought persists, a cut becomes more likely. The federal government has the right to manage the large reservoirs in the basin under the “Law of the River” and we will see some subsidence of the Flaming Gorge in order to meet the water stewardship in the Lower Basin. By 2026, the Feds and the states of the Colorado River Basin must develop further guidelines for the management of these reservoirs.
Wyoming needs to develop a strategy for the future. The governor, Wyoming State Engineer, and Wyoming’s agent on the Upper Colorado River Commission have all legal powers to make these critical decisions. I hope this newly formed Colorado River Work Group can address some of the tough questions surrounding Wyoming’s future water policy for the river.
I subscribe to the old adage, “You’re either at the table or on the menu.” Everyone in Sublette County has an interest in this discussion.
I can be reached at [email protected] with questions or concerns.
September 15th – Hello Sublette County, Albert Sommers reports here on the interim period of the 66th legislative period. On the 8th-9th September I attended the meeting of the Joint Education Committee in Casper. We continued our discussion of K-3 literacy and community college funding.
K-3 literacy is critical to a child’s success throughout life. A long-term study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation nationwide found that students who were incapable of reading by the end of third grade were four times more likely to drop out of high school than skilled readers. In fact, 88 percent of non-high school students had reading difficulties in third grade. According to the documents we have available, these students who have got into difficulties usually do not receive the necessary catch-up help.
The committee reviewed a bill that would restrict the number of screeners and ratings to read. The reason for limiting the number of these instruments is to ensure greater coherence and to ensure that the students to be identified are actually identified by these instruments. The bill also requires literacy-focused professional development for elementary school teachers to ensure that all elementary school teachers have the expertise to teach or recognize students with literacy problems. The committee will tackle this bill at our next meeting.
The committee also received testimonials from the University of Wyoming on how it is reinforcing literacy education in its elementary school teacher prep program. The UW is increasing the number of hours of literacy / reading training prospective teachers receive and is developing a literacy-based professional development program for existing teachers. I was impressed with the UW’s renewed efforts to train literacy for new teachers in the hope that it will resonate with teachers who are better prepared to teach reading problems.
Community colleges are the backbone of workforce development in Wyoming, including welding, instrumentation, Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), and nursing programs. Given the tightening government budget, how can Wyoming maintain high quality post-secondary education for its citizens?
Wyoming received over $ 1 billion through the American Recovery Plan Act. Can we use some of this money to fund our community colleges? The Joint Education Committee is investigating two foundation programs that use ARPA funds to support students and community colleges. A foundation would be $ 100 million, and the income from the foundation would be split among the block scholarships of all colleges. The other foundation would fund an adult scholarship program that is at least 24 years old.
Currently, the Wyoming Hathaway Scholarship primarily funds students who graduate from high school. Adults hardly find financial support to find a new career. I like foundations because the income from investments allows them to build and maintain sustainable programs while protecting the capital or funds invested. We will process these invoices further in the next meeting.
Thanks very much.
If you have any questions or concerns, I can be reached at [email protected].