Gun Rights, Election Runoff, Medicaid Expansion Face Potential Deciding Votes
Bills that aim to protect Wyoming gun owners from federal anti-gun laws, expand eligibility for Medicaid in Wyoming, and mandate primary election runoffs if no candidate gets a majority are all slated for decisive votes on the Wyoming Legislature today.
It's possible that any or all of those bills could be laid back, as the runoff election bill was yesterday. A reconsideration vote on any of the bills is also possible but barring those scenarios, supporters of the proposed laws should find today out whether the measures will move on to the other house of the legislature.
Senate File 81, the Second Amendment Preservation Act, aims to reign in federal gun control efforts that may be applied going forward, such as taxes that specifically target guns or gun accessories and federal gun confiscation programs. President Biden's statements on Tuesday calling for new federal gun-control laws in the wake of a mass shooting in a grocery store in Colorado earlier this week may give Senate File 81 new momentum. But in floor debate in the Wyoming Senate, opponents of the bill have argued that the bill is essentially an effort at state nullification of federal laws, a gesture that they say is both futile and pointless. There have also been concerns raised that the measure might cause state residents to run afoul of federal gun laws by falsely believing they could ignore the laws in Wyoming.
Sen. Charles Scott [R-Natrona County] said Monday that while he supports the intent of the bill. it "needs a lot of work." The bill potentially faces third and final reading in the Senate today.
The latest in a long line of Medicaid expansion bills to be considered by Wyoming lawmakers, House Bill 162, could face a deciding vote in the Wyoming House today. A Senate Medicaid expansion bill that specified that Wyoming would only participate in an expansion of the program so long as the federal government continues to pick up 90 percent of the cost, is dead for this session. If House Bill 162 becomes law, it would extend health care coverage to roughly 25,000 low-income Wyoming residents who currently don't have insurance.
Senate File 145, mandating runoff elections in primaries where no candidate geets a majority of the votes in the first round is slated for third reading in the Wyoming Senate today after being laid back for a day yesterday while the bill's sponsors considered possible amendments. The bill's primary sponsor, Sen. Bo Biteman [R-Sheridan County] says the intent of the bill is to make sure that party nominees truly have the support of the voters in that party.
He points to a number of state races in recent years in which the nominees win the primary with well under 50 percent of the vote. But opponents of the bill say they worry that adding one more round of elections to the electoral process will discourage voter turnout and say that with the state struggling financially, now is not the time to be adding the cost of another round of elections.
The bill originally called for setting aside $1.5 million for potential runoff elections, but that amount was later amended to $750,000. Donald Trump Jr. at one point came out in favor of Senate File 145 in hopes that Rep. Liz Cheney might be defeated in a 2022 runoff election. But after county election officials complained about a lack of time to implement the changes next year, the bill was implemented to not take effect until the 2024 elections.