The 64th Wyoming Legislature kicked off on January 10, 2017 with Governor Matt Mead’s State of the State. He addressed the legislature and public, asking lawmakers to be mindful of their cuts and to consider tapping into the state’s $1.8 billion rainy day fund. Despite the harsh economic times, the American Heart Association dove right in and focused its attention on a lifesaving bill that would require Wyoming Public School students to have CPR training as part of a graduation requirement.
Senate File 82, sponsored by Senator Bill Landen (R, Casper) was introduced into the legislature on the first day of session. The bill was assigned to the Senate Education Committee, and thanks to many AHA volunteers and stakeholders’ testimony, passed with a unanimous favorable recommendation on January 20. Senate File 82 hit the Senate floor the next week and passed its first and second readings with a 19-11 favorable vote. The Senate then voted in final reading, 16-14, to pass Senate File 82, making CPR a high school graduation requirement for Wyoming Public School students. Unfortunately, in very rare circumstances, the bill was later brought up for reconsideration, at which point it failed to pass the Senate, 14-16.
“It was a devastating blow for the Heart Association, its volunteers, and advocates, who worked so hard on the issue, because they understand the need for this easy, lifesaving training in a state that is vastly rural and where its residents spend a lot of times recreating in the great outdoors,” said Kristen Waters, AHA Government Relations and Community Integration Director. “But, on the ground, we will continue to help raise awareness in this state on the importance of learning Hands-only CPR, and we hope to be able to carry the momentum from this legislative session into the future.”
Following this turn of events, the American Heart Association shifted its focus to preserving the $2.1 million cut from tobacco, substance abuse, and suicide prevention funds; however, despite many calls to lawmakers from AHA advocates, the legislature decided to cut all $2.1 million, or 40% of the state’s funding for prevention management organizations. The Heart Association then focused its attention on a bill that would increase taxes on cigarettes by $.30. This bill could not be supported by most health organizations because the increase was not significant enough to encourage residents to quit or to deter youth from starting to smoke. The bill passed the House, but died in the Senate Revenue Committee with a 2-3 vote.
The legislature battled back and forth between both chambers on budget issues, but finally agreed on making nearly $400 million in cuts on the final day of the legislative session. While every legislative session includes passionate debates over budgets and bills, some have said that this year may have been the most intense in recent memory.
The 65th Wyoming Legislature will convene on Monday, February 12, 2018 for a budget session that will last 20 working days.