Northern Wyoming News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Karla Pomeroy

Geis heads to final legislative session


February 6, 2016

WORLAND — Sen. Gerald Geis (R-Worland) heads down today for this 35th and final Wyoming Legislative Session.

The local state senator announced earlier this year that he will not seek re-election to Senate District 20 seat. His final session could be one of the more interesting sessions with the Legislature looking a tight budget where the Joint Appropriations Committee has trimmed 1.5 percent for the biennium budget.

Geis is not sponsoring any individual bills this session. He said his focus will be on the budget. He said he feels the Joint Appropriations Committee has done a “heckuva job” working the budget.

While Medicare expansion is not included in the budget, Geis said he feels it will be a main topic of debate. “The governor would like to have it. I see some pit falls with it,” Geis said. He said in three years the state could be stuck with fully funding the expansion. He added that with a new president and new Congress next year, the rules could change.

He said, “I realize that there are five little hospitals in my district that could use the funds,” including Worland, Greybull and Thermopolis.

Geis said this year’s budget session could become a lot like the session in 1978 in which construction of a medical school was the hot budget issue. “We couldn’t afford it. It was a tough session and we ended up having to have a special session to pass the budget,” Geis said.

He added that’s when Wyoming joined WWAMI (Washing, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) Medical Education Program affiliated with the University of Washington School of Medicine.

As chairman of the Senate Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources committee, Geis said he will let his vice chair run a lot of the meetings and the members will handle bills on the floor. “I’m going to be laid back. I’m phasing myself out,” he said.

The interim ag committee does have a few bills prefiled, including Senate File 5 which increases the registration fee for pesticides from $75 to $90 with $15 going to the pesticide education account.

The committee is also putting forth House Joint Resolution HJ0001 on labeling for genetically engineered items. Geis said the committee, through the resolution, is encouraging uniformity in food labeling related to genetic engineering.

The resolution notes that “genetic modification of crops has existed since man began cultivating crops and genetically engineered technology has been safely used to produce food products for the past 25 years.” Geis said people can look at corn and see a difference. He also noted the fact that there is now seedless watermelons.

“When we first started in the trucking business, 1,000 pounds was a large cow. Now they average 1,300 pounds. It’s the same with sheep and pigs,” he said.

The resolution states, “A national solution is needed that will protect consumers by eliminating confusion, advancing food safety and providing for the free trade of commerce among the states.”

If passed by the Legislature, Geis said the resolution will be sent to Congress. “The farmers and growers in this area want this,” he said.

The ag committee also handles the omnibus water bill – construction (HB41) which has several local projects included:

—Greybull Transmission Pipeline for the town of Greybull to design and construction of a transmission pipeline and appurtenances necessary to make the project function as intended. Total project cost is $1.23 million, with $824,100 appropriated.

—Meeteetse Tank/SCADA/Retrofit project for the town of Meeteetse for design and construction of a pipeline, valves, supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system upgrade. Project cost is $140,000 with $93,800 appropriated.

—South Big Horn County Pipeline for the South Big Horn County Rural Water District to design and construct a transmission pipeline. Total cost is $5.3 million with $3.5 million appropriated.

—Lower Nowood Rural Water Supply for design and construction of a transmission pipeline, water well and disinfection facility with a total project cost of nearly $2.4 million. There is $1.69 million appropriated.

The omnibus water planning bill, Senate File 31, includes:

—Manderson Water Master Plan, $100,000 appropriated.

—Northwest Rural Water Master Plan for Big Horn and Park counties, $230,000 appropriated.

—Owl Creek Watershed Study in Hot Springs County, $375,000 appropriated.

—Shell Water Master Plan, $85,000 appropriated.

—South Worland Water Master Plan, $90,000 appropriated.

—Hanover Irrigation District Master Plan in Washakie County, $175,000.

The 2016 session begins Monday at 10 a.m. with Governor Matt Mead’s State of the State address. The 20-day session is scheduled to adjourn March 4.


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