Mar 24, 2015

Concealed carry bill will pop up again, legislator predicts

A bill to allow concealed-carry guns into schools and public meetings was defeated in the Wyoming Legislature this year, but supporters aim to reload and fire away again, local legislators predicted Friday.

Rep. David Northrup, R-Powell
“It’ll be here next year, guaranteed,” state Rep. David Northrup said. “It’ll be back.”

And the Powell Republican, who represent the eastern part of Cody, said he expects it to become law, in some form and at some time. The people pushing for it will not stop until that happens, he said.

“This bill will get passed,” Northrup predicted during a town hall meeting at The Depot in downtown Powell.

Gib Condie of Powell asked why the Legislature was considering allowing guns in classrooms but not in courtrooms. Condie said people accept limits on the speed they drive and when and where tobacco can be used.

“Why not accept a limit on being able to carry a concealed weapon into a school?” he asked.

Northrup said he feels such a limit is reasonable. He said he bases his view in part on his prior service on the Powell school board. Educators should be aware of what’s happening in their environment, Northrup said.

“Gosh, if I was a principal, I would like to know if there is a gun in my building,” he said.

But Northrup said he was also aware of the concerns of small, rural school districts that are several minutes away from the nearest law enforcement office. He spoke with representatives of some of those districts, including staff at Ten Sleep.

“Gosh, if I was a principal, I would like to know if there is a gun in my building,” Northrup said.

Perhaps school staffers, such as principals or janitors, could be properly trained and equipped with guns, he said.

State Rep. Dan Laursen said he favors allowing concealed carry guns into almost every setting, including schools and courtrooms.

“I’m in favor of it,” Laursen said, noting Utah has allowed concealed carry guns in public places for 15 years without any problems.

“I think our schools would be safer ...” he said.

Several other bills and topics were discussed during the 75-minute meeting:

• While an effort to call for a convention of the states to pass a constitutional amendment mandating a balanced federal budget failed, Laursen said it will rise once more in Cheyenne.

Rep. Dan Laursen, R-Powell
Two bills focused on the topic, he said, and he was the cosponsor of one of them. The House approved a bill calling for the convention but he said the Senate “picked it apart” and added stipulations. The Senate fears a runaway convention that could make major changes in the American political system, but Laursen and Northrup said that would not happen.

They said such a gathering would be designed as a single-purpose convention. Under a bill Laursen proposed, Wyoming delegates would face a $10,000 fine and year in jail if they got off track.

States need to demand more power in government, Laursen said. So far, 26 states support calling the convention; if 34 do so, it would happen, although it would take the support of 38 delegations to pass a constitutional amendment.

He said the federal government is “pushing the states around more than they should.”

Both legislators said they feel the federal government will get more responsive if the states shows a determination to act, which is what happened in the 1960s when civil rights legislation was being considered at both the state and federal levels.

“It died in Senate anyway — and I was happy. We need to do it right,” Laursen said. “I’ll pick it up again and bring it up. We’ll bring it back. The Senate was being kinda ornery.”

“We’ll bring it back,” Rep. Laursen said of an effort to require Congress to balance its budgets. “The Senate was being kinda ornery.”

• Local governments are not getting as much money as Gov. Matt Mead pledged to deliver during his 2014 re-election campaign.

Mead said he wanted to provide $25 million to county, city and town governments in the 2015 supplemental budget. That was quickly reduced to $12.5 million and in the end, $8 million was budgeted for local governments.

Powell Mayor Don Hillman confirmed that number during the meeting.

• Condie asked if the lawmakers supported Medicaid expansion.

They said the concern was still that the federal government, which has promised to pay 90 percent of the costs, may not deliver the money.

“If Medicaid expansion does happen, it would definitely benefit hospitals and providers,” Northrup said. “I think Wyoming is going to wait and see what will happen on the federal level.”

Condie suggested using profits from the Wyoming Lottery to cover any gap. He said since the lottery is a “regressive tax” that takes money from the poor; it would be wise to use any revenue derived from it to help people.

“If Medicaid expansion does happen, it would definitely benefit hospitals and providers,” Northrup said. “I think Wyoming is going to wait and see what will happen on the federal level.”

• Placing federal land under the control of the state would bolster Wyoming state government, the legislators said.

Northrup said $900 million in royalties to the federal government and gets $200 million back each year. That’s why people want federal lands converted to state control, especially Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land, he said.

Northrup said he worries that the land might be sold to private interests. 

“That’s my concern,” he said. “That’s why I can’t support it.”

• Rural Powell farmer Lyle Evelo repeatedly asked Northrup and Laursen to “rein in” the Environmental Protection Agency.

What can change the EPA is a “change in administration,” Laursen said.

Evelo said the EPA is growing in size, employees and regulatory authority.

Laursen said he knew what could change things: a “change in administration.”

• The representatives were asked about the anti-discrimination bill that failed in the House after passing in the Senate. Both voted against it.

“I just don’t think we need a bill,” Laursen said.

Northrup said he wanted to see all protected classes, which includes religion and age, among others, treated the same.

“Let’s treat it fairly ...” he said.

• Northrup said Clark is pushing for a share of recreation mill levy. It’s an issue that will be studied.

“They would like to get their fair share,” he said.

The Legislature will study whether communities like Clark should be able to form their own recreation districts.

He will serve on the Joint Agriculture State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee.

Gov. Mead is pushing for the state to build 10 reservoirs in 10 years, the legislators said as they reviewed items to be studied during the interim.

Among other topics to be looked at are conservation district mill levies, pesticide training and safety, a federal lands study, Wyoming State Fair planning, costs and fees, and GMO (genetically modified organisms) organizations and products, regulations and related issues.

The Joint Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources Interim Committee, which Laursen serves on, will look at the Game and Fish Department’s budget and structure; poaching regulations; antler and bone collection; special management area permits; and the Division of State Parks, Historic Sites and Trails Central Construction Office.

It also will study bicycle tourism and recreation, including a long-range plan for bike pathways, while seeking a safety report from WYDOT.

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