How do the legislatures in the Mountain States work? To answer this question, we are checking with legislative officials in Idaho, Montana, Washington, and Wyoming. MSPC sent the same questions about the legislative process to each state. Here is the response we received from the Wyoming Legislative Service Office (LSO). The questions we posed are in italics.
Length of legislative session/special sessions – When do regular legislative sessions begin and how long are they scheduled for? How is a special session called and how long can that session run?
Wyoming LSO: “Articles 3, Section 6 of the Wyoming Constitution provides that the Legislature shall not meet for more than sixty (60) legislative working days, excluding Sundays, over a biennium, or two-year period. Generally, the Legislature meets for forty (40) legislative working days during a General Session, and twenty (20) legislative working days during a Budget Session. General Sessions start on the second Tuesday of January in odd-numbered years, and Budget Sessions start on the second Monday of February in even-numbered years. Special Sessions can be called by either the Governor or the Legislature and cannot last longer than twenty (20) working days. This is in accordance with Article 3, Section 7 of the Wyoming Constitution.”
Bill introduction process/restrictions– What is the bill introduction process and are there any restrictions on when or how many bills can be introduced?
Wyoming LSO: “A bill is read in and referred to a committee as determined by the presiding officer in each chamber. A 2/3 introductory vote is required during a Budget Session. During a General Session, there are no limits to how many bills a Representative can sponsor in the House, and a limit of seven (7) bills that Senators can offer for introduction in the Senate. During a Budget Session, Representatives can only sponsor five (5) bills for introduction in the House (House Rule 13-3), and Senators can only sponsor three (3) bills for introduction in the Senate (Senate Rule 13-3).
Wyoming Constitution Article 3, Section 22 provides that no bill for the appropriation of money except for the expenses of the government shall be introduced within five days of the close of the session, except by unanimous consent of the body in which introduction is attempted. It has been the past custom of the legislature that this constitutional provision only applies to a regular general or budget session of the legislature, not to a special session.
During a Budget Session, no bill shall be accepted for consideration after noon on the third (3rd) legislative day except by unanimous consent of the membership in the Senate and by two-thirds of the membership in the House. No bill shall be considered for introduction (i.e., presented to the Senate or House for an introductory vote) after 5:00 p.m. (Senate) or 6:00 p.m. (House) on the fifth (5th) legislative day except by unanimous consent of the membership in the Senate and by 2/3rds of the membership in the House. (See H.R. 13-2; S.R. 13-2.)
During a General Session, no bill shall be considered for introduction after 5:00 p.m. on the twelve (12th) legislative day in the Senate, or after 6:00 p.m. on the fifteen (15th) legislative day in the House. (See H.R. 4-5(b); S.R. 4-5(b).)”
Bill reports/fiscal notes– Are bill reports and fiscal notes made available publicly before committee/floor action on a bill?
Wyoming LSO: “Wyoming Statute 28-8-105(d) requires the Legislative Service Office (LSO) to provide a fiscal note for each bill ‘having a fiscal impact, indicating fiscal and personnel impact and revenue generated or required’ by the bill. A fiscal note is a statement attached to every formal bill draft that provides an estimate of the bill’s fiscal and personnel impact to the state.
Fiscal note estimates are prepared for the introduced version of the bill only. Fiscal notes are not updated based on amendments adopted on the bill. Fiscal notes are made available publicly before committee/floor action on a bill. If a bill is introduced after the start of session, the fiscal note may read that the ‘fiscal or personnel impact is not determinable due to insufficient time to complete the fiscal note process.’”
Bill/vote tracking – Is there a resource available for the public to track legislative action on bills and committee/floor roll calls?
Wyoming LSO: “Yes, all legislative action on bills and committee/floor roll call votes are available on www.wyoleg.gov for current and past sessions from 2001 to present.”
Public hearings – Is there a process for the public to receive notification of public hearing agendas? Are there any time requirements for public hearing agendas to be posted before committee action on a bill (5-day notice, etc.)?
Wyoming LSO: “Yes, all meeting notices and agendas are posted to www.wyoleg.gov and members of the public can receive email notifications through the Legislature’s GovDelivery email subscription service. Go to this link and select which topics you wish to track. During session, meeting notices for committee hearings are posted by 3:00 pm the afternoon before the next legislative day.”
Waiting periods for actions on bills/amendments – Are there any waiting period requirements before action can be taken on bill text or amendments (3-day publicly available first, etc.)?
Wyoming LSO: “Wyoming legislative rules provide for at least one day between each reading. Each bill gets three readings in both chambers. The bodies can overrule the one-day rule by a 2/3 vote to accelerate a bill through the process. (See House, Senate, and Joint Rules)”
Budget votes – Are there any waiting period requirements after a budget has been introduced before legislative action can be taken on the proposal?
Wyoming LSO: “There is a mandatory one-day break between second and third reading on the budget bill. Proposed amendments to the budget bill must be finalized no later than 5:00 pm on the legislative working day preceding the day of the reading. Proposed budget amendments are posted on www.wyoleg.gov as soon as they have been finalized by the sponsor. Read more about Wyoming’s budget process here.”
Remote testimony – Is remote testimony available for all public hearings? If yes, what are the requirements (sign-in 24hrs before hearing, etc.)?
Wyoming LSO: “Remote testimony for the public is generally available at all legislative meetings during the interim. It’s important to note that remote testimony is required by policy for meetings that are held at approved facilities that can accommodate the technology needs for remote testimony. Chairmen maintain discretion to limit the time allowed for public comment and the total number of requests approved per agenda topic as well as where a meeting is held. Participants must register by 5:00 pm the day before the meeting. (See Management Council Policy 21-01)
Remote testimony for the public is generally available at all meetings during session. Chairmen maintain discretion to limit the time allowed for public comment and whether or not to take remote testimony. The 5:00 pm deadline does not apply to standing committee meetings during session, and participants can register up until when the meeting starts. (See Management Council Policy 09-01)”
Video live stream/archives – Are committee hearings and floor action live-streamed and archived? If yes, where are these broadcasts available?
Wyoming LSO: “All interim committee meetings, standing committees, and floor sessions from 2020 to current are live broadcast and archived on the Wyoming Legislature’s YouTube channel. Audio archive from 2007 to 2020 floor sessions can be found here.”
Bill signing process – How long does the governor have to act on a bill after it is approved by the legislature? Is there a pocket-veto or do approved bills automatically become law after a certain amount of time if the governor doesn’t act?
Wyoming LSO: “Pursuant to Article 4, Section 8 of the Wyoming Constitution, the Governor can sign, veto, or allow a bill to become law without his/her signature. While the Legislature is in session, the Governor has three (3) days (excluding Sundays) to take action on a bill. After the legislative session has adjourned, the Governor has fifteen (15) days to take action on a bill.”
Veto authority – What type of veto authority exists for the governor (line item, etc.)?
Wyoming LSO: “Pursuant to Article 4, Section 8 and 9 of the Wyoming Constitution, the Governor can veto a bill in its entirety or allow it to become law without his/her signature. The Governor only has line-item veto authority on bills that contain multiple appropriations (e.g. the budget bill).”
Veto override process – What is the veto override process for the legislature?
Wyoming LSO: “Pursuant to Article 4, Section 8 of the Wyoming Constitution, the Legislature can override a gubernatorial veto by a 2/3 vote by both chambers. The bill initially goes back to the chamber of origin for consideration and if 2/3 of the members vote to override, the bill then moves to the second chamber for a 2/3 vote.”
Right of referendum/initiative – Do citizens have the right of referendum and initiative? If yes, what are the requirements (are there any restrictions)?
Wyoming LSO: “Yes, Wyoming citizens have a right to referendum, and it’s governed by Article 3, Section 52 of the Wyoming Constitution and Wyoming Statutes 22-24-401 through 22-24-420. Applications are submitted to the Wyoming Secretary of State’s office and there’s a fee of $500.
Restrictions - Referendums cannot be applied to dedications of revenues, to appropriations, to local or special legislation, or to laws necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health and safety.
Requirements - Petitioners must obtain signatures equal to at least 15% of qualified voters who voted in the preceding general election in at least 2/3 of Wyoming’s 23 counties. Read more about Wyoming’s referendum process here.”
Thank you to the Wyoming Legislative Service Office for answering our questions.