The Wyoming Legislature did not meet Monday or Tuesday this week following a historic snowstorm that walloped the eastern side of the state.
Still, lawmakers are preparing to reconvene Wednesday. We’ve rounded up a few bills relevant to Teton County.
Schools’ cost of living index targeted
Teton County School District No. 1 receives the largest cost of living adjustment in the state, a reflection of the cost of real estate and an effort to allow the district to retain teachers.
Senate File 143, which includes a bevy of changes to school finance rules, would change the cost of living adjustment, potentially reducing it by 35%. SF143 is up for a third reading on the chamber floor Wednesday.
Private school reimbursements pitched
Though the Wyoming Constitution precludes the payment of vouchers to parents who opt for private school, House Bill 106 would mandate that school districts reimburse families who homeschool or send their kids to private school.
Families would receive the lesser of their actual expenses or 50% of the amount the district receives per student. HB106 has been referred to the House Education Committee, but the Wednesday schedule for the committee had not been released by press time.
State lands bill would enable Teton Park sale
House Bill 164, co-sponsored by Teton County Rep. Andy Schwartz and Sen. Mike Gierau, could go to the floor of the Wyoming House this week.
The legislation, which passed the House Appropriations Committee in a 5-to-2 vote last week, authorizes the sale of a square-mile of state land in Grand Teton National Park to the National Park Service. An amendment added via committee that Schwartz and Gierau voted against requires $500,000 in proceeds per acre. At 640 acres in size, that puts the basement sale price for the land at $320 million — 820% of the 2015 appraised value of $39 million.
“That’s a problem, but maybe we could amend it out,” Schwartz told the News&Guide last week. “In my mind, the most important thing is to get the bill passed.”
The Legislature’s blessing for the land sale is required because the Wyoming Constitution otherwise requires that all state lands disposed of be sold at a competitive auction. HB164 is positioned in the general file for when the legislature reconvenes Wednesday.
South Park legislation moves forward
Senate File 157, the bill that brought the Gill family’s desire to develop its 26 acres in northern South Park to the Wyoming Legislature, advanced last week.
The bill has pitted advocates for local control and property rights against one another, with Nikki Gill testifying in favor and Town Councilor Arne Jorgensen against.
As amended, it would limit the abilities of towns to condition access to “public improvements” — like a municipal sewer system — on deed restrictions that limit uses otherwise allowed by local zoning.
The Wyoming Senate voted 22-8 to send the bill to the House of Representatives, while the Jackson Town Council voted 4-1 Monday to send a letter opposing the bill. Councilor Jim Rooks voted against the letter.
— Billy Arnold
Sales, real estate tax pitches flop
The House Revenue Committee was again disinterested in new taxes last week as it voted down a real estate transfer tax and an expansion of the sales tax from goods to services.
Teton County legislators supported the real estate tax. Jackson Hole Mountain Resort lobbied against the sales tax expansion.
The vote against the sales tax expansion was 7-2.
Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Teton, sponsored the real estate transfer tax, which would have allowed counties to levy a 1% tax on real estate sales over $1 million. It would also have required voters to sign off on the tax, and would have made the government specify how, exactly, the money would be spent.
The Teton County legislators who advocated for the measure said it was a way to generate and earmark funds to address Jackson Hole’s housing crisis, and that taxing real estate sales over $1 million would not drive up home prices for middle class homebuyers. But critics worried it would harm the real estate market.
The committee voted 5-4 against the measure.
Yin and Rep. Jim Roscoe, an independent who represents part of Teton, Sublette and Lincoln counties, voted for both bills.