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Lodging tax heads to Senate

The proposed statewide lodging tax cleared a Senate committee Tuesday, bringing the state’s tourism industry one step closer to independence.

House Bill 66 would impose a 5 percent tax on hotel stays across Wyoming, with the revenue funding the Office of Tourism and weening it from the state’s volatile general fund. The Travel, Recreation, Wildlife and Cultural Resources committee approved the bill 3-1.

It would replace, rather than add to, the lodging tax Teton County voted to renew in November. After a heated local debate over the merits and pitfalls of the tax, legislators vowed to improve it at the state level.

As it stands, Teton County is required to spend 60 percent of tax revenue on marketing Jackson Hole, and critics fear overpromotion. In response, Rep. Andy Schwartz, D-Teton, added an amendment to the bill to give local government more flexibility in using the promotional funding to mitigate the impacts of tourism.

The bill, which passed the House of Representatives by a margin of 44-16, will now go to the Senate floor.

Corporate tax is rejected

After making quick work of the House of Representatives, a corporate income tax bill for “big-box” stores died at the hands of a Senate committee Tuesday.

Amid criticism from fiscal conservatives and an array of industry lobbyists, the chairman of the Corporations Committee denied the bill a vote, according to the Casper Star-Tribune.

House Bill 220, the National Retail Fairness Act, would have imposed an income tax on large, multijurisdictional companies.

Supporters argued the tax would only affect companies that already enjoy an unfair advantage over smaller operations in business-friendly Wyoming. Opponents feared the tax would lead to job-slashing and decreased community investment.

School safety bill dies

The House of Representatives killed a bill Friday that would have required school districts to develop security plans and training, rejecting the only legislation introduced this session to make schools safer.

Opponents argued Senate File 64 would have done nothing but burden school districts with unnecessary mandates when they already voluntarily work to protect children through similar methods.

Sen. Affie Ellis, R-Laramie, a Jackson High School graduate, introduced the bill as officials around the country struggle with the growing problem of gun violence. Last spring two mass shootings — in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas — left 27 dead.

The bill fared well in the Senate, passing by a 19-11 margin after gaining unanimous support in the Education Committee. The House Education Committee also approved it without a single dissenter.

But the House of Representatives overall wanted nothing to do with it. The bill died 43-13.

Contact Cody Cottier at 732-5911, town@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGtown.

Cody Cottier covers town and state government. He grew up with a view of the Olympic Mountains, and after graduating Washington State University he traded it for a view of the Tetons. Odds are the mountains are where you’ll find him when not on deadline.

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