Wyoming Legislature

Bill removes racist covenants

When Sarah Pruis found a home for her family during their move from Laramie to Cheyenne five years ago, she was shocked by what she found in the deed to her new home: a clause prohibiting any person of color from owning the property.

She was quickly reassured that the provision was only a part of the original deed and that it was unenforceable due to the Fair Housing Act of 1968. But Pruis was still “mortified and disturbed” by its mere presence in the deed she was signing, especially given its potential toll on families of color.

Pruis testified to the Senate Corporations, Elections and Political Subdivisions Committee last week in support of House Bill 91, which would allow homeowners to remove such racially restrictive covenants from their real estate deeds in Wyoming.

Sponsored by Rep. Shelly Duncan, R-Lingle, the legislation gained final approval from the Senate on Thursday and now heads to Gov. Mark Gordon for his consideration.

Duncan recalled first becoming aware of the racist covenants, which can be found in housing deeds nationwide, in the late 2000s. As a Realtor in Torrington, she came across a covenant requiring any person of color to enter the house through the back door and to leave the neighborhood by sundown.

“They are unenforceable, but [my clients] were made to initial them,” Duncan told the committee.

“This is a really easy thing for us to do,” Pruis told the committee March 18. “I don’t really care how unenforceable this clause is. What I care about is no one should ever have to see it, going forward, put in their face.”

— Wyoming News Exchange

Senate OKs gun-free zone bill

A piece of legislation that would outlaw gun-free zones in Wyoming has passed the state Senate.

On a 25-4 vote, the upper chamber sent the bill, Senate File 67, to the House of Representatives. The bill would allow people with concealed carry permits to bring weapons into areas that are currently gun-free zones, including schools.

Sen. John Kolb, R-Sweetwater, a co-sponsor of the Senate file, previously told the Jackson Hole News&Guide that he supports the bill because he believes the presence of law-abiding citizens with guns would increase safety in schools. SF67 would give each district’s board of trustees the opportunity to choose whether to allow concealed carry in schools.

It would also allow concealed carry into public meetings of legislative bodies, both local and state. Teton County Commissioner Mark Barron has expressed support for gun rights, but not for bringing weapons to public meetings.

The bill has been received by the House and accepted for introduction in the House Education Committee.

Tom Hallberg

Older-student scholarships eyed

The House of Representatives passed a bill on third reading that would create a fund for scholarships to be awarded to students who are over the age of 24. House Bill 165 would divert $100 million from the Hathaway Scholarship fund to create the Wyoming Tomorrow Scholarship Endowment Fund.

That money would create scholarships for students over the age of 24, to the tune of up to $1,500 for up to four semesters.

“HB0165 is designed as a workforce development scholarship, and would serve a real need in Wyoming,” Rep. Albert Sommers, R-Sublette, a co-sponsor of the bill, wrote in a recent update.

Sommers wrote that because the Hathaway endowment doesn’t spend all the interest it earns on scholarships, the creation of the new fund wouldn’t have a negative impact on it.

Creating scholarships for older adults could help pull the state closer to its goal of 65% of residents reaching some level of postsecondary educational attainment.

— Tom Hallberg

Abortion bill passes Senate

The Wyoming Senate approved a bill that would ban chemical abortions on a 22-7 vote. Senate File 133 will move on to the House. The bill would effectively end abortions in the state, because most are done using abortifacient medications. It would allow medical abortions if they are necessary to protect the health of the woman.

A 2019 Wyoming Department of Health report said of all 62 abortions in the state that year, all were performed in Jackson using medications. In passing the bill, Senate lawmakers framed the argument as a moral one, saying that as a pro-life state, Wyoming’s laws should reflect its values, even if the number of abortions is small.

Opponents of the bill say it would disadvantage rural, low-income women, who would need to travel out of state for abortions.

Under the proposed law, doctors who perform chemical abortions could face fines of up to $750 or six months in prison.

— Tom Hallberg

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