Wyoming Liberty Group
With adverse changes to the state’s economy, the 2016 Wyoming Budget Session lived up to its name far more than it did throughout the mini-boom of the last half decade. Nevertheless, the Legislature considered some important non-budget items. One short bill, Senate File 35, died a quick death on third reading in the Senate, with a final vote of 14-16. SF35 would have removed the provision in Wyoming law that prohibits paying ballot petition circulators for each signature they collect. (Last year, I mistakenly believed that this provision was removed in an omnibus reform to the initiative and referenda process.)
In an interview with Dustin Bleizeffer in WyoFile, former U.S. Senator Alan Simpson has a lot on his mind, particularly, according to the article’s title, “money in politics.” Indeed, in the last year Sen. Simpson has appeared on money in politics panels, published articles on campaign finance in magazines like Time, and is part of Issue One’s “ReFormers Caucus.” One would hope, then, that Sen. Simpson would have insights into the current state of campaign finance law. Alas, Sen. Simpson uses “money in politics” as rhetoric to simply rail against politics.
Almost three years ago, amidst the debacle over the notorious Senate File 104 (2013) which removed most of then-Superintendent Cindy Hill’s powers and reassigned them to an appointee of the governor, Hill sent a silly threat letter to certain legislators alleging defamation. Nothing ever came of it. The episode is but a footnote in a saga that ended with an important decision from the Wyoming Supreme Court overturning SF104. However, as reported in the Casper Star Tribune, Hill—again represented by attorney Robert DiLorenzo—recently went so far as to file a defamation lawsuit against state Representative Tim Stubson, who is also a candidate in the race to succeed Rep. Cynthia Lummis in the United States House.
On Wednesday the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature voted to adopt a committee bill to reform civil asset forfeiture under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act (“WCSA”). The law as it exists today allows Wyoming police to seize and the state to keep (“forfeit”) property that they suspect is related to the drug trade, including cash, cars and firearms. Property owners do not have to be convicted or even charged with a crime. Although Wyoming has not abused this law to the levels witnessed in other states, there have been some very questionable cases that illustrate the current law’s threat to due process and property rights.
Earlier this week the Legislative Service Office released two draft bills written at the request of the Joint Judiciary Committee of the Wyoming Legislature. Each bill would amend civil asset forfeiture under the Wyoming Controlled Substances Act (“WCSA”) in distinct ways. The committee will consider both bills at its meeting in Gillette next week. Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which police seize property—in Wyoming, usually cash, cars and firearms—that they suspect is related to the drug trade. The property owner must then go to civil court and prove that the property is legitimate, or else the state keeps it. Such laws have faced bipartisan criticism nationwide over the last few years, and here in Wyoming the saga continues. (Our civil forfeiture tag links to much of our work on the issue.)
When Kim Love, owner of Sheridan Media, took out a radio ad attacking Wyoming Rep. Mark Jennings through the organization Citizens for Good Government (CGG) a few weeks ago, political advertising hit a low point. The ad states:
There’s a philosophy here in Wyoming known as ‘the Wyoming Way.’ State Representative Mark Jennings and his supporters thing the Wyoming Way is to strap someone to the front of a pickup truck and to play chicken while the person is strapped to the pickup because that person is gay, or that it is the Wyoming Way to put feces in someone’s lunchbox because that person is gay. But that is not the Wyoming Way. If you see Mark Jennings, tell him that isn’t the Wyoming Way. Paid for by Citizens for Good Government.
In the 2015 Wyoming Legislative Session, Senate File 14, or Senate Enrolled Act 1 (SEA 1), would have overhauled Wyoming’s drug forfeiture laws to require a felony conviction before alleged drug property (cash, cars, firearms and the like) could be permanently taken by the state. The bill passed the Wyoming Legislature with an initial total vote of 80-9 between both houses before it was vetoed by Governor Mead, then failed to muster the requisite votes to override the veto.