View the chart below to see how your state representatives voted on decisions affecting Teton County, and read on below to learn more about those issues.
The 2019 Wyoming State Legislature general session ran January 8 through February 28. General sessions, held on odd-numbered years, allow for a wide variety and high volume of bills to be filed for legislative review. Next year, the Wyoming legislature will hold a shorter budget session. The Wyoming State Legislature consists of the 60-member Wyoming House of Representatives and the 30-member Wyoming State Senate. During this session, around 500 total bills were filed. Below are the bills we watched closely, how our local representatives voted, and what the Governor did.
COUNTY ZONING AUTHORITY: PRIVATE SCHOOLS – SF49
This bill takes away local control over certain zoning regulations by exempting private schools, if they are situated on 35 plus acres and serve more than 50 students, from county regulation of use, location, or occupancy. The Alliance opposed the bill because it would override local decisions based in community values and rural character. This bill comes in the wake of the county rejection of the building size text amendment requested by the Classical Academy (see County vote section) and could allow for increased development and use within our rural zones. After getting three of four exceptions to zoning rules, the Jackson Hole Classical Academy got the Legislature to strip all Wyoming counties of zoning authority over private schools – removing local control because the school didn’t get what it wanted in the local democratic process.
*GOVERNOR’S KEY ACTION: Governor Gordon did not sign SF49, but also did not veto it. He then wrote a letter to explain why he was not taking a side, including: “No other bill in this legislative session has sparked more correspondence to the Office of the Governor than Senate File 49. … I believe this bill is flawed and so I will not sign it; but, as I have done with other bills,
I will take this opportunity to recommend that the legislature and local governments continue to work to find a better way to sort out the types of impasses that begat this legislation closer to home. … In my core, I believe that government is best closest to the people and when it governs least. This bill sits in the saddle between those two.”
HIGHWAY AND WILDLIFE SAFETY STUDIES AND IMPROVEMENTS – HB228
Would have appropriated $5 million to WYDOT for use in the next five years on wildlife conservation efforts such as wildlife crossings, game fences, and signage.
LAWFUL FENCE STANDARDS: COUNTY PREEMPTION – HB51
Back again after a failed attempt last year, HB 51 would have taken away county authority to regulate fencing standards. We were concerned about this bill’s impact on the county’s natural resource protections. The bill passed out of the House Agriculture committee during the interim session but died in the house.
LOCAL REGULATIONS: SUBDIVISIONS – HB196
This new bill decreases the minimum lot size in county unincorporated areas from 35 acres to 5 acres. This essentially guts our Comprehensive Plan and rural zoning and would increase potential rural development seven-fold. The stated purpose is benign: allowing ranchers to break off lots for their children. However, the lack of safeguards means it could be one giant loophole to allow speculative real estate development. It is another in the group of bills to remove local zoning control, and unfortunately, passed and was signed into law. Representative Andy Schwartz ran an amendment that only allows people to subdivide their properties after ten years of ownership, but we were still against the bill because this change will only slow unplanned development and not prevent it.
WYOMING PUBLIC LANDS DAY: HB99
This bill establishes a state-wide Public Lands Day celebrating Wyoming’s public lands. We’re glad to see public lands receive this official recognition – please thank your representatives and mark your calendar for September 28, the first official Wyoming Public Lands Day!
BILLS WE WERE WATCHING THAT DID NOT MAKE IT TO THE HOUSE FLOOR:
TOWN AND COUNTY DEVELOPMENT REGULATIONS HB277
This bill was similar to the private school bill and the fencing bill, but focused
on housing requirements (mitigation). The bill was another repeat of a failed bill from a prior legislative session, and would have removed local governments’ ability to require workforce/affordable housing requirements in commercial or mega-home development. This bill would have overruled local decisions that the Alliance supported, and could have spurred rapid, unplanned growth in Jackson Hole. It could have hollowed out our middle class and made Jackson just a resort – no longer a true community. Thankfully, it failed.