Wyoming Legislature update – Feb. 27, 2024 (posted 2/28/2024)
Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on Tuesday, February 27, the twelfth day of the 2024 Budget Session.
Today we worked bills on third reading and continued robust debate on several bills.
HB125, which repeals gun-free zones, passed the House with overwhelming support and now moves to the Senate. Yesterday, I proposed an amendment for home rule, but it was rejected. However, an amendment today allows local school districts to determine staff training parameters for concealed weapons permits. With these amendments, I voted in favor of the bill.
HB203 is a property tax bill that generated long debate and had many amendments. The bill would have removed property tax for a homeowner whose home is valued less than $1 million, by increasing sales tax by two cents. The bill was complex and would have made some significant changes to tax policies. While the bill failed, it was a good and important debate on tax policy. I voted against the bill because I believe it would have resulted in a flood of people from outside Wyoming into our county trying to avoid property taxes, which would further drive up home prices in our beautiful valley.
HB52 was heard on third and final reading today, and this was my bill. Originally it featured staggered levels of relief primarily aimed at seniors who are living on limited incomes and struggling to keep up with the severe increases in property taxes in the state. An amendment in second reading cast a wider net to provide relief to a larger group of Wyoming people. I brought an amendment to make this bill provide tax relief immediately, in 2024. The original bill would have taken the Department of Revenue a year to implement. This bill would backfill local government losses through a state appropriation. This would ensure our towns and counties can still function and not have to reduce critical services, while providing critical tax relief to Wyoming citizens.
HB60 also passed the House today, with my support. The bill creates a new category of extraordinary damage to grass by elk on private lands, if populations of elk are over objective. The bill requires the Game and Fish Department to reimburse landowners based upon private land lease rates for the affected area. I worked with Representative Crago, the Wyoming Stockgrowers Association, and Jesse Johnson with the Wyoming Wildlife Federation to find a compromise amendment that seemed to make everyone comfortable with the bill.
Tomorrow we will continue to introduce Senate Files and work bills on Second and Third Reading. I can be reached at email@example.com with questions or comments.
Wyoming Legislature update – Feb. 26, 2024 (posted 2/27/2024)
Albert Sommers, House District #20 Representative
Hello Sublette County, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on February 26, the eleventh day of the 2024 Budget Session.
Today we worked amendments to several bills on 2nd Reading, including the following:
HB52- Property tax-homestead exemption is a bill I sponsored that creates a homestead exemption for primary residences. I brought this bill mainly to help seniors on fixed incomes who are particularly impacted by high property taxes. The bill gives property tax relief across the board but adds additional levels of relief for people 65 or older. The bill has been amended heavily, including today with an amendment that would create broader relief rather than more targeted tax relief for seniors. I plan to bring an amendment on third reading that will move up the effective date and make this relief available for 2024.
HB103 reduces the property tax-assessment ratio for residential property taxes from 9.5% to 8.3%, if voters pass a constitutional amendment in the next election. Today an amendment pushed the adjustment out a year to 2025, giving counties and assessors time to make necessary changes as other property tax bills continue to get passed. I support this bill moving forward, but we have to ensure these various property tax bills work together and don’t cause significant harm by reducing support to local government.
HB203 is a property tax bill that has generated long debate. It would have removed property tax for a homeowner whose home is valued less than $1 million by instituting a 2 cent sales tax. This bill would result in 97% of Wyoming residents not having to pay property tax. The bill was amended on 2nd Reading today and now provides less tax relief and less increased sales tax. I do not support this bill, because I believe it will further incentivize out-of-staters to move to our area to take advantage of lower property taxes, which will only increase home prices (and assessed values) in Sublette County.
HB125 would repeal gun free zones. I brought an amendment that would have allowed home rule and local school districts to make the determination who can carry a gun in their schools. I believe in local control and was disappointed to see this amendment fail. However, I will vote for the bill on 3rd Reading. I do believe this bill is more of a compromise than other bills that were similar to it in past sessions.
Tomorrow we will continue to work amendments on 2nd and 3rd Reading. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or comments.
Wyoming Legislative update – February 21, 2024Hello Sublette County and LaBarge, this is Albert Sommers reporting to you from Cheyenne on action that occurred on February 21, the eighth day of the 2024 Budget Session. The House worked bills and budget amendments late into the night all week, including Friday, and I couldn’t get my updates out to you good folks. I believe it is important to talk about what happened on 3rd Reading of the Budget.
On support for mental health care, we passed three 3rd Reading amendments, and I supported all of them. Amendment 26 funds a statewide survey from the Department of Education on the status of school district programs on suicide prevention, and a report is required to the Joint Education Committee this August. Amendment 18 gives $250,000 to the University of Wyoming family medical residency practice for counselors for prenatal care for pregnant mothers and veterans’ mental health medication. This little bit helps after a bill that would have provided broader care to those two groups, HB5, died last week. I sponsored Amendment 50, which appropriates $18.5 million of excess K-12 funds for the purpose of mental health grants to local districts. This is an effort to provide more support for children in crisis, until the Legislature reexamines the appropriate number of counselors in the K-12 funding model. This should happen during a Recalibration of the model that will occur in 2025.
The House heard and passed division one of 3rd Reading Amendment 57, which funds a study related to early childhood education. The study is to be completed by the Department of Education. Wyoming ranks at the bottom for providing resources and options to parents for early childhood education. I support additional funding opportunities for early childhood education, and I believe studying the topic is a good idea. I do not support compulsory universal early childhood education, as I believe that Pre-K education is a decision for parents to make, not the State of Wyoming to require.
3rd Reading Amendment 30 passed. This amendment to the budget bill restored various capitol construction projects that were voted down last week. The projects included major facility maintenance at the Boys School, Riverton state office renovations, and facility work at Camp Guernsey for our National Guard. We had a great debate on whether state capital construction is an ordinary expense of government. The Wyoming Constitution allows the budget bill to cover only the ordinary expense of government and public schools. I believe that routine replacement of state funded buildings is an ordinary expense of government, and I supported the amendment.
In my opinion, the Legislature is the first bulwark to defend the Wyoming and US Constitution, and I believe those debates are healthy.
Amendment 46 would have reduced the money allocated for large energy project funds, but this amendment failed. The Governor’s office uses these dollars as matching funds for large energy projects. I believe these projects are important to keep Wyoming an energy leader in the country, and I voted against the amendment, in order to keep the original budget amount.
The House heard 3rd Reading Amendments related to the Kelly Parcel, a piece of state-owned land within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park. The draft budget includes the sale of the Kelly Parcel to the National Park Service for $100 million. Currently, the state receives limited returns on the parcel, about $2,800 a year.
There was important debate on the floor and two amendments passed placing conditions on the property sale. I sponsored Amendment 86, which passed, and requires that livestock grazing and hunting use be preserved in perpetuity on the parcel as a condition of the sale.
Another important condition we placed on the sale was through Amendment 76, which links the sale of the Kelly Parcel to the US Bureau of Land Management’s Rock Springs Resource Management Plan (RMP) revision. This amendment conditions the Kelly Parcel sale on the Bureau of Land Management not selecting Alternative B with respect to rights of way and fluid mineral leasing. Essentially, this amendment gives the Governor the authority to negotiate with the Federal government from a position of equal footing. Each party in the negotiation has something the other wants. The Kelly Parcel sale only happens if the Governor chooses to allow it. I spoke in favor of this amendment.
The Governor needs this arrow in his quiver while he is negotiating with the Department of Interior on the fate of the Rock Springs RMP. A favorable outcome on the Rock Springs RMP is essential to the economy and culture of Southwest Wyoming. Protecting a billion dollars’ worth of economic activity in that part of the state, preserving the traditional uses of grazing and hunting on the Kelly Parcel, preventing the encroachment of million dollar homes near Grand Teton National Park, and raising $100 million for education would make this sale worthwhile.
I can be reached at email@example.com with questions or comments.
Nordic Ski Grooming Report – February 27, 2024 (posted 2/27/2024)
See links for higher resolution versions of ski trail maps
Mike Looney, Groomer
Tuesday, 10:30AM: Most trails above have been groomed this morning. Up to 1 inch of wind-blown snow and snowing. 18F degrees.
This Nordic ski trail grooming report is courtesy of the Sublette County Recreation Board.
www.sublettetrails.org Additional information on winter and summer trail recreation in Sublette County, including maps and requested trail etiquette
White Pine-Kelly Park Ski Trail Map - (10.3MB PDF)
CCC Ponds Ski Trail Map - (1.84MB PDF)
Road and Weather links
www.visitpinedale.org Pinedale tourism website (links to lodging, dining, area information)
www.whitepinewyoming.com White Pine Resort, 307-367-6606, (Nearby alpine skiing, food services, restroom)
www.greatoutdoorshop.com The Great Outdoor Shop, 307-367-2440
www.sublettechamber.com Local businesses & services, 307-367-2242
www.golfpinedale.com Rendezvous Meadows Golf Course (Additional Nordic ski trails, food services, restroom)
Memorial Service for Tom Kellen March 2 (posted 2/27/2024)
Tom Kellen passed away on Monday, February 19, 2024. A Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, March 2nd from noon to 2:00PM in the Lovatt Room of the Pinedale Library. The family invites friends to come and celebrate Tom’s life, swap stories, enjoy food, drinks and music. Please text Tom’s daughter Kim with any questions, 310-729-4945.
Public Health is offering Healthy U Classes (posted 2/26/2024)
Starting March 4th
Sublette County Public Health is offering a free 6-week Healthy U Workshop. Healthy U is an evidence-based Stanford University developed program for people with a chronic health condition, their caregivers, or any adult that wants to learn more about managing their health.
The workshop will be at Rendezvous Pointe in Pinedale, 425 W Magnolia Street, on Monday mornings from 9:00AM to 11:30AM, from March 4th through April 8th. Call Sublette County Public Health at 307-367-2157 to register.
Celebration of Life for Janice Bernard March 1 in Pinedale (posted 2/21/2024)
Janice Velma Parkinson Bernard passed away peacefully on February 9, 2024. She was born on March 1,1934 to kind and loving parents, Royden and Hilda Parkinson near Selkirk, Michigan in a log cabin which her parents built. After brother, Richard "Dick", was born, her family moved several times until her father purchased a farm in Hale, Michigan around 1949. Hale became Janice’s beloved home for nearly 60 years.
At 18 years old, Janice met Lyle Bernard who was on military furlough. With only one date behind them, he wooed her with letters from camp. One letter contained a photo of Lyle in uniform. "That was the man I fell in love with," she remembered. The couple married on July 16,1952 and two children, Lynn and Bill, followed. Janice and Lyle’s lifelong union was the source of her greatest joys in life–her happy marriage, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and combined extended families. Janice was a champion of her loved ones, followed their pastimes, and relished in their pleasures and successes until the final days of her life.
Janice’s first job was at the Schofield Insurance company in Hale. As a young mother, she worked in their family owned restaurant. Later, she worked at Hale Elementary School. She was an avid reader, and can be credited for organizing the school’s first library. Then, she enrolled in beauty school, opened a beauty shop and gift shop which, among other things, sold Lyle’s handmade crafts. She ran both businesses until her retirement in 1993.
But by far, Janice’s favorite job was that of grandmother. She was a hands on, no holds barred grandmother who was all about her grandchildren. They still comment on how important they felt in her presence, and how she loved them "a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck". Janice devoted many of her retirement years to lovingly caring for Lyle during his prolonged Alzheimer's illness until his death in 2005.
During this time, she suffered a major stroke. She moved to Pinedale, Wyoming in 2007, setting up residence in the Sublette Center, her home for 17 years. She made many friends in Pinedale who enjoyed her beautiful smile and sharp wit. Janice loved people, visits from friends and family, and the opportunity to offer advice (welcome or not) to the young Sublette Center employees who compassionately cared for her over the years.
Throughout her lifetime, Janice held membership in the United Methodist and St. Paul’s Lutheran churches in Hale, Michigan, worshiping with the Parkinson and Bernard families respectively. In 2014, she joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and was later sealed to Lyle for time and all eternity in the Provo, Utah Temple.
She is preceded in death by her father, mother, and brother. She is survived by sons Lynn (Melissa) and William (Pam); grandchildren Ashley Cooke, Crista Means (Randell), Royden (Traci Giffore), Caitlyn, Spencer (Annie), and Sawyer; great grandchildren Stevan, Joshua, Elizabeth, Almina and Avery; Sister-in-law Sherrill Parkinson Milliron, and many nieces and nephews whom she loved dearly.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Sublette Center of Pinedale, Wyoming.
A celebration of life will be held Friday, March 1st at 7:00 p.m. at the Heritage Room of the Sublette Center in Pinedale.
Obituary – Janice Bernard, March 1, 1934 - February 9, 2024 Covill Funeral Home, Pinedale, Wyoming
Rec Board Grant/Budget Request hearings in March (posted 2/9/2024)
The Sublette County Recreation Board will hear GRANT/BUDGET REQUESTS for the fiscal year 2024-2025 in March in Pinedale and Marbleton.
March 12, 2024 at 6:00 pm
Courthouse in the Commissioner’s Meeting Room
March 13, 2024 at 6:00pm
Marbleton Town Hall
The members of the Rec Board would appreciate your cooperation in meeting the following guidelines when requesting funds:
A representative of your project/organization must attend one of the budget hearings and provide 11 copies of the completed grant application, a list of items requested in order of priority, a profit/loss statement and balance sheet. Your request packets should be four pages or less.
Grant applications will not be accepted after March 13, 2024
Grant applications can be obtained by contacting Board Clerk, Betty Cheeney at 307-360-8135 or Sublette County’s Website: https://www.sublettecountywy.gov/198/Recreation
Friends of PAC announce endowment campaign (posted 2/8/2024)
Friends of PAC
Friends of PAC is excited to announce the launch of their endowment campaign with the support of the Jackson Fork Ranch and their large donation of $50,000. Friends of PAC is building an endowment for the long-term sustainability of our organization and mission: to ensure supplemental funding and community engagement for ongoing recreational services and facilities in support of the Pinedale Aquatic Center (PAC). The goal of this endowment is to guarantee funding for the PAC and Friends of PAC for years to come. It is imperative that we begin to think about the long-term sustainability of the PAC and all it has to offer to Sublette County, as well as all visitors, near and far. Friends of PAC is eager to develop our endowment and allow this investment to grow into a lifetime of financial support and contribution for the PAC.
The Jackson Fork Ranch welcomes their visitors to enjoy the "unparalleled outdoor activities like fly fishing, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, and bird watching." With a vested interest in supporting Sublette County, the Jackson Fork Ranch saw a good fit to support the PAC’s recreational offerings in the county, and we are truly appreciative of that position.
Since 2016, PAC has decreased its annual operating budget by nearly 45%. As a result, PAC has worked the past several years to establish and maintain a sustainable operating budget. Having researched other similar type facilities in the Wyoming region, an annual $1.8-2 million budget is projected as necessary to continue current public operations.
In 2022 and 2023, Friends of PAC gave a combined $216,000 to the PAC to support their budget. We accomplished this through sponsorships, grant writing, fundraising and equipment purchases. Since its inception in 2018, Friends of PAC has supported PAC with a total of over $410,000! As the largest recreational facility in Western Wyoming, the PAC is so much more than just a pool and provides programming for youth to seniors; from Jr. Wrangler sports to Pickleball, there’s truly something for everyone at the PAC. It is a facility that provides a place for after-school activities and a best-in-class competitive and leisure pools. Through the end of 2023, the PAC has served 1,447,127 total visitors and is turning 16 in 2024; amazing!
If you have an interest in PAC and supporting Friends of PAC, please consider giving to our endowment. Please reach out to Ahna Vitt for any inquiries or questions you may have regarding the endowment and this exciting new opportunity. For more information about Friends of PAC please visit our website at www.welovepac.com.
Accounting & CPA
Arts & Entertainment
Attorneys & Legal
Banks & Financial
Bed & Breakfasts
Builders & Contractors
Fabric & Crafts
Food & Drink
Grocery & Market
Guest Ranches & Lodges
Hardware & Feed
Health Care & Medical
Oil Field Services
Outfitters & Guides
Packaging & Shipping
Real Estate Agencies
Storage and Storage Units
Tattoos & Body Art
Tax Preparation Services