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Legislature looks to adjourn Wednesday

Feb 26, 2013 - The Associated Press

CHEYENNE -- The Wyoming Legislature plans to wrap up its general session Wednesday, which would mean ending on the 36th day of what was scheduled to be a 40-day session.

Senate President Tony Ross, R-Cheyenne, said Friday that the Legislature makes a practice of ending its general session early to save a few days in case they need more time in the 20-day budget sessions it holds every other year.

This legislative session could have run through March 5, Ross said. He said there hasn't been a need to spend more time on the budget sessions in recent years.

"And quite frankly, the bill count hasn't been that great as opposed to years in the past," Ross said.

This session saw 429 pieces of legislation introduced in the House and the Senate. In the 2007 general session, for example, there were 525 pieces of legislation, including bills and resolutions, introduced in both houses.

The Senate will spend this week on final readings of pending House bills while the House will finish Senate bills. Both houses also will act on conference committee reports addressing differences in their respective amendments.

House Speaker Tom Lubnau, R-Gillette, agreed Friday that the heavy lifting of the legislative session already is over.

"The way the process works is kind of interesting, because it drives itself," Lubnau said. "The most important bills get heard early on, and then the bills that need the work, or affect the fewest people, because they've been ranked by the committee chairmen, get heard later in the process."

Gov. Matt Mead last week signed the supplemental budget bill and the Legislature decided not to try to override his few line-item vetoes.

The other major legislative accomplishment this session aside from the budget was handled early in the session: passing a law removing schools Superintendent Cindy Hill as head of the state Education Department.

And some issues lawmakers heard this session will continue to demand attention.

The Legislature voted this session not to expand the federal Medicaid program in the state to cover an additional 17,600 low income adults. Many legislators said they don't trust federal promises to pay 100 percent of the costs of expanding the program for the first three years.

Tom Forslund, director of the Wyoming Department of Health, has said his agency will continue to study the Medicaid expansion issue in case the Legislature wants to reverse its position in next year's budget session.

Lubnau said he believes the state needs to monitor Medicaid expansion over the next year. "Of course, the hippopotamus in the living room is health care," he said.

As long as the federal government sticks to its promises, Lubnau said it probably would make good financial sense for Wyoming to go along with the Medicaid expansion.

But Lubnau said, "The devil, of course, is in the details." He said the federal government hasn't been consistent in its promises, is facing significant financial difficulties and tends to change regulations in the middle of the process.

"And so," Lubnau said, "we don't want to be in a position where we have to say, 'Well, why didn't you tell us that before we did all this stuff?'"

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Legislature, Wyoming