The Wyoming Legislature's 2020 Special Session: Help WEA Protect Education
The outbreak of the Coronavirus has had significant public health and safety impacts as well as economic repercussions. The state’s economy has come to a grinding halt with businesses shuttering doors and extraction industries enacting substantial workforce reductions. Restaurants have either closed, or are offering limited curbside or delivery, drastically reducing profits. Other businesses like gyms, salons and tattoo parlors have been required to close. Educators and districts across the state have responded in a manner consistent with their dedication to their craft and their students by developing and enacting distance learning plans at a mere moment’s notice.
The Federal Government responded by passing a $2 trillion relief bill called the CARES Act. The CARES Act was signed into law on March 27th and included direct stimulus payments to Americans, $208 billion in loans to major industry, and $300 billion in small business loans. These funds have been allocated to states, including Wyoming. Management Council convened in April, a time typically utilized to discuss interim topics, to develop a process and timeline to convene a special session. The goal of the special session is to craft a state response to the COVID-19 outbreak and distribute the funds that were provided by the Federal government.
As the process has developed, it has been alluded to that there may be multiple days set aside in the coming months for special sessions. As it currently stands, the first special session will be held virtually this Friday and into the weekend. This first special session will be a triaged response, with the legislature addressing priority issues in four different bills that are now available on the legislature’s site at wyoleg.gov. These bills address priority issues such as tenant evictions, unemployment funds and policies, and include a provision to allow school districts to increase the amount of carryover from 15% to 25%.
As the legislature has moved forward in developing the virtual process, they have done their best to establish a means to provide for public comment and to be publicly transparent.
The Wyoming Education Association’s lobbying team has been continuously monitoring the developments at the legislature and has reached out to the Governor’s office, the State Superintendents office, the State Health Officer, and to the legislature itself, to ensure that the policies enacted as a response to the outbreak are in the best interest of Wyoming’s education system, as well as the citizen and families of Wyoming. In an attempt to keep our membership informed of the happenings at the special session, WEA will be publishing legislative updates, much like those published during the regular legislative session. These updates will highlight happenings at the session, what WEA’s lobbying team has actively worked on, and what these bills mean for education.
The Wyoming Education Association will need help from our membership in contacting your local legislators. The WEA will be sending out action alerts with detailed information when issues pertinent to education arise and when the association will need members’ help in bolstering discussions with legislators, the Governor, the Secretary of State, and others relevant to the relief effort.