Legislative session in Wyoming is a whirlwind that can leave us all wondering at the end: What just happened? ACLU of Wyoming policy director and lobbyist, Sabrina King breaks down the good, the bad, and the next steps for us in her Legislative Recap.
Government (Non)Discrimination Act – A win against discrimination
Early on in the session, HB 135, the Government Nondiscrimination Act was introduced. We quickly recognized it for what it was: a license to discriminate. We called it the Government Discrimination Act and quickly moved to build opposition to the bill. With momentum building against the Act, and with the legislation being clearly unconstitutional, the sponsor withdrew HB 135, citing a need for more dialogue with Wyomingites about what the bill really does. We are committed to building momentum for comprehensive non-discrimination ordinances and laws across the Equality State.
Voting Rights Win!
2017 turned out to be a great year for voting rights at the Wyoming legislature. One huge win was the passage of HB 75, which made the restoration of felon voting rights automatic, and it repealed the five-year waiting period previously required before felons could apply to get their voting rights restored. In partnership with the League of Women Voters of Wyoming and the Equality State Policy Center, we pushed hard and got the bill assigned to committee, heard on the floor of the Senate, and passed at the eleventh hour thanks to our collective efforts!
We were also able to work to stop two bad bills which would have made voting harder in Wyoming. HB 167 would have required a photo ID in order to vote, and HB 158 would have required a street address and street number in order to register to vote. Neither of these bills would have made voting easier or more accessible, and neither was necessary. Luckily, both failed to even pass out of committee.
Police Body Cameras
Over the past year, legislators have been looking at how to address the increasing use of police body cameras in Wyoming, and the resulting questions about how recordings should be treated in public records law. We support the use of body cameras as they can provide both increased safety for law enforcement officers and increased oversight of law enforcement by the public. However, the use of body cameras creates serious issues regarding the privacy rights of individuals.
Originally, SF 32 would have put all recordings made by police body cameras under lock and key, meaning you would have to get a court order to gain access. While that may have solved the privacy concerns, it would have also made increased oversight of law enforcement impossible. We were able to work with law enforcement and members of the press to draft and pass an amendment to SF 32 which will allow footage recorded on body cameras to be released in the instance of bodily injury, a use of force, in the instance of a complaint, in the interest of public safety, or to the person who is “of interest” in the captured footage. We feel this amendment will ensure body cameras won’t become a tool for general surveillance, but rather serve the purpose they are meant for: to protect law enforcement, the public, and the public’s right to know.
Four different bills were introduced this year relating directly to abortion, and one additional bill was introduced which would have make pregnant mothers criminals, just for having a drug addiction.
Three of the five bills – including the terrible criminalization bill – died, but two did get passed. HB 116, regulation the donation of fetal tissue; and HB 182, requiring the offer of an ultrasound, did pass both houses. Neither bill was written to support women or to increase access to care. Fortunately, each bill was amended heavily before passage. There is a lot of work to be done to continue to protect our constitutional right to a safe and legal abortion.
What happens next?
We took it to the legislature. Now, it’s time to take it to the streets. On March 11, the ACLU is hosting a “People Power Resistance Training,” and we are asking YOU to host an event. It can be you and five friends at your house, or you and five hundred friends at the local event center. Whatever you decide to do, or however big you choose to make your event, it will make a difference. Sign up to host or attend an event here.
We have a long way to go in Wyoming to protect the rights of our LGBTQ citizens, to support immigrants (regardless of documentation status), to stand up for people of minority faiths in our community, and protect women's access to abortion and reproductive health services. If you’re wondering how that happens, the answer is you. Sign up for a People Power event or attend one this weekend, and we will continue to work with you throughout 2017 to truly make Wyoming the Equality State.