As the Wyoming State Legislature prepares to convene on Jan. 8, five Campbell County representatives took a few moments to visit with residents during the annual Campbell County Chamber of Commerce Eggs and Issues event yesterday.
Reps. John Hines, Gregg Blikre, Norine Kasperik and Tom Lubnau, as well as Sen. Michael Von Flatern spoke to about 100 Campbell County residents during an early morning breakfast.
"It gives the business community, and really the community as a whole, the opportunity to speak with their legislators and get their questions answered," said Julie Simon, executive director for the chamber. "It's a sneak peak at some of the things that might be going through during the legislative session."
Some of the hot topics included the proposed 10-cent fuel tax that would fund the Wyoming Department of Transportation for road construction; Medicaid expansion; landfills; and funding for the Madison Pipeline project that will pipe water from the Madison Formation roughly 60 miles to Gillette to provide a regional water supply.
Lubnau, who will serve as Speaker of the House, offered some insight into the makeup of the House of Representatives.
"Sixty-two percent of the House has two years of experience," Lubnau said. "It's a real young, enthusiastic bunch. They're very, very, very, very, very conservative."
The House traditionally has been viewed as most closely tied to the people of Wyoming, Lubnau said, and the political composition of the state has changed with the recent election.
"We're seeing an evolution of politics in our state; at the same time we're also seeing an evolution of our economy," Lubnau said.
With the price of natural gas at all-time lows and the coal industry suffering under those circumstances, Wyoming coffers are set to be impacted. Coupled with federal health care legislation, all of the legislators expressed budget concerns.
"There's a lot of big things coming down the road at us," Kasperik said.
From the conversion to Obamacare to the soft coal and natural gas markets, Wyoming is at a crossroads of uncertainty. But Kasperik said through the creation of the Alliance for Northwest Jobs and Exports, Wyoming and its communities are working to unlock new markets for Wyoming's products.
"It's a project we can all be proud of in this room," Kasperik said. "It will help us market our products. We still have a great product that others want."
Because Campbell County's industries play such a large role in providing funding to the state, Blike said it is important to note that Campbell County is well represented through the recent redistricting of the legislature.
"You have more representation," Blikre said. "Twenty percent of all the new growth in population came from Campbell County. We fund almost all the schools in the state essentially from our coal mines."
Having gained legislators, Campbell County is well-positioned to have their voice heard during 62nd Wyoming Legislature session, Blikre said, also noting that "For the first time since the 1970s, we have a Speaker of the House from Campbell County."
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