Legislature looks at foreign actors and security on Thursday

Legislators look at foreign actors and security on Thursday
Legislators look at foreign actors and security on Thursday(Valeria Fugate)
Published: Jan. 26, 2023 at 9:45 PM CST
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Thursday morning, the Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water Resources Committee looked at bills prohibiting foreign property and agriculture ownership in the state.

Committee members voiced concerns about security and looking to localize ownership of more lands and sectors.

Advocates for these bills said foreign ownership has doubled since 2010 and puts Wyoming at risk of bad actors.

Critics of the bill, like Turkish-owned Wyoming Trona, said they employ 2,300 Wyomingites and have been a state staple for decades.

Stating bills like these would stifle the mineral sector and hurt jobs and foreign residents’ businesses, placing a chilling effect on growth and investments in the state.

“The committee seems very committed to doing an interim study so that we have more complete data on how to proceed with this concept,” said Rep. John Eklund, Chairman of Agriculture, State and Public Lands & Water resources- H.D. 10.

Lawmakers say there needs to be further investigation of “allied” versus “enemy” foreign ownership and allocating funds to county clerks or business recorders to vet ownership.

Next, a bill that mandates School Constitutional Instruction and Examination was up for debate.

Some Senate lawmakers thought this was instrumental for students to increase. Still, others argue that it is already a part of the school curriculum and politicizing what schools teach is a slippery slope.

“That we listen to our teachers in Wyoming and trust those teachers that more testing is maybe not the answer. And that their development of curriculum associated with government and civics understanding really is top notch in this country,” said Sen. Tara Nethercott, S.D. 4.

Finally, a bill proposed to help fund the border wall and sanctuary city transport went to committee.

Lawmakers supporting the bill want to send $2M, part of the $1.2B in Covid-19 federal funds, to help our neighbors to the south.

“We’re here representing you, and we’ve heard you and were taking action. So it’s time to put our money where our mouth is,” said Sen. Cheri Steinmetz, S.D. 3.

Legislators state this would secure our borders of crime and drug flow.

“I see no reason why we shouldn’t re-appropriate some of that money to do what the federal government has failed to do to fulfill their fiduciary responsibility,” said Sen. Larry Hicks, Senate Majority Floor Leader- S.D. 11.

Other lawmakers argued help Wyomingites is where appropriations should focus.

“I appreciate the effort and the concern by the sponsors of the bill, but I do think our state dollars are best utilized here in Wyoming investing in our future within our state,” said Nethercott.

The legislature will convene for the rest of this week.