Sue Wilson
House District 7
Your representative in the Wyoming legislature
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The Issues


This page was written during my campaign for the legislature.  I've decided to leave it up for a while, so you can see if what happens in the legislature has any relation to what we thought the issues were.  The red text was added at the end of the 2013 session as follow-up [and throughout the 2013 interim].

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I was interviewed by the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle on June 19th (2012).  You can view the video of that interview at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/23423878.  The Tribune-Eagle interview mainly covered the state budget, economic diversification, and education.

The paragraphs below are my previously-written comments about what I think the issues are in Wyoming and House District 7.  Not all these issues were covered in the interview.

The Budget

A lot of Wyoming's revenue comes from the energy sector.  With natural gas prices down, the Governor has asked the State to evaluate an 8% budget cut.  These cuts will be painful, but there may be a silver lining if the situation forces us to evaluate what the government really needs to do.  Not only is the best government the government closest to the people, but problems should be addressed at the lowest level of society possible--individuals, families, social and religious organizations, and communities.  There may be opportunities for communities and individuals to play a more important role in public health, education, the arts, and other cultural fields.

Healthcare and education spending make up almost 60% of the State budget. With my years of experience in those fields, I will be able to make wise decisions about any cuts in these areas.

The Medicaid program uses almost $1 out of every $5 spent in the Wyoming general fund.  I helped present the Medicaid reform bill (SF 60) on the House floor (see photo).  We will be working with the Department of Health on Medicaid reform during the interim. 


Healthcare

Wyoming has significant challenges in the healthcare system.  The State's spending on healthcare has doubled in the last ten years.  Almost one-third of our state is either uninsured or on Medicaid.  Half the state is considered a health professional shortage area. 

While I believe the private sector can provide the care that Wyoming wants and needs, the legislature needs to make sure  that our laws strengthen and improve the ability of providers to provide care, and the ability of people to pay for that care.  I want to encourage insurance pools, increase the number of healthcare providers in Wyoming, and make Medicaid programs more cost-effective.  
In the Labor committee I worked on HB 82, Interstate sales of health insurance, which passed both chambers and was signed by the governor.  This bill will enable Wyoming residents to buy a health insurance policy that is sold in another state, if they find a policy that seems better or less expensive.  I commented on the Medicaid reform bill above.
So far, I have not had a chance to work on increasing the number of healthcare providers. There will be some opportunity to look at that issue when the Department of Health brings its proposed budget to the Labor committee in the fall. 

In June the Supreme Court released its decision upholding most of the Affordable Care Act ("Obamacare"). 
You can read my article "Now what?  Obamacare and Wyoming" here.  It is not a short article, because the healthcare system is complex.  The problems cannot be solved with slogans and sound-bites.

In the 2010-2012 there were only three legislators (out of 90) who listed healthcare experience  on their internet information form.  I have a Master's degree in Healthcare Administration, and will be able to make a significant contribution to evaluating and improving our healthcare situation in Wyoming.  Now there are four of us:  an optometrist, two nurses, and me.
Education

Our state's expenditure per pupil is the 4th highest in the nation, yet more than 25% of our students need remedial classes in college.  We are not getting the value we want for the money we are paying.

We don't need to spend more money on fancy facilities. We do need to make sure that our teachers know what they should be teaching. Our current standards are vague. For example, the Wyoming government standards say "Students are able to thoroughly discuss the contributions of important historical figures and events." Do we care who and what?  Other states specify the Magna Carta, the English Bill of Rights, Hobbes, Locke, Montesquieu, George Mason, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison.  More specific standards would not only provide the students with a better education, but also would enable us to save some of the money we're spending on reviewing, re-teaching, and hiring administrative staff.
It turns out that the State Board of Education is responsible for setting the state-wide curriculum standards.  They are continuing to work on increasing the standards.  Click here for my analysis of the Common Core standards.

During the 2013 legislative session we passed two bills on education accountability (HB 72, regarding the assessment of teachers and principals, and HB 91, which looks at student assessment).  I do not serve on the Education committee in the House, but I have been assigned to the Education Committee of the Council of State Governments-West.  I will be attending their meeting in on August 1st to see if the other western states have any good ideas that we could adopt.

Teaching is unlike most other professions--if you do a bad job it may not be obvious for several years.  We have to give new teachers, especially, the mentoring and evaluation they need to succeed in the classroom.  Feedback should come throughout the year, not just after the student test scores come out.  We will insist on quality teachers, but the teachers and administrators need to know they have our support when they discipline disruptive students.  Finally, not all students fit into the same box. Our children need to have opportunities to take both advanced math and auto shop if that's where their strengths and interests lie.

Wyoming needs more training programs for healthcare and technology professions. The Wyoming Department of Workforce Services says our state colleges are only graduating two-thirds of the number of nurses we need in the state.   A more highly-trained workforce will provide better services to the people of Wyoming, and enable businesses to grow and be more productive.  In addition, our children would be able to enroll in the training programs they want here in Wyoming, and then will be more likely to stay here after graduation.
See my note above on healthcare providers.  [9/2013--I have met with the Dean of the UW Nursing School to find out more about the BSN and Advanced Practice Nursing programs, and what the challenges are in expanding them.  I am also on the Family Practice residency taskforce, evaluating our medical residency program.  I will be looking at improving our ability to recruit providers and keep new graduates in-state.]

Ultimately, parents are responsible for their children's education, even if they choose to delegate that responsibility to public or private schools.  I support homeschooling and charter schools as other educational choices.
I may bring a bill on charter schools to the 2014 session.  As it will be a budget session, a 2/3 vote will be necessary to introduce a non-budget bill, so we will see what happens.  [9/2013--after talking with the charter school group and the Community College Commission I think I will hold off on that bill until the 2015 general session--if I'm re-elected.]


Infrastructure and the economy

Wyoming's highways are so underfunded that WYDOT is beginning to turn paved roads back into gravel.  We have to maintain the roads that connect our communities.  In the past decade the cost of building and maintaining highways has tripled, but state funding for highways has barely changed.  Instead, we have quintupled the amount of money we are setting aside in savings.  Rather than sending more money off to be invested in the stock market, why not invest in Wyoming roads and construction and engineering workers?
As you know, we raised the fuel tax $.10/gallon.  The legislature wil be looking at WYDOT's budget during the interim to see what additional funding or budget cuts will be needed.  Personally, I am still working on understanding the entire state's budget.  The Appropriations Committee was fairly persuasive that, given the bad revenue picture for the state due to the poor market for coal and the flooded market for natural gas, we should maintain a good stash of capital so we can (partially) live off the interest in the future. 

These days the internet is the electronic equivalent of a highway.  If we want to maintain our rural communities--enabling people to work, learn, and receive services in their communities--we need to improve our broadband coverage.  The State of Wyoming, as a major buyer, can encourage the private sector to expand broadband coverage throughout the state.  [I attended the Broadband Summit on October 23rd (2012), and learned more about what is happening with broadband coverage across the state.]  During the 2013 session I attending a special training hosted by the Corporations Committee on internet deregulation.  I will be following up on the local broadband study. [The 2013 Broadband Summit will be at the end of October; I hope to attend this year as well.]

State government spending in Wyoming relies heavily on the mining industries.  We should support this sector, as well as the agricultural and tourism sectors.  In addition, though, we need to attract new jobs to Wyoming and encourage our local entrepreneurs.  This can be done by maintaining our business-friendly climate,  improving our broadband services, and expanding our employment training programs.  The State also should continue to encourage overseas exports, and technology transfers between the University and the private sector.
I have been assigned to the Economic Development and Trade committee at the Council of State Governments-West, and the Labor and Economic Development committee at the National Council of State Legislatures.  At the CSG-W meeting in July we will be looking at ways to grow state economies.  The NCSL meeting in Denver in May will address workforce development, immigration, and healthcare reform, among other topics. 



Keeping Wyoming a great place to live

In Wyoming we love our sagebrush, but we rely on sweet, clean water.  We need to be sure that mining, agriculture, and residential development do not negatively affect our water. 
At the end of March I attended the State Engineer's Office meeting on water issues in the Laramie County Control Area.  If you are on a well in the Control Area (roughly the part of the county east of I-25) and would like more information please email me.

This country is based on individual rights.  One of those is the right to private property.  All of us, though, hope that our children and grandchildren will be able to enjoy hunting, fishing, camping and hiking in Wyoming, just as we have.  It is important to protect our wildlife, grasslands, and forests for future generations, while not impeding private and economic uses. 
I voted for SF 118 (to protect landowners from over-enthusiastic eminent domain condemnation), SF 68 (which prohibits the state from funding conservation easements that restrict hunting, fishing, ranching or farming), and HB 81 (funding some conservation easements and habitat restoration around the state). 



Social Issues

The households in Wyoming's House District 7 come in all sorts.  There are couples with children, couples without children,  single parents, individuals, roommates, multiple generations, various languages and faiths, hunters and vegetarians.  We are all neighbors and part of the community, but the word "marriage" has meant one man and one woman for hundreds of generations.  I believe that it is not discrimination to refuse to change the traditional meaning of marriage. 

I believe that every life is precious.  The people of Wyoming should support a culture of life--for the unborn, for all children, for people with physical, mental and emotional challenges, and for the elderly.  Everyone's life has value.

The United States Constitution was written in order to "establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty."  I believe that government-sponsored or government-encouraged gambling does not improve the general welfare or insure domestic tranquility.  Lotteries and casinos are more likely to take money from the poor and give it to out-of-state corporations or wasteful bureaucrats.  We do not need a lottery or more gambling in Wyoming.

In the 2013 session I voted no on domestic partnerships (HB 168), which did not pass; yes on a pro-life bill (HB 97), which did not pass; and no on the lottery (HB 77), which did pass. 

Several constituents have asked me about my position on guns.  I am a Life Member of the NRA, and own guns for hunting and personal protection (and as a defense against government tyranny, if necessary).  I also am a concealed carry permit holder.  It is my general observation in life that people who are not law-abiding citizens don't care what the laws are, so it doesn't seem to me that restrictions on where you can carry firearms and how many bullets you can have will have much impact on people who intend to commit crimes.  In fact, criminals prefer helpless victims.  We do need to make sure Wyoming has adequate mental health services for people who need them, and that our schools and other "gun-free zones" are secure (especially as HB 105, which would have enabled school staff to protect themselves and their students, failed to pass the Senate). 


















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