March 5, 2019

The 2019 Wyoming Legislative General Session came to a close in the wee hours of last Thursday morning with the legislature adjourning Sine Die around 2:00 am.

Your association was engaged every single day of the session and our efforts resulted in successfully protecting and enhancing the business climate that restaurants and lodging properties in Wyoming operate in.

Our primary goal heading into this session was HB 66-Lodging Tax. For more than 2 years the WLRA board of directors in collaboration with the WTIC board and Wyoming Tourism Board have been working on an alternative funding model to get Wyoming’s statewide marketing program off of the state’s general fund and onto a more dedicated, stable funding stream. While a statewide lodging tax was not our first choice there was significant drive within the legislature last session to pass one. The boards met this past spring and decided that a 3% statewide lodging tax would generate about $19 million annually, placing Wyoming on significantly more competitive footing with our competing neighboring states. The bill also had a 2% guarantee back to local option lodging tax boards to act as a safety net the next time the local tax went before the voters. While the bill was not perfect, it was better than the status quo associated with being on the state’s general fund. Despite tireless effort and despite the support of leadership in the legislature, after passing the Wyoming House of Representatives fairly easily, the bill was met with some unfortunate opposition in the senate, ultimately killing the effort. The WLRA board of directors will meet later this spring to discuss the path forward.

Without question the defeat of HB 220-National Retail Fairness Act was one also of our top priorities this session and we are pleased to report that we were successful. The bill, if passed, would have established the first corporate income tax in Wyoming history. The bill would have levied a 7% income tax on ONLY retail and hospitality businesses with 100 or more shareholders. This would have created a significantly uneven playing field within our industry. The bill was rushed through the Wyoming House of Representatives but we were able to slow things down in the senate. The defeat of this bill took significant effort and resources. Thank you to our national partners the National Restaurant Association, American Hotel and Lodging Association and the International Franchise Association as well as the National Retail Federation and Retail Industry Leaders of America, among others. A special thank you goes out to WLRA Immediate Past President and Vice President of Grand Teton Lodge Company Alex Klein and Jessica Lynam, Regional Government Affairs Director for McDonalds as well as Walmart and Wyoming Retail Association Board Chairman Deborah Herron, for their in person time and effort to defeat this bill. There were numerous members and other national organizations that also weighed in- thank you all so very much for your support.

Bills we supported that passed

Governor’s recommended supplemental budget request of $2.5 million for the Wyoming Office of Tourism.

Wyoming’s marketing program currently ranks 29th in the nation, well below most of our competing surrounding states. This funding is a stopgap that will aid in elevating marketing resources and driving more visitor traffic to Wyoming until an alternative funding source is passed. Status-Joint Appropriations Committee denied the $2.5 million request and approved $500,000. There were no other budget amendments for tourism that passed

HB 99-Public Lands Day
Would create a Public Lands Day state holiday.
Status-Passed the house and senate and signed by Governor Gordon.

SF 43 Hathaway Scholarship Eligibility
Would modify the Hathaway Scholarship Program to allow for a career technical aptitude test to satisfy Hathaway Scholarship eligibility requirements.
Status-Passed the senate and house. Signed by Governor Gordon.

SJ 3-Wyoming Women’s Suffrage Day
Commemorates the 150th anniversary of Wyoming Women’s Suffrage.
Status-Passed the senate and house. Signed by Governor Gordon

SF 113 Retail Purchase of Alcoholic Beverages
Allow retail liquor license holders to purchase up to 9 liters per week tax free from another retail establishment.
Status-Passed senate and house. Signed by Governor Gordon.

SF 138-Malt Beverage and Catering Permits-Fees
Would reduce the cost of malt beverage and catering permits from $100 to $50 Status-Passed senate and house. Signed by Governor Gordon.

Bills we monitored that passed

HB 71-Equal Pay Penalties
Would amend penalties for equal pay provisions.
Status-Passed the house and senate. Signed by Governor Gordon.

HB 76-Wyoming Beer Freedom Act
Would allow microbreweries to obtain 24-hour malt beverage permits
Status-Passed the house and senate. Awaiting Governor’s signature.

HB 212-Alcoholic Beverages Business Flexibility
Would amend microbrewery and wine permit holders to hold manufacturing licenses
Status-Passed the house and senate and signed by Governor Gordon.

HB 219- Alcoholic Beverages-24 hr. Permit
Would allow liquor manufacturer’ to obtain a 24 hr. catering permit
Status-Passed the house and senate. Awaiting Governor’s signature.

Bills that have died

SF 52- Special Permit for Alcoholic Beverages-exception
Would allow exceptions to be made for business owners to sell alcohol at special events.

HB 14 Mountain Daylight Time
Bill eliminates daylight savings time and would put Wyoming in a different time zone than our neighboring states for a significant period of time each year. The bill would not go into effect until three adjoining states agreed to do the same.

HB 64-Indexing Fuel Taxes
Would index Wyoming’s fuel tax to the Consumer Price Index (CPI)

HB 66- Lodging Tax
Creates a 5% statewide lodging tax as an alternative-funding source for growing the visitor economy through the Wyoming Office of Tourism. 3% would be dedicated to funding the Wyoming Office of Tourism. The other 2% would replace 2% of local option lodging taxes across Wyoming eliminating the need to vote on them every four years. Local option lodging tax boards will still have the ability to vote on up to an additional 2% every four years. Your association has been working on the alternative funding initiative for more than 2 years and is supporting this bill as long as the funding derived from the tax remains dedicated to funding tourism at a significantly more competitive level with our surrounding states. For more information about the statewide lodging tax bill please contact WLRA Executive Director Chris Brown at

HB 67-Sales Tax Revisions
Would remove the sales tax exemption on home-prepared foods, data centers and manufacturing. The bill would reduce the state sales tax to 3.5% and would create a tax on most services.

HB 72- Wage Transparency
Would prohibit employers from barring employees from disclosing wage information and would prohibit employers from requiring employees to waive wage disclosure rights.

HB 93-Tourism Improvement Districts
A tourism improvement district, or TID, is a mechanism for funding local tourism promotion activities. An assessment is placed on tourism businesses within a designated geographic area and the funds raised through the assessment are used for specific tourism marketing purposes. The bill will be written as enabling legislation, meaning that it allows for the conversation about Tourism Improvement Districts in your communities but it does not create or mandate anyone to utilize a TID.

HB 162- Alcoholic Liquors Markup Amount
Would increase the state liquor division markup on wholesale liquor and wine purchases by 3%

HB 164- Wyoming Film Production Incentive
The Wyoming Film Production Incentive would allow the Wyoming Office of Tourism (WOT) to offer incentives to film companies that shoot in and feature Wyoming in their productions. The bill has no appropriation attached and is enabling legislation to give the WOT an additional tool in the event that an opportunity presents itself.

HB 179-Food Trucks
Would define regulation on food trucks

HB 200-Wyoming Pregnant Workers Fairness Act
Would specify accommodations needed to be made for medial needs arising from pregnancy, childbirth and related conditions

HB 220 Retail Fairness Act
Bill would create a new 7% corporate income tax on retail and hospitality business with 100 or more shareholders

HB 259 Tourism Funding
Would change the 60/30/10 local option lodging tax split to 60/20/20 and lowered the threshold for everyone to $500,000.

HB 273- Minimum Wage
Would increase the state minimum wage to $8.50/hr and increase it to $9.75 over a 5-year period.

SF 48- Unemployment Compensation-Seasonal Employees
Would define unemployment benefits for seasonal employees

SF 101- Wage Offset for Employee Theft
Would allow businesses to withhold earnings from an employee that has been found guilty of theft from their employer.