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CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming House of Representatives discussed Senate File 119, a bill which appropriates funding for state funded capital construction projects, during their Tuesday, March 3 floor session.
Among the over $160 million in appropriations proposed under the bill are $25 million intended for several University of Wyoming projects.
Under the proposed bill, that funding would be available to fund one or more the following projects:
- Construction of the Corbett natatorium (UW swimming pool)
- Renovation of War Memorial Stadium
- Renovation and expansion of the University of Wyoming College of Law
House District 35 Representative Joe MacGuire proposed an amendment to this section of the capital construction bill. That amendment would have required that the funding for the swimming pool “only be expended upon the men’s swimming and diving team roster and the women’s swimming and diving team roster attaining a student athlete enrollment ratio of not less than fifty-one percent (51%) of enrolled student athletes who are Wyoming residents and graduates of a Wyoming high school.”
“If we in these challenging times are going to spend a massive amount of money to build a new pool then it seems like at least half of the students who participate in the athletic programs involved with that pool should be from the state of Wyoming,” MacGuire said.
MacGuire provided a handout to his follow representatives showing the percentage of students from Wyoming on UW’s athletic teams:
MacGuire said that he spoke with a high school swimming coach in Casper who told him the university doesn’t tend to recruit from their team.
“I went to the coach at my local high school,” said MacGuire. “He said, ‘We can’t even get a look from the university.'”
House District 36 Representative Art Washut agreed with MacGuire’s proposal saying that it would “give our Wyoming swimmers a decent chance to have the opportunity to swim at the University of Wyoming.”
He said that unlike the football team, people don’t tend to follow UW’s swimming teams closely. Speaking against arguments that requiring 50% of the swimmers to come from Wyoming would make the team less competitive, Washut said he thought it was more important to give Wyoming students an opportunity than to worry about which division the university competes at.
House District 20 Representative Albert Sommers spoke agains the amendment.
“I can’t imagine any other state would contemplate a condition like this,” he said. “I just think this is the wrong way to go. I think it is poor policy.”
House District 38 Representative Tom Walters also spoke against the amendment.
“I just don’t think it is the legislative body’s position to be deciding what a recruiting class should look like for an athletic team,” he said.
House District 08 Representative Bob Nicholas said that the Corbett pool is too small to meet the needs of the swim teams.
“What is amazing about our UW swim team is how many hours these guys put in,” Nicholas said. “Because the pool is so small, they have to rotate through the day just in order to get their practices in.”
“Let’s fix the problem first. We need a new pool.”
House District 11 Representative Jared Olsen said he had concerns that the proposal could be challenged along Title IX rules since it could be seen as discriminating against people based on their place of residency.
“It just raises my lawyer flag,” he said.
House District 09 Representative Landon Brown said that recruiting students from out of state could be a good thing for Wyoming.
“We have an aging population that is growing considerably,” he said.
Welcoming student athletes from out of state might convince them to stay in Wyoming after they graduate, Brown argued.
House District 55 Representative David Miller said he was against the amendment.
“My daughter in law was on the swim team when she was at UW and she has complained about that pool ever since,” he said.
House District 44 Representative Sara Burlingame said she asked elementary students who were in the gallery watching the session on Tuesday what they thought.
She said that she asked the students whether they would want to encourage out of state people to join the team if it meant Wyoming students wouldn’t have as many spaces available on the team. Burlingame said the students still supported keeping the opportunities open to people from out of state.
“From the mouth of babes, I’m against [the amendment],” she said.
MacGuire said that the budget for UW Athletics is about $40 million. He said that works out to about $100,000 per student-athlete.
“That’s money that we are not spending on our own kids on the chance that maybe [out of state recruits will] stay?” he said. “I’m not trying to take money away from the pool. The question is who is going to participate in that.”
The House killed MacGuire’s proposal. They passed the overall capital construction bill on a third reading vote of 43-17:
Ayes: BARLOW, BLAKE, BROWN, BURKHART, BURLINGAME, CLIFFORD, CONNOLLY, CRANK, DAYTON-SELMAN, DUNCAN, EKLUND, EYRE, FLITNER, FREEMAN, FURPHY, GREEAR, HALEY, HENDERSON, KINNER, HARSHMAN, KIRKBRIDE, LARSEN LLOYD, LOUCKS, MACGUIRE, MILLER, NEWSOME, NICHOLAS, NORTHRUP, OBERMUELLER, OLSEN, PAXTON, PELKEY, POWNALL, ROSCOE, SALAZAR, SCHWARTZ, SIMPSON, SOMMERS, STITH, SWEENEY, WALTERS, WILSON, YINWyoming Legislative Service Office
Nays: BLACKBURN, CLAUSEN, CLEM, EDWARDS, GRAY, HALLINAN, HUNT, JENNINGS, LAURSEN DAN, LINDHOLM, PIIPARINEN, STYVAR, TASS, WASHUT, WESTERN, WINTER, ZWONITZER
That House amended the bill in a way different from the version they received from the Senate. The bill then moved back to the Senate for a concurrence vote, but that vote failed 1-28:
Ayes: ROTHFUSSWyoming Legislative Service Office
Nays: AGAR, ANDERSON, ANSELMI-DALTON, BALDWIN, BEBOUT, BITEMAN, BONER, BOUCHARD, CASE, COE, DOCKSTADER, DRISKILL, ELLIS, GIERAU, HICKS, HUTCHINGS, JAMES, KINSKEY, KOST, LANDEN, MONIZ, PAPPAS, PERKINS, SCHULER, SCOTT, STEINMETZ, VON FLATERN, WASSERBURGER
The bill will then be assigned to a Joint House and Senate Concurrence Committee to attempt to iron out differences between the two versions.